F and his sister are currently in Boracay leaving me here alone. Boo! I’m glad they’re enjoying themselves though especially since they now live so far away from each other. Them being away made me think back on F’s and my recent trip to Bangkok only a month ago. We’ve previously travelled to Phuket together but I wanted to share the main highlight of our Bangkok holiday apart from us spending time together of course!
It was a whirlwind of a trip with us going just for the weekend but we managed to fit in a small bout of shopping, a lunch with a couple of my Le Cordon Bleu friends(!!), and a beautiful dinner at Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin at Siam Kempinski Hotel. The main event of our short getaway obviously being Sra Bua! Afterall, F is a proper foodie and I only spend my calories on meals that I think are worth it. And honestly, Sra Bua blew me away not just in the quality of their food, but also its gorgeous ambience and amazing service. I personally think Sra Bua is superior to Gaggan (which I’ll blog about soon), and even e-mailed them after to thank them once more for making our dining experience one that we will keep in our memory box for life!
A brief background before I begin waxing lyrical on our eating journey…
Basically, Sra Bua was conceptualised by Chef Henrik Yde-Andersen of the Thai restaurant Kiin Kiin, which is in Copenhagen. Apparently, Kiin Kiin is the only Thai restaurant in the world currently, that holds a Michelin-star. Obviously, this sets the bar high for Sra Bua in serving Thai food with a modern twist to diners expecting a standard on par with or even higher than that of Kiin Kiin’s. I haven’t tried Kiin Kiin – yet!, but if Sra Bua’s food is anything to go by, it has to be pretty awesome as well.
We both dressed up nicely for date night before hopping into a taxi to get to the hotel. When we go to Sra Bua, we were promptly welcomed and invited into their restaurant which looked a perfect blend of modern and traditional Thai, with their ornate structures and contemporary furniture. Menus were presented on an iPad which I felt took away from the intimate setting. Call me old school but I still prefer the feel of paper in hand.
Anyway, I knew that I wouldn’t have the stomach to inhale all 10 courses of their The Journey degustation menu, but the sweet service staff said that since F was going for it, that they would try their best to give that extra bit more so that I could try some of the menu as well. Take note that those 10 courses come after their wide array of amuse-bouche – of which there were eight! And even with my ordering ala-carte, the amuse-bouches were also included in my meal.
This was an incredibly light, savoury Cashew Soy Meringue served with a lightly spiced wasabi yoghurt. It was the perfect start to our meal! I was so impressed by the lightness of the meringue and how delicious this little bite was that I might try my hand at baking these at home just so I can get my fix from time to time. Might as be as good but cravings hit, it’ll have to do.
The Tom Yum Cashews packed in an edible rice paper packet were a touch on the salty side for me, but they were punchy and crunchy, dispersing the familiar flavours of Thailand with every bite.
Prawn Cracker with Chilli Mayonnaise – these were reminiscent of my childhood shrimp crackers that were a go-to snack for my brother and I. Only obviously, this one was a lot classier to look at and more dainty to eat.
This Frozen Peanut Cream on top of a Crispy Chicken Skin, finished with Candied Ginger was as interesting take on satay for sure but not quite a favourite of mine. The salty crackle of skin was lovely but I felt that the strength of the peanut overwhelmed it a little.
This Coconut-Smoked Chiang Mai Sausage however, were one-bite bursts of sweet-savoury-meaty delight! So addictive… If they’d just given me a tub more.
I loved their presentation of this Tuna Tartare with Coconut Cream, Soy Sauce and Lemongrass in the lotus flower. It evokes within me this idea of the flower opening itself up to unveil to us the delicate nature of its centre. While it was beautifully served, the tuna was a little overshadowed by the richness of the coconut cream, which I felt was a bit of a pity.
Something lighter on the palate was this Egg Custard in Miso Broth. Its flavour was a lot more subdued from the previous amuse-bouches, but still rather tantalising in its subtleties. The custard was smooth as silk and wobbly, a close affiliate of the Japanese appetiser Chawanmushi I believe.
The last amuse-bouche that we were served was my favourite of the set. It’s called Miang Kum which translates to ‘One-bite wrap’. This was prepared before us by the server, who placed atop fresh betel leaves some fresh-sliced ginger, cut limes, crushed peanuts, dried shimp, chopped raw onions, crispy coconut flakes, cut chilli padi, all drizzled over by a tamarind palm sugar sauce. The only work we had to do was to roll it all up and eat it in one bite. That one bite erupted into an explosion of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, nutty, savoury herbaceousness in our mouths and I could only chew slowly in order to savour it as long as I could. OMG just thinking about it now… *Drool*
The starters arrived soon after we had digested our amuse-bouche. I won’t mention the dishes F was served on The Journey although I had a try of most of them. This post will turn into a novel otherwise!
My starter of perfectly cooked Hokkaido Scallops was topped with a sweet Tamarind Mango Lemongrass Sauce and served with smooth dollops of pumpkin and carrot puree, slices of tart mango to counter the sweetness of the dish, and crispy dried shrimp for that textural crunch. The scallops were treated with respect in the way they were cooked – lovingly seared on the outside while still being allowed to retain its bounciness within.
I had the Steamed Cod Fish for my main. It arrived swimming in a light Green Curry and accompanied by a whole Salt-baked Beetroot (that was broken out of its amour of salt before my very eyes by the server), Sweet Beetroot puree and Beetroot Chips. The pop of colour from the beets really made the plate look so pretty. It was like having a bit of the sea and a bit of the earth with every bite. The salt-baked beetroot was especially delicious.
It’s amazing how manipulating the beetroot using different cooking methods really drew out different flavour profiles and textures from them. The salt-baked beetroot felt like a flavour bomb all in its own with its juices retained within and its sweetness concentrated. The puree was more subtle in flavour but no less stunning in its simplicity and creaminess. And the beetroot chips were fabulously crunchy, sweet and earthy. So good that if they sold these, I would have bought the lot home!
My Dad had a friend, the late Captain Chan, who used to always stress to us that we should always leave room for dessert. And heed his advice I did! Sra Bua didn’t fail to delight my palate with this sweet ending of Banana Cake served with Caramel Sauce (always a perfect marriage if you ask me!), fresh Dessicated Coconut, toasted Sugared Almond Flakes, Caramelised Milk and deliciously smooth Salted Coconut Milk Ice-Cream. It was a harmony of very Asian flavours that sang perfectly in a very untraditional way.
F and I were pretty much bursting by this time when we were treated to a small dish of Petit-Fours. We somehow managed to find a way to pack them into our tummies without our seams coming apart.
The Petit-Fours consisted of incredibly light Coconut Marshmallows, Salted Dark Chocolate which was divine I tell you, divine!; and Caramel Peanut Truffle that pretty much echoed the indulgently comforting flavours of a Snickers bar.
With the last bit of space in our bellies occupied, we could only smile lazily at each other while we tried to nurse ourselves back from the food coma haze we were in.
It was a perfect evening spent with F, dining on food cooked with love and served with pride. The staff at Sra Bua were knowledgeable, engaging and warm – a refreshing change from some establishments where servers are clinical and cold. Their food remains unpretentious in its refinement, even while incorporating some forms of molecular gastronomy and modern cooking techniques here and there. I definitely, definitely recommend Sra Bua to anyone looking for fine Mod-Thai dining in Bangkok, and cannot wait to bring my parents here one day soon!