Nahm, Bangkok (1 Michelin star)

Nahm

Nahm is rated as the 10th best restaurant in Asia and #49 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants by the well regarded S.Pellegrino list. They also have a Michelin star in the Bangkok Michelin Guide. I was quite excited to try this restaurant as the owner is an Australian (Chef David Thompson) whose Nahm London was the first Thai restaurant to get a Michelin star. It’s unusual for an Aussie to be regarded as a trailblazer for Thai food in Thailand so the kudos doesn’t come with some amount of controversy. However, he has since stepped down and given over the reins to Chef Pim Techamuanvivit (who owns the 1 Michelin Star Kin Khao in San Francisco).

Nahm-Lunch

I must admit, I’m not an expert in Thai cuisine and I don’t know enough about flavor combinations and classic spices to comment on that. I just know what tastes good to me. I’m hitting up several Thai restaurants with a Michelin star this trip (Nahm, Sanah Jaan, Bolan and Sra Bua) so I can compare between them. I thought my Bangkok Michelin star collecting trip should include an appropriately large sample of Thai food restaurants.

Nahm-Bangkok

Nahm is located at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok, which is a nice hotel in a swanky neighborhood. There’s a private school just up the road. You can see the pool from the restaurant and the interior of Nahm is decorated elegantly. There’s soothing Thai instrumentals playing softly over the speakers and the lighting is subdued, but with powerful directed lights illuminating the tables so you can see your food when it comes.

Nahm-Rice

The service was excellent too. I had a very attentive (in a good way) waiter that anticipated my needs and wants. From our conversation, he found out that I’m a food geek and offered me a tour of the kitchen by the chefs, which I enjoyed very much. I like how some service staff is astute enough to know what you like and provide that proactively without asking. It’s a sign of great service. 10/10.

Chatri-IPA

I ordered a Chatri IPA (360 baht). It’s a collaboration edition between Full Moon Brewworks in Phuket and Stockade Brew Co in Australia. It’s a very hoppy beer, pleasantly bitter and grassy tasting. It goes very well with strong tasting Thai food.

First-Bite

The first bite was a savory crepe made with prawns. It’s crispy and sweet-savory. It tastes very shrimpy and goes well with the sweet toasted coconut topping. I went for the lunch set menu for 1,600 baht. You get both canapes, a choice of one each from the entrée, soup, curry and wok fried, steamed and grilled sections as well as a dessert.

Nahm-Canapes

The canapes was Bright santol dressed with dried shrimp, pork, peanuts and herbs served on crisp rice crackers (470 baht) and Miang of lobster, chicken, green mango, snake fruit and herbs served on thong-lang leaves (500 baht). Santol is a tropical fruit that is shaped like a mangosteen but orange in color. The server recommended eating the santol one first since betel leaf is quite intense tasting. I liked it but I prefer the miang kham interpretation. I love the addition of snake fruit (what we call salak in Sarawak) in the betel leaf (actually Indian coral tree leaf, the other leaf they use for this). It’s very flavorful, complex and appetizing, three characteristics you want people to describe your entrée.

Nahm-Entree

I chose the Fiddlehead ferns from Northern Thailand with songkla wild prawns and delicious tawai dressing (780 baht) as my entrée. The fiddlehead ferns were perfectly cooked, as was the accompanying juicy shrimp. The prawns added the taste of the sea into the dish and the coconut and chilli notes rounded things up. It’s excellent but a bit difficult to eat with the provided spoon. A fork would have been better.

Nahm-Main-Courses

The main dishes all came together next. I’ll go through them one by one. You’re supposed to eat the dishes together with rice, of which two varieties were served. There’s a Thai red rice option that tasted surprisingly good and a white fluffy variant I preferred (Suphanburi young harvest rice). These were topped off promptly too, the waiter will come with the two mounds of steaming rice on banana leaves when he sees you’re about to finish yours.

Tom-Yum

I liked the Tom yum soup of river prawn, blue foot mushrooms, chilli jam (450 baht) with a single large prawn. This was my choice of soup. The spiciness level is quite intense even for me, and I eat Thai bird eye chillis raw by the bunches. It’s very good though. It’s so sour and flavorful! The soup really whets my appetite.

Red-Curry-Duck

Rich red curry of duck with snake fruit, sour yellow eggplant and chilli leaves (770 baht) was decent. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about it. It just had the misfortune of coming out with the stellar fish, which overshadowed it. It’s decent and spicy, just a bit too oily for my tastes. Not my favorite thing.

Steamed-Grouper

The fish was the real star. I went for the Steamed leopard coral grouper with pork, fermented yellow beans and fried garlic (880 baht). It’s red coral steamed perfectly with aromatics. So delicious, I wanted more. There’s a lot going on here, both flavorwise and in the texture department. I saw whole taucu bean split in half and there’s some crunchy elements in the dish too.

Pandanus-Dumplings

Dessert is a sesame crepe and a local Thai sweet with a dish described simply as Pandanus dumplings in fragrant coconut milk (350 baht). I spooned one mouthful and was so pleased I exclaimed “Mmmm…” out loud! I thought it was bubur cha cha or something similar. I expected it to be hot. It’s not. It’s icy cold with shards of tiny ice. The strong and intense jasmine taste is spectacular. You can smell it before you eat it and the jasmine permeates all your taste buds and sense of smell. So awesome! They make it with jasmine scented water.

Nahm-Me

The pandan dumplings are delicious too. They’re not sweet, almost neutral and slightly bitter. It’s perfect paired with the mildly sweet jasmine water. It was so good I ordered another serving a la carte. No joke. The a la carte one came with more dumplings and an additional crepe. My waiter sheepishly told me that the set menu only has 1 crepe and less dumplings but the a la carte has more. This dessert also tastes better when you break the crepe into the dish for a crunchy texture. Such a strong finish!

Nahm-Kitchen

I was given a tour of the kitchen courtesy of my waiter. He introduced me to Head Chef Jan, who delegated another younger chef to bring me around the kitchen. Nahm has a huge kitchen, with a finishing/plating area featuring the same lamps that are in the dining room, presumably so they can see how it actually looks like outside. There’s a dry area, a wet area and a special kitchen for pastries/desserts. There’s even a charcoal grill inside where they can grill prawns for that authentic smoky flavor! I also went to the kitchen they share with the rest of the COMO Hotel F&B outlets. I hear this is where they prepare room service.

Ending-Bite

The ending bite is a small bite they give you when you ask for the bill. It’s the polar opposite to the first bite, the yin to that yang. This cracker is sweet instead of savory but the filling is the same toasted coconut. I thought that gave the meal a nice and symmetrical cap.

Nahm-Chefs

I highly recommend Nahm for Thai food. Their lunch is a great deal at 1,600 baht. I went with a beer (360 baht) and an additional pandanus jasmine dessert (350 baht) so my bill was 2,718 baht (RM 343). Lovely ambiance, excellent service, great food. I couldn’t ask for more. Recommended!

Raan Jay Fai, Bangkok (1 Michelin star)

Jay-Fai-Crab-Omelet

This crab omelet place with 1 Michelin star has been getting a lot of hype as the first and only street food to snag a star in the Bangkok Michelin Guide. The crowd waiting (in)patiently for a seat in Raan Jay Fai shows that people are still very willing to wait hours for a taste of their famous crab stuffed omelet. I made a booking via email and still had to wait 1 ½ hours to get my food. Some of the walk-ins have waited upwards of 5-6 hours! The wait is excruciating coz Jay Fai insists on cooking every single dish herself over a charcoal fire.

Jay-Fai-Bangkok

There was a Thai man who got rather irate at a group of Caucasians who let another two late-comers join them. They were not part of the original group. However, the well-run front of house politely let the interlopers know they can’t stay. The service side is run by Jai Fai’s sister (as heard from Marine, daughter of Jean-Michel Lorian who runs the 1 Michelin Star J’aime) and she is unfailingly warm and friendly.

Jay-Fai-Queue

People who walk in are expected to stay in the area as she’ll call their numbers every hour on the hour. You’ll forfeit your spot if you leave or fail to respond. There are several tables and chairs outside for people waiting. You can’t enter the premises until your number is up. I had to wait outside until my 8 pm reservation too. You’re only seated once your timeslot is available so the inside is for customers about to eat only. I thought that was a great way of making it uncluttered.

Jay-Fai-Reservation

I can see my name and email at the reservations list. They’ll ask you to show the original email to confirm that you’re indeed who you say you are. There must have been cases of people trying to pass themselves off as someone else in the past due to the exceedingly long wait.

Thai-Airways

It’s probably the only Michelin starred restaurant in the world to use cutlery nicked from Thai Airways though. I thought that was pretty funny.

Crab-Omelet

I ordered their famous crab omelet. There are no more small and big sizes, it’s now 1 size only for 1,000 baht (RM 126). It came beautifully brown and glistening. Jay Fai only uses 2 eggs in this omelet, the rest of the bulk comes from crab meat! There are no fillers either so everything inside this huge roll is de-shelled crab meat. I thought it’ll be very oily since it’s deep fried in a wok filled with oil but it’s not. The crab meat inside is still succulent too. It goes so well with the slightly acidic sweet chilli sauce they serve on the side.

I really enjoyed this dish. The luxury of eating massive amounts of crab meat without having to go through shells is not something to be scoffed at. I felt like a maharaja who had servants de-shelling the crab for me. It tasted delicious too. 10/10.

Drunken-Noodles

I also went for the Drunken Noodles (500 baht or RM 63). These are flat pieces of chewy noodles cooked with tender squid, delicious crab (the same de-shelled crab found in the omelet), soft cuttlefish, juicy huge prawns and toothsome mushrooms. It’s a seafood bonanza. I thought it tasted good too, for the first few bites at least. Then the sodium hit me. This dish is unbearably salty! This is coming from someone who smashes 3 packets of Mi Sedaap in a single sitting so when I say something is salty, it probably means it’s excessively so. I had to struggle to finish eating this. It’s good but Jay Fai should really work on the sodium content.

Jay-Fai

Raan Jay Fai is one of those Bangkok experiences you have to go through (like Gaggan). The bill came up to 1,525 baht (RM 192) with the crab omelet, drunken noodles, and water to drink. I enjoyed the camaraderie that comes with waiting with total strangers. I had a nice long conversation with my tablemate, an Indonesian programmer working in Africa. One highlight was a Caucasian girl clapping her hands excitedly when her crab omelet arrived. “I’ve never waited for something this long”, she exclaimed.

She’s been waiting since 3 pm and it was 9:30 pm when her food arrived. “Let’s order another beer to celebrate,” she proclaims and the whole restaurant started cheering whenever everyone got their food, including me. I thought that was pretty cool, a shared bond that you’ll only get after hours of being cramped together in a small non-air conditioned shop lot on a hot Bangkok night.

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle (1 Michelin Star)

Hill-Street-Tai-Hwa

I made it my mission to smash one of these famous bowls of pork noodle (bak chor mee) during my recent trip to Singapore. I have heard about the legendary lines which can form here, so I checked Google to see which are the non-peak hours and went with my dad at 3:30 pm on a weekday. They’re the second ever hawker stall in Singapore to be awarded a Michelin star, after Hawker Chan. I have eaten at their competitor High Street Tai Wah Pork Noodle, which has recently won a Bib Gourmand, but should not be confused with the 1 Michelin Star Tai Hwa. It’s run by the nephew of the owner of Tai Hwa though.

Tai-Hwa-Eating-House

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle is located at a small residential food court. There are a few other stalls besides it and even at this odd hour, there was a queue in front of the stall.

Tai-Hwa-Noodle

However, it moved quite quickly so it wasn’t an issue. The chef-owner Tang Chay Seng was there cooking every single bowl by himself. I managed to take a selfie with him. He must think it odd that the Michelin Guide has elevated him to a somewhat celebrity chef status but I’m sure many people have done this before so he must be used to it. Haha.

Tai-Hwa-Selfie

There’s a large setup of trays beside him which holds raw pork – everything from pig liver to sliced and minced pork. The meat are just sitting in their juices. I admit, I did wonder if this was refrigerated/has ice below the trays or the stall just goes through meat so quickly that it doesn’t have a chance to spoil. I’m not that anal about food safety. I happily eat at random food stalls with questionable hygiene practices all the time. Just curious.

Pork

I have experienced some hits and misses with the Michelin Guide in Singapore and thus braced myself for a mediocre bowl of noodles. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. The flat noodles have a wonderful bite to them but it’s the sauce that makes it shine. The beautiful concoction it was tossed in has a nice vinegar taste, which helps cut through the richness of the pork. It’s very savory and I can see why people love it. The pork slices and wonton are delicious too, but it’s the soup which stole the limelight. The pork broth is mixed with seaweed and results in a umami explosion. Top notch! There’s also a deep fried piece of fish which adds a nice texture.

Tai-Hwa-Pork-Noodle

There are many Michelin star places which I would never visit a second time. This isn’t one of them. I would come here when I’m in Singapore again coz the pork noodles are really good. I regretted ordering the SGD 8 medium sized bowl. I’ll go for a large next time.

1-Michelin-Star-Noodle

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle
Blk 466, #01-12, Crawford Lane, Singapore

1 Michelin star Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle (Hawker Chan)

Hawker-Chan

This was the very first street food/hawker stall in the world to ever win a Michelin star. Not Bib Gourmand, a proper star. It’s a common misconception that Michelin rates ambience and decor when giving out stars. They have always maintained that the star is awarded for food only, and that includes things like the chef’s personality coming through clearly. They have a separate icon for comfort/ambience (fork and spoon) which rates how luxurious the restaurant is but star ratings are always based on the quality of food alone.

Liao-Fan-Hong-Kong-Soya-Sauce-Chicken-Rice

I was in Singapore with a mission to try out this much hyped soy chicken rice stall. I made sure to go to the right one. People have the false impression that the Michelin star travels with the chef and applies to all outlets he opens. That’s simply not true. The Michelin star is rated for that restaurant only. The only Hawker Chan with 1 Michelin star is their original shop at Chinatown Complex Food Center. The modern and air-conditioned new premises opposite only has a Bib Gourmand.

Hawker-Chan-Queue

I went early with my dad before they opened and thought I was lucky enough to be first in line. There didn’t seem to be a queue. I confidently walked up to order, only to be told the queue was behind me. It was only then that I spied a long snaking line of people looking displeased at me. Haha. I honestly didn’t see them. The queue starts from beside the opposite stall so they don’t block foot traffic. It even has a velvet rope. Very proper.

Hawker-Chan-Selfie

The wife of Chan Hon Meng manages this stall and she was friendly enough to take a photo with me. Service is quick and the line moves along well so don’t worry about having to queue up.

Hawker-Chan-Menu

I ordered the flagship dish of soy sauce chicken rice. It’s SGD 2.50 for the drum portion. The meat was marinated beautifully, with a sweet soy glaze that permeates the gelatinous skin of the chicken. It’s surprisingly flavorful and robust. I can taste cinnamon and other spices in the marinade. The inside is still soft and juicy. I love this perfectly cooked chicken. 10/10. However, the chicken rice I got was lumpy and mushy. Maybe they were having an off day but I’m not a fan of this rice, which seems to have the fundamental error of having too much water mixed in.

1-Michelin-Star-Chicken-Rice

The soy chicken is delicious though. Would I return? For sure, to try the noodles next time. I hear it’s pretty good too. You need to set your expectations right for Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle. It’s a soy chicken rice stall so don’t expect fireworks and novel molecular gastronomy executions. They’re good at what they do and that’s soy chicken.

Hawker-Chan-Order

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle (Hawker Chan)
335 Smith Street #02-126, Singapore
(don’t go to the wrong one, this is located inside the Chinatown Complex Food Center)

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