Sunday, 20 November 2011

Eat Bangkok: Nahm

An Australian is the best Thai chef in the world.  So good in fact he is the first Thai chef to win a Michelin star.  The restuarant that received this honour is called Nahm and is right here at home in London, and it is very, very expensive.  There is however also a Nahm in Bangkok, in the Metropolitan hotel, where you can sample Thompson's cooking for a fraction (though it's still not cheap) of the price.

Nahm, housed in the Metropolitan Hotel, is unsuprisingly in a very nice part of town, in the financial district opposite JP Morgan's offices.  The clientelle is international and when we arrived the restaurant though trendy and highly designed was not particularly full.  A bit of a worrying start, although as we had booked very early it did start to fill up.  The other concerns remained, however.  Remained that is until the food arrived.

Ordering the set means that you get a selection of starters, before your salad, reslish, soup, stir fry and rice arrive together as the main course.  These starters were nothing short of superb, packed with flavour, in no way dumbed down for a foreign palate, they were both refined and intense.  The smoked fish in tapioca was my favourite, with the salty smoky, and importanlty fatty fish, providing an excellent contrast to the bland, gently sticky chewiness of the tapioca, that had within it an all important sweetness.  A really, great dish, or mouthful more accurately.  Following this were some fat and juicy green mussles in the sweet marinade used by almost everyone grilling chicken.  This dish was far simpler, but was just as good a marriage of flavours.  Next a crunchy dish of pork with sugar which you spread and wrap in a bettle leaf.  A nice combination of bitter and sweet with savoury pork working through at the end, good, but the least interesting of the dishes.  Finally came a small case filled with crab meat.  The lemongrass flavour was intense, but the rich brown crab stood up to it perfectly allowing the more delicate flavours to ease through as the initial strong flavours became muted. Really excellent and probably up there with the smoked fish.

The mains were also very good indeed, though they couldn't match the near perfect start.  The lemongrass, shrimp salad was sadly uninspiring but a relish of thick spiced coconut milk sauce, served with crispy fried soft shell crabs and slices of purposefully muted fruits was very good, an interesting mix of textures and capturingsome the subtelty of flavouring of some of the initial dishes.  The soups were probably the strongest dishes.  One was a fantastic Tom Yum which pulled no punches with the chilli heat, and amped up the acidity as well, without sacrificing the delicate flavour of the chicken and mushrooms.  Even better, I thought, was the duck soup, beautifully tender pieces of duck meat, with slices of young coconut that gave a wonderfully slipperiness sat in a mild autumnal broth flavoured with star anise.  It was warming and comforting, but still incredibly flavourful.  The stir fry of fish balls with greens was unremarkable, but had been suggested by our waitresss to counter the series of fiery dishes that we had ordered.  The gentle greens spiked with garlic were definitely fit for purpose, even if it was not spectacular as a stand alone dish.  Our curry was also very good, a smoked fish and chicken liver affair, with an incredible ammount of chilli heat.  I was initially dissapointed that it lacked the nuance of the other dishes, but paired with a sweet pineapple chutney and a slelection of sliced raw fruits and salad items it came alive and became a searing mix of flavour and texture, balanced beautifully by the smooth liver.

Puddings were also good, but too much food at this point, sago, with coconut milk, rice and fruit seemed the order of the day - with both puddings revolving around similar combinations.  £55 in Thailan is an incredible ammount for a meal, but it was absolutely exceptional, and in London would be considered a bargain, so I'm not going to feel too bad about it.  The service was good, but the ambience was lacking somewhat.  It would also have been nice given the abundance of food on the table to have some explenation of orders or combinations to eat in.  These are minor things, but they would certainly have added to the experience.  Overall a very good meal though.

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