Believe it or not, the best Thai food in Bangkok is cooked by an Australian trained in French cuisine.
David Thompson opened Nahm in 2010, located in the Metropolitan Hotel in the affluent Sathorn District of Bangkok. In 2015 Nahm was voted 3rd best restaurant in Asia (Gaggan was #1) and 37th best in the world. On our 2016 trip of Thailand, we thought we’d pay a visit.
Starting our evening in the hotel’s Met Bar, we enjoyed a mixture of classic and Thai inspired cocktails. Muddled lemongrass and ginger combining with coconut rum and kaffir lime leaves a favorite of mine I’ve been all too unsuccessful in recreating.
Two cocktails in, we are on vacation after all, our table is ready.
As a party of four, it was recommended we try the set menu, at a cost of 2,500 Baht ($71) per person. The set menu allowed us to choose one dish from each section of the menu to share with the table, a selection of canapés, and our individual choice of soup.
After arguing about which dishes we’d like/dislike, we finally settled on Green mango salad with grilled pork and sour leaves as our salad, Cured catfish minced with shallots, chilies and Thai basil, served with grilled salted beef and vegetables as our relish, Panang curry of Wagyu beef with peanuts, shallots and Thai basil as our curry dish, and Stir-fried tiger prawns with deep-fried shallots, chilies and garlic as our main dish.
The canapés came and were quickly devoured (I mustn’t have eaten enough wasabi peas at the bar beforehand). Crab wafers and egg nets held various fish and meats infused with plenty of Thai basil and ginger, a perfect introduction.
The rest of the meal came all at once, including my Coconut and oxtail soup with red shallots, which was most certainly the highlight for me.
The rest of the dishes were interesting. Interesting, although fairly ambiguous, is probably the best way to describe the mix of flavors that was presented to us. Not bad, not quite fantastic, but interesting.
The catfish relish was delicious, yet unpalatable. The four of us, seasoned spicy food eaters, were unable to enjoy the amazing flavors because of watering eyes and burning tongues.
The salad was presented almost deconstructed, as whole leaves on a side plate – not something I was expecting from a top 50 restaurant, but was desperately needed to offset the spice from the relish.
The salted beef was again delicious, but salty. Not quite as unpalatable as the relish, but left you confused as to whether to take another bite or not.
For dessert we were presented with a selection of small candied treats (which were honestly forgettable as I can’t remember much about them!), and selected individual items from the menu. The normal people at the table ordered varieties of sticky rice, but the abnormal guest ordered a durian and custard dish.
“Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother”
Durian, if you are not familiar, is illegal to carry in many public places in Asia because of it’s awful smell (we haven’t even got to the taste yet). Despite this, it’s very popular with locals and can be consumed fresh or dried. Our favorite travel guru Anthony Bourdain states “Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother” after eating.
I gave the durian a go, it was as disgusting as I was expecting – similar to eating rotting onions, and experience I’d rather not try again! A video of my tasting can be found here.
Overall, the experience was strange. I think we all expected better food for a restaurant that had been voted 37th best in the world, but the flavors were nothing like any of us have had before – maybe our palates were the problem. As I write this, 6 months later, the only memorable parts were the unpalatable catfish relish, my experience with durian, and the soup. I’d go back for the soup alone. Two days later we ate at Gaggan, which might have overwritten any Nahm memories, and rightfully so as that meal was outstanding!
One of the perks of Nahm is the location, right next to one of the best sky bars of Bangkok. We met up with some of Mary’s Thai friends and enjoyed a few cocktails on the rooftop. A great ending to what can only be described as an interesting dining experience.