Must-read Earlier Installments:
- Singapore, Cathay, and Qantas First Class.. Some of the Best Meals of My Life, and a Tour of Hyatts in Bangkok, Singapore, and Sydney
- Inside the New Oneworld Lounge at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal
- Cathay Pacific First Class, Los Angeles – Hong Kong
- Cathay Pacific “The Wing” First Class Lounge, Hong Kong
- Cathay Pacific Business Class, Hong Kong – Bangkok
- Grand Hyatt Bangkok: Suite, Club Lounge, and Facilities
- Thai Molecular Gastronomy at Sra Bua in Bangkok
- Getting Custom Tailored Suits Made in Bangkok at Empire Tailors
Nahm at the Metropolitan hotel is probably Thailand’s most celebrated restaurant. The Australian-born chef David Thompson is the first person to win a Michelin star for Thai cooking, a distinction earned for his former London outpost.
But it has neither the expense nor the pretension of most of the other restaurants that wind up on these sorts of lists.
The dining concept is either a la carte or a fixed price option — but strangely not a degustation menu. Rather, the 2200 baht set menu involves canapes and then your choosing one item from each section of the menu’s main courses (to be shared by the table) followed by dessert.
I admit, I didn’t want to choose. So I asked our waiter to simply have the chef choose what is best.
“World’s best” and inclusion in fine dining lists conjures either an air of formality, or showmanship, that isn’t part of the experience here. It’s more top notch, original and creative, traditional Thai food in a relaxed atmosphere.
This is the probably the best Thai food I’ve eaten, and the restaurant feels like comfortable food, to be eaten in a casual setting (and Nahm is indeed far more casual than your typical fine dining restaurant experience) that doesn’t comport with one’s expectations that might follow from the plaudits it receives.
Since it’s in Bangkok, expect to pay ~ US$67 per person for the meal (excluding alcohol).
At the table next to us, diners complained that the food was too spicy. Overall it wasn’t surprisingly spicy, though some dishes have spice and you should expect that — it’s Thai food in Thailand, cooked the way it is supposed to be. If you prefer milder dishes you should discuss that with your server.
I liked how casual the place was. At one table across from us a hotel guest came in for the second night in a row, on their own. It was a business traveler simply dining in the hotel restaurant. So while the place can necessitate reservations and a couple of weeks out to get a preferred time, they must save tables for guests in the hotel.
I could have shown up in jeans. There was one person there in shorts, which felt too casual but this is hardly a jacket required sort of place.
Several dishes are brought to the table together, and you eat family style. This isn’t really a ‘course-based’ tasting menu, you are eating lots of different things but you are eating as though with a Thai family rather than one item after another as I had done at Sra Bua.
This menu (.pdf) is current.
Every dish was thoughtful and simple. The staff was helpful and engaging. There was no pretention. I’d even bring small children there, whereas I couldn’t imagine doing that at most fine dining restaurants.
They were surprised when we commented on liking durian, most Westerners don’t.
Nahm is well worth the money, I’ll definitely plan to return, with the caveat that making a booking a couple of weeks out is recommended especially if you’re not staying at the Metropolitan.
The place is controversial, largely I think because it belies expectations — it is so highly rated, and in the context of fine dining restaurants. In some ways it doesn’t fit the mold. It isn’t formal, as expensive, or as course-based. But it towers above most outlets serving Thai food. Yes, Thai food is also street food and many of the dishes are replicated less expensively. But the ingredients and techniques here are top notch, so it’s also a great comparison and benchmark to use in judging this type of cuisines.