January 26, 2018
For Bangkok gastronomes still unfamiliar with The Siam, it is a luxury boutique hotel on the Chao Phraya – an amalgam of white, right-angled luxury with a touch of the wooden and Art Deco ancient. Eschewing for a moment the glamour of The Siam’s antiques, art, and genuine charm – the epicurean elegance of the nine-course Thai degustation menu at the Tha Nahm Siam should be of particular interest to lovers of fine Thai cuisine.
The Siam’s executive chef Damri Muksombat, formerly of the Four Seasons Tented Camp in Chiang Rai and veteran executive Issaya Siamese Club chef, creates dishes that aren’t kitschy or gimmicky; the Chef Damri dish is playful but serious.
Kao Kriab Wow and Yum Ta Krai Hoishell
To begin the Kao Kriab Wow is wet without being oily, easily gathered in the poppadom-like crackers without leaving a mess in the basket in which it is served. A chili is served with the Kao Kriab Wow for diners who like a little capsicum with their first bite.
The large Hokkaido scallop in the Yum Ta Krai Hoishell is of course the star of this dish, but diners will be in for a surprise with a little spice underneath that juicy bivalve. Without overpowering the sweetness, the patient kick of the lemongrass salad puts a little excitement in this course.
A dry rosé is the recommended pairing for Kao Kriab Wow and the Yum Ta Krai Hoishell, specifically the Domaine Ott, Château De Selle.
Gaiyang and Pla Hima Neung
Today’s diners so look forward to the former novelty of sous vide, but is often left unattended; Chef Damri’s Gaiyang pleasantly comes with a charcoal-grilled flavor that isn’t buried by the cooking method. Indeed, the presentation of the dish allowed diners to both see and taste that charcoal finish – presented suspended above the ceramic heat source.
It was, however, the snow fish that seized the meal for most at this reviewers table. Many snow fish dishes fall into the trap of trying to pretend that it’s not fish, slathered in sauce to cover the blandness. Damri manages to leap this particular hurdle with his perfectly cooked and modestly accompanied Pla Hima Neung.
The pairing for this white-meat and fish portion of the menu is a medium bodied white, Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis.
See Klong Moo Toon and Tom Yum Pla Salmon
The menu begins to lapse into deeper flavors with the four-hour, slow cooked longan honey pork rib. This single rib piece is served with an artistic, paint-brush flourish across the plate, but there the artistry seems to end. Perhaps it is only in comparison to the evening’s eighth course, but the See Klong Moo Toon seemed unfulfilling: well-cooked and robustly accompanied but less than half a mouthful and tendinous. If the menu has a letdown (and I’m not sure it does) diners might find it to be the See Klong Moo Toon.
The tables turn, however, with the simple but delectable pan-seared flavor of the Tom Yum Pla Salmon: flavorful, beautifully plated and pink, and with skin so well cooked it crunches like a potato chip. Accompanied modestly and tastefully, the Norwegian salmon turned out to be the highlight of the lighter dishes, with an added lemon grass gelatin flavor to compliment the aromatic fish.
Light as they were, the recommended pairing is a Cordero di Montezemolo, Nebbiolo.
Gae Rong Hai and Nua San See Klong
The full-bodied pairing for the final two dishes of a Layer Cake Malbec is indicative of the deep, meat-flavor centric dishes to remain, beginning with the e-sarn sauce New Zealand lamb of the Gae Rong Hai, the meat was soft and flavorful, and there was even a hint of bitter spiciness in the sauce –perhaps in allegiance to the traditionally Rosemary inclined when it comes to lamb, and a successful attempt.
Finally, after eight courses of fulsome flavors, comes the evening’s heaviest and finest dish: a pan-seared, eight-hour sous vide Australian short rib. With a taste that comes almost as much through the nose as the mouth, this Nua San See Klong topped off the evening’s dishes with a flourish. Beneath, the pineapples coated in the sweet sauce of the final course were so saccharine that they almost seemed like a precursor to desert.
Dessert and the Experience
The ice cream with jasmine flavored jelly supplied an adequate end to the evening, one spent looking out from The Siam’s idyllic pier. The river upon which dinner is served is both burghal and seemingly isolated – an aesthetic singular to the curiosity of Bangkok. Water hyacinths float by for hours on the water, and the bridge lights up the river below. The river is central to the experience; guests are picked up at the Saphan Taksin pier and ferried 30 minutes on The Siam’s own vessel. During the day these waters are busy, but at night the boats cease their chugging, and diners are left with their palate and the quiet Chao Phraya.
The experience of Chef Damri’s nine-course dinner at the Tha Nahm Siam is that of The Siam itself: opulence and charm. The Siam is luxurious but never pretentious. The same might be said of any of the nine courses.