Not strictly Thai food, but an edible homage to Thailand itself
Let’s face it. Thailand may have great food, but it’s not the main or only reason people are drawn here. There is something about the place, the culture, and the weather, that comforts the weary and inspires the weird. And no one group of humans are weirder than chefs. That’s certainly true of the brilliantly driven Henrik Yde-Andersen, and why Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin has about as strange a lineage—and menu—as any restaurant you could find.
Henrik was just another adventurous Scandinavian wanderer/backpacker when he ended up spending four years working in Thailand kitchens, before returning to start Kiin, the second Thai restaurant to ever win a Michelin star. But while the chef’s now numerous establishments all aim at luxurious refinement and maximal, unbounded creativity, he still likes to boast that he continues to maintain a “back door”, selling street food and humble favourites to local Thais. And he calls his 120 employees back in Denmark “his Asian family.”
Sra Bua (which means “lotus pond”) is about as far as you can get from a family-style Thai restaurant or setting. As the mainstay for in-house dining at the Siam Kempinski, the setting is practically regal (befitting some of the patronage that encouraged the Danish dude to dare bring his tom yam coals to Newcastle). Despite the highest ceilings south of Elsinore Castle, the place is actually relatively cozy, and the menu, changed quarterly, is even cozier.
In the intervening years since my last visit, the restaurant has found its footing and vastly improved, and so has my tolerance for cross-cultural whimsy—one might even say it has grudgingly blossomed into admiration. This time, I didn’t mind at all savouring frozen white bits of tom kha gai soup that melt in one’s mouth to reveal all the coco-nutty complexity. And I actually adored the cold lobster curry surrounded by cascading flumes of dry ice and lychee foam. This isn’t the sort of place to get politically correct, or anything correct, even if it feels like you should be wearing a Thai silk suit and a Jim Thompson tie.
At Sra Bua, you don’t feel like you are eating “Thai food” as created and consumed every day by Thais. What you have before you is an edible homage to Thailand itself, viewed from both a distant and appreciatively intimate perspective. That means, of necessity, that sometimes the homage gets carried away. But the quest for some ineffable essence of the place and its culture is always there, and in a way that has no resemblance to any restaurant on earth.
The three-course lunch is only B1,350 for the frugal, while dinnertime’s full Journey—around Thailand and maybe to the North Pole and back, with everything from foie gras to salt-baked carrots to beef Massaman—is B3,100.
By John Krich
Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin
GF, Siam Kempinski Hotel, 9, 991 Rama I Rd.
Tel: 02 162 9000 | Open daily: noon-3pm, 6pm-11:30pm