A trip to bountiful

Taan puts spotlight on locally sourced ingredients

There are quite a few things at Taan, this week's subject of review, that are truly worth writing home about.

Beyond trivial wordplay and gimmicky presentation of a meal lies the kitchen's endeavour that honours small-scale farmers and artisan food producers across Thailand.

Such mindful philosophy is showcased through Taan's unorthodox menu created by executive chef Monthep Kamolsilp.

Trained in classic French cuisine and having worked at a number of high-profile French restaurants in both Thailand and France, Monthep has long been inspired by the unique local ingredients and traditions that surround Thailand's food culture.

Nong Khai beef shank with mochi cake and cucumber roll.

From his initiative, Taan was developed and in 2018 opened as an ingredient-led dining establishment. Recipes are new, but the taste profile, according to the chef, is "unmistakably Thai".

À la carte dishes are always available at this 80-seater. However, first timers are recommended a multi-course tasting menu in order to have a thorough experience.

There are two choices of tasting menu: a fixed collection of best-selling signatures and an ever-changing selection that takes cues from seasonal ingredients.

Amuse bouche of the day.

The current repertoire of the latter, dubbed Hemant (pronounced "hay mahn") speaks for the Kingdom's wintry gastronomy and indigenous produce from various provinces.

The meal comes in two lengths. A five-course menu is priced at 2,000 baht per person and the eight-course, which I had, costs 2,500 baht per person.

The journey kicked off with complimentary amuse bouche in a form of three bite-sized treats.

Yum goon-chiang, or sour and spicy salad of house-made sweet pork sausage; cumin chicken; and kor-lae grilled prawn -- all proved to not just electrify our palate but also give a distinct introduction to the meal that was to come.

A deconstructed version of khanom jeen sao nam with Ranong deep sea prawn.

The first course is represented by Monthep's re-construction of khanom jeen sao nam minus the rice noodles. The centrepiece of the dish is gigantic deep sea prawn from Ranong province.

The crustacean was shock-boiled so that the exterior shrunk and encased the fresh meat tightly inside. Cubes of extraordinarily springy and naturally sweet prawns were enhanced in flavour with coconut-milk cooked pineapple, diced young winter melon, fresh garlic and chillies. Fermented bean curd, which came on the side, served as a delicious alternative to conventional fish sauce.

Marshmallow with Chanthaburi chocolate and cold-dripped Chiang Mai coffee.

Taan's inventory of top-quality beef involves a handful of sustainable cattle farms throughout the country.

Hao dong neua, a fiery dish that came next, was prepared with beef shank from a free-range farm in Nong Khai province.

The beef was slow-cooked and seasoned with an emulsion of balsamic and bai hu suea (Indian borage), toasted rice powder and fresh herbs. Served atop flame-charred glutinous mochi cake, it offered a mouthful of flavours with a characteristic deep-heat pungency.

A chilled eggplant relish in cucumber roll that came on the side gave to the dish a complementing contrast that also helped cool down your palate.

Triple-cooked Phetchaburi beef cheek with black jasmine rice, duck yolk-cured jicama and a phak khayeng relish.

A bold unification of three buttery ingredients is showcased in the next dish, where deep-fried battered squid roe meets simmered coconut cream and steamed phak wan (Melientha suavis) vegetable.

Lending a piquant finish to it was a squid-ink and lime sauce fragrant with hor wor, a northern flowering herb from Nan province.

Another dish that long left a memorable impression in my mind and pleasurable hot spell on my taste buds was kai tun steamed egg accompanied by a crispy garlic pancake and herbal reduction.

Squid roe from Chonburi meets with aromatic hor wor herb from Nan.

This cooked-to-kill creation was the most spicy egg custard I've ever encountered, but also one of the most addictive.

The soft and silky egg, permeated with morsels of characteristically supple pla kang (red tail catfish), was dressed with a super fiery herb-leavened broth of gaeng pa jungle curry.

The simmered herbs and vegetables were separated from the curry and brilliantly presented on the tart to provide a well-balanced thrill.

"There are many farmers and fishermen in Thailand who put their work before their own livelihoods and act responsibly towards the environment. I honour them by using 100% local ingredients" Taan's executive chef Monthep Kamolsilp

The meal proceeded with a dish of crab-roe cured organic chicken with prickly-ash pepper and onion salad, followed by a pork spare rib from a biodynamic farm in Khon Kaen province, which arrived with steamed muffin, fried quail egg, pickled eggplant and perilla seeds.

House-made marshmallow coated with Chanthaburi chocolate accompanied by a very fruity and refreshing shot of double anaerobic cold-dripped Chiang Mai coffee came next. It wonderfully cleansed and prepared my palate for the main course that was to come.

The main course, called khao mok yeerah, is represented by triple-cooked beef cheek and black jasmine rice, accompanied by a helping of roasted duck yolk-cured jicama, an aromatic relish of phak khayeng (rice paddy herb), assorted fresh vegetables and beef crackling.

Many of Monthep's creations proved not just evidence of a long and complicated process but also a delectably new experience with multilayered details. Of all the 12 menu items I had throughout the meal, seven especially deserved to be Taan's attraction.

These include two awe-inspiring desserts.

The first, titled ma-dueah burger, featured layers of chocolate terrine, fermented rice and Bengal currant jam on a preserved Bangkok-grown fig.

The latter came in the form of an ice cream sandwich of which the centre was a mixture of mon khai, a fruit of the canistel tree commonly found in northern Thailand, and Chiang Mai blue cheese caramel.

To complement the imaginative Thai meal, there's a selection of creative drinks -- alcoholic and virgin -- concocted with homegrown ingredients that are as brilliant as the food.

  • Taan
  • Siam@Siam Design Hotel, 25th floor
  • 865 Rama I Road
  • Call 065-328-7374
  • Open Tuesday-Saturday, 6-10.30pm
  • Park at the hotel's car park
  • Most credit cards accepted
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