Asia’s Top 29th: Sra Bua, Bangkok

A short break from Parisian pastries…

After coming back from Paris, I noticed that I don’t go to enough new restaurants in Bangkok. We always go to the usual family favorites when we eat out. For the most part, I prefer eating and cooking at home because everyone in my family can cook pretty darn well. Anyway, I took a look at Asia’s top 50 Restaurants  and was proud and excited to see that Thailand had 5 on the list:

#3 Nahm
#10 Gaggan
#19 Eat Me
#29 Sra Bua
#36 Bolan

So, the first restaurant on my wish list was Sra Bua by kiin kiin, a modern Thai restaurant. I’ve had Thai fusion food before but I didn’t know what to expect from a “modern Thai” restaurant. I’m a pretty big street food advocate and I believe that the best food in Thailand is where the locals eat, but I was open minded and eager to see what Danish-born chef Henrik Yde-Andersen was going to do to traditional Thai food.

In Thai, Sra Bua means water lily pond. When I first walked into the dim dining room, I felt like I had arrived at a beautiful private Thai garden with lily pads and lotus flowers floating amongst the tables. Although it was dark inside, there was sufficient lighting that was strategically placed above the tables which made them look like islands.

The lunch menu was a la carte and after we ordered, they served their amouse bouche which debuted the Chef’s creative spin on classic Thai cuisine. First was a Soy Sauce and Roasted Cashew Meringue which had a strong umami flavor while the sweet and salty combination was a good representation of Thai classic flavors.  Next was the Kaffir Lime Leaf Scented Lotus Roots which I really enjoyed. The Kaffir lime leaf was made into a powder to season the crispy chip-like lotus roots. Frying fruits and vegetables is a common method used in making Thai snacks. Finally, the least inspiring of them all, a rice cracker served over a mayonnaise and tomato sauce dip.

Soy Sauce Meringue

To start, I ordered the much talked about Frozen Red Curry with Lobster Salad which came with its modern element: liquid nitrogen. The lobster salad consisted of slices of tender lobster, coriander, longan, (a sweet and juicy fruit) sliced red onions and the frozen cream of red curry which sat in a small well in the middle of the plate. The curry had a consistency like an Ice Cream’s and although the frozen curry was supposed to numb some of my taste buds, the flavors were still very intense and extremely delicious.

Frozen Red Curry with Lobster Salad

 My dad ordered the Foie gras with Tamarind and Plum Wine which was less inspiring than my starter  and was under seasoned.

Foie gras with Tamarind and Plum Wine Sauce

For the main course, I ordered the Fried Red Mullet with Curried Peanut Sauce and Turmeric Cauliflower which was served with a bowl of rice. When my dish was served, I was expecting something unique with a surprise. What I got was a very thin slice of fish with garnishes of a deconstructed sauce that is usually served with Satay (skewered meat.) The common sauce eaten with Thai Satay consists of cucumbers, shallots and rice vinegar syrup. The cucumber on this dish was pickled and the fish was served over shallots while the curried satay sauce was represented by the curried peanut sauce that was smeared on the plate. The flavors are all something that I’m used to tasting together so this dish didn’t do much for me. Overall it was a tasty dish. The fish was cooked well but I was expecting more from Asia’s Top 29th.

Fried Red Mullet with Curried Peanut Sauce and Turmeric Cauliflower

My dad ordered the Slow Cooked Flat Iron Steak with Aubergine, Leek and Oyster Sauce which was also served with a bowl of rice. The meat was cooked perfectly but the the sauce was what really got my attention. It resembled the Thai stew “Palo”, which has a lot of Chinese 5 Spice in it. It was a stronger and thicker version of the stew and was also spicier which I loved. I would be happy eating this sauce served over rice any day.

Slow Cooked Flat Iron Steak

For dessert, I ordered the most mysterious of the four options,”5 kinds of spices as dessert.” Other options on the menu include: Mango and Sticky Rice, Banana Cake and Salted Ice Cream with Caramelized Milk and lastly, Pineapple and Ginger Sorbet with Fresh Pineapple and Lemon Meringue. The dessert arrived on a wooden bowl and looked very contemporary indeed. The white foam was made with Szechuan pepper, the sponge cake was spiced with cardamom, the ice cream was made with basil and the topping was a crumble of sugar, spice (clove and cinnamon) and everything nice. This was the highlight of my meal because I loved how all the flavors complemented each other, yet their unique flavors also stood on their own.

5 Kinds of Spices as Dessert

Overall, I think it was a nice change to see what people are doing to Thai food. I have mixed feelings about Sra Bua because only some dishes represented their philosophy of “modern Thai cooking.” Thai ingredients are very interesting and there could have been bolder choices of flavor combinations in the main courses. I wish I got to try chef Henrik Yde-Andersen’s creation of Tom Yum Soup and DIY noodles because that’s the kind of dining experience I would expect at Sra Bua (but the menu changes every 3 month.) Apart from the foam on my appetizer and the liquid nitrogen effect, the other dishes were quite ordinary. The modern cuisine experiences that I’ve had at other restaurants usually have an element of surprise that is special and unique to the restaurant.

I’m not giving up on these top Thai restaurants in Bangkok. There is Nahm and Bolan still to try!

Sra Bua

Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok
991/9 Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan
Bangkok, Thailand

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