Bangkok Post reviews
A taste of the past
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: July 18, 2014 at 8:22 am
A restaurant in a traditional setting and classic cuisine preserves heritage in the present
The amiable host, Chef Chumphol Jaengprai, always greets guests.
Magnificently set in an age-old traditional Thai stilt teak wood house in a quiet residential soi, Siam Wisdom may be regarded as one of the most celebrated Thai restaurants at the moment.
The 89-seat establishment, which opened in April this year, is co-owned and directed by the highly acclaimed professional-cum-TV personality Chef Chumphol Jaengprai.
Siam Wisdom cuisine, a tribute to time-honoured Thai culinary fare, is prepared according to authentic recipes, some dating back to the previous century, but presented in contemporary world-class presentation.
Phad phrik khing nong ped (580 baht).
Beginning our journey back in time was saeng wa goong pla duk foo (550 baht). It’s a scrumptious platter of the ancient-style sour and spicy salad of chopped char-grilled king river prawn, aka saeng wa goong, accompanied by a serving of fluffily crispy deep-fried wild cat fish crumbs and assorted fresh vegetables, which perfectly complemented and toned down the fieriness of the salad.
The next appetiser, khanom beuang boran (280 baht), or old-fashioned Thai crispy crepe with savoury crab meat filling and cucumber relish, is ideal for those looking for a light, brittle yet flavourful treat.
From the first taste, I was immediately impressed by the authentic pungency of Chef Chumphol’s Phuket-style yellow curry with blue crab meat and wild betel leaf (480 baht). This top-selling dish, to be eaten with rice, was offered in a generous portion, showcasing the rich and gritty, lemongrass-seethed curry with heaps of supple, naturally sweet crab meat, chopped aromatic betel leaves and crisp, parmesan-like crab roe topped with thick coconut cream.
Equally popular was gaeng khee lek nuea yang, or cassod tree leaf curry with grilled beef (480 baht). It showcased neat slices of prime-grade local beef, perfectly grilled to yield pleasant charred aroma and a tender texture, in a pool of creamy curry deliciously lending a soothing bitterness and medicinal benefit from the indigenous vegetable. Though the dish is conventionally eaten with rice, diners could enjoy the dish by itself as a main course.
Should you wish to sample a classic Thai dish with modern touch, don’t miss phad phrik khing nong ped (580 baht). It’s a revolutionary rendering of the basic home-cooked meal traditionally featuring sweet red curry paste stir-fried with string beans and choice of meat. The dish was presented here in a Western style reminiscent of French duck confit. Boasting flavourful, well-cooked meat, the crispy-skinned duck leg arrived on a bed of blanched green beans accompanied by chilli paste relish and croquette coconut jasmine rice, which was indeed a feathery light translation of khao man, or coconut milk-cooked rice.
Siam Wisdom’s a la carte menu changes according to the seasons. The 20-item répertoire basically features all-time favourite fare together with a number of special dishes prepared with the best seasonal harvests.
For the current climate, nothing represents its abundance better than wild mushrooms.
And the phla poo hed phawh, or sour and spicy salad of flash-cooked crab meat, earth star mushroom and white turmeric (380 baht) proved a deliciously exciting tribute to rainy season cookery. It’s a unification of the crunchily popping wild mushroom with a characteristic creamy centre from Phrae province, blue crab meat, finely sliced white turmeric and other herbs.
If you have a chilli-challenge palate, you can’t miss goong phad yod phrik (580 baht). This super tasty dish, which can set your tongue on fire, presented a plump, fresh and flavoursome river prawn thoroughly drenched with piquant yellow chilli dressing.
Desserts are never regarded as a second-rate endeavour here. The evidence lies in the parade of truly awesome sweet treats we had that evening.
The traditional sun-dried, perfumed rice cake with wild honey pop rice, aka khao tu khao tok, accompanied by roasted rice ice cream (290 baht) was superb, as were the warm cantaloupe souffle with coconut cream (290 baht) and mango sticky rice (290 baht).
And I can’t miss mentioning the homemade ice cream (250 baht per two scoops), of which the chocolate-dried banana flavour, in particular, was my favourite.
Though a la carte menu is available for both lunch and dinner, it is recommended that first-time dinner guests go for a 10-course tasting menu (1,800 baht per person), which will take diners on a deliberately designed expedition into Chef Chumphol’s highly cherished cuisine.
The multi-course set is available in three styles, with the Ancient menu featuring the likes of sai krok pla naem (minced fish meat with herbs) and geang buan (Mon-style herbal pork curry); the Classical menu includes yum som o (sour and spicy pomelo salad) and gaeng khua poo; and the Innovative menu introduces, for example, phad phrik khing nong ped and semicrudo poo ja (crab cake).
As a bar, Siam Wisdom offers an impressive collection of exotically crafted cocktails, mocktails, beer and fine wine to enjoy with a variety of Thai cuisine-inspired tapas.
During my weekday dinner visit, the atmosphere was convivial with an interesting mix of clientele. Diners ranged from fashionably dressed local foodies, international expats in suits and ties, and avid culinary groupies of Chef Chumphol from nearby provinces.
The service by a team of cordial staff in traditional Thai silk uniforms was prompt and pleasant.