Do you hear that, Bangkokians? Something is cooking over on South Sathorn Road, and it smells like homemade shrimp paste served on Northern ceramics.
Ranking in at Number 69 on the World’s 100 Best Restaurants list this year, renowned chef Pim Techamuanvivit has put together four entirely new special menus: Botany, Discovery, Essence, and Heritage. Part of a beautiful wine pairing, we recently checked out the latter for an evening of culinary nostalgia. Read ahead for our (tasting) notes, and why the revamp makes for a worthy revisit this season.
Chef Pim Techamuanvivit
You may as well have been living under a rock in Krabi had you not known about nahm’s infamous female Thai chef, Pim Techamuanvivit.
The chef who actually made a name for herself across the great pond in San Francisco (remember Kin Khao?), has quickly become synonymous with the Thai restaurant after its opening a few years ago. As the story goes, Chef Pim was actually living a few storeys above nahm within the COMO Metropolitan hotel when she devised the original menu. After its launch, nahm shot to great fame around the world, with Chef Pim arguably, in many ways, catapulting Thai fine dining onto a world stage. Her physical closeness and inspirations make nahm a restaurant worth visiting in first line, yet the connection between Chef Pim and her food goes a little deeper this time around.
A culinary homecoming
Chef Pim has famously been known for championing the flavours of her childhood, and highlighting the importance of family and heritage in cooking. This is reflected in much of the vision of nahm — and even moreso in this new menu — in that the dining experience is centred around a heartfelt Thai hospitality; no different to when dining in your family home.
It’s interesting, given that nahm was formerly often associated with the kind of place you’d take your visiting foreigner friends, yet this time there’s something a little bit more intimate and close to home about the menu.
A lot of it stems from Chef Pim’s very own homecoming. She recalls that her beginning of interest in Thai cooking came from missing home when she moved to the United States at the age of 19. The Thai food she found in America was unlike the stuff she was used to back home, so she set out to learn how to cook by calling her aunt back in Bangkok and asking her how to make certain dishes.
“I decided that every summer when I would come home, I’d go and sit in the kitchens and learn. If I knew someone’s family had a great recipe for something, I’d ask to come and watch in their kitchens. My parents thought it was quite cute, me sitting on the floor, pounding curry paste for hours and learning how to taste the difference in fish sauces.”
How is this family-style cooking reflected in the Heritage menu?
We began our meal with a miang lobster, served with chicken, green mango, and herbs, presented on a betel leaf to be picked up with the hand and devoured in one bite. Entirely unpretentious and yet bursting with flavour, it’s a light and extremely familiar way to begin dinner.
This familiarity carries on through to the entrees, with both namprik mai and gapi pla relishes. The former was served with an extremely memorable grilled wagyu beef, whilst the latter comes alongside Chumpon shrimp paste, and as how best know it: accompanied with plenty of fresh veggies. It’s homey, placed at the centre of the table for all to share, and welcoming to both a local and international clientele. Nahm prik prepared by her grandmotherr, Chef Pim recalls as “my childhood’s Sunday lunch.”
Guinea fowl, tipsy rice, and what exactly is fiddle head fern?
Perhaps what is most exciting to the discerning eye and taste bud is the variety and selection of local ingredients used at nahm.
You may have never known guinea fowl larb was a thing, but upon trying it at nahm, it gives regular larb a true run for its money. We loved the firm yet juicy bite on the wok-tossed river prawn, and the stir-fried young fiddle head ferns (pak goot) make for a refreshed take on your average table-side greens. Another somewhat surprising highlight lies in the tom gati gai soup, with a distinct texture and flavour that comes from coconut cream rather than milk, contrasting beautifully with the acidity from green mango. Unusual, yet not out of place.
Naturally, a dish is only as good as its ingredients, and Chef Pim explains that she tends to seek out ingredients made in a traditional manner by a small producer. In millennial speak, we may dub this ‘artisanal’, and certainly label it ‘sustainable.’
“As a chef, it’s my responsibility to go out of my way to find and buy those ingredients so that these people gain a sustainable living and that their work is passed on. Because if no one is making good shrimp paste anymore then my relish is going to taste terrible. It’s choices you need to make.”
Following on with tradition, the dessert, though not mentioned by name on the menu, took us for a wonderfully wild ride. Made up of different varietals of rice desserts, including fried rice paper and fermented khao mak. Much like a family meal, it opens up a conversation, and perhaps even a cheeky anecdote from your elderly relative: “did you know that you eat too much khao mak, you could start to feel a little tipsy?” Giggles all around.
A sense of place and peace
There’s something serene about nahm; you’re in the heart of the business district, and yet you enter through a romantically lit door beside the main entrance of the COMO Metropolitan, and could have a pre-dinner flute of champagne by the highly ‘grammable pool. Inside, the atmosphere is open and yet private, and the philosophy of Thai heritage carries through onto the tableware, which is sourced from an artisan in Chinatown. Just a few minutes away from nahm (and a great neighbourhood to head to for post-dinner drinks perhaps), the clay dishes use only natural ingredients from different regions of Thailand. They are shaped in the Bang She Yan style of pottery.
Shaping the stories that stem from and beyond the meal, the revamped nahm offers an experience of authentic Thai hospitality, much like stepping into your good friend’s home — with the sheer exception that your good friend could be Chef Pim, and you’re at the iconic nahm. What a thought.
The Heritage Menu and other dinner options are available daily for dinner from 6.30-10.15pm. Lunch options are also available Mon-Fri from 12pm-2pm.
nahm, COMO Metropolitan, 27 South Sathorn Rd., Sathorn, Bangkok, +66 2 625 3333.