High end dining in foreign countries can be tricky. Reading reviews is of no help – there’s always an equal balance between those who loved it and those who thought it was over priced, over-hyped and not worthwhile. Make up your own mind.
I had wanted to eat at Nahm for a long time. I’ve been a fan of David Thompson ever since he first came onto the Sydney food scene, way back when. My sister gave me a copy of his first cookbook back in the early 90s and it has become one of my favourite recipe books. I’ve learnt a great deal from those recipes but I’ve also enjoyed the experience of eating at his earlier restaurants, Sailors Thai and for more causal bites, the Sailors Cantina. I also jump at any opportunity to make a booking when he arrives in Sydney a guest chef at the likes of the Bentley Bar. Rare treats. So I was not surprisingly very excited about the prospect of eating at Nahm (I’d also read and seen interviews with him in Bangkok talking about what it’s like to be a white person cooking high end Thai food: the Thais don’t like it – something to do with grandmothers and eggs.
Interestingly, the reviews on TripAdvisor were on the whole, not positive and then again there was that whole hype about eating at a restaurant that had been named World # 1 (now knocked back to #2). But I had asked some people who are foodies what their experience of Nahm was and they advised that we go – that it was an experience not worth missing.
Whilst browsing the best places to eat in Bangkok I also came across the Issaya Siamese Club. This place got very good reviews so I uhmed and ahhed about which place to go to and then decided to book the Issaya. Also they were very prompt in their reply, which Nahm wasn’t. The other thing that made me wonder about Nahm is that it seemed very formal – in the Como Hotel – and had a strict dress code. I was planning to travel very light – no heels or silk dresses.
I was also considering Bo.Lan. Again this place resonated with me because of their use of sustainable ingredients and the fact that both chefs Bo (Duangporn Songivsava ) and Lan (Dylan Jones) who are a husband and wife team had worked with David Thompson – Jones back in Sydney and Bo in London. I’d also seen an interview with them and was impressed with their attitude to food and Thai culture. Bo is a native Thai and has been presented with the inaugural award for Asia’s Best Female Chef, as part of The 50 Best Restaurants in Asia Awards 2013.
So I was tossing up. Finally, I decided that my husband’s birthday would be celebrated with lunch at Issaya and then we would have dinner at Nahm just before leaving Bangkok. And then I thought, what the hell, here we are in Bangkok with some of the best Thai fine dining restaurants in the world, we’d be crazy not to try them all, so I booked Bo.Lan as well. And so glad I did. While the Issaya Club made my heart sing – such a joyous experience in a gorgeous setting – Bo.Lan’s food was sensational.
It strikes me as very odd that the most negative reviews came from Asian people. Theyir comments generally were that you can get the same food at street stalls much cheaper. I think that they not only miss the point – you just don’t get this calibre of food on the streets – but there seems to be reluctance to pay for high end Asian food (barring Chinese). Whist most of these people would not bat an eyelid at paying exorbitant prices for Italian or French food (some of it very ho hum), somehow paying the same for Thai is unthinkable. Plus, I don’t think they fully appreciate what constitutes a fine dining experience – it’s not just the setting and the great attentive service, it’s the play of ingredients, of textures and tastes; its taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary that sings in your mouth, scintillates your taste buds and keeps you wondering how the hell they did it. Worth every penny (or baht) in my book.
So although I’ve yet to eat at Nahm I have packed my heels and silk dress and look forward to the experience. Meanwhile, I can thoroughly recommend splurging out on the food and wine at both the Issaya and Bo.Lan.