Every world-class city needs a top-flight Cantonese restaurant—preferably ten of them. They’re as de rigeur as Uniqlo shops, bagel delis, and working streetlight. Yet sometimes these tasty mainstays, regularly patronized for old favourites accomplished with deceptive simplicity, a hushed atmosphere, and steaming tea, can be taken for granted.
So maybe it’s time to celebrate the reopening and rebranding of Bai Yun, just moved a flight lower from the 60th to 59th floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel. Despite the move, it’s still the Chinese outlet with the best view in town, one of the highest representatives of Pearl Delta cuisine on the planet. And, though a signboard suggests this is “modern” fare—at times a dread word when applied to dishes not worth tampering with—the modernization is mostly in the newly black-and-purple décor, the more fanciful plating on squares of burnished glass. Thankfully, none of the culinary quality has gone down a notch.
As usual, the best way to walk away satisfied is sticking to time-honoured specialties: the neat chunks of suckling pig or succulent filets of black cod topped with an icing of fermented soy paste. Dim sum remains one of the main draws and delights, either at lunch or, surprisingly, dinner. Skip the deep-fried stuff to save room for high-quality har gow and shu mai, stuffed with the kind of high-quality ingredients you can actually savour. New additions include a battered lychee stuffed with crab meat, then topped with fish eggs and a swirl of mayonnaise (B120++)—the sweet sour combo goes down a lot easier than it sounds. So do slabs of delicate snow fish mounted on tofu (B160++).
The brown sugar marinated duck leg with espresso sauce (B300++/B600++/B900++)offers much softened poultry and just the perfect hint of coffee. For dessert, almonds crust a red bean cake and a rice ball rolled in coconut releases vanilla ice cream within (B200++). Bai Yun’s surprises all seem to work, yet the crowds still come here for the tried and true, like Oolong tea chicken, clay pot braised abalone with fish maw and sea cucumber, and dried scallops and winter melon soup.
It’s all in a day’s work—and so authentically a la Guandong—for the Thai chef Pathomsorn Pankaeow. While he was China-trained, this isn’t the Banyan Tree’s sop to growing Chinese tourism. Thai families, and Thai business meetings, make up most of the clientele. Maybe they do know a good thing once they’ve found it after all.
59F Banyan Tree Bangkok, South Sathorn Rd | 0 2679 1200 | banyantree.com | 11.30am-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm