[BKK] nahm | world's first Michelin star for Thai cuisine

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Helmed by Australian-born chef, David Thompson, nahm was an inspiration built upon the chef's initial success with 'Darley Street Thai' in Sydney which was voted 'Best Thai Restaurant' by the Sydney Morning Herald for eight consecutive years. nahm London then came on and secured the first ever Michelin star for Thai cuisine.

While we live to make our calories count, we endeavour to search for the 'best' Thai restaurant in during our trip to Bangkok. The prestigious World's 50 Best Restaurants ranked nahm as 32nd globally and 3rd best in Asia. So what exactly is up the chef's sleeve that makes this one of our must-try destinations?

David believes the traditional Thai meal is an exercise in balance, with the dynamic interplay of hot and sour, sweet and salty. Embodying each meal is the perfect use of robustly flavoured ingredients such as garlic, shrimp paste, chillies and lemongrass which are melded ingeniously to create a sophisticated yet subtle elegance in which every element is in perfect balance and harmony.

Known for its style of big-flavour sharing plates drawn from ancient cookbooks, we were informed by the knowledgeable servers that nahm commits to bringing food cooked from heart and to give customers a homely feeling. Let us get started with the food!


As with most fine-dining restaurants, the chef kick-started our dinner by serving us these bite-sized minced pork with shallot, palm sugar and garlic on a wedge of sliced pineapple. Set to titillate our taste buds, the flavours were bold and provided an insight on what to expect for the courses to come.

The tasting menu at nahm is slightly different as compared to most Western fine-dining restaurants whereby you will be served with four canapes to start before choosing a salad, relish, curry and another main from the stir-fried, steamed or grill ala carte menu. The meal would then be completed with a dessert of your choice. The portion sizes would be adjusted accordingly to the number of guests dining and in this case, all the portions are designed to feed us both!

The canapés were served one after the other and we were briefed to consume in a particular order in order to bring out the desired effect, preparing our palate for the mains to come.

Prawn and coconut wafers with pickled ginger

The wafer was paper thin and as crisp as one could possibly ask for! Sandwiched in between were shredded prawns and pickled ginger and while the overall taste carried a mild scent of coconut, it was pleasantly conveyed to our palate. A soft and gentle start to warm-up our taste buds.

Verdict: 8.0/10

Blue swimmer crab, peanuts and pickled garlic on rice cakes

We were warned about the slice of chilli padi placed atop the rice cakes but when consumed in a mouthful, it was highly enjoyable as you could taste the freshness of the shredded crab complemented beautifully by the crunch from the peanuts and rice cakes. You could start to feel the level of spiciness warming up.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Smoked fish, peanut and tapioca dumpling

The dumpling was bursting with flavours but what made this memorable was the tapioca layer of coating which gave it a chewy texture without tasting overly starchy. While the smoked fish was not the dominant taste in this, the crunchiness of the peanut gave a nice complementing texture.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Salted threadfin perch with ginger, chilli and green mango on betel leaves

Being the last of the four canapés served, it also carried the strongest punch in terms of flavours. The sliced red onions, ginger and chilli coupled with the green mango overwhelmed the salted threadfin perch and by now, our senses had definitely woken up to the heat and spice.

Overall, I felt that while the canapés were good, they were shy of impressing us wholly.

Verdict: 7.5/10 

Lobster and mangosteen salad (supplement of 100 THB per person)

While most of the salad were equally exotic, we were particularly intrigued by how mangosteen could enhance the flavours of lobster. While mangosteen itself has a subtle taste, infusing it into the sauce did not make it shine through in this dish. The lobster chunks were fresh and cooked perfectly, leaving it juicy, tender with a slight crunch.

Verdict: 7.5/10

The main courses were served all at one go, so just relax yourself and tuck in!

Minced prawn simmered with shallots, young chillies, coriander fresh vegetables and smoked pork

Upon serving the dish, we were politely briefed about how to enjoy this delicacy. We were supposed to scoop a spoonful of the relish onto the fragrant Jasmine rice served separately on our plate. Upon blending it with the rice, it complemented beautifully with the smoked pork which tasted tender and savoury. The mild sweetness from the relish neutralised the salinity of the smoked pork and gave it a balanced taste.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Mussaman curry of beef with potatoes and shallots

This has to be one of the most perfect red curries tried in our lives, exaggerated? Hardly so. The flavours were bold and intense. Strongly recommended as one of their signature curries, you would understand why from the first spoonful. The aroma that emits was surely enough to titillate your senses and while the curry was rich and creamy, the beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender. The potatoes had a natural tinge of sweetness that we still reminisce about even while writing! All the key flavours of a classic mussaman curry were spot-on, be it the fragrance from the cinnamon and coconut milk, mild heat from the spices & chillies to the sourish tang from tamarind sauce.

Verdict: 9.5/10

Hot and sour soup of chicken, prawn and mushroom

Personally, I find that it would be a crime to leave any Thai meals without trying their classic tom yum. As such, we specially requested for it and were directed to this. While the lady found the broth to be too salty for her palate, I enjoyed it without qualms. The seafood used was fresh and while the broth looked innocently light, it masked a great deal of heat which grew upon us as we sipped the soup.

Verdict: 8.0/10

Grilled pork cheek with smoky tomato sauce

This was one of their signatures too and while it might not sound the most glamorous, the taste was overwhelming. That sauce on the side was unique and interesting to say the least; with a savoury touch yet hinting of spiciness, sweetness and sourness. It seemed to encapsulate all essence of an authentic Thai cuisine into a concise dish. 

Despite being grilled, pork cheek maintained its tenderness and had a slightly crisp texture to its surface. With the specially concocted sauce, served separately on the side, drizzled atop the protein, it enhanced the flavours sublimely. Standalone, the sauce however might be too salty for my preference.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Complimentary green mango slices drizzled with sugar and salt

This dessert was complimentary and served before the main desserts. The green mango was crunchy and was brushed with a blend of sugar and salt, enough just to neutralise all the heat from the main course.

Coconut ash pudding with poached bananas

This was highly recommended as it was just added to the desserts menu on the day that we arrived. Yet another brilliant inspiration by the Michelin-starred chef, the coconut husk was burnt to create coconut ash which had been filtered and cleverly blended into the mixture to form a variation of both white and darker coloured pudding. 

The texture of the soft pudding was beautifully complemented by the varied sizes of crushed peanuts and the fragrance was enhanced as the pudding was wrapped and served atop neatly cut banana leaves. The way to enjoy this dessert was to first taste the coconut pudding then sip some of that coconut milk syrup which contained poached bananas. Despite being poached, the bananas remained slightly firm and tasted subtly sweet due to the fruit's natural sweetness.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Sweet thai wafers with poached persimmons and golden duck egg noodles

This was a calories-laden dessert that packed a great deal of flavours and experiences in one big mouthful. The texture was brilliantly complemented with the crispness from the wafer softened by the cream and the strings of duck egg noodles. Made of egg yolk and sugar, the 'noodles' were intense and definitely not meant for the faint-hearted. Just when you think 'oh, that's it', the firm and slightly sweet slice of persimmon hidden underneath the 'noodles' will surprise your palate pleasantly.

Definitely made our calories count.

Verdict: 9.0/10

Complimentary desserts

Before we picked up the tab, we were served an extra plate of sweet treats to end our satisfying meal. Egg yolk laden with sugar, young coconut and peanut crunch were but three more sinful bites but when you are on a vacation, you tend to let your guard down when it comes to being calories-conscious....or was it just us?

The restaurant is located on the ground floor of the Metropolitan Hotel which also overlooks the outdoor swimming pool. Guests may choose to dine within its cool interior or out on the terrace but even though we had an indoor seating, the restaurant was plagued with mosquitoes even on the inside, so ladies you might wish to cover up.

There is a smart casual dress code to be observed by the guests so for the gentlemen, unfortunately no shorts or slippers would be entertained.

The service of the staffs was flawless and they were knowledgeable about the dishes offered on the menu. If in doubt on what to choose, they would be more than happy to share to better your understanding of the dishes.

The tasting set dinner menu came to about 2,000 THB per person, though with some drinks, expect it to be in excess of 5,000 THB easily, which would be about S$200/++ for two persons. Not exactly the cheapest to pay for a Thai cuisine, but with a reputation and great flavours to match, we felt that it made our calories count and while the canapés failed to wow, the mains and desserts left us largely impressed.

Do note that the menu changes from time to time due to the availability of seasonal ingredients and of course the chef's ingenious stroke of magic to create something fabulous!

Metropolitan Hotel, 27 South Sathorn Road
Bangkok, 10120
Tel: +66 2 625 3388

P.S: Reservations are highly recommended and may be done directly through the website here.

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