What was the first thing I did when Dylan’s brother announced he and his fiancé were getting married in Thailand? I emailed nahm to make a reservation for dinner. In fact I contacted them so far in advance they wouldn’t take the booking. I would just have to wait until reservations opened 12 weeks out. And though patience is not my forte the 12 week mark did eventually roll around and I secured our table.
nahm is David Thompson’s one and only restaurant, located in Bangkok. The restaurant was awarded 32nd in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Guide 2013 and subsequently took out 3rd place in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. It’s no secret David Thompson is Dylan’s favourite chef. We met David at Sydney Seafood School last year where we learnt some of his tips and tricks for cooking Thai food. We’ve dined at Sailor’s Thai and Sailor’s Thai Canteen, the legacy David left behind when he moved from Sydney to Bangkok. But we’d never before had the opportunity to eat at any of his restaurants and we were not going to miss out this time.
Finally the day arrived where we would be dining at David’s restaurant. Dylan, Hayden, Emma and I made our way from our rooms at Metropolitan (a gorgeous hotel by the way) down the lift and through the lobby to nahm (and yes, I chose the hotel because of the restaurant’s location). There were no questions about the menu, we were most definitely having the set menu. Who knows when we will be back in Thailand and we simply had to experience a little bit of everything.
The set menu at nahm is not actually pre-set. The menu comprises the selection of canapés, a choice of one dish from each section of the main course menu (salad, soup, relish, curry and stir-fried, steamed & grilled) and dessert. It means you get to try a wide range of dishes and in my mind it’s the only way to experience a restaurant for all its worth.
ชุดอาหารไทยต่อท่าน – nahm set menu – THB1800 per person
- minced pork with peanuts and fresh pineapple
- สาคูไส้ปลาช่อน – smoked fish, peanut and tapioca dumplings
- เมี่ยงปลากุเลา – salted threadfin perch with ginger, chilli and green mango on betel leaves
- ขนมเบื้องญวณ – prawn and coconut wafers with pickled ginger
- พริกกับเกลือแตงโม – toasted coconut with watermelon and mango
- ยาปูนิ่มเค็ม – salad of deep fried soft shell crab with pomelo, chillies and coriander
- แกงจืดเป็ดย่างมะพร้าวอ่อน – clear soup of roast duck with thai basil and young coconut
- หลนไข่เค็มใส่ป – salted duck eggs and crab simmered in coconut cream with fresh and pickled vegetables
- แกงกะหรี่เนื้อ – aromatic curry of wagyu beef and sweet potatoes with cucumber relish
- แก้มหมูย่างกับน้าจิ้มมะเขือเทศเผา – grilled pork cheek with smoky tomato sauce
- ขนมเบื้องหวานลูกพลับเชื่อม – sweet thai wafers with poached persimmons and golden duck egg noodles
- ลอดชองทรงเครื่อง – pandanus noodles with black sticky rice, water chestnuts, tapioca and coconut cream
- green mango with salt, chilli and lime
cocktails – caipiroska (THB280) and thai sabai (THB280).
With wine in Thailand costing an arm and a leg we decided to stick with cocktails which average AUD$10 everywhere you go. I went for my old favourite caipiroska – a refreshing mix of lime, vodka and brown sugar to sweeten things up. Dylan chose something a little different when he opted for a thai sabai – a nice change from the norm with Mekhong whiskey ‘The spirit of Thailand’ at the helm.
minced pork with peanuts and fresh pineapple.
The amuse bouche was brought out and our attention was drawn to a wooden plate with four bite sized starters on it. Triangle pieces of pineapple with minced pork and peanuts. Where to begin? I don’t know what an ‘amuse bouche’ is called in Thai but this was everything an amuse bouche should be. Our taste buds were awoken and our senses alert – sticky and lightly sweet caramelised minced pork, juicy sweet pineapple and hints of peanuts. With a charred overtone, great sweetness and fresh coriander to tie the two together. Wow. Just wow.
สาคูไส้ปลาช่อน – smoked fish, peanut and tapioca dumplings.
The first of the four canapés was the tapioca dumplings which sat hidden in a jungle of greenery. As I bit in I was confronted by the squidgy tapioca followed by heat from the chilli and peppery leaf (reminding me of perilla). The smokiness of the fish was quite mild while the roasted chilli centre of the dumplings added complexity. A very intriguing way to use pearl tapioca – an ingredient more commonly found in desserts.
เมี่ยงปลากุเลา – salted threadfin perch with ginger, chilli and green mango on betel leaves.
Second up were deep green and glossy betel leaves, putting anything we have in Australia to shame. The initial hit of saltiness was quickly overtaken by the heat of the chilli and then back again, dancing in harmony in my mouth. The salted threadfin perch was reminiscent of anchovies with a wonderful boldness; what confronts you as a strong salty fish finishes quite mildly. Tart green mango and fresh betel leaf calmed the palate and helped ensure the intense perch never lingered too long.
ขนมเบื้องญวณ – prawn and coconut wafers with pickled ginger.
The wafers looked and smelled amazing. Excitedly I took a bite and was wowed by the intensity of the prawn married so well to the crisp wafer. Thin and fragile the wafer wasn’t going to be outshone and was packed full of flavour. My description of this starter on the night still rings true ‘…a whole party of flavours in my mouth’.
David Thompson is the king of Thai cuisine because of his skill in ensuring every ingredient has a starring role in a dish, nothing is there by mistake and nothing is left behind. Balance is the key and David has this down pat, exemplified by this canapé.
พริกกับเกลือแตงโม – toasted coconut with watermelon and mango.
Sceptical. That was my outlook of the final starter. Toasted coconut with watermelon and mango didn’t sound like much of a dish to me. Oh how I love to be proven wrong. The scent of coconut hit first then the unmistakable wafts of fried food. Crisp chewy coconut, sweet fruit and fried shallots. I totally want to add this toasted coconut to muesli. And I don’t even eat muesli. With a salty back palate the nutty coconut mixture was a great juxtaposition to the fruit. It was sweet, it was savoury, it was delicious.
ยาปูนิ่มเค็ม – salad of deep fried soft shell crab with pomelo, chillies and coriander.
Moving on to the main course dishes we started with a salad of deep fried soft shell crab. Soft shell crab is always a winner in my book though it’s not often I would have it at a Thai restaurant. It normally makes an appearance in my Japanese dining adventures but I was keen to see what David and his team would do with it, after all Thailand does have some amazing seafood produce.
It may be a running theme of Thai cuisine but I have to use that word again: balance. Sweet tartness of the pomelo and heat from the chillies balanced so well with the sweet crab meat to produce a moreish salad.
แกงจืดเป็ดย่างมะพร้าวอ่อน – clear soup of roast duck with thai basil and young coconut.
A clear soup if ever I saw one, you could see everything in the bowl. Earthy mushrooms, rich duck broth and an overarching savouriness. I was in love from the first mouthful. It was the perfect side to all of the intensity going on with the various other dishes; a soothing soup to calm our senses and prepare us for what was next. Hearty, healthy and absolutely delicious.
หลนไข่เค็มใส่ป – salted duck eggs and crab simmered in coconut cream with fresh and pickled vegetables.
We let the kitchen choose the dishes of our set menu to ensure we’d experience nahm’s signature dishes while the meal flowed as it should. As far as the relish was concerned the salted duck egg dish was one I had my eye on from the start and was thrilled to see it make an appearance during our meal. Duck egg and crab – I don’t think there has ever been a better combination. Incredibly creamy duck egg and sweet chunks of crab meat simmered in coconut cream to make the most phenomenal relish.
แกงกะหรี่เนื้อ – aromatic curry of wagyu beef and sweet potatoes with cucumber relish.
Everyone loves massaman but have you ever had David Thompson’s version made with wagyu beef? Rich and indulgent this was hands down the most heavenly massaman curry ever made. Chunks of tender wagyu, perfectly cooked sweet potato and a curry sauce more fragrant than any other I’ve had before, served with the perfect accompaniment of cucumber relish.
Honestly, wagyu aside this massaman would have been the best ever even if they had used another cut of meat. There was just so much flavour delivered in such a controlled way; it is hard to comprehend the heights this curry reached – it sung such a harmonious tune it will not be forgotten soon.
แก้มหมูย่างกับน้าจิ้มมะเขือเทศเผา – grilled pork cheek with smoky tomato sauce.
I thought we’d already had the best of the night but there was more to come. The last main course dish was from the stir-fried, steamed & grilled section of the menu.
Charred edges and the softest, juiciest pork cheek meat in the entire world combined with a gorgeous relish of smoky tomatoes. Two words: mind blown. That is how incredible this dish was. Sitting there looking ever so innocent you just don’t expect what is to come. Firm and succulent cheeks of pork ooze flavour, but then you combine the succulent pork with the tomato sauce with wonderful smoky overtones and the dish is nailed. Order this, but beware, you won’t want to share it.
ขนมเบื้องหวานลูกพลับเชื่อม – sweet thai wafers with poached persimmons and golden duck egg noodles.
Mains polished off (including an extra serving of the curry) it was time for dessert. I have a huge sweet tooth but have never been taken by Asian desserts. It was for this reason I drifted towards the least unusual sounding dessert.
Two gloriously thin wafers encasing lightly poached persimmons and a mound of golden duck egg noodles. The sweet Thai wafers were just that – super thin, crispy and sweet without being sickly. Poached persimmons added another level of fruity sweetness which was rounded out with the richness of the silky rich duck egg noodles. My favourite Asian dessert to date.
ลอดชองทรงเครื่อง – pandanus noodles with black sticky rice, water chestnuts, tapioca and coconut cream.
It was the pandanus noodles that grabbed Dylan’s attention on the dessert menu (thanks to his fond memories of the ais cendol at Jackie M). There was quite a lot going on it’s hard to know where to begin. Just as with most Asian desserts it was very different to what I am used to. Shavings of meaty coconut floating around with the pandanus noodles rounded out the ‘usual suspects’ aspect of Asian desserts while the sticky rice and slice of corn made up the sweet aspect.
Being a Westerner not accustomed to Asian desserts I failed to grasp exactly what this dish was all about. Dylan enjoyed the essence of the dish but couldn’t quite put his finger on what was missing.
green mango with salt, chilli and lime.
Just as we thought we were done a plate of green mango with salt, chilli and lime arrived. I loved the notion of this dish but it was all a little too new for me. Unfortunately I found the raw green mango too sour and couldn’t appreciate its purpose.
Then it really was over. An exquisite meal of gorgeous produce with a range of Thai cooking styles and techniques. The meal flowed in a steady stream from start to finish. David’s skill in balancing flavours was evident in every mouthful and there was nothing to fault (bar our lack of understanding of Asian desserts). Every single morsel was divine and David remains one of my favourite chefs of all time (and Dylan’s number one). nahm is an absolute must for anyone travelling to Bangkok.
Metropolitan by COMO
27 South Sathorn Road
Sathorn Bangkok 10120
+66 (2) 625 3333