Baa Ga Din advertises itself as serving “street food,” but when the street in question is super-posh Sukhumvit 33, and the purveyor of snacks is Bangkok’s hottest and most ambitious young chef, the result is unlike anything ever seen on the capital’s sidewalks—or anywhere else, for that matter.
The third enterprise already for the thirty-year-old, C.I.A.-trained “Ton” Tassanakajohn, following Le Du and Baan, this restaurant is meant to expand the new area of gourmet bar food, but the result is another statement in the evolution of “modern Thai,” where the plates may look small, but come with authentic flavours as big as the airy, well-designed space they come in.
Don’t gobble this stuff down too quickly, because care has been taken here to create an original green Sriracha sauce, to debone twice-cooked chickens, to pickle carrots with a home recipe, to smoke hard-boiled eggs and blend local basil into mayo. No wonder these “roots inspired” creations on black platters don’t come at stalls-on-wheels prices. But a simple herb salad, in Ton’s hands, is worth plenty more than the B200 price—each bite the essence of every Thai dish you’ve ever tasted tossed into one. The grilled corn salad (B160) is deceptively simple, too, but it’s a thing of beauty, tossed in a punchy dressing of kaffir lime and cupped within a slice of green mango (plus drops of mango emulsion) made into a circle.
Since the chef couldn’t quite contain himself, large plates are available for the very hungry, as well, and the luscious pork shoulder (B450) in a pool of subtle curry, plus eggs, comes about as close as anything here to paying proper homage to those hunks of smouldering flesh seen on every Bangkok corner. A crispy pork belly (B200) is a great mini-version for meat cravers. A side salad of deep-fried lotus root and apple slices in a lotus cream was especially delightful. Then there’s many more with slight, but well-contained and wisely-used, Western influence that look intriguing to come back and try: a so-called “fritatta” topped with shrimp paste and sour cream; roast pumpkin with garlic cream; a unique duck larb served with rice chips and cabbage.
As seem to be obligatory at every new eatery now, the drinks are as complex and strange as the food, like fresh passion fruit and gin topped with a burning cube saturated in absinthe. And the names are as creatively and curiously local as could be expected—Silom Cha Cha Cha, Khaosarn Spice, Wake Up in Bangkok. Considering the humble nature of Thai street food, it comes as a minor revelation that the wine list is a robust four pages, with a solid selection of New and Old World labels. That’s anything but a complaint—there are plenty of reds to match the meat while the whites work surprisingly well with the distinctive arrangement of sweet, spicy, and salty elements in Thai food.
Chef Ton returned from the US out of loyalty to his native cuisine and a burning desire to engineer an upgrade. The rest of us should be thankful for the results.
BY John Krich
Baa Ga Din
26 Sukhumvit 31 | 0 2662 3813 | baagadin.com | Mon, Wed-Sun 6pm-11pm (closed Tue)