10-course dinner with beer pairing @ Upstairs at Mikkeler (1 Michelin star)

Upstairs-at-Mikkeler

Upstairs at Mikkeler by Chef Dan Bark is a tiny restaurant with only 5 tables that somehow managed to win a Michelin star. This was not entirely surprising as I have heard superlative reviews on the interwebs and from friends who have visited way before the Michelin Guide came to Bangkok. The Mikkeler brand is a craft beer brewer and Upstairs is literally the restaurant above the Mikkeler pub downstairs.

Upstairs

There were way more chefs and waiters than actual diners in the restaurant. The food prep is laborious and Upstairs at Mikkeler is also famous for their beer pairing, a very modern take on the wine pairing at other upscale restaurants. They’re a brewer after all. There’s no menu available – Upstairs only offers a 10-course tasting menu for 3,800++ baht with an optional beer pairing menu for 1,300++ baht. I went for both since there’s no way I’m passing on such an unusual beverage pairing.

Mikkeler-Passionfruit

Dinner started with an amuse bouche that was not listed in the menu. There are more than 10 dishes because of this. My friendly waiter described this as Vanilla whipped cream with lots of passionfruit and a bit of oats. It’s supposed to be an acidic start to whet your appetite since sour is a known appetite stimulant. It works!

Mikkeler-Say-Hey-Sally

The first few courses were accompanied by Mikkeler Say Hey Sally, a 4.6% alcohol pilsner. There are 6 beers in total and they’re mostly from kegs or draft, but the beer pairing guy will bring you the can/bottle so you can see for yourself and take photos if you want. Mikkeler even provides a smartphone tray beside your eating utensils so you have a proper place to place your phone. I thought that was a funny and excellent touch.

Upstairs-Amuse-Bouche

Bacon marmalade. Whole grain mustard. Maple syrup. Quinoa chip. It’s the perfect small bite before the meal proper. The chip was still warm due to the just-in-time preparation in the kitchen. Each course is only plated when they see you’ve finished the previous. The open kitchen and restaurant is small enough that the chefs can see your plates and tables. One caught me staring at her and smiled – that’s how small the restaurant was!

IKURA

IKURA – blueberry, hibiscus, thyme was the real first course. The bottom is thyme infused milk (excellent) with tapioca pearls and chips, hibiscus soaked water, and ikura (salmon roe) on top. It has a very unusual, bright flavor. To be honest, it doesn’t immediately register as good coz it’s so progressive but it’s certainly an intriguing dish.

Mikkeler-American-Dream

The upcoming carrot course signaled a change to the next beer – Mikkeler American Dream, a 4.6% hoppy pale lager. It was indeed very hoppy and bitter. The beer pairing guy explained that the next few dishes were sweet, so a bitter beer helps balances the flavors. I really like him. He’s a Thai guy who was born in Malaysia and he’s such a beer geek. It’s fun to learn from him.

CARROT

CARROT – goats milk, grapefruit, fennel is next. It’s carrot 6 ways (!!!) e.g. six different preparations of carrot from dehydrated carrot to puree. It’s paired with goat’s milk curd, fennel marmalade, lemon pudding. I really loved this dish! It’s delicious, sweet and goes well with the hoppy beer.

Brioche

There was also an extra course of homemade brioche with black lava salt and olive oil jam. This looks very simple but it ended up being one of my favorite dishes. Nothing beats good bread fresh out of the oven and the black lava salt really highlights the sweetness of the butter. The olive oil jam was delicious too. Very yums, but I know I can be biased coz I love bread.

POTATO

POTATO – bacon, cheddar, leek is the soup course. It’s very fragrant. As is the trend in fine dining, the waiter finishes the dish table side. I could smell it as soon as the waiter started bringing it over. It also has bits of shaved potato (including the skin) at the bottom which provides a nice textural element. It sounds simple but from the waiter’s description, the work that goes into a dish like this is not insignificant. They even make the bacon themselves.

Zeffer-Hopped-Cider

Zeffer Hopped Cider is next, a 5.4% alcohol cider. This ended up being one of my favorite drinks of the night. You know how commercial cider like Somerset is extremely sweet to the point of being off-putting? Other ciders go the opposite route and they’re so acidic it puckers not just your lips, but your entire body. Zeffer Hopper Cider is the perfect balance – it’s not sweet, but not too sour too. It’s also bitter so it’s nicely balanced. Bittersweet, but more bitter than sweet.

CAULIFLOWER

CAULIFLOWER – curry, grape, hoja santa. There’s grapes inside, which was pleasant. It adds a sweet touch to the salty curry. They also have sacred leaf, the Mexican leaf they use for cooking tamales. Upstairs only lists the first 3 ingredients of each dish so it’s up to you to discover some of the others and the waiter will give you a run-down afterwards. It’s a very textural dish.

HOKKAIDO-SCALLOP

HOKKAIDO SCALLOP – finger lime, dashi, cinnamon. This is a very Instagrammable dish.

Scallops

The waiter brought a bowl of cinnamon and stone with a teapot to my table. Upon serving the scallops, he poured cinnamon water over the cinnamon bowl to diffuse the essence of cinnamon over the table. He explained that the scallops were too delicate for cinnamon to be added directly so the chef thought of using smell to add the essence of cinnamon instead.

Smoke

This is also one of the first batches of finger lime they grow in Thailand. I’m familiar with the efforts to grow finger lime in Australia and they’ve started doing the same in Bangkok too. It adds a nice zest to the very fresh scallops in dashi.

Mikkeler-Windy-Hill

Mikkeler Windy Hill, a 7% New England IPA came next and it’s supposed to go with the upcoming 2 dishes. It has a heftier alcohol content to shift the dinner into the second phase. It’s a lighter tasting beer to wash away the fattiness of the next few courses.

WAGYU-BEEF

WAGYU BEEF – sherry, truffle, chive. This is Sanuki wagyu raised with beer. It’s proper Japanese wagyu raised in Japan and flown in, not the much inferior Australian cattle breed. There’s a shockingly delicious truffle paste to go with the beef, as well as chive powder and purple potato chip. I ate one of the slices by itself, one with the chive powder and one with the delectable truffle paste. They’re all yummy! The beef has lovely flavor and it’s not too fatty unlike some highly marbled wagyu. It’s also cooked perfectly – blue, which is raw inside. I love this dish to bits. The truffle sauce is intensely overpowering and pairs well with the beef. I could eat this all day. It’s my favorite dish of this trip.

HONEY-DEW

HONEY DEW – prosciutto, balsamic, white truffle. This is 16 month old prosciutto sprayed with white truffle oil. The waiter comes with a small bottle and sprays the white truffle oil right before you eat this. I was most impressed with the dense flavors within the 16-month-old prosciutto. That’s a long time to age meat! Why honey dew? That’s what it tastes like even though there’s no honey dew in here.

Boon-Lambiek

Boon Lambiek, 7.2% lambic. A lambic is a type of beer from Brussels in Belgium. It’s for the last savory course and the pre-dessert.

DUCK

DUCK – beet, black garlic, pumpkin. This is duck in 4 forms – sous vide, confit, grilled and fried. Upstairs also ferments the garlic sauce for 19 days! There’s pickled kelp noodle to go with the confit duck. The skin is fried. I like the main sous vide duck roll but the confit duck is off-putting to me. It’s so oily and cloying I found it impossible to enjoy it. This is not the fault of the chefs per se but a personal preference. I’m not a huge fan of confit duck and other such overtly rich preparations.

APPLE

APPLE is the trendy dessert called a pre-dessert nowadays to kick start the dessert courses. It’s served on a nice porcelain ring and it’s more like a palate cleanser since the shell of the apple is filled with liquid and it bursts in your mouth the moment you put it in. The waiter also warns you to eat this in one bite since there’s liquid inside.

Mikkeler-Beer-Geek-Thailand

Mikkeler Beer Geek Thailand is the last beer pairing, a 10.9% alcohol imperial stout to go with dessert. It’s the perfect end since the bitterness balances out the dessert dishes well. This beer is inspired by mango sticky rice and it’s brewed with jasmine rice, mango, coconut and lactose. It’s like a bittersweet dessert beer. My second favorite beer after the hopped cider.

PISTACHIO

PISTACHIO – cherry, rhubarb, rose. This is my favorite dessert. It’s a mixture of different textures and flavors with bright notes like rhubarb, rose petals and herbs as well and deeper notes like biscuit crumbs, pistachio and cherry. A most excellent and balanced dessert plate. Wonderful stuff.

CHOCOLATE

CHOCOLATE – banana, cranberry, yoghurt is a very sophisticated dessert. There are so many different chocolate preparations here – wafers, molds, ribbons etc. My favorite is the log filled with white chocolate and banana that oozes out when you cut into it.

Oozing-Center

It’s beautiful.

Upstairs-Petit-Fours

You’re served with coffee and a selection of petit fours to signal the end of the meal. I like the apple ribbon the most, followed by the chocolate chip cookie.

Upstairs-Mikkeler

I enjoyed my dinner at Upstairs at Mikkeler. The bill came up to a hefty 6,333 baht (RM 804) for 1 pax inclusive of full beer pairing, coffee and water. It’s half the price of Gaggan. The waiters are all very knowledgeable, friendly and they’re happy to share the preparation and stories that goes behind each dish. I liked the beer pairing guy too, an approachable true beer nerd from Thailand (born in Malaysia!). The food is good and the ambiance is great. You can see the chefs working from your table – that’s how intimate the space is. Definitely recommended if you like beer and food.

J’aime by Jean-Michel Lorain (1 Michelin star)

Jaime-Piano

I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback for this Michelin starred French restaurant in U Sathorn Bangkok. U Sathorn is a beautiful, sprawling colonial style hotel/resort with much of the associated accoutrements. The lobby is an open al-fresco space, which might not be the best option in the sweltering Thai heat, but thankfully J’aime restaurant itself has a more practical approach to air-conditioning. The main feature in J’aime is an upside-down piano as a centerpiece in the restaurant. The entire kitchen is also visible from the dining area so you can see all the chefs inside preparing your food. I thought that was a nice touch.

Jaime-Restaurant

There is a dedicated booth outside the restaurant for reservations. This fixture is usually just for show in similar restaurants and I’ve never actually seen it manned. However, J’aime dedicates a staff member here, which is a refreshing change. Very proper, very French.

Marine-Lorain

The restaurant manager is Marine Lorain. If her name sounds familiar, it’s coz she’s the daughter of Jean-Michel Lorain, the namesake and owner of the original two Michelin star La Cote Saint Jacques in Bourgogne, France. She’s unfailingly friendly and very knowledgeable about the local food scene. She found out I’m here to pay homage to the recently published Michelin Guide Bangkok. I had a nice conversation with her about which Michelin star restaurants are worth a visit in Bangkok.

Jaime-Cocktail

I was here for lunch and ordered their set lunch menu, an excellent value at 1,200 THB. They also have a shorter express 3-course business lunch menu for just 990 baht, but I went with the longer one. I was still mildly hungover from the wine pairing at Gaggan last night so I indulged in J’aime (350 baht) – their signature cocktail made with Ron Zapaca, Captain Morgan rum, Melon liqueur, lime juice and passionfruit.

Jaime-Bread

The bread selection is pretty good too. I enjoyed nibbling on these with butter, which was replenished after I finished the pat.

Orange-Scented-Eggplant-Soup

Orange-scented eggplant soup, ratatouille, and fennel salad. The soup is poured on the dry ingredients table side. It’s creamy and there’s a lot of texture underneath. Pleasant.

Cacao-Nibs-Quinoa

Romaine lettuce garnished with avocado, cacao nibs, and olives, served with quinoa and a lime & cucumber juice. Corn, tomato, and a fresh herb garden. This salad came in two separate plates and you’re supposed to mix them together. I never would have thought salad would taste so good!

Fresh-Herb-Garden

It’s the most delicious salad I’ve ever eaten and that’s saying a lot. There’s a lot going on here – oils, foams, greens, grains. It’s fresh and every element adds something to the plate. I particularly enjoyed the green avocado foam.

Monkfish-Wakame-Plankton

There are two mains you can choose from, either Monkfish, eryngii mushroom, and wakame seaweed, with a rice & plankton emulsion or Duo of Phetchabun cherry duck breast and leg, served with mulberries and morning glory. I went with the monkfish as per Marine’s recommendation. It’s cooked well and flakes off beautifully. I also like the seaweed and plankton on the side – what better to accompany a piece of fish than marine foliage?

Candied-Fruit-Fig-Sorbet

Lightly spiced candied fruit with a fig sorbet, and a walnut & almond cracker ended the meal. I love this dessert! I’ve been moving away from chocolate based desserts recently and find that I appreciate the less sweet and more complex fruit based desserts more. This was perfect! It’s just the right note of sweetness (which is barely) and has nice acidic undertones from the fig and textural elements in the walnut and almond cracker. Excellent.

Amerigo-Tito-Sesti

J’aime does classical French cooking very well and their lunch set is exceedingly good value. I spent 1,590 baht (RM 202) inclusive of a cocktail and water. The service is attentive and the food is delicious. You’ll enjoy this if you like the French approach to cooking. I managed to take a photo with Head Chef Amerigo Tito Sesti too! Please excuse my prosperous stomach.

Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin (1 Michelin star progressive Thai)

Sra-Bua-by-Kiin-Kiin

I scheduled Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin as my last meal in Bangkok. I was flying back in the late afternoon so I made a lunch reservation. Sra Bua is in the beautiful Siam Kempinski Bangkok hotel. I’ve stayed at Kempinski Taschenbergpalais in Dresden and Kempinski Gravenbruch in Frankfurt and I’ve always been impressed by the excellent service there. I left my bags at their concierge for the whole day while I had lunch and walked around Siam Paragon. If the name Kiin Kiin sounds familiar to you, it’s the Michelin starred Thai restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. They’ve opened an outpost right in Bangkok and I’ve heard so many good things about the progressive Thai food they serve.

Sra-Bua

I was surprised to see every single table occupied when I arrived for lunch. This is very unusual, especially for a lunch service. I doubt all but the most popular restaurants can boast such a capacity. Sra Bua has a large odd-shaped dining room with chandeliers, water features, starched linens and servers in uniform. The waitresses are all trained well, able to explain the dishes and perform on demand (as is necessary to introduce some of the dishes).

Summer-Menu

I went for the seasonal Mini Summer Journey menu (2,100 baht) which was also promoted by a huge billboard outside the hotel. This is a special menu for summer and they don’t serve their regular (shorter) set lunch menu while this promotion is going on. They hand you a complimentary cup of lemongrass tea while you peruse the menu. I thought that was a nice gesture. Each table also has a huge bound book filled with Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin’s recipes you can read if you’re bored.

Tuk-Tuk

The meal started with the Street Food and Snacks appetizers and a bit of theater – my waitress came with a covered cloche and opened it with a flourish at my table. The smell of burning smoke filled my table. “Welcome to Bangkok”, she said with a smile. “Here’s some tuk tuk smell”. I thought that was quite clever.

Street-Food-and-Snacks

This came as a trio of appetizers – there’s a nacho dusted with their Sra Bua curry dust (which is made from actual curry and dehydrated for a few days before being turned into powder), the tuk tuk skewer bite and some dehydrated lotus root served on real lotus pods.

Lotus

The plating and presentation of everything was spot on.

Magic

My waitress then came with a bowl filled with black grain, which she presented to me. “There’s nothing inside”, she declared. She then shook the container vigorously, applying centrifugal force, before opening the lid with a flourish. “Magic” she said with a smile when a brown nugget appeared.

Wasabi-Biscuit

It’s a piece of bread that you’re supposed to eat with the wasabi sauce they had previously put on your table after telling you the other part is coming. I love this interactivity and storytelling. 10/10.

Smoke-Foie

Roasted Foie Gras, Mushroom Ravioli, Five Spices Pork Ravioli and Mushroom Bouillon came next with a cloche covering a cracker. This was opened so the smoke wafts out and you can smell it while eating. Beautiful. The generous chunks of foie gras was smoky and creamy. I love the mouthfeel. It goes very well with the Thai inspired pork ravioli.

Bouillon

There’s also very clear consommé poured by the waitress before you dig in that tastes intense and delicious. The yellow dabs of sauce have a mustard base to cut through the richness of the foie gras/pork ravioli.

Roasted-Foie-Gras-Mushroom-Ravioli

It’s a perfect dish. The cracker is infused with dust which wafts delightfully when you take a bite.

Nitrogen

Maine Lobster Salad, Frozen Red Curry is the signature dish of Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. It comes with billowing clouds of smoke from liquid nitrogen. It’s a whole lobster that’s been deshelled and served with herbs and edible flowers. There’s a scoop of their curry ice cream (curry sauce made into ice cream) and foam which tastes like the sea. The liquid nitrogen is not just for show – it’s there to prevent the curry ice cream from melting.

Maine-Lobster-Salad

All these components go so well together. The perfectly poached lobster is delicious when paired with their awesome curry ice cream and marine foam. I could have happily eaten this every single meal for the rest of my life. Excellent!

Slow-Cooked-Beef-Rib

Slow Cooked Beef Rib with Homemade Oyster Sauce was served next and it’s the only dish my camera AI recognized as “Food”. All the other dishes didn’t trigger the food AI. It’s so progressive it doesn’t look like food. The beef rib was wonderfully smoky and tender. They also serve a small bowl of rice with it so you’ll have something to pair it with. A thoughtful idea since the oyster sauce is quite salty and this is after all, a Thai way of eating. I love the crispy dehydrated vegetable too.

Mango-with-Sticky-Rice

The meal ended with an interpretation of Mango with Sticky Rice as dessert. It has vanilla ice cream and sticky rice at the bottom and comes served with a cotton candy cover which is dissolved by the application of hot mango sauce. It tasted alright but I’ve seen too many such executions in trendy cafes to be impressed. This is not Sra Bua’s fault though.

Sra-Bua-Petit-Fours

There was also complimentary coffee, which is a refreshing change. Usually coffee is charged at these restaurants for RM 20-30. The petit fours were dainty and unique – I particularly loved the cinnamon looking one, which is actually some kind of raw (as in nama) chocolate. Very unique textures and flavors.

Sra-Bua-HB

I really enjoyed Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. I truly think they deserve a second Michelin star. My experience here was almost on par with the 2 Michelin star Gaggan. My only regret was not choosing this for dinner so I can have a longer menu and dining experience. Lunch cost me 2,472 baht (RM 313) with water. I can’t recommend them highly enough – in fact the only two Bangkok Michelin restaurants I would recommend without reservation is Gaggan and Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. I will definitely be back for dinner next time I’m in Bangkok.

MIGF Macanese Cuisine Menu @ Samplings on the Fourteen

Samplings-on-the-Fourteeth

My famous Instagram personality/healthy living influencer/TV host friend Soo Yin extended an invite to a food tasting at Samplings on the Fourteen. This restaurant is a mere 4 monorail stops away from my office so I dropped by after work to check out their MIGF menu. MIGF is the Malaysia International Gastronomy Festival. The festival was a huge deal in 2003 when I was a fresh grad working in KL. I would check out the participating restaurants with my meager salary at the time and most of the offerings were good. However, the inclusion criteria seem to have changed – there’s a few additions I wouldn’t think of as fine dining and the same few faces from Genting has an oversized presence.

HB-SooYin

That doesn’t mean they’re all duds though. The well regarded nadodi is one of the restaurants in MIGF 2018. I’ve also been hearing tons of positive things about the progressive gen in Penang. I haven’t dined at either, my experience tend to lean towards the Michelin Guide. I admit, I’m a Michelin star chaser and I’ve dined at world class Michelin starred restaurants in Paris, Hokkaido and more recently, Bangkok. I really enjoyed the dinner I had in The Lab at Gaggan two weeks ago. That said, there are very few places in Malaysia which I would consider world class restaurants.

This is the Light Macanese Cuisine Menu (RM 178 nett) offered by Samplings on the Fourteen. The Full Macanese Cuisine Menu is the same thing but with two glasses of wine pairing at RM 208 nett.

Portuguese-Squid-Salad

The appetizer was Portuguese Squid Salad, which was a cold dish of squid with a few brushed sauces. I detected a rather fishy smell emanating from the cephalopod and the sauces were not very intense. I didn’t think they added much to the dish. It’s not my favorite thing.

Potato-Kale-Soup

The soup course which featured Potato Kale Soup was better. It’s rich and has bits of crunchy elements and something which tastes like pork (though I’m told this is a pork free restaurant so it’s probably turkey ham). Decent.

Macau-Garlic-Prawn

The entrée of Macau Garlic Prawn was my favorite dish of the night. The prawns were cooked well and the garlic chips were excellent. I also liked the mash/puree served on the side – the flavors go swimmingly with the garlicky prawns. Good stuff.

Grilled-Fillet-of-Marble-7-Wagyu-Tenderloin

We were given a choice of two mains and I got to sample both of them since myself and Soo Yin ordered a different one each. I went for the Grilled Fillet of Marble 7 Wagyu Tenderloin. Unfortunately, the waiter who took my order did not ask me my preferred doneness so it came out medium. I usually go for blue or rare. I honestly wouldn’t have rated this as an M7 wagyu. To be fair, this is probably Australian wagyu, not the excellent marbled breeds from Japan (a steak of this size would cost much more than the price of dinner alone). However, this dish came across as one dimensional and flat due to the minimalist seasoning. This can only be pulled off if the meat is of exceptional quality and it’s not. I was hoping the pink lotus root would have been pickled more – adding an acidic touch to this dish would have saved it. I have had two excellent steaks in the past fortnight, once at Gaggan and another time at Upstairs at Mikkeler. But lest you think I’m a food snob (that’s totally not me if you have me on Facebook), I honestly think a dedicated local steakhouse like TTDI Meat Point would be a better bet if you like steak. Their chimichurri sauce is excellent.

Confit-of-Soon-Hock

The other main was Confit of Soon Hock. I like this one better. The fish was cooked decently and flakes off well. I thought the portion was a little too small to be a main but maybe that’s an internal food cost calculation thing. I would go for this over the beef. The addition of potato balls (?) was a bit curious though. I did not think it added to the dish and the texture doesn’t go very well since both are soft.

Serradura

Dessert was Serradura/Macarons. This was spelled as macaroons in the menu and all MIGF literature. That annoys me more than it should. They’re two different things. Macarons (the French meringue confectionary) should be spelled with a single o. I know some inclusive, vegan, body positive liberals have started saying both spellings are correct if you prefix it with “French” e.g. French macaroon but since there’s already a coconut biscuit called macaroon and the French spell it macaron, why would you invite confusion?

Mini rant aside though, the serradura was excellent. I had to convince Soo Yin to eat it coz it was so good. I love the malty biscuit dust – it reminds me of all the Marie biscuits I ate as a kid and goes very well with the whipped cream. Asians love textural play in their food and this checks all the boxes. Bonus points for also not being too sweet. However, the macarons that came with this dish was overly sweet.

Fourteenth-View

It’s been a very long time since I’ve been to a food review. I did enjoy talking to my fellow bloggers during the night. I had fun. The food wasn’t the best, if I were to be honest, but there were some highlights in the menu – the excellent shrimp entrée and the serradura were my favorites.

Cons:
Macarons is spelled with one ‘o’. Macaroons (with two o’s) is a different type of biscuit made with coconut
Food wasn’t very impressive

Pros:
The cute waitress added me on Facebook

Nahm, Bangkok (1 Michelin star)

Nahm

Nahm is rated as the 10th best restaurant in Asia 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)

Hoo Kee Bak Chang (Michelin Singapore Bib Gourmand 2017)

Hoo-Kee-Bak-Zhang

I had a carefully curated list of Michelin 1 Star and Bib Gourmand places to visit in Singapore, with a focus on hawker food. I ended up eating as many as 4 meals in a two hour span for several days, which only sounds fun in concept. I have a huge appetite and a prodigious stomach capacity but I felt stuffed very often and couldn’t enjoy the food to its fullest potential. This was one of those occasions. I went to Bukit Merah to tackle 4 different dishes and Hoo Kee Bak Chang was my 3rd stop. However, I still very much enjoyed the bak zhang they served.

Hoo-Kee

I believe this is the only bak zhang in the Michelin list. The stall is in the packed Amoy Street Food Center. It’s full of office workers during lunch, it’s hard to find a seat and the center is blisteringly hot and humid. I’m not the biggest fan of crowd and I don’t fare well in the heat, but if you can get past all that, you’ll be rewarded by a beautifully crafted bak zhang. The stall is manned by a husband and wife (?) team and the woman is quite attractive! I found her friendly and approachable too, which is always a plus point.

Michelin-Bak-Zhang

They only have four items on the menu: Chestnut/Original Dumpling (SGD 3), Salted Egg w/ Chestnut Dumpling (SGD 4), Mushroom w/ Chestnut Dumpling (SGD 4) and Deluxe All-in (SGD 5). I went for the last option since I could only eat one bak zhang. As the name suggests, it’s a combination of everything into one dumpling. They’ll cut it up for you and serve it on a disposable cardboard tray so you can eat it right there and then.

Hoo-Kee-Me

I loved the flavors in here. I have a soft spot for bak zhang and I have to freely admit that I like most bak zhang that has passed my lips. The one at Hoo Kee is packed with ingredients – there’s mushrooms, salted egg, chestnuts, marinated pork. It’s a beautiful medley of comforting flavors and textures and I thoroughly enjoyed it despite being full. Is it better than other bak zhangs? I don’t know, this was the only bak zhang I’ve eaten in Singapore ever! But it’s a really good bak zhang, and as I’m writing this I have the worst craving for them. I could totally smash 4-5 right about now. 🤤

But then I see my fat face in the photo above and I know I shouldn’t. Back to my diet, then.

Tonka Bean Cafe @ Impiana Hotel Ramadan Buffet 2018

Tonka-Bean-Ramadan-Buffet

There are so many incredible moments in the Tonka Bean Café @ Impiana Hotel’s Ramadan buffet dinner that I can’t say for sure which my favorite one is.

D24-Durian

The delicious D24 durian at the stall outside?

Sup-Tulang

The huge sup tulang gearbox that you suck up with a straw?

Baskin-Robbins

Their renowned Baskin-Robbins ice cream selection? I love all those and more!

Chocolate-Fondue

Their in-house bakery does some really magical pastries too. I may have been tempted to “take away” some of their delicious creations if I were a less scrupulous man. There’s only so much I can stuff into my stomach over the course of several hours.

Seafood-Platter

I always make it a point to eat in a savory-sweet-savory format so I don’t overwhelm my tastebuds at buffets. I started out at their cold seafood section where there’s crabs, mussels, prawns and scallops on offer.

Durian-D24

My friend Joyce told me the durians outside were ready so we headed out. I was pleasantly surprised to find out this was premium D24 durian! Impiana Hotel doesn’t just serve any durian – these babies are actually great quality D24! I was lost in the complex flavors of the D24 and I ended up eating 12 seeds. It was a bit of a mistake coz I was slightly full at this point but I have to say – WORTH IT!!!

Coconut

They also have local delights like whole coconut water and sugarcane for drinks.

Briyani.jpg

I also enjoy eating biryani rice and they have two huge vats with chicken and lamb biryani inside.

Prawns

They also have a wide range of cooked dishes with a focus on lamb and seafood.

Fish-Head

There’s a huge fish head.

Crab

Crab!

Roast

A whole roast.

Fried-Chicken

Fried chicken.

Live-Band

There’s also live entertainment playing, which is great for long dining sessions like this. As a bit of an introvert, you don’t want your awkward conversation or piped muzak to be your only companion. Hehe.

Salmon.jpg

I also managed to help myself to some delicious salmon to end things.

Ulam

They have ulam too so you can break up all those rich flavors with some palate cleansers.

Buffet

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and stuffed myself so hard I feared some of my shirt buttons might pop off. It was worth the 2 hours I took to drive here from Shah Alam during rush hour.

Tulang-Gearbox

Sinar Ramadan Al-Mubarak is a month long dinner buffet at Tonka Bean Cafe @ Impiana KLCC Hotel. It’s RM 148 nett per person from 16th May to 14th June 2018. Children rates are RM 74 nett from 4-12 years old. Kids below 4 eat for free. Dinner starts at 6:30 pm – 10:30 pm daily. There’s an Early Bird promotion where you can buy 10 get 1 free until 15th May 2018.

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