There seems to be an awful lot of copycat cooking in this city, with trends being cut, copied and pasted around town as quickly as you can say, "Thong Lor is just too 2012... I'm moving to Ekamai." However, a new player in the game is Paste, which is bucking the trend and doing its own thing in a modern and innovative way.
Nestled in a small soi across from Samitivej Hospital in Sukhumvit Soi 49, the self-titled "Innovation Thai Eating House" is the food baby of Bongkoch Satongun, a Blue Elephant alumni, and Jason Bailey - a Thai-Australian couple that are sharing their luk krung culinary offspring and drawing the attention of the city's food patrol.
The space is a renovated shophouse with a visible kitchen tacked on in the back. The second floor recedes back to a mezzanine with the bar and some tables on the balcony, bringing the cover count to around 28. The symmetry of the room is cut by a feature red counter bench that lies along one wall, contrasting the thatched wall opposite. The feel is understated with a fresh and distinctly Asian undertone. The small dimensions help you notice your solitude, but the place won't stay empty for long. The music could be better, which is fixable.
The restaurant upholds the influx of ideas and manpower from the region - the march of the Aussie chefs continues. With David Thompson of Nahm there is also Dylan Jones at Bo.lan, Jess Barnes who is formerly of Grossi, Quince and is now spearheading the promising new Opposite Mess Hall due to open next month; and now Chef Jason.
Tamarind and caramel pork belly
What's particularly strange about the march is that all involved are tackling the local cuisine, bringing their bag of tricks to the table. And Chef Jason is a prime example of the curious Australian palate, a country that lacks any strong canon of distinct dishes but still brags some of the best food cities of the world, namely Melbourne and Sydney, where the food is as varied as it is innovative, straightforward and tasty. The media-savvy Bailey is from in between those places, both geographically and ideologically, bringing his "craft-not-art" cooking Thai food in Australia, with good effect.
The menu features a considered selection of local staples done with a contemporary twist. And the commitment to fresh and home-made elements where possible seems genuine.
Flairs of interest such as the edible local flowers added to Master stock poached organic pork neck (B380) are calculated departures from tradition while maintaining the Thai foundations of sweet, sour and spicy. The pork neck is slowly cooked to tender life in a way more akin to a regular Thai street food stall than a fancy restaurant, sealing its authenticity further (without entering the tired "What really is authentic Thai food?" debate).
Dry spiced chilli squid with a sweet vinegar & tomato relish (B240) is tender, textured and to be shared as the sourness of the vinegar and sweetness of the relish fight it out.
Jasmine & cinnamon smoked wild sea bass fillet with black vinegar, mint & crushed peanut (B500) continues the straightforwardness with the fish becoming the happy medium of the herb infusion.
The dynamic Tamarind and caramel pork belly with moonflower, red okra, basil & green chilli pickle (B400) is also full of flavour and interest as the gentle traditional elements of Thai food are put up against stronger ones in a happy duel.
The drinks list continues the thoughtfulness with home-infused spirits adding interest to old favourites. Elements like kaffir lime, lemongrass, mint, coriander, chilli, lychee and ginger are abundant in options like Paste my Thai (B250), which is zesty and moorish.
Taking a leaf from the contemporary Australian approach, Paste does a lot more than rehash old Thai recipes, injecting interest and enthusiasm to the scene. With its Thong Lor-backstreet location and smart navigation of traditional and innovation, it will fill up quickly. Get down there before your friends.G
Contemporary Thai 120/6 Sukhumvit Soi 49 Tue-Sun noon-2pm, 6pm-midnight 02-392-4313 www.pastebangkok.com
About the author
- Writer: Richard Mcleish