He’s an ebullient Aussie who has devoted his considerable culinary aplomb to uncovering the most essential flavours of Thai cuisine for over a decade. He has poured one-of-a-kind research and resources within the community of the former royal court consorts to revive a showy lineage of historical showpieces on a plate. He is a brash outsider who swears that the quest for profits will never compromise showcasing his culinary brilliance or his loyalty to reinterpreting the past in most daringly modern ways. No, his name is not David Thompson. It’s Jason Bailey. And his restaurant isn’t Nahm, but, just to keep it as singularly monosyllabic, Paste.
How to properly taste Paste? Let me count the ways. Claimed as one of the creations served “at the inauguration of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha” in 1809, frozen scoops of watermelon are bathed in shallots and coconut for a superbly refreshing Thai salad, to which the audacious chef has added a topping of salmon eggs (B350). In Bailey’s hands, tom yam becomes a subtly smoky and not the slightest bit too tangy soup, informed with jack fruit seeds and homemade chicken broth, floated with single bites of crunchy pork instead of the sad standard of soggy and pedestrian shrimp (B390). Numerous rare herbs like pennywort and sea asparagus give a new twist to curries, like one built around blue sea crab (B850). And when he goes back to his Aussie roots with a hunk of beef tenderloin al sangre, it’s dressed with a tangy fruit nahm jim blended from galangal and “hairy eggplant” (B950). This much innovation could be too much, but it’s still balanced with a respect for time-honoured combinations—not to mention a sharp eye for aesthetic presentation.
All of this is not just the result of brash experimentation. Teamed with his wife and fellow chef Bongkoch “Bee” Santongun, Jason was cooking and learning in Thailand for a dozen years before opening the first branch of Paste on Sukhumvit 49. And he insists any “modern” interpretation of Thai cooking must improve the quality of ingredients while still drawing upon a vast archive of well-researched recipes, often originating at the Royal court.
With its second, showier branch ensconced at the back of the top floor of the high-end Gaysorn, Paste’s atmosphere is blissfully palace-like: un-crowded, hush-hush, and purposely hard-to-find exclusive. For those who make the effort, and are willing to shell out for somewhat higher prices, it’s a form of time travel via the tongue that’s not the least bit hard to digest.
F3, Gaysorn Shopping Centre | 0 2656 1003 | paste-gaysorn.com | daily noon-2pm, 6.30pm-10pm
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