No two ways about it, The Banyan Tree Bangkok’s Saffron has been overshadowed by the competition. Not only does this upscale Thai restaurant sit only a few floors down from the hotel’s stunning roof top al fresco venue Vertigo, it’s also located in a part of town blessed with some of the city’s most feted Thai restaurants.
Maybe it’s just the luck of the draw, or maybe Saffron needs to shout about its own talents a little louder. After all, this is the original, flagship Saffron in a whole fleet of them now located in Banyan Tree Hotels around the world. Another feather in its cap: the head chef, Renu Homsombat, has been here for over a decade and, in that time, has moved the restaurant away from its emphasis on Royal Thai cuisine towards more experimental terrain. For example, while dedicated to making sure the Thai flavours still sing loud in each dish, she likes to dabble in European techniques and styles of presentation.
Unexpectedly, the dishes often surprise. Take the khong wang ruam (B770): this tray of appetizers is about as thrilling an opener as a Thai food fanatic could hope for– a real table-pleaser. Think sticks of pillow-soft chicken satay; a banana leaf salad studded with fat, juicy prawns; crunchy-soft spring rolls; some deep-fried bitter leaf; as well as a selection of tangy, spicy or sweet dips to go with them. Delicious stuff.
If you can find space for another salad, the yum pla salmon is even more of a treat: huge hunks of searedTasmanian salmon dressed up coriander and mint, crisp pork crackling and a spicy citrus dressing. A dazzling contrast of textures and tastes.
Mains are also a testament to Saffron’s high quality control, with dishes we tried and can recommend including the moo ob narm phueng (B470), which are roasted, peppered pork spare ribs glazed in a black pepper and honeycomb sauce; and the pla krapong, fried sea bass with salted egg. As for the soups and curries,our chicken green curry (B500) was a good, delicate,fragrant rendition, while the tom saep nua (B330), spicy beef soup, walked off with second prize (first prize goes to the khong wang ruam). Its standout feature: the beef is braised Australian short rib, and so more tender (and less cartilage-y) than normal, disconcertingly so at first.
We could go on (honourable mentions: the deep friedsquid with black ink sauce; and the closing tray of obscure petit four) but to do so would be labouring the point – Saffron has the talent to compete with the best of them. The flavours are assertive; the balance between flair and tradition well judged and executed; and the quality of the ingredients first rate. Add the slick, attentive service and the compelling setting – 51 floors above ground you can see for miles – and it’s a wonder this restaurant doesn’t rate more highly.
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Banyan Tree Bangkok
FL 51-52 | 21/100 South Sathon Rd | 02-679-1200 | MRT Lumphini | banyantree.com