April 20, 2019

10 days in 3 cities day 8: delicious Thai without the heat

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I blame PR8.  We had pretty loose plans for lunch today and were choosing from a list of local Thai restaurants, when The Dining Austrian suddenly asked about Paste.  Apparently PR8 had decided to ambush my friend at dinner, knowing full well that we would be traveling together to Bangkok.  And true to form, the hardworking PR8 tried to steer my friend towards visiting a restaurant he works with.

I had, of course, previously suggested to my friend that we visit Paste together.  But there was only one free lunch slot, and the restaurant website was showing that they were full today.  So I had given up on the idea and looked for alternatives.  Now that my friend had been persuaded to look at Paste, I was forced into something I am normally loathe to do: ask the restaurant owner or PR for a table when I know they are already full.  In short, I'm basically asking someone "Do you know who I am?"

And since PR8 was responsible for planting the idea, he was only too happy to get the restaurant to squeeze us in.

We had a seasoned local restauranteur with us, so while I picked out a few dishes that looked interesting - a few of which I enjoyed from my last visit - our local expert rounded out the list.

As usual, a welcome drink awaited us when we arrived. Today it was a combination of butterfly pea flower and soda water, garnished with a chrysanthemum. Just look at that beautiful hue!

Fraser Island spanner crab, chili paste, crispy seaweed from Chiang Mai - this seemed to be an off-menu bite.  Topped with dill and torch ginger flower.  Delicious.

Watermelon and ground salmon with crispy shallots, roasted galangal powder (ปลาแซลมอนแตงโม) - a signature dish here, and part of the reason I fell in love with the cuisine here.  I just loved the deep-fried shallots with their powerful flavors.  The ground salmon floss and basil were very nice.  I loved the interplay between sweetness from the watermelon (as well as the floss sweetened with sugar) and the savory flavors from the salmon roe.  There's also a bit of heat here to make things even more interesting.  All ingredients I love.  I can eat this all day.

Roasted duck, nutmeg, curry paste and saw tooth coriander served on rice crackers (หน้าตั้งแขก) - love the acidity here, and more heat.  Another favorite from my last visit.

We didn't ask the kitchen to pace the food, so what we got was Thai-style service... which is to say that all the dishes came to the table in the space of 5 minutes.  We pretty much ran out of space to put the dishes on the table.

Northern Shan version of Hang Lay curry with slow cooked Australian beef cheek, pickled garlic, and dry spices (แกงฮังเลแบบไทยใหญ่เนื้อแก้มวัวออสเตรเลีย) - very tender beef cheek, which isn't a surprise.  The flavors here were pretty heavy, but very nice with the nuts.

Salad of cured eggplant, air dried beef, ginger flower fermented guava with kaffir lime juice and dry spice mix (ยำมะเขือขื่น) - this came with good acidity - probably from the kaffir lime - and a nutty, sweet paste.

Smoky southern yellow curry of premium Australian spanner crab, hummingbird flowers, Thai samphire and turmeric (แกงปูปักษ์ใต้กับพริกไทยดำ, ใบบัวบก, ดอกแคและใบชะครามจากสมุทรสาคร) - one of the signature dishes here, and certainly a crowd-pleaser.  Definitely smoky.  The crab came from Fraser Island.

Northern Thai khao soi noodles with steamed chicken, jeow bong paste, black ginger and rich chicken stock (ข้าวซอยไทลื้อใส่แจ่วบอง, พริกแกง, ถั่วเน่า, ขิงดำ, น้ำสต็อกไก่เข้มข้น, มะเขือเทศเผาและปั่นละเอียด เสิร์ฟพร้อมกับไก่นึ่งไฟอ่อนๆ) - there was a good amount of heat here along with good acidity.  Earthy flavors in those bean sprouts.

Lon of premium Australian spanner crab, Nan province salted duck egg, fresh coconut milk, hairy eggplant and lime leaf (หลนปูจั๊กจั่นกับไข่เค็มจากน่าน, กะทิสด, มะอึกและใบมะกรูด) - milky and creamy, not really spicy without adding the green bird's eye chilis.  Nice fragrance from the shredded kaffir lime leaves.

Free-range roast duck, rubbed with northern Thai mah kwan pepper, with fresh som-jid and star anise sauce (เป็ดมะแขว่นเสิร์ฟกับซอสส้มจี๊ดและโป๊ยกั๊ก) - very nice and crispy skin, with lots of 5-spice and definitely star anise, but I found this a little salty.

Char-grilled organic pork glazed with wild honey, fennel seeds, and a smoked eggplant and tomato relish (หมูออร์แกนิกย่างกับเมล็ดเฟนเนลและน้ำ ผึ้งป่า เสิร์ฟกับน้ำ พริกมะเขือเผา) - one of my favorites from the last visit.  Today this was slightly dry, but came with nice smoky flavors and that wonderful caramelized glaze.  Didn't get the bone this time, though...

The smoked eggplant and tomato relish for the pork.

31 flavoured Thai omelette with Fraser Island spanner crab (ไข่เจียวเลิศรสใส่ปูจั๊กจั่นจากออสเตรเลีย) - the omelette was so, soooo fluffy!  Beautiful dish with the crab on top.  The sriracha (ศรีราชา) wasn't too spicy in controlled doses, but I honestly didn't taste much of the 31 types of spices...

And while we thought there was enough food for the 6 of us, Chef Bee very kindly sent out another dish for us to try...

Chive root salad with live lobster from the tank, morel mushroom, Asian citron, air-dried seaweed and white turmeric (ยำรากชูล็อบสเตอร์ใส่เห็ดโมเรล น้ำยำทำจากน้ำส้มซ่าและส้มจี๊ด)

We were very stuffed, but how could I leave here without trying dessert?

Valrhona chocolate bon-bons with Thai rum

Smoked coconut noodles with palm sugar sabayon, lemon basil seed, dried pineapple - the only disappointing dish today.  The noodles made out of panna cotta were kinda bland.  Thankfully the palm sugar soup was very nice with roasted coconut flakes and candied pineapples.

This was a pretty good meal, and I was very happy to be back here.  I do realize that some locals feel that this place tones down the heat to make themselves more appealing to farangs like myself, but honestly this is right up my alley.  Very grateful to Chef Bee for the hospitality and for squeezing us in.

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