September 2, 2023

Bangkok Incognito day 2: Saturday Night Fever

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For our second dinner in Bangkok, we decided to hit Baan Tepa Culinary Space, one of the places which opened and rose to fame since our last trip to the city. The "culinary space" is actually a stately home which belongs to the family of Chef "Tam" Chudaree Debhakam, and her illustrous background has certainly generated a lot of buzz (or is it hype?) This made me very curious and determined to come see for myself.

We arrived a little early as we had budgeted time for Bangkok's famous traffic jams. As our party did not arrive together, the customary tour through the gardens was put on hold for us... and then omitted altogether as we got seated at our table for dinner. Oh well.

I didn't feel like ordering wine, so we grabbed a cocktail instead.

Coconut aged negroni: The Siamese - aged for 2 weeks and poured out of a coconut.

We were invited into the kitchen for a welcome bite and drink. The booking was done by me so that should have allowed us to stay incognito, but apparently Ice had alerted Chef Tam about our arrival, so the jig was up...

Miang kham (เมี่ยงคำ) - made with santol (กระท้อน), caramel fish sauce, chili, ginger, and shallots. Sandwiched between two tempura of "wild betel leaves (ชะพลู)".

Our welcome drink was also made with santol as well as fermented pineapple. Salt and chili foam on top. Definitely tasted the pineapple, and the fruity acidity helped to whet one's appetite.

Since we were coming for the first time, naturally we took the 9-course "full experience":

The heart of Thailand: nam prik - three different bites of nam prik (น้ำพริก).

South: crispy rice bread, local mackerel, budu relish, torch ginger flower - with budu (บูดู) gel and torch ginger flower gel on top of the mackerel. The elephant ear / taro stem was crunchy as expected.

North: noom chilli relish taco, fermented mushrooms, pork crackling - the mushroom taco came with diced fermented mushrooms, nam prik num (น้ำพริกหนุ่ม) which was very smoky, and tiny cubes of deep-fried pork crackling. Just a little bit of heat here.

E-sarn: free range chicken, fermented fish relish, egg yolk - the grilled chicken came with some cumin, and was somewhat like Japanese tsukune (つくね) where bits of chicken cartilage was mixed in with the minced chicken. Topped with the fermented fish relish, and wrapped in a moonflower (ชมจันทร์).

From the sea: 7 days aged giant trevally fish, murex conch, fresh coconut, Royal Oscietra Caviar - we've got slices of conch alternative with slices of giant trevally, and some quinoa for a little crunch. A mix of coconut milk, lime juice, and chili oil was poured into the bowl around the caviar, and this was fairly mild in terms of heat.

Crab crab crab: soft shell crab, crab chawanmushi, yellow curry, nampoo - two different presentations of crab, with a yellow curry bamboo aïoli on the side.

Crab chawanmushi with crab meat and crab roe, topped with some cowa fruit (ชะมวง) leaves which tasted a little like laksa leaves. This was very nice.

Deep-fried blue swimmer crab - the nam poo (น้ำปู) glaze on it was pretty nice, and I actually preferred to have the crab without the aïoli.

The crab dish is normally paired with the mead from Day Drinkers Collective. This definitely smelled and tasted like honey.

Next up was an à la carte item which we chose not to order as an extra, but Chef Tam clearly wanted us to taste it.

Signature chicken liver mousse, jaew, black sticky rice sourdough loaf - with tamarind jaew (แจ่ว) on top o fthe liver, along with a powdered mix of rice and kaffir lime leaves. Served with preserved sour mango, santol, and bilimbi (ตะลิงปลิง).

We spread the liver mousse on the loaf, which was rather on the moist side. While I will always love liver mousse, this was not exactly a Thai dish, even if some of the ingredients like fruits are local varieties.

Black squid ink 'dong dang' noodles: black squid ink sauce with lemongrass - the dong dang (ด๊องแด๊ง) noodles made of rice had texture similar to Chinese niangao (年糕) or Korean ddeokbokki (떡볶이). Served with squid as well as squid ink, along with a lemongrass salad which gave us good acidity but also some kick. This was probably my favorite dish tonight. Yes, it's "squid ink pasta"... but also very different.

Anatomy of a river prawn: grilled river prawn, smoked prawn fat, burnt leek, black garlic, prawn head, garden nam jim seafood - the river prawn comes from Surat Thani (สุราษฎร์ธานี) Province, and it's coated with a layer of smoked prawn fat. The nam jim seafood (นำ้จิ้มซีฟู้ด) has been placed in the shell of the head along with tarragon from the garden. The "tail" of the prawn are tuiles made of red chili pepper, with purée made of burnt onion, charred scallion, and black garlic.

Much to my surprise, I found the prawn fat absolutely revolting. In fact, it made me nauseous and I didn't want to swallow the prawn I had half-chewed in my mouth. I needed the nam jim and the herbs on top to help cover up the vile taste, and I chose not to finish the dish. The tuile, though, were nice with the purée and, for me, the best part of the dish.

Grey pomfret curry: grey pomfret fish, senna siamea curry - the "wild betel leaves" on the side came topped with shavings of salted duck egg, and this was slightly bitter as well as a little acidic. Worked better with the cassia curry (แกงขี้เหล็ก). The pomfret (ปลาเต๋าเต้ย) from Ranong (ระนอง) Province was OK.

We were also poured some sato (สาโท) made like Japanese sake... or was it the other way around?

Seii (誠意) - some fruity acidity along with some fermented flavors typical of Chinese rice wine lees, which are more acidic but not savory.

Hearty greens: celtuce, grilled cabbage, tamarillo gel - white asparagus and served with along with scallion oil and celtuce leaf oil. The thins slices of rose apple added some sweetness, while the gel of tamarillo from Chiang Mai Province provided a touch of acidity. Very refreshing.

Then came our second extra course...

Charcoal grilled slipper lobster, southern curry, prawn fat, roti - the slipper lobster came grilled on a stick with chunks of pineapple from Prachuap Khiri Khan (ประจวบคีรีขันธ์) Province. This was nice with the brown curry, but I avoid that damn prawn fat like it was the plague!

Rice roti - made with rice from southern Thailand, and used to wrap up the goodies. This was OK lah...

Khao mok beef: spiced baked rice, ribeye beef, tom zap soup - the restaurant's interpretation of khao mok neua (ข้าวหมกเนื้อ) comes with three different cuts of beef, including a veal sweetbread from Pak Chong (ปากช่อง). The sweetbread was crispy on the outside while staying very creamy inside... delicious!

Grilled ribeye came with a chimichurri-like green sauce that was very tasty.

Tomato terrine with braised beef tongue, and this was also very nice thanks to both the acidity as well as those fried shallots on top.

The khao mok (ข้าวหมก) is often referred to as "Thai biryani" and came spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise. Topped with crispy shallots. More wet and oily than I had expected, but that just meant it was more sinful and tasty.

Tom zap (ต้มแซบ)

Sour mango, caramel fish sauce - some brunoise of sour mango at the bottom along with the caramel fish sauce, topped with a quenelle of sour mango sorbet, torched ginger flower, and mango tuile. Not sure I tasted any Vietnamese mint/laksa leaf...

Raindrops: burnt banana leaf, pink guava, taro - there's a coconut and burnt banana leaf ice cream sitting on top of pink guava jam and macadamia nut brittle; and some thingymajig made with pink guava.

Taro purée was sandwiched inside two burnt coconut waffles.

Finally, the petits fours arrived...

Sticky rice and palm sugar - sticky with almost burnt and smoky flavors perhaps from the palm sugar, and topped with puffed rice.

Chili sauce jelly - with lychee jam in the middle, which was a bit sour.

Coconut pandan cake with sticky rice waffle

Chocolate with cashews and chocolate ganache - kinda savory.

We had waaaay too much food, again. I know Chef Tam was being kind and wanted us to taste more of her dishes, and she did say that we didn't have to finish everything... but I hate wasting food and that, certainly, does not jive with the idea of being "sustainable".

While we were waiting for our car to arrive, we did, finally, get the offer to tour the garden. The Great One decided to take a look, but I had lost interest by this time. I just wanted to go shopping at the Big C so that I could walk off a couple of calories...


P.S. We thought the ceiling was pretty funky, with different files changing colors seemingly to the musical playlist from the 70s and 80s. I was suddenly reminded of the dance floor where Tony Manero was king...

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