A clean, bright, clever cuisine that’s never been seen before in Thailand.
Bangkok is moving fast. New hotels. New restaurants. New chefs. It’s not so much about replacing the old, but existing alongside it; a burgeoning, bulging swell of newness.
Some people are not so much new, they’re just back; returning from foreign sojourns to a city transformed. Lured away long ago—from San Francisco and Copenhagen, respectively—Pim Techamuanvivit and Rungthiwa Chummongkhon now front two of the most exciting restaurants in Bangkok. Chef Pim at Nahm was the summer’s big news, and now the sparkly Waldorf Astoria has opened with Front Room restaurant, operated by Chef Rungthiwa—‘Fae’ to her friends.
After 12 years abroad, working at the likes of three-starred restaurants La Belle Epoque and Geranium, and in one of the world’s most progressive kitchens, Noma, Chef Fae has undertaken perhaps her most significant challenge to date. This isn’t training or an international stage; at Front Room, her reputation is on the line.
It isn’t just the success of the northern table that’s made Scandinavia such a sought after culinary destination; it’s the failure of everyone else to match it. You can’t disengage food from the culture it comes from just like you can’t shift direction from the food you grew up with; it’s genetic code. What Chef Fae has brought here is an understanding of the clever interplay between Thai and Scandinavian ingredients—80% is locally sourced—stretching, pulling and manipulating ingredients alongside presentational techniques from northern Europe.
Dinner is a Set Menu of either 7 or 10-course (B2,700/B3,300), although there is also a more honed à la carte menu boasting poetic sounding creations such as “Unami of the Sea,” “The Gold from Mushroom” and the less tender, “Like a Sausage”.
To get a feel of what promises to be a brand new cuisine for Thailand, I opted for the 10-course, with plates a relentless litany of everything that one would nowadays call “fusion” food. Every dish was a new and novel shape and size, each containing minute comestibles that competed for prettiness, some even bordering on brilliant.
Velkommen is a Norwegian word for “welcome” and opens the menu with several small bites, all typically reflective of the Nordic Lab. Service was immaculate. Thestaff marvellously disciplined, never pushy or intrusive, and dishes came and went with such timing that I never felt hurried, or had to wait a moment longer than was precisely right to settle one course and prepare for the next.
The food was history and earth, sea and home, with an atmosphere of quiet hurdy-gurdy burbling and the sort of furry drunkenness you find in hotel restaurants.
The heritage of smorgasbord—help-yourself sideboard sandwiches—can evolve into the torture of relentless plates of foam and fungi, but Chef Fae adapts, incorporating black rice, lemongrass and produce from the Royal Project; all of the tastes and flavours of the Thai kitchen, reworked.
Waldorf Astoria Bangkok,
Tel: 02 035 8108
Open: daily, 5:30pm-10:30pm