Chinese restaurants are seldom about the view. They are all about the food, and the pleasures of communal dining with family and friends. A Chinese restaurant with a window tends to be a rarity, and the round-table style of eating means that diners usually turn inwards anyway, rather than outwards.
But then there is Bai Yun. Perched on the 60th floor of the Banyan Tree on Sathorn Road, the big windows on either side of this very slender tower reveal mesmeric views of the city. The restaurant has just reopened after a month-long closure for renovation, and despite the attractive burgundy and silver decor, the regal high-backed chairs and the crisp white napkins, the immediate tendency of any guest is to sit down and promptly gaze out the window, uttering the occasional "ooh" and "aah" at thegreat flat city spreading out from his feet to the horizon.
However, one cannot eat the view, and the Cantonese cuisine at Bai Yun has a long and award-winning record of being amongst the most authentic and creative in Bangkok.
Lunchtimes now offer a menu of unlimited dim sum, in which for just 800 baht weekdays and 1,000 baht on Saturday and Sunday, plus service charge and tax, you can indeed eat the whole lot if you have room.
There are of course plenty of other Chinese restaurants in town that offer an all-you-can-eat dim sum lunch, but very often it is a buffet table display. Here it is displayed on a special menu, and you order whatever you want, and how much you want, and it will still come to the same price.
Diners can also choose dim sum items at individually marked prices that range between 90 and 170 baht, so those preferring just an appetiser of dim sum can order what they wish.
Everything is cooked and served fresh and piping hot. If there is a group of you, there is an endless procession of steam baskets and tiny white plates, each displaying a tempting morsel in true Cantonese style. This is all washed down with endless cups of Chinese tea of which the restaurant has a selection of 30. Altogether, it's one of the most agreeable ways I can think of to take lunch. I went with a companion the other lunchtime, my first visit to Bai Yun for some time, and after the obligatory gaze out of the window we turned to the menu and got serious with the ordering.
Hargau, the semi-transparent steamed dumpling, of course; you can't order dim sum without having hargau. Seafood tucked inside a crispy tofu sheet and served with a sweet sauce. Steamed turnip cake, dipped in tangy XO sauce. Plump little wontons stuffed with steamed crabmeat. A shrimp fried in light batter and placed on a bed of fruit salad, with a dash of mayonnaise.
We took a slight break. The trick with dim sum is to sip slowly at cup after cup of Chinese tea to ensure that everything is dissolved and digested with the greatest of ease, allowing you to eat more.
A nod towards our charming waitress, and we started again. Egg yolk served on a tiny slab of tofu. Steamed shrimp dumplings with little dimples holding salmon roe and caviar. Steamed pork ball with spicy Sichuan sauce. A bowl of soup with a savoury broth, a fat black mushroom, and black chicken.To end, a dish of fruit salad.
Dim sum chefs are not just cooks they are artists, because each item is a little picture as well as being a flavour bomb.
Of course, as is always the case with a dim sum lunch (and we are Old Hong Kong Hands), we had ordered too much. But, whatever. The price would have been the same regardless.
A dim sum lunch is a good way to entertain business colleagues, and I would say that if you have a business partner who is a new arrival in Bangkok, this would be a splendid introduction to the city.
Bai Yuen is also one of the great restaurants to be during any festival time, particularly a festival that involves fireworks, because you are going to be up there with the rockets.
With the coming Christmas season in mind, the restaurant has a dim sum all-you-can-eat lunch on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at only 1,250 baht, including noodles and soup, with the added attraction that kids eat for half price.
When you see how much some of those youngsters can put away, this seems very good value. It also allows the family to eat a great Christmas lunch together, at a very reasonable price.
60th Floor, Banyan Tree Bangkok
Dim sum served between 11.30-14.30
Monday to Friday Baht 800++
Saturday and Sunday Baht 1,000++
Tel +66 2 679 1200
About the author
Writer: Ken Barrett