New Hope for Thai Cuisine!
David Thompson has found it in his heart to teach these people how to cook!
It just opened.
Thompson's protege opened up Bo.Lan, which has received good "professional" write ups, but "real" people don't seem to care much for it.
Both of these require a mass foreign clientele to survive. After this, Thompson's will probably be exclusively non-Thai. "Bo" would probably do well to distance herself from the pompous fool!
With so much cheap, great, abeit non-authentic Thai food to be found, most Thais won't waste the baht.
I've eaten there and loved it. The food is incredible, with careful attention to detail and intense, well-balanced flavours. The dishes we tried were just right (to my taste).
Prices are obviously incredibly high for Bangkok and this can't be compared with street food (you can be eating fantastic Thai food on many street corners for 30-60 baht but there are a lot of dishes that you just don't find very often). Also I feel that there was a definite lack in Bangkok of restaurants serving fantastic Thai food in a more upscale environment - you generally need to choose between plastic stools and delicious food, or fancy decor and bland food (with a limited menu of the usual suspects).
David Thompson may come across as arrogant in what he says (the article was actually deliberately slanted that way - an opinion piece and a bit tabloid-like too) but he's not saying anything that a lot of people (I mean Thais) haven't been saying and feeling for ages about a lot of the Thai food available at restaurants and on the streets these days. One lady actually gave me some limes when I asked if there was a som tam vendor nearby ("because they're not going to use real lime juice"), while a couple of good friends often bring round food "mum made, because you won't find it that way anymore". It's just that DT is not Thai, so naturally it comes across as insulting.
His restaurant (and Bo.Lan, too) may be out of reach for the vast majority of Thais, but many yearn for food that is "the old way", and will seek out places that still do things "from scratch". Read DT's Thai Food and you will find a man who is profoundly in love with Thai cuisine and is passionate about preparing it impeccably.
Personally not blown away by the decor, but was too busy eating to mind! The menu at Nahm had a lot of my favourite dishes (gaeng som, gaeng dtai bla, various types of nam prik and yam). They were very spicy but not excessively so if you normally eat Thai food as opposed to Thai food lite. I didn't find them overspiced and definitely not either too salty or too sweet (by comparison, the food at Nahm London was overwhelmingly sweet, and not spicy enough). It was delicious and memorable and if money grew on trees I'd go back tomorrow (I'll ask for tap water next time!!).
Having said all that, I don't think I would take many of my non-Thai friends or family, because it would probably fall under the heading of extreme Thai dining in their eyes! The menu doesn't offer a lot of "classic" Thai dishes as per menus in Thai restaurants abroad (green curry, red curry, cashew nut chicken ;) It is spicy, pungent, bitter, sour...There are a lot of acquired tastes in there.
The night we ate there, there were a lot of Thais dining there and they were impressed. When so many upscale Bangkok restaurants are about creating the right look, or following the latest fashion, Nahm is a welcome addition. And maybe the final comment in the NYT article sums it up.
Re: "he's not saying anything that a lot of people (I mean Thais) haven't been saying and feeling for ages about a lot of the Thai food available at restaurants and on the streets these days".
Too true - many older, well-known Bangkok food sellers seemed to recruit young, inexperienced cooks, mainly from the provinces, to take over their cooking duties these days. This has resulted in inferior quality cooking, which is pretty pervasive these days :-(
BTW, we also have the SAME problem here in Singapore with regards to our hawker foods.
Thanks ma_muang It is good to read an actual review of the restaurant rather than the speculation of others.
In the article Suthon Sukphisit takes on odd stance declaring he hasn't tried the food and does plan to. How can he have an opinion? I also can't help but think Bob Halliday may be a tad resentful of Thompson's fame as a Thai food expert. After all after 40 years in Thailand poor Bob doesn't seem to have established quite the same reputation as an expert on Thai food as David has. At least the one and only person to try the place in the article seemed to like it if you can pitch between the sensationalist journalism.
Where is the animosity to Thompson coming from? His Sydney restaurants were definately good, and although his London restaurant had its faults it delivered Thai food that was considerably better than just about anything else for many years (I remember the pretty dire UK Thai food in the late '80's). OK Thai food in London is apparently getting a little better but Nahm has been going for 10 years or so, so I would say give credit where credit is due.
I for one have this on my list to try next time I am in town. Given I am usually under-whelmed by a lot of Thai food in Thailand I hope this is a sign that things are looking up. I love Thai food and I wish the quality was more consistent and it was easier to access interesting food in restaurants as I often feels Thais who have emigrated to places like Sydney are delivering better, more interesting food.
Thompson got a gushing write-up in the Observer's monthly food magazine last Sunday (in the UK) and a few months ago, his Thai cookbook had made the top ten in their '50 Best Cookbooks' feature. So it was interesting to see the NYT's take on him. I'm glad at least some newspapers look at their subjects a bit critically instead of the completely one-sided gushfest that was the Observer's feature.