What are you doing wasting time reading this post?! Get ye to expedia now and book yourself onto the next cheap flight to Bangkok! Head straight to David Thompson’s nahm at the Metropolitan Hotel, and get eating!
A few days ago, I unexpectedly found myself in Bangkok after an attempted entry into India (from Colombo) failed. It’s a long, tedious story but the short of it is that my visa was not quite right. I decided to book myself on the next flight to Bangkok instead. There were seats available, the flight was not too expensive, and Thailand is a very nice place.
And, there was one little Bangkok joint that I’ve been dying to visit since it opened in the middle of last year: nahm. I completely adore Thai food (doesn’t everyone?) and David Thompson is one of my food idols. (See here, where I imagine cooking everything from his Thai food bible cookbook.)
My first task when I arrived was to book myself a solo dining spot at nahm. I visited it last night, and I’m thrilled to report that it lived up to and exceeded all my hopes.
I was so excited to visit that I was ready for my 7pm booking at 5pm. I decided to waste time by walking to the restaurant and exploring Bangkok a little on the way. Somewhat alarmingly, I got caught in the middle of a red-shirts’ rally. Luckily, all was peaceful. Just noisy and crowded. Below is a picture that I took from a footbridge.
It was most fortuitous that I had two hours to walk three kilometres, because the rally slowed things down a lot! Even with my extreme time allowance, I had to take a taxi for the last kilometre, and I was 20 minutes late.
Nahm was the complete opposite of the pandemonium outside. It epitomised the tranquil side of Thailand. I was given a seat overlooking the pool and there was a little purple orchid on my table.
You can either have a ‘set’ menu for 1500 baht (about $50 Aussie dollars), or choose individual dishes. I chose the ‘set’ menu – though it’s not really a set menu at all. You are given all the canapes (there are four) and then choose one dish from each group: salad, soup, relish, curry, ‘stir-fried, steamed and grilled’ and dessert. If this sounds like a lot of food, it was. It’s times like this that I’m very thankful for my bottomless pit stomach.
The staff were extremely attentive – they filled up my water constantly and kept offering me more rice. They also clearly explained which dishes were spicy and offered their genuine recommendations. If anything, they were too attentive because sometimes I like to be left alone, but I can’t really complain about that.
The first dish was an amuse bouche of caremelised coconut on a segment of pineapple. Very refreshing.
The four little canapes were (clockwise from bottom left) blue swimmer crab, pickled garlic and peanuts on a little rice cake; southern grilled mussels on cucumber; a quail egg with smoky Chiang Mai relish – they gave me this one without the usual pork; and grilled prawn, pomelo, toasted coconut, peanuts and palm sugar sauce on a betel leaf. Apologies for the information overload.
The standout for me from the canapes was the mussels. They were so simple but tasted incredible – subtly smokey and cooked to perfection without any rubberiness. They also contrasted well with the fresh crunch of cucumber.
I’m a big fan of goods in betel leaves but elsewhere I have got to assemble them myself, which is a lot more fun.
The remainder of the food (excluding dessert) came all at once, very promptly. It was quite overwhelming – in the best possible way – to have mountains of spectacular food placed right in front of me. (I felt a bit like the kids do in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; it was that type of feeling.)
For my salad course, I chose the hiramasa cured kingfish with chilli, lime and mint. For me, this was the greatest dish of the meal. It was very tart, but the freshness of the mint and softness of the kingfish worked well with this. I ate two mouthfuls to begin and then saved it to eat last.
I chose a soup of smoked fish and tamarind with crayfish. This was my least favourite dish of the meal; the chewiness of the smoked fish was not that pleasing to me. That said, I think this soup would have been great on its own without having to compete with a literal smorgasbord of fabulousness. I always love to have my thom yum soup on a hangover, and this would fit that prestigious category.
For the ‘relish’ course, I chose yellow bean and crab meat dressed with ginger, kaffir lime and shallots. It was served with a fish cake (that spongey looking thing) and some vegetables. This dish was a very close second to the kingfish salad. It also had that tart, fresh taste and the kaffir lime leaves elevated it to the next level.
The fish cake tasted a little like a prawn cracker. It had a very unusual texture that worked well when eaten in the same mouthful as the relish and vegetables. The vegetables included some unknown herbs and a white tumeric, which until now I have never tasted. Pretty exciting.
My curry was a coconut and tumeric curry with blue swimmer crab and calamansi limes. This dish was very good but I was not wowed like I was with other dishes. I think this is because elsewhere in my smorgasbord I was being bombarded with flavours and textures never experienced, but this tasted just like an excellent yellow curry. I also got a few pieces of crab shell which was a little off-putting.
The final dish of my mains was stir-fried squid with sugar snap peas. As you can see, the squid ink made a generous appearance. This was so beautiful. The squid was lovely and smokey. The sugar snap peas sat perfectly on the border between raw and cooked. The contrast in textures was also a winner.
By this stage, I was incredibly full. I stalled for digestion time by going on a few little unnecessary walks to the bathroom and back. Even then, I only JUST managed to have room for dessert. And another amuse bouche. Luckily.
The amuse bouche tasted incredible. It was a rose apple sitting in a mixture of sugar, salt, chilli and citric acid (I know because I quizzed the waiter on this one)! The flavours came one at a time: first the sweetness, then the acid, then the saltiness, then the chilli. Amazing.
My dessert was black sticky rice with longans and young coconut, served with caremelised taro. This was also incredible. There was something special about the combination of sweet and savoury with this dish. In the sticky rice, the longans were sweet and fresh while the rice was savory. In the taro, the crispy coconut and taro were very sweet while the corn, fresh coconut and black sesame seeds added savoury elements. Fitting this in my stomach was an extreme challenge, but so worth it.
And, finally, who could forget my drink?! A siamjito cocktail – thai whisky, lemongrass, brown sugar, ginger and lime. Must recreate on return to Melbourne.
And there you have it. Apologies for the epic post, but I guess epic meals deserve them? This meal rates extremely highly on my list of Best Meals Ever. All the contrasting and balancing flavours and textures were pretty spectacular. It is also pretty special to be putting new flavours in your mouth with almost every spoonful. It was a MOUNTAIN of food – it’s now 3pm and I’m only just beginning to feel hungry again. Off to go and try some more Thai delights now…
It is such a joy to share my visit to nahm with you all and I hope everyone gets to visit one day.
Off to Chiang Mai tomorrow – a cooking mecca I hear. I’ll keep you posted!
The Metropolitan Hotel
Off South Sathorn Road
+662 625 3388