Thailand Takeover: Nahm

Nahm bangkok Thailand

I will be the first to admit that our photos from Nahm are... not the best. For that I apologize and beg you to only hold it against me, not this fantastic (though poorly lit for phone photography) restaurant.

Nahm's now closed London location was the first Thai restaurant to receive a Michelin star, so to say I was excited about eating here would be a world class understatement. Now let me say I love Thai food but it also presents a problem for my picky palate. I don't like coconut and I don't like shrimp/prawns. My husband joins me on team "Coconut is the Actual Worst" but is pro prawns. Part of me really wanted to do Nahm's tasting menu but after six months of mostly disappointing food in Seoul, I was really feeling more play it safe than ADVENTURE so we ordered a la carte. Nahm's menu states that the tasting is served family style based on the number of people in the part so we made the mistake of assuming that meant a la carte was served as single portions and ordered at least twice as much food as we needed. Afterwards, we decided that if you're not doing the tasting, it would be best to go as a group to be able to try as many things as possible without feeling terrible about the amount of food you left on the plate.

We got one appetizer to share and then a salad and an entree each. It was way too much food but it was so good.

We started off with the the crispy pork and lobster with shredded ginger and thai citron canape and this was probably the most disappointing thing we tried. We found the leaves that were used as the wrap too large and felt they completely overwhelmed the flavors and textures of the fillings. I think on some sort of house made cracker or even as a salad, I would've liked this much better.

For my salad I ordered the grilled beef salad with cucumber and mint and Dan ordered the salad of wild mushrooms with grilled prawns and chili jam. When I ordered my salad the waiter said "It's quite spicy is that alright?" and I excitedly assured him it was fine. He was not wrong, it was very spicy, but unlike a lot of very spicy foods, the heat played into the overall combination of flavors instead of overwhelming it. This salad was so good that it was the only plate we finished. I want to eat this salad every day. The steak was perfectly cooked (rare) and seasoned, there was fantastic balance between the spiciness of the dressing and the coolness of the cucumber and mint and it had some nutty crunchiness to keep it texturally interesting. Dan's salad turned out to be spicier than he bargained for but also had a great combination of flavors. Since it was full of prawns, I only tried a mushroom which was delicious.

My entree was grilled pork cheek with smoky tomato sauce and Dan had stir fried pork with dried prawns, apple eggplant and chili. My grilled pork cheek was beautifully cooked and tender. At the time I was so obsessed with my salad that I really didn't appreciate this dish but it was also great. It wasn't quite what I expected since it was served with the sauce on the side and "smoky tomato" seems like an inaccurate descriptor. This was the one thing we ordered that I thought was going to be a little more fusion but it was still very Thai. I have no objections to that, it was just a surprise. The sauce was somewhat tomato-y but also had the distinct thai flavors of chili, fish sauce and kaffir lime. It was a really beautiful addition to the tender grilled pork cheek.

With salads at $15-$20 and entrees at $20-$25, Nahm is expensive for Thailand but an absolute steal in terms of price for quality compared to a restaurant in either Seoul or New York. Book well in advance and try to convince a group of friends to come with you to ensure you can get as many menu items as possible. Or, be more adventurous than me and just do the tasting menu. It's probably great.

Thailand Takeover: Eat Me

Tuna Sashimi and Uni Eat Me Bangkok Thailand

I have incredibly mixed feelings about Eat Me. We went here for Valentine's Dinner and, let's be real, between the need to turn tables and special menus, Valentine's Day doesn't always showcase a restaurant's best work. The menu at Eat Me is large, interesting and ambitious. It's definitely much more adventurous than any Western food I've had in Seoul, and I was really excited about that. However, the execution of a lot of the dishes simply didn't measure up to the expectation of such a unique menu. While I'd probably go again if I found myself in Bangkok, if the same restaurant existed in New York, I'd be disappointed.

Let's talk appetizers.

We got three: Heirloom tomato salad with olive oil ice cream, mint basil and parmesan, line caught ahi crudo with blood orange, pomegranate, scezuan pepper and sea urchin and spicy Australian strip loan steak tartare with fried quail egg.

I know, I know, you're like "Really, Alana? Tomatoes in February? You should know better". Aaand, normally I do. Normally I wouldn't go near a tomato salad before late June but I figured maybe in Thailand they manage to have good tomatoes year round. Also, I love olive oil ice cream and this salad sounded so interesting. I should've known better. The tomatoes were grainy, I'm pretty sure the mint was missing and the olive oil ice cream was fine but certainly not the best I've ever had. Mostly this dish just really made me want to make a better version of it once tomatoes are in season.

Our Ahi crudo had beautiful plating but those weren't blood oranges and it was missing the sichuan pepper which was part of the reason we ordered it instead of the oysters with champagne granita. It was still a pretty solid dish but it wasn't as interesting as I wanted it to be.

As for the tartare, it wasn't just a few fresh peppers mixed in to give it a bit of spice and compliment the flavor, the whole thing was so spiced I couldn't taste the steak. I don't know about you, but not being able to tell the quality and flavor of the raw beef I'm eating makes me a little nervous. It was ok. I wouldn't order it again but we ate most of it.

For my main I got pappardelle with with braised rabbit ragu and spicy njuda sausage. The papardelle was perfectly cooked and I would guess house made or at least fresh pasta instead of dried. The ragu was good, but the flavor of the spicy sausage was so strong it completely overwhelmed the braised rabbit. Spicy sausage ragu is something I still might've ordered but if a dish has braised rabbit in it I want it to be for a reason not just to make it read better on the menu. Dan's main was crispy skin duck confit with roasted beet root, fennel and banyuls gastrique. At the time I remember him saying he thought his own duck confit was better and when I asked him about it right now his only response was "it was unremarkable". I'm sure I must've tried it but I cannot remember anything about it, so "unremarkable" seems incredibly accurate.

The Lonely Planet description of Eat Me says it has some of the city's best desserts and since ordering the things that sounded interesting to me hadn't worked so far, I decided to keep it simple and go with flourless chocolate cake. We only ordered one dessert so I'm not sure if I just ordered poorly but it was not my favorite. The entire menu description was just "flourless dark chocolate cake" so I thought I'd be getting a simple slice maybe dusted in powdered sugar. What I got was a huge dense slice in a pool of chocolate sauce that tasted like uncooked cocoa powder with a fudge-y frosting. It was not very good and way too huge a portion for that much richness. I wish I had ordered the lemongrass creme brulee or some other more adventurous item instead.

The one thing that we were unequivocally happy with was the bar (even though I did get gold leaf from this Gold Rush all over myself). The drinks were delicious and looking behind the bar at how well prepped and efficiently set up it was made my little chef's heart sing. I can't tell you how many times in Seoul I've wanted to jump over the bar and rearrange a bartender's entire station as I've watched them walk back and forth the entire length of the bar MULTIPLE TIMES to make my Old Fashioned.

If you're coming from a city where you have many options for interesting, ambitious western food, just go to Eat Me's bar. If you, like me, are living #expatLIFE, Eat Me is worth a try just to remind you that there are still people out there doing interesting things with food even if they need a little work on doing it well.

Thailand Takeover: ROAST

We went to Bangkok with almost no plans. In Europe, we had a strict cake eating regimen to adhere to so everything, including coffee breaks, was planned. But for Thailand - we of course had our hotel reservations, our plane tickets to Krabi and two restaurant reservations. We honestly spent a lot of time by the hotel pool in Bangkok preparing for spending a lot of time on the beach in Krabi. We did manage to get in some really good meals though. Roast definitely made it into our top three.

Roast

Our first two days we ate at our hotel buffet for breakfast. Having had many breakfast included buffets over the Summer, I'd say we've come around to having some pretty strong feelings about how terrible breakfast buffets can be which means we didn't opt for them included in our hotel room and just paid full price. We went twice in a row because it turns out the breakfast buffet at the Millenium Hilton is huge and pretty good but even with a good buffet, three days in a row is too many.

Dan did some googling and found a fantastic looking list of the twenty-nine best brunch places in Bangkok. TWENTY-NINE. For the best list! This was both thrilling and overwhelming to our truly good Western food deprived tastebuds. We were looking for Monday morning, so that automatically knocked out a good portion of the list. Eventually Dan narrowed it down to two and the ultimate decision was heavily influenced by the fact that I had brought coffee beans but Dan had forgotten the crank for our hand grinder so what we wanted more than anything in the world was good coffee.

Roast is in Thonglor, which was not particularly close or convenient to where we were staying but we decided that it would be our primary adventure for the day. If we felt up to something in the afternoon, neat, but if not we'd hopefully have our first truly great brunch and coffee in six months. We have zero regrets.

I ordered the Roast Breakfast which comes with two eggs cooked to your preference (over medium), duck hash, bacon, house sausage and lightly dressed salad greens. It also comes with coffee and tangerine juice which isn't apparent on the menu so I confused both the waitress and myself by ordering thyme pink lemonade and ended up with three beverages. The thyme pink lemonade was pretty sweet, I'd skip it if we ever went back but I was happy with my other two beverages. The house sausage with very herbacious and tasted completely different than anything I've had recently, I was so pleased. Korean sausage tends to just not be savory enough for my palate and even attempts at Western style sausage mostly end up falling somewhere between and still being too sweet. The potatoes in my hash tasted like they must've been roasted in duck fat, which was fantastic. I wish there had been a little bit more duck in the hash or that the potato pieces were a little smaller for a more balanced combination in each bite but really my complaints are minor.

As you can see in the picture of Dan's Eggs Benedict, the eggs they use are awesome. The yolks were incredibly rich and flavorful. Dan got a pour over for his coffee with an adorable little tasting card. It pretty much made his day. There are a lot of cafes doing pour overs here in Seoul but it seems like very few of them have any real judgement about the quality of the beans they're using and they're all very expensive. It's a rough life for coffee snobs.

Weirdly, one of the things we were both the most into was the lightly dressed greens, a garnish that might go completely untouched if we were in America. I make salads at home occasionally (I will probably more in the Summer) but most salads in Korea are made with iceburg lettuce and dressing that is, you guessed it, TOO SWEET for me. Light vinaigrette or just olive oil and lemon are my jam, keep your sugar dressing away from my lettuce, thanks. The simple salad was also a very nice counter balance to the rich foods we ordered.

It was a great meal and made me really wish that Seoul was a more diverse city with more access to well made non-Korean food.