One Night in Bangkok: 2 Meals and GrabBiking Between One Too Many Cocktails
Straight out of Suvarnabhumi Airport, my head was caught up in an assault of sounds, unfamiliar sights and smells. Here I am, navigating the city like a pro (riding pillion on one of the 10 million motorbikes crisscrossing the city). Embracing the mantra of #YOLO, I had agreed on a whim to a food trail that spanned from Khlong Toei to Samphanthawong district and back. It was a Friday night, which made the already dire traffic situation in Bangkok unbearable. With a slight headache to boot and less than 4 hours till the stroke of midnight, flaking would be forgivable—and my partner wouldn’t take no for an answer. A true blessing in disguise really, given that the night progressed in an uncontrived, provocative, personality-packed manner, one you would imagine in the movie Already in Hong Kong—except take that and multiply by 10 times, and remove the opposite sex protagonist. Still good. Bangkok, honestly makes for a dirtier, more exhilarating backdrop for drunken disquisitions.
“We’ve got just over an hour,” Samantha Proyrungtong said to a very bewildered me as we stepped foot into newly crowned one-Michelin-
The snacks were physical incarnations of the high amplitude brain waves that stem from Executive Chef Riley Sanders’s mind. Marian plum, fresh out from the ‘cool’ season was dusted with red chili and topped with a dollop of caramelised Marian plum jam enlivened with ginger and borage. There was a river prawn tart that’s all heads and tails delivered in the form of rivulets of dreamy emulsions and roasted shell oil, that conferred a delirious sense of happiness. And finally, a Wagyu tartare spiked with mah kwan pepper from Mae Hong Son that brought to mind Hayden Christensen who plays the dark and broody Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars. I started to wonder if he possessed the same Jedi mind-trick abilities.
He sparked off a glimmer of joy with the blue swimmer crab dish, sourced from Krabi every morning. It was a masterpiece of low temperature steamed crab seasoned with som saa zest and roasted jinda chili oil, tons of local greengage to amp up the “herbaceous” factor and a slight hint at creaminess courtesy of frozen avocado shavings. Perched on high stools at the counter, your eyes trail across the bustling kitchen to the corner where a girl laboriously toasts these non-descript pucks of bread. They turned out to be toasted sticky rice and fermented red rice bread, dressed with brown butter emulsion and a vigorous dusting of salted egg powder. Sounds delicious? This was worth a food comatose afterwards; crisp walled, chewy innards and a sating mass of lovingly conceived brown butter cloud. Wash it down with the intensely umamified Savagnin 2014 from Bénédicte et Stéphane Tissot after which a big-ass Junmai Kimoto will rear its ugly head and pave the way for more drunkard tales.
The party would swiftly take to the streets of Bangkok’s hustle, but prior to that, we dug into a bowl dressed in haute couture and adorned with edible flowers. It turned out to be the best dish of the night—confit frog served with sticky rice steeped in rich flavours of frog stock perfumed with galangal and kaffir lime leaf. The final flourish of milk froth scented with holy basil brought to mind Thai curry; breeding familiarity within clouds of artistic culinary deliverance. Frog, who would have thought.
Weaving in and out of the notorious traffic in Bangkok, my 2-wheeled ‘chariot’ took a good half an hour to fetch me to my next stop. During which I was allowed to enjoy the wonderment of chaotic Bangkok through wine goggles. 100 Mahaseth, a restaurant that touts nose to tail dining with heavy Isan Thai influences was our next port of call. 9.30pm meant a swift ushering to lounge booth seatings where we knocked back an ominous liquorice like moonshine brewed in house. Lord help us. Like so many contemporary eateries championing traditional Thai cooking, it’s a sure-win concept, convening the likes of local produce with the demands of tourists. The magic is in the details.
Like a food fashion parade, the chef served infinitely varied, kaleidoscopically colourful small plates. There were three dips of spicy jaew, chimichurri and Thai anchovy with roasted tomato and chili chutney which were perfect companions to the featherweight crispy pork rinds and cucumber sticks provided. Chef Chalee Kader explained that garlic and rice oil replaces all traces of olive oil in these recipes—it’s obvious the motley crew are serious about their Isan Thai inception.
The decor is authentic and holds its own. Contemporary work fixtures, a built-in tap system, a dry aging fridge which reveals the secrets of an in-house made chorizo in progress is all mixed in with traditional pottery and wooden furniture with finishings that’s just a little rough around the edges. A simple, perfectly calibrated pigs heart and coriander salad hit fresh notes. And, yes, they do a 21st century Northerner’s hot dog. A slightly spicy sai ua sausage that speaks of true craftsmanship through rich brioche buns and killer spicy Nam Jim Jaew, which you will be tempted to drizzle on with no consequence. It’s good, but you might want to prepare a passionfruit mojito on standby just to put out the flames. If you’re looking for a crunchy beer snack, the fried tripe is the perfect candidate. Braised twice in water and then in vinegar once before meeting the wrath of a smoker, these ominous blackened chunks are married with fried garlic and chili flakes for a snackage that’s delicious enough—even if you might not be open to the idea of popping offal. 100 Mahaseth has certainly raised the stakes where nose to tail dining is concerned.
As much as I would have liked to be poured into a cab, the night continued with me perilously straddling the back seat of yet again another motorbike in search of liquid inspiration. Established in 2017, Bangkok’s speakeasy-themed bar #FindtheLockerRoom is set to put most prospective first time visitors on a wild goose chase. Traverse a long narrow corridor before you hit your next obstacle, a wall lined with steel lockers decked out in a myriad of bar and drink brand stickers from every corner of the globe. It’s a challenge for the straight-laced and even more so for the helplessly inebriated. But once settled into the darkened realms of the tiny bar, its time to call upon the spirits of alcohol’s past, present and future. The barmaid is quick to explain that the new menu showcases classics such as the Rob Roy and the Mint Julep as workhorses followed suit by more funky, deadpan present versions, and finally, a more forward-thinking and slightly whimsical future rendition.
“Roy” Mak! was the first to bite the dust, a Thai red tea infused whisky and punt e mes action delivering some peculiarities to the stable equilibrium. By this point, I could barely stand up and head downstairs in one piece. The sobered up me will tell you there was a negroni and perhaps a super dirty martini that followed. I have to confess, I stopped counting. It was remiss of me, but Bangkok brings that side out of everyone.
[Read More: A Night Out with Gaggan]