Before heading on a trip of a lifetime with some great friends to Asia I did what I always do, I looked to see what some of the top restaurants were in the cities and countries we planned to visit. I knew that my fish and seafood allergies were likely to limit me at many of these fine dining establishments, as well as the over $300 per person bills these gourmet meals sometimes rack up. The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list had recently come out and when looking through the list I noticed a few in Tokyo, Japan and a couple in Bangkok, Thailand. While all of these top restaurants looked absolutely amazing, only one restaurant seemed to fit in our price range which was Nahm, the 28th ranked restaurant in the world in 2017.
Nahm is tucked away in the COMO Metropolitan in Bangkok, Thailand in the busy Sathon district where tall skyscrapers overlook the streets filled with motorbikes, cars, taxis, and tuk tuks. Chef David Thompson heads up this well-known Thai restaurant. He hails from Australia, with training in classical French cuisine, but after visiting Thailand in the 1980s he fell in the love with the country and its wonderful food. After opening several successful Thai restaurants in Australia, he opened up Nahm in Bangkok in 2010. In 2013 Nahm was named 3rd best restaurant in Asia and placed on the World’s Top 50 Restaurants list.
After doing some research on the place I texted my friends and told them I made a reservation for one of our last nights in Bangkok at a very special and world ranked restaurant. The night before our meal at Nahm I was as excited as a five-year old boy on Christmas Eve trying to go to sleep knowing the next day I would get to open gift upon gift from this secretive fellow named Santa Claus. So you can only imagine how excited I was when the next night finally arrived to try this renowned restaurant.
Friday night traffic in Bangkok proved to be a tricky roadblock in our way to getting to Nahm. We left plenty of time to grab a taxi for the half hour or so ride we would take to the restaurant. With five people we had been able to squeeze in most taxis without the driver caring, but this proved to me more difficult this time around. A majority of taxis were not available and those that were would pass us by as they stared at us waving our hands like mad men trying to get some form of transportation. A couple did stop but after telling them where we wanted to go they just would tell us no, which was quite common in Bangkok.
Finally, we flagged down a taxi that agreed to take three of us to Nahm, but two twin brothers by the name of Alex and Eugene were left out to fend for themselves in the wild streets of Bangkok. Could they work as a team to make their way to Nahm in time for the reservation? Or would they bicker themselves into defeat? Meanwhile, Jen, Justin, and I had issues finding the hotel where Nahm was located, as it was tucked away in a smaller street that looked like an alley way. We ran around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to find someone who spoke english that could direct us to the COMO Metropolitan hotel. While it took some time, we found the restaurant and Alex and Eugene eventually had our hostel call a taxi service. Everyone made it in time, despite the abysmal traffic, not so nice cab drivers, and confusing streets!
With everyone seated and ready to go it was time to immerse ourselves in the dining experience that is Nahm. The restaurant has a decor that is on the darker side, with walls painted in hues of brown, black dividers, dark wood tables, and an overall dimly lit dining room. The interior is brightened up a bit by pink flowers along the sides of the walls and as a centerpiece at each table. A low-lit swimming pool sits just outside the restaurant’s windows, which provides a nice view. The focus at Nahm is certainly the food as Chef David Thompson is said to use robustly flavored ingredients such as garlic, shrimp paste, chillies, and lemongrass together with ingredients less commonly found in modern Thai restaurants to create a sophisticated experience in which every element is in perfect balance. My friends and I certainly agree that certain dishes had that perfect balance, but others failed to impress. Nahm ended up being a series of incredibly good hits and disappointing misses.
We first started out with some delightful drinks, including standouts such as the lychee martini and the strawberry mule. With cocktails we were served a free appetizer which was a spoonful of pork covered in a savory sauce topped on a pineapple slice. The contrasting of sweet and savory flavors made for a nice first bite at Nahm.
After some killer cocktails and other drinks, such as the insanely fresh tasting watermelon juice that Eugene ordered, it was time to order the food. Due to my allergies to all fish and seafood I was limited to about 15% of the menu, but the team of servers at Nahm did a great job of informing me what I could and couldn’t eat.
Everyone at the table ordered a soup to start things off. Jen and I both got the wild mushroom and ginger soup which was a little too salty, but did have a rich and bold mushroom flavor that I enjoyed. Eugene and Justin split two soups, the hot and sour soup of river prawn with termite mushrooms and the squid pork and prawn soup. The hot and sour soup was a miss while the squid pork and prawn soup was a hit. Eugene noted, “The sweet and sour soup tasted like it was soaked in spicy ass.” I’m a bit unsure what spicy ass tastes like but it doesn’t sound good. He went on to say that the squid pork and prawn soup, “was savory and probably the best soup I’ve ever tasted. A lot of flavor.” Justin seemed to echo this sentiment saying it was the best soup he’s had in his life. Alex ordered the coconut and galangal soup with snakehead fish which also seemed to be a let down as he mentioned the ginger in the soup overpowered all the other flavors.
As a starter I ordered the Thai vegetable and fruit salad with tamarind, palm sugar and sesame dressing. The vegetables and fruit were insanely fresh, and the mix of these ingredients along with the palm sugar and sesame dressing made for a sweet and tangy starting dish. Alex and Jen also got a starter, splitting the steamed red curry of scallops with Thai basil and coconut which they said was tasty, but not an out of this world dish they would expect from a top restaurant like Nahm.
For entrees Justin and Eugene went the route of splitting again to try two different dishes. One dish they ordered was the Stir-fried scallops with Thai samphire and spring onions, which usually is a stir-fried clams entree, but on this night Nahm was serving the dish with scallops. This dish ended up being a favorite among Justin, Eugene, and even Alex who took a taste. Justin said, “The scallop dish was amazing. Very savory sauce to compliment it that made the white rice served on the side taste really good.” He even stated at the table that these scallops were probably his favorite of all time.
As their second dish the two split the preserved shrimp and crab simmered in coconut cream with deep-fried prawns and vegetables. The presentation of the dish was stellar with the fried prawns, crab, and shrimp plated with green vegetables jutting out in every direction. This plate was served with a bowl of the coconut cream sauce. Justin and Eugene had mixed reviews about this dish, as Justin said, “It was just ok as the shrimp was perfectly fried and the crab was tasty in the coconut sauce, but the ginger just overpowered the dish.” The overpowering of ginger and salt seemed to be a common theme for the dishes that weren’t well liked by the table.
As a main dish Alex and Jen split the steamed coral trout with Bang Rak yellow beans and pickled garlic. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy the dish, scarfing it down quite quickly. Alex said, “The steamed coral trout was really good. The trout was very fresh tasting but not too soft. The dish was very good but I would say the ones Mike got were the best dishes at the table.” You hear that? The fish and seafood-free dishes that I was limited to were the best at the table? I can’t confirm this since I couldn’t try any of my friends’ dishes, but the plates I ordered were extremely good.
Being the foodie freak that I am, and also being slightly angry that I couldn’t try any of my freinds’ dishes, I ordered two main entrees! The first dish that was brought out was the stir-fried beef with chili holy basil and cumin leaves. The beef was very tender and the basil and cumin leaves gave the dish a nice earthy texture and taste. Some of the chilis in this entree were insanely hot, and if I eat something too spicy I begin to hiccup. So naturally I hiccuped my way through this delicious dish. I couldn’t finish all of it so I let my fellow diners at the table try it and Alex seemed most impressed with the dish out of us all.
The second dish that I tried was the yellow curry of cauliflower and tomatoes with cucumber relish and chicken. Usually this dish does not contain chicken but they were able to add in chicken for me, which ended up being slightly chewy but still a nice protein in the dish. The curry itself was creamy and rich with hints of several spices and the right amount of spiciness that made it the best curry I have ever eaten. The vegetables in the curry were cooked perfectly and balanced well with the cold pickled cucumber relish that was served on the side to be added to the curry to taste. I let the rest of the table try the dish and Justin particularly raved that it was the best curry he had ever tasted.
After all of these dishes I was stuffed but I felt I needed to try the dessert to make my final evaluation of this world-class restaurant. I got Alex on board to split on a dessert and we settled on the interesting sounding sweet Thai wafers with poached persimmon and golden duck egg noodles. The name sounded better than how the dessert tasted unfortunately as the wafers were insanely thin with noodles that were crunchy and cream that tasted a bit funky to me. The combination of these ingredients gave it an extremely odd texture and disappointing taste to end the meal.
As we all paid for our meal, we all were extremely satisfied with the service but a bit let down by the quality of each dish. While not an insanely pricey meal when compared with other top restaurants in the world, we still expected that our $100 meal would get us dishes that would continue to blow us away. Many dishes were absolutely phenomenal and some of the best food we have ever tried. However, many dishes were just ok or not good, overpowered by a particular flavor such as salt or ginger. Justin summed it up best when he said that if he came back to Nahm and ordered only the dishes he loved, it would probably have been one of the best meals in his life. With the hype that this restaurant garnered we expected perfection, but got a very good meal instead.
If ever in Bangkok I still highly recommend trying Nahm as it does deliver on a unique experience full of bold flavors and impeccable service that lands it in the top 50 restaurants in the world. Certain dishes will absolutely wow you while others may not be well-liked. It is likely to depend on each person’s tastes and flavor preferences. It is also located right next to the chic rooftop bar Vertigo and Moon Bar that gives patrongs amazing views of the entire city, so it is a convenient place to grab a drink after dinner. Nahm is a meal I will always remember, for some amazing dishes and a fun experience with some of my best friends.
A special thank you to my fellow reviewers and world travelers! Pictured left to right is Justin, Alex, Jennifer, Eugene, and myself.
-Michael Averbook, Foodie Extraordinaire