Blurring boundaries and connecting people, this is proper soul food.
Set into the back of the yielding, spacious old warehouses of Lhong 1919, is a new riverside restaurant. From the duo behind Karmakamet Dinner, comes Karmakamet Conveyance, the latest offering from Natthorn Rakchana and Jutamas Theantae.
Firstly, it’s a beautiful space. You enter off the former mansion quadrant into an aromatic-cum-botanic-shop, past the soaps and essential oils to the restaurant. Designed by Rakchana with sophisticated swank; every minute detail is addressed, from the flower vases to the light, white drapes. Of course, Chef Jutamas has considered everything in the kitchen too, and after a quick scan of the tasting menu—“Teasers” followed by seven courses—I entered entirely, willingly, wholeheartedly.
Courses are somewhat profoundly named, with descriptions like “Emotional Seascape” and “Bangkok Street No.1” but each comes with a useful ingredients checklist, unveiling core ingredients and more importantly, the inspiration behind each. For instance, an excellent Irish oyster with Pici noodles, and a braised chicken thigh with aromatic rice, tao-si lime dip and “Energy Soup”—chicken broth. This menu is anything but static, it’s bold and experimental, full of varying flavours. Better still, you don’t have to be fat-walleted with the menu costing a very reasonable B2,500 (+ B1,800 wine pairing).
Inevitably with a set, no-choice menu, there’s one dish that makes me think “nope”, but the beef tongue turns out to be the dinner’s dazzling turn. It’s not, as I’d imagined, fleshy or even tongue-shaped, but like most quality bovine cuts is pliant and plump, marrying perfectly with flat rice noodles, a crisp shrimp pancake, a single beef ball, and a confidently-titled “Incredible Chilli Jelly”.
At a time when many chefs think they need to dial flavours up to 11, the subtlety here is rewarding: creative interplays between textures, various degrees of heat, including what looks like a plate of seafood leftovers but turns out to be an assemblage of spiced-coconut crab, curried corn patty, yellow rice, fried Chempedak fruit and a meaty lobster claw. If I’d seen this on a conventional menu, I’d never have ordered it. There’s a definite benefit to having your hands tied.
The food has not been heralded as a new movement or clearly identified as an alternative to the food of Bangkok, but it is moving things in a new direction. Chef Jutamas describes her food and the term “conveyance” as differences between people” and I kind of like that. It isn’t fashionable or chasing trends, it isn’t repetitive or gender-specific cooking, it’s just incredibly good. In a time when diners are obsessed with new, Karmakamet Conveyance rightly deserves high praise, a restaurant about people just as much as it is about food.