Thursday, August 17, 2017

Refined Thai

We squeezed in one more proper sit-down meal in Bangkok before heading off to the airport for the late afternoon flight home on Monday. Before Gaggan stealing the spotlight, it's Nahm at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok that was voted Asia's Best, with its Australian chef David Thompson being considered the pioneer of bringing Thai cuisine to the fine-dining radar first with his restaurant in London (now closed and replaced by Ametsa which we adored) then this Bangkok branch (opened in 2010, one time winner of Asia's Best restaurant in 2014)

If it's not for the rather awkward location, away from the major shopping district and without nearby SkyTrain or metro stations, COMO Metropolitan Bangkok would have been the ideal hotel we would love to stay again and again, with our favorite minimalist designer style and showed no signs of aging despite its long existence. The off-track location is also the same reason why we haven't been to Nahm before, despite all the acclaims and positive reviews.

The restaurant was located right next to the lobby on the ground floor, with the spacious dining room in typical Thai décor and overlooking the hotel swimming pool from one side of the window. Similar to bo.lan which we went the day before, lunch menu at Nahm was a much toned down version of what they offer for dinner, with a few a la carte dishes and the option of the set menu which all the dishes were served family style, which was what we went for.

We started with a simple amuse-bouche - a small dollop of caramelized sautéed pork on a pineapple wedge. That was refreshing. Next was a pair of canapés, again served in bite-size portion. First was the egg nets with prawns, wild almonds and kaffir lime, followed by pork and lobster with shredded ginger and thai citron served on a betel leaf, a nod to the traditional Thai Miang Kam. I thought the egg net was delicious but found the spices used in the second one a bit too overwhelming, to the extent I couldn't even taste the lobster inside unless I looked at the menu.

The cold dish of scallop salad with coconut and lemongrass was easily my favorite of the afternoon. The scallops were well-cured with possibly a mix of coconut milk and vinegar and served in halves. Also added to the dish was finely chopped lemongrass, cilantros and shallots providing a bit of a bite and great aroma. It was delicious, though I wish the portion would be more generous. We only got one scallop each in that dish.

There's a choice between oxtail, chicken or vegetables for our curry course, each cooked differently, and we picked the Muslim curry of oxtail with fresh nutmeg, ginger and eggplants. The Muslim curry, or Massaman as it's more commonly known, was super rich with a strong nutty taste. And the oxtail was cooked tender and took in much of the sauce flavor. It's spicy but not too much, and went well with the rice served.

I loved the soup also. It sounded like an unusual combination of pigeon and crab in a clear soup (plus the tapioca) but I love the rich poultry and mushroom flavor in the soup. And the tapioca was an interesting addition too - it's soft and not like those chewy ones used in desserts, didn't have a lot of taste but added to the texture.

We picked the steamed coral trout as our last savory course. It looked like an ordinary dish with steamed fish fillet but deceivingly tasty. My only complaint was the fish being slightly overcooked. Desserts was simple but delicious - lychees in scented syrup plus a small piece of sweet wafer topped with poached persimmon.

I was a bit disappointed at the service - lunch service was packed with customers - they even had to turn away a few who walked in without a booking - but they were way understaffed. From what I see they missed at least 5 in the front house (and possibly more at the back) for the capacity they were operating in. They were slow in taking our order, and in bringing the dishes out, with unnecessary long pauses in between courses. I expected more of a restaurant of such caliber.

Overall food-wise I think our lunch was decent - not mind-blowing but the dishes were refined and enjoyable. Well of course there's always the usual argument of the place being overpriced and overrated, especially compared to street food stalls which many said offered better food and more "authentic Thai food experience". To me that's the similar argument we often heard comparing posh Chinese restaurants and those mom-and-pop Dai Pai Dongs on the street-side. They offered entirely different experiences and dishes and it would be unfair to make that comparison. We finished our lunch right on time to catch the cab to the airport for the home-bound flight and bid farewell to this short trip filled with top-notch meals.

Pictures in my Flickr album:

When? July 17 2017
Where? Nahm, COMO Metropolitan Bangkok, 27 S Sathorn Road, Bangkok
Menu Highlights? Scallop Salad with Coconut and Lemongrass

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