New chef, new menu, still an absolute classic
Name another restaurant in Bangkok, or Thailand, more lauded, applauded and panted over than Nahm. You see, you can’t. The very name—meaning “Water” in Thai—has long been celebrated for its exploration of Thai cuisine, and is a regular fixture of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants as well as the recipient of a Michelin star last year.
Now, Nahm 2.0 to take a Noma appellation—or 3.0 given that the restaurant first opened in London in 2001—under the patronage of new chef, Pim Techamuanvivit, could very well be something entirely different. I’d never eaten at Nahm until now, so can only write from first-hand experience with this menu, but I can say confidently that this is an irresistible dining room with a menu full of invention, polish and understated food.
Given the salubrious surroundings and the expectation of Chef Pim, she has designed a menu shrewdly full of comfort: curries, soups, fruits. Canapés include the traditional Thai one-bite wraps miang kham, presented here with shards of meaty lobster and chicken, green mango, snake-fruit and mixed herbs on a betel leaf, overlaid with vibrant pomegranate seeds (B500); and santol fruit dressed with dried shrimp, pork, peanuts and herbs on a crisp rice cracker (B470).
Then, a choice of four curries presented to the table for sharing. I opted for Chang Mai larb of pigeon tossed with herbs, alliums and served with fresh vegetables (B790). And another, fiddlehead ferns from northern Thailand with Songkhla wild prawns and tawai dressing (B780); recipes transformed by touches of refined creativity. The spicing is long on flavour and thankfully short on heat, although she did threaten to chilli up the curries to Götterdämmerung levels if she got lip—Chef Pim is tough!
I might single out the pigeon curry for particular mention. Pigeon isn’t a meat commonly used in Asian cooking, and when it is the quality is invariably hideous. This was a shredded larb of the best-quality pigeon—pork being the most commonly used in Thailand—and an excellent example of the fact that birds don’t have to be cooked with the bloody speed of an electrocution victim to be palatable. An accompanying plate of crispy catfish represents carbohydrates and cucumber, parsley and celery leaves, presented a cool palate cleanser.
In an unconventional—for a Westerner—series of service, soup follows curry. Staff though are smiley and considerate, on-hand with helpful suggestions and explanations of how best to order. It seems to be the law that every “contemporary” Thai restaurant must feature tom yum, and it’s inescapable here, served with river prawns, blue foot mushrooms and a piquant chilli jam (B450).
Desserts are limited but varied: tropical fruits, durian, sticky rice. My pandanus noodles with black sticky rice & sesame coconut tuiles (B350), is a reward in pudding sweetness, after a meal already high on flavour.
It’s too early to be lauding the creations of Chef Pim, as how can she be entirely comfortable with her new kitchen environment, given that it’s only been about four months. Still, this is a menu faultlessly assured. Pricey? Yes, but dishes are what they always should be, tasty. Nahm was never dated and it isn’t dated now. Instead, it is, and will continue to be, an absolute classic.
By David J. Constable
COMO Metropolitan Bangkok,
South Sathorn Rd. Open: Mon-Fri, lunch 12pm-2pm, Dinner 6:30pm-10:30pm Tel: 02 625 3388