Molecular munchies

Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin deserves its title as one of Asia's best restaurants

It was 9pm on Wednesday and the sound of pestle pounding in mortar was still vital in the zestful dining room of Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin, a Thai restaurant at the Siam Kempinski Hotel. The meal progressed superbly as my dining companion and I discussed whether the restaurant’s glory was already written in stone.

For locals, Sra Bua might be out of context as a Thai culinary destination because of its molecular take on domestic recipes. But this four-year-old, back-to-the-roots sister eatery of the Michelin-starred Kiin Kiin Thai restaurant in Copenhagen proved to be very much loved by discerning epicures from out of town. That is not to mention it came in 21st at “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards 2014” held recently in Singapore.

Now let me share with you the reasons why.

I reviewed Sra Bua in 2010 when it first opened. At the time molecular gastronomy was new in Thailand (although it had begun to fade out in the West) and Sra Bua was the first establishment in the Kingdom to offer the thought-provoking dining experience.

My first call was a great impression, not because of the futuristic food it showcased, but the real taste bud-pleasing quality of each creation.

The kitchen is still run by the same team of culinary virtuosi directed by Danish chef Henrik Yde-Andersen, Kiin Kiin’s founder. Though the line-up of cooking personnel hasn’t changed since the restaurant’s beginning, I nevertheless noticed a pivotal change during my recent meal. The piquancy has been perfected to even more boldly offer traditional Thai taste with no compromise.

There are two dining options here — the tasting set menu (2,200 baht for seven courses and 2,700 baht for 10 courses) is ideal for first-timers, while the a la carte menu is suited for regulars and those who have no time for a long meal.

Kiin Kiin’s founder and head chef Henrik Yde-Andersen.

Recently chef Yde-Andersen, who flies on a monthly basis between Copenhagen and Bangkok, has created a new tasting menu for Sra Bua. The latest menu was launched in correspondence with a new lounging zone, offering diners the same gastronomic experience as they would find in the Copenhagen outlet.

For those who go for the tasting menu, which I highly recommended, dinner casually starts with a variety of nibblings and Thai street treats (a total of 11 small items, including Chiang Mai sai uwa sausages, nam phrik num, a Northern-style green chilli dip, and red curry crab) — in progression, of course. The complimentary delicacies went perfectly with chef Yde-Andersen’s own beer labels, which are offered in three variations (390 baht per bottle), all brewed with Thai inspiration.

After laid-back mingling over drinks in the lounging zone, we moved to the dining table for a real 10-course deal.

Instead of describing each culinary bliss and spoiling the excitement, let me share with you my overall impression and only a brief introduction of the dishes.

The line-up of 10 Thai classics was, as usual, offered in an eccentric presentation. Yet every single one of the dishes deliciously represented the well-rounded pungency of Thai cuisine, blending together the heat and fragrance of herbs and spices without missing even a small element.

For example, despite being extraordinarily transparent, the tom yum broth amazingly contained all the right flavours at the right proportion. The spherification of satay kai yielded a perfect impression of grilled chicken satay and peanut sauce flavour. Whereas the crusty, rock-like frills which accompanied the meat tasted exactly like tom kha, only with an unusual frosty mouthfeel.

Chef Yde-Andersen is a true genius when it comes to the epigram of texture and temperature. Each plate exhibited a different mouthfeel, perhaps to simultaneously soothe, heat, grit and chill your palate.

The first course of our extensive dinner was represented by a duo of tom yum, showcasing clear seafood in cold and warm versions of the soup.

The sour-and-spicy coconut cream-infused galangal soup.

The second course was a lovely lobster tempura with yam meringue and Thai muesli.

Third came my favourite, salt-baked beet root with green curry, of which the savouriness and sultriness were all there without any give and take.

Fourth was tom kha yen, or cold sour-and-spicy coconut cream-infused galangal soup, Kiin Kiin-style.

The fifth entree was a choice of pan-fried foie gras or veal sweetbread. Both protein options, complemented by tamarind-lemongrass sauce, were delightful.

The main course, beef braised in home-made oyster sauce, followed and was truly tasty, though I must say provided the least “wow” effect in terms of the complex of texture and presentation.

Dessert was offered in two courses. The first, khao niew mamuang, a creative candyfloss sphere inside rice pudding with mango sorbet, was brilliant.

Yet, the most rejoicing was kept for the aftermost.

Normally, such an extensive dinner will fill you up, spoiling your palate with non-stop indulgence well before the last course arrives.

But when Sra Bua’s signature sweet finale was served, we couldn’t resist the temptation of its name — khanom khai phalo (five-spice egg in salty sweet brown gravy dessert) — or the comforting aroma from the wood bark platter of creamy cinnamon ice cream accompanied by star anise jelly, clove crumbles, pumpkin cake and drizzles of liquorice caramel.

Diners can have the set menu paired with wine (the line-up — 2012 Leitz Rudesheimer Drachenstein Riesling, Rheingau; 2011 Willm Gewurztraminer, Alsace; 2010 Irony Merlot, Napa Valley; and Penfold Club Tawny Port — proved awesome) for 5,400 baht for the 10-course and 4,400 baht for the seven-course.

To go with the modish Thai-inspired gastronomy, Sra Bua’s dining room is vitalised by upbeat Thai classical music. Service was very attentive and of five-star standard.

Related search: Bangkok

About the author

columnist
Writer: Vanniya Sriangura
Position: News Reporter