THAI | Nahm vs Bo.lan

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Another piece that is slightly out of LG’s comfort zone. Took the opportunity while in Bangkok to do a lunch face off of these two recently much hyped Thai restaurants in the global culinary scene. Arguably all coming from the same root of the starred Nahm in London, the two has since then took a slightly different route back in Bangkok, yet both still of the quality that put them on top of the world.
Going back to the Metropolitan brought back a lot of memories to LG, and was rather amused to find out what used to be a minimalist cafe next to the pool is now where the world’s most renowned Thai restaurant called home. Aussie David Thompson certainly put a lot of effort into researching Thai food, and was said to have dig back into receipes of some centuries old. While the blue crab on rice crackers was probably not the most original, though of great quality and subtlety in taste, the one that truly blew me off was the smoked fish curry, in a way completely changed my perception on Thai curry, which I had always found it quite blended before. Warned first by the matre’d and reminded by fellow servers with a slightly concerned look, this signature dish of theirs has been a rather reluctant recommendation due to its ultra spiciness. I can immediately sense a few of my die-hard spicy fan readers’ curiosity and before you buy that ticket to Bangkok, let me just manage the expectation a bit that it was not really the spiciness that gets me, but rather its ability to make one sweats, big time! The menthol cold towel provided by my friendly server was indeed timely in the end but let me just reassure you that it was not like any Thai curry, or actually any curry, that I had tasted before. The smoked fish was rather like the Chinese aged salty fish and the saltiness just melted nicely into the spices to make this dish really unique. Still slightly tacky no doubt with its ambience but I must say the entire experience at Nahm did live up to the expectation.
The visit to Bo’s joint, hiding in one of the tiny Sois in Sukhumvit, was an entirely different experience, yet equally worthwhile, if not more. The inaugural Asian female chef of the year back in 2013 and an indigenous Thai, Bo actually honed her skill under David at Nahm in London and eventually teamed up with another Aussie Dy’lan’ Jones, also trained there, to bring Thai food to the world, though with a totally different touch. Converted a mini wooden villa into a restaurant, it offered much tranquility in the otherwise always bustling Sukhumvit neighbourhood and is indeed an oasis. It could well be a tiny trattoria in the middle of nowhere in Tuscany if put into an Italian setting, and the farm house touch to it is all the same. Indeed, the ‘farm to table’ theme and the stress on organic and eco friendly approach are everywhere, if not a touch over sometimes. A perfect partner if the Slow food movement has to come to Thailand nonetheless. Robustness was indeed the theme of this little Thai venture of mine no doubt. To match Nahm’s salty fish, Bo.lan’s red chicken curry also has a secret weapon, fermented bamboo shoots! Again, while it looks like yet another boring red chicken curry on the surface, the amazing blend-in of the bamboo shoots just bring the dish to a totally different level. ‘Balance’ is indeed the right theme that the joint has chosen for itself. Contrasting with Nahm’s exotic spices here and there, always a crowd pleaser for especially non-Asians, it is the ‘togetherness’ that Bo.lan’s dishes set themselves apart. The pork neck served also on the day was yet another testimony on this. Tasted like a stew!
A rather satisfactory experience all in all, with also some very reasonable price tag to come with it being lunch and in Thailand, LG might have found a new culinary destination outside of Japan in Asia.

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