May the Flavour be with you

Spaceage eatery Kooon brings the out-of-this-world to Bangkok

In a galaxy not so far, far away, there's a place where the mere touch of a finger will set off an electrical impulse and make food magically appear. A mythical joint where a tactile response allows you to order your meals with the least amount of human contact possible (and if there's one thing we could all use less of, it's interaction with people).

What is this sci-fi Utopia, you ask? It's called Kooon and it's found on this strange planet called Earth, in an even stranger land called Thailand, and in the strangest place of all, Bangkok.

Possibly spearheading the future of eating out in Bangkok 2.0, Kooon fully incorporates iPads into the ordering experience, whereas some other places use them merely as replacements for paper menus.

Every table is equipped with an iPad, on which you can order your dishes through an app called Kooon (duh) with an easy-to-use interface that won't make Grandma Mod reminisce about the good ol' days when there was this thing called paper and you could get a plate of noodles for only two baht. The app allows you to see recommendations and promotions, track what you've ordered, and calculate the cost of your meal

It may be a bit gimmicky, but hey, if kids in Thailand won't be getting their tablets anytime soon, I don't see why we shouldn't pave the way for a "One Tablet PC Per Restaurant" policy.

Decor-wise, Kooon comes across as a stylised laboratory with a reflective wall and ceiling. Perch on a stool next to the kitchen to study the science behind the menu as the dishes are created behind a glass window. Sit around the bar to gaze at the iPads set at eye level. If you're the size of spaceship like I am, land on the big couch for a comfy conference with friends.

While the ambience delivers, Dokrak smoked salmon salad (B120) is an experiment with only average results. Powerful Thai herbs and crisp greens are mixed with super spicy dressing and, while the fish doesn't exactly drown in the sauce, it barely survives it.

I was a little confused with Cauliflower bisque (B50). Served in a small shot glass, fifty big ones seems a steep price to pay for what is basically a creamy blend of a windy vegetable.

However, Grilled chicken with ginger sauce (B55) proves to have evolved a few steps beyond your average roadside poultry. The tender meat is covered in sesame oil, and is aromatic but perhaps a bit too greasy. With the dexterity of a Jedi, you have to handle the sticks with care or else the additions of crisp scallions and ginger will fall off.

Sarjor-caju mushroom karaage (B70) is one of the clear winners. The battered mushroom is juicy and picked up nicely by the condiments of salt, pepper and a creamy sauce so long as you can resist the temptation to over-season.

Beef with sweet basil sauce in hot plate (B140) tastes like a nuclear explosion of flavours but it may feel like a mouthful of lightsaber for people with timid tongues. Like a careful scientist handling a powerful chemical, I approached this dish with caution - with a glass of water and Black sticky rice (B20) on hand.

Without including som tam shops that sell beer, you could say that Kooon is the trailblazer of Thai izakayas where strong flavours meet drunken taste buds, thanks to the many signature cocktails on offer. SO Kooon (B250) transports you to the beach with its ocean of Blue Curacao set against a sunset sky of beer. I wouldn't have minded getting spacey with this stiff drink that comes with a touch of lemon but since I had to be back at the office, trying to look sober, I opted for the fizzier and more refreshing Pink Panther (B250). Lemongrass and pandan leaf juice (B45) is a little off balance with it's excessive level of sugar.

Like navigating an asteroid field, there's nothing dull about Kooon,  although some of the menu moments are more memorable than others. Furthermore, with its no-tax-and-service-charge policy, the pricing of the fare is quite reasonable, although the same can't be said about the cocktails. Just don't drink too much or break one of the iPads and you'll be invited back for more.G

Kooon Thai/Isan

Nihonmachi, Sukhumvit Soi 26 Open 5pm-midnight 02-258-2679

About the author

Writer: Pornchai Sereemongkonpol
Position: Guru Reporter