(THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A new fine-dining restaurant on Thonglor brings a contemporary twist to the traditional samrub
Food sharing has always been a part of Thai culture and for an extended family, a samrub or a set of shared dishes is the perfect way to enjoy different flavours that complement each other.
The new Thai fine-dining restaurant R.Haan – the name means food in Thai – celebrates the essence of delicate Thai cuisine and culture and stirs in contemporary flair and creative presentation in degustation menu style.
Co-owned by celebrated chef Chumpol Jangprai and gourmet Piti Bhirombhakdi, an heir to the Singha Cooperation, R.Haan in Bangkok’s Thonglor Soi 9 offers a choice of three samrub, each made up of 18 different items.
With the arrival of the inaugural Michelin Guide Bangkok last year, many restaurants have been working to improve their service and consistency to internationally recognised standards. Chumpol, though, says his decision to serve Thai food course by course has nothing to do with a possible visit of Michelin’s inspectors.
“We want our diners to be happy far more than we want a Michelin star,” he says. “We want people to sample a variety of dishes with different tastes made from carefully selected seasonal ingredients and enjoy a new dining experience. Pairing different items in one samrub is local wisdom. The different flavours do not only complement each other, but also cater to family members of different ages.”
Each set offers an amuse-bouche, appetisers, entrees, desserts and petit fours. “Each set will have five main dishes served at the same time with steamed rice. Krueng jim (dip with assorted vegetable) and gaeng (curry) are vital components of any samrub and the traditional combination of spicy and non-spicy dishes as well as soups and dried delicacies must be followed,” Chumpol says.
The three choices include samrub aek (first rank), samrub tho (second rank) and samrub tri (third rank) for 2,612 baht (S$109), 2,412 baht and 2,212 baht respectively.
The dishes will change every four months on the same seasonal schedule as the ceremony in which the attire of the Emerald Buddha is changed.
“The general flavours of samrub aek are not too strong and the set has fewer coconut-based dishes to suit seniors while samrub tri is more energetic with dishes like spicy chicken’s feet consomme and stir-fried spicy wagyu beef with basil that can attract the young generation,” he adds.
Chumpol says the restaurant uses 100 per cent local ingredients and makes everything from scratch. “We make our own coconut cream and curry pastes and the ingredients are prepared fresh every day. Each ingredient is sourced from the best resources. Our garlic comes from Si Sa Ket, the sea bass from Chaochoengsao, the wagyu beef from Nakhon Pathom, and the concentrated fish sauce from Rayong,” he explains.
I opted for the samrub aek, starting with an amuse-bouche of kanom krok, coconut cream rice pancake topped with caviar from the Doi Inthanon Royal Project in Chiang Mai. The pancake is exquisitely infused with espuma of tom kha (galangal cream soup), turning it into a savoury bite rather than the familiar sweet treat.
My journey continued with a plate of three bite-sized appetisers – kanom cheen nam prik (fermented rice noodle in golden bean gravy), mee krob chao wang (sweet and sour crispy noodles), and thod mun (deep-fried fish cake).
Based on a century-old recipe passed down from the chef’s great grandmother Sa-guan Sri, the kanom cheen is served in a tiny bowl and topped with a partridge’s egg that’s been pickled in rice bran oil then slowly cooked for 28 minutes at 62 deg C.
“The new technique of molecular gastronomy adds to the fun experience. For the mee krob, we infuse the crispy noodles in som-sa (bitter orange) and serve them on a tuile made from Chinese chives. The ah-jad (cucumber vinegar relish) is encased in a jellied sphere and placed on top,” says the chef.
A cluster of five main dishes cooked with different methods are served next along with steamed rice that can be endlessly replenished. The white jasmine rice comes from high-quality growers in Chiang Mai and Ubon Ratchathani, while the brown rice is a mix of five grains – riceberry, gaba, sangyod from the South, mountainous rice grown in the North and jasmine.
The tom yum goong (hot and sour river prawn soup) has a theatrical presentation, coming in a glass siphon and prepared at the table. The herbs and coconut cream are placed in the top chamber then after vapour pressing, the intensely filtered soup drops back into the lower chamber. The aromatic soup is then poured over a bowl of river prawn and mushroom and awakes the taste buds in style.
Another dish is mok khai mod daeng – ant’s eggs mixed with wild star gooseberry leaves and wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in charcoal ash – a traditional slow-cooking technique.
The dip lhon pu is made with blue crabmeat sourced from Bang Taboon estuary in Phetchaburi. The flesh, which is naturally sweet and has a firm texture, is stirred into creamy coconut milk, shallots and fermented soybean and served with salted egg topped with crab’s roe and assorted vegetables.
The stir-fried classic phad phrik khing pla kaphong is prepared to a family recipe and sees the sea bass pan-seared with wok-fried caramelised red curry paste and tossed with ground crispy pork crackling.
For his curry dish, the chef opts for gaeng kiew waan nuea – a green curry with locally bred wagyu beef and bird’s eye chilli from Piti’s own farm in Ratchaburi. Chilled kaffir lime in syrup is served as a palate cleanser before the mango sticky rice. Chumpol’s version sees mango mousse alongside spheres of fresh mango, a small portion of sticky rice, and homemade coconut ice cream on a bed of ground coconut.
The culinary voyage ends with Thai-style petit fours served with a four-tiered stand. They are dara thong (flower-shaped stirred pound lotus seed with sugar and coconut milk), look chup (chilli-shaped stirred pound golden bean), kleep lamduan (flower-shaped baked rice flour) and foi thong (egg yolk net).
R.Haan can seat 50 diners and there’s also a private room with a long table suited to a maximum of 22 guests. Advanced reservation is recommended.
R.Haan on Thonglor Soi 9 off Sukhumvit Soi 55 is open daily for dinner from 6 to 11pm.
Call (02) 059 0433-4 or visit www.R-Haan.com.