Thursday 7 April 2011

Nahm, Bangkok

When I was asked whether I wanted to review Nahm, David Thompson's new restaurant housed in The Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok, I did hesitate. I only had four days in Bangkok; did I want to spend a precious meal in a hotel restaurant? And then I remembered we'd be just coming off a 22 hour sleeper train, from Malaysia to Bangkok. We'd probably be world-weary, tempers frayed and a bit grubby so a nice posh meal might do us good. That's my justification.

In reality, the train was bloody brilliant. For a mere £20 in second class, our seat changed into beds and a train attendant took our dinner and breakfast orders. They were such delicious meals that we were agog. But nevertheless, Nahm would prove an interesting contrast between high-end and street food that we'd been eating. As we shuffled into the hotel with crumpled clothes fresh from our backpacks, we were greeted warmly. A Tom Yum-tini was spicy and full of lime. No fish sauce, thank god.

We were recommended the set menu, which allowed us to have all 3 canapes, a choice of a salad, a curry, a stir-fried dish to share and a soup each. At a whopping 1500 baht each, compared to the 40 baht bowls of noodles we'd been eating, this really felt like pushing the boat out. Candied pork on pineapple chunks were sweet, yet deeply savoury and juicy.

Quails eggs topped with pickled green chillis, balanced on a puff of pork crackling was the perfect balance of soft egg and crisp crackling that was light as a feather. Blue swimmer crab on top of a rice cracker had similar textural contrasts. The crab was sweet and fresh.

Watermelon with fish floss and betel leaves were... odd. The watermelon was sweet and juicy, the fish floss intensely dry. Wrapped in a crunchy betel leaf, the contrasts were extreme. I rather enjoyed it, though my friend found it slightly unpleasant.

We picked the braised salted beef rib green curry and it packed some serious punch. We were told that curries in Thailand were a much of a muchness, many of them being too similar to pick the best but this was well flavoured with an absolute shitload of chilli, some galangal and kaffir lime leaves. The beef was fall-off-the-melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness. I need to salt some beef ribs.

To bat the chilli heat away, the lobster and young coconut salad was bland and soothing. That sounds like a criticism, but it wasn't really. The juicy coconut with the sweet lobster was a tongue-soother.

Of the soups, my friend and I couldn't have picked more polar opposites. I love big gutsy flavours, so this smoked fish soup with sour leaves whalloped you right in the taste buds. Conversely, my friend's crab and snake gourd soup was reminiscent of the Chinese egg drop soups I grew up with, with hints of coriander.

We asked our waiter to recommend us a dish and he enthusiastically recommended this fermented fish dish. The idea was to eat it with a wodge of rice, topped with a citrus-flavoured leaf. I'm fairly used to fermented things, what with stinking my kitchen out with fermented tofu on many occasion, but I found it hard to get over the kiff.

Jackfruit simmered in coconut cream was quite the heavy ending to what was a deceptively big feast. Full of weird textures and fruity flavours, it defeated us.

Maprang simmered in perfumed syrup was baffling. I still to this day can't tell you what maprang is, but the syrup tasted of jasmine and the sour prunes complemented it well.

While Nahm was pretty expensive in comparison to the rest of Bangkok, it was an absolute bargain for London prices, and the food was great. I have no point of comparison having not eaten in any fancy hotel restaurants in Bangkok, but it was far more refined and a damn sight better than any Thai restaurant I've visited in London. Aside from a fairly bland squid cooked in ink with sugarsnap peas (which, arguably, was the right kind of blandness given the massive flavours we were contending with), the food was all delicately but perfectly balanced. I particularly liked that they didn't scrimp on the heat for where would obviously be a place frequented by Westerners - we had brows of sweat.

(Oh, and the cocktails were great.)

Concierge looked amused when we asked for a taxi to the Khao San Road.


Metropolitan Bangkok

27 South Sathorn Road
Bangkok 10120


Unknown said...

I wonder how Nahm in Bangkok would compare to the Nahm in London?

I love David Thompson's Thai cook books - brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Ditto that. Have you got his new book Thai Street Food? Amazing photos... If only i could cook.

I've been to nahm London. Great food. Definitely a dinner place.

An American in London said...

How did the resto know you were going to be in Bangkok? And how much would the meal have cost? it's been ages since I was in Bangkok and I'm curious how expensive/inexpensive it is now.

tori said...

Would love to make it over there- is most definitely on the to do list. Looks like a fabulous meal. As for his books, love them - packing them up in Sydney was a pretty sad day (wasn't quite sure we could fit them in the 23 kilos we scrambled together)

The Perfect Trough said...

Was it the best meal you've had in BKK? Face is also a great high-end Thai...

(Also curious about how they knew you'd be there, says a lot about the value of bloggers!)

Hollow Legs said...

Christ - this is massively late, sorry. But if you do get this, a blogger friend was chatting to a PR and asked who the clients were. When they said Nahm Bangkok, he put me forward.