Refined Thai cuisine and Siam Square don't sound like a promising combination.
Long known as an after-class hangout for teenagers bingeing on burgers and pearl milk tea, Siam Square was never my choice for sublime dining.
But for years now, I've heard positive comments about Baanying, one of the area's most popular Thai restaurants.
However, I was never motivated enough to drag myself to the, well, intimidating domain of "the young and the restless" until a couple weeks ago when I learned the restaurant, previously located in the back of Siam movie theatre, has moved to a new, more grown-up spot and is now decked out to welcome "the old and experienced".
Baanying Signature is owned and run by a food-loving family and directed by Pa Ying (Aunty Ying), the lady of the house who's always at her restaurant to amiably greet and serve her guests.
The word "Signature" in the new name, according to her, means "original and top-of-the-line", to differentiate from Baanying Cafe and Meal, the younger and newer generation of the decade-old brand, which is run by her sons and has four outlets.
To cater to a definite target of customers (those who seek profound Thai cuisine), the signature restaurant, opened at the end of last month on Henri Dunant Road, has a sophisticated contemporary setting with warm, home-like service which has long been treasured as the brand's hallmark.
Here, the cuisine is upgraded to offer higher-end dishes prepared with premium ingredients. The menu, of more than 100 items, comes in both English and Thai with a selection of recommended dishes, their pictures featured separately.
My Friday lunch kicked off wonderfully with beef salad. Listed on the menu as 55-celsius beef, torched then spiced (350 baht), the dish presented on a bed of butterhead lettuce a nice portion of partially pink, thin slices of wagyu beef dressed with sour and spicy garlic-chilli sauce. The half-cooked beef was extraordinarily succulent and full flavoured, perfect especially when wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
Next up was the restaurant's best seller - herb-roasted chicken (290 baht). The name didn't sound so tempting but the large-portioned dish is definitely worth ordering.
Served whole, with each part cut and nicely arranged on a big plate, the chicken, with its pungently seasoned skin intact, was firm and juicy, flavoured with lemongrass, turmeric and kaffir lime leaves. The plump chicken was garnished with impressively seasoned and finely julienned lemongrass (so thread-thin and brittle that I could hardly stop eating) and accompanied by a bowl of jaew-style dipping sauce, which was one of the best I've ever come across.
Another dish worth noting is fried seabass with garlic and pepper (420 baht). In no-nonsense style, the fish came in three nice-sized fillets with a crispy brown exterior that revealed the mild flavour of the fish sprinkled with golden garlic, green peppercorns and kaffir lime leaves.
To enhance its flavour, a little bit of seafood dipping sauce made with garlic, lime and chilli, which comes on the side, may be needed.
For the main dish, I was recommended the phad Thai with crispy soft shell crab (290 baht).
The chewy noodles were stir-fried with egg, tofu, sweet radish, bean sprouts and roasted peanuts to give a salty, sweet and nutty feel, while the seafood centrepiece - soft shell crab - was slightly battered and deep-fried, giving it an addictive munch.
There is an interesting selection of soups on the menu (eg. clear vegetable and king river prawn tom yum), but I was urged to settle for yen ta fo mor fai, or hotpot of pink seafood (300 baht).
The soup came in a brass pot over a portable brass stove with a plate of rice noodles on the side. The sour, salty and spicy soup infused with red fermented tofu featured an abundance of fishballs together with deep-fried fish fillets, shrimp, squid, pork blood jelly and morning glory.
Nothing seemed, and later proved, to end the pungent meal better than home-made Thai tea ice cream with black jelly (80 baht). Served in a crystal martini glass were three small scoops of the creamy but not at all sugary ice cream over a mound of black-coloured grass jelly. The aroma of the two heavenly summer delicacies and their different textures intermingled superbly.
Whenever the restaurant is busy, diners can be ushered to the beautiful and stylishly set dining room on the third floor. The second storey of the restaurant is a bar (named The Second Bar, open only in the evening) where Thai food can be savoured with vast varieties of innovative cocktails amidst a casual ambience.
Siam Square, Henri Dunant Road
Open 11am-2.30pm (Mon-Fri) and 11am-10.30pm (Sat & Sun)
Park at Siam Kitti's parking tower
Visa, MasterCard and Amex accepted
About the author
- Writer: Vanniya Sriangura
Position: News Reporter