For those of us who are jaded by concrete jungles and a never-ending maze of shopping malls, sometimes spending time in nature is the perfect elixir. While Thailand is no lack of beautiful islands for a beach getaway or breathtaking hikes to waterfalls, it’s not everyday that we can take time off for a break next to sea or in the mountains.
The answer to this? Searching for nature in the urban landscape.
There are quite a few parks and green spaces scattered around Bangkok’s city centre, it’s true, but we’ve recently come across a concept that adds a lifestyle twist to appreciating nature that sounds too good to miss — Wang Hinghoi, a firefly-themed restaurant that simulates a natural ecosystem.
Wang Hinghoi, or Palace of Fireflies if translated directly from Thai, is temporarily located in a completely unassuming spot, between the Airport link tracks, Petchburi road and one of Bangkok’s hottest nightlife areas, RCA. While the location is tucked away on an old golf course, it makes the perfect spot for the one-of-a-kind dining experience to unfold.
With a space of more than 1,000 sq.m., the restaurant is divided into four areas. Once entered from the car park, guests are welcomed by a long walkway pathed by two gigantic walls made from multiple layers of earth from various regions of Thailand. Here, diners are invited to enter a forest environment away from noises of the city.
Passed the grand entrance is the Art Gallery zone, or Grow Museum, a creative space that exhibits art pieces by famous artists based on four elements of astrology: fire, earth, air and water. The first four month’s theme is Earth, of which Ajarn Somluk Pantiboon, the founder of Doi Din Dang Pottery, is showcasing his art work featuring the uniqueness and specialty of soil.
The third area is the restaurant itself, decorated in modern style with dark tone and dim light, which gives a mysterious feeling to the venue. The large glass cabinet in the middle, covering almost half of the whole area, simulates the ecology for fireflies, where all guests can enjoy a unique dining experience in a beautiful natural forest setting in the heart of Bangkok.
The most exciting area, however, is the firefly room, or Hinghoi area. It is the only urban (and air-conditioned) space in the city where guests can comfortably enjoy a view of more than 300 live fireflies beautifully lit behind the glass in pitch-black darkness.
At the restaurant’s soft opening, we were served a five-course set menu of deconstructed Thai cuisine, which is expected to rotate every four months through the theme of fire, earth, air and water. The current set menu is designed around elements of Earth, focusing on local produce sourced from the restaurant’s onsite garden or organic farms in Suan Peung and Ratchaburi.
We began our meal with an amuse bouche inspired by Thai ingredients, which is a light and delectable combination of small bites with highlights including Miang Dok Bua, a flavourful spicy shrimp paste placed in lotus petal, and the crispy duck confit, the chef’s take on the favorite Thai recipe: Gaeng Phed Ped Yang (roasted duck with red curry).
Next up was Pork Rib Satay, featuring a perfectly marinated and slow-cooked pork rib served with satay sauce, pickle and pistachio. The meat pulls easily off the bone, and we slather it generously with the creamy satay sauce. This was followed by an unconventional dish, Savoury Sea Bass cake made with green curry and pesto sauce topped with coconut foam. It may look like a matcha cake at first glance, but revealed robust savoury (yet slightly fishy) flavours and a spongy texture.
The dish that really stole the show was the WHH Tom Yum Tiger Prawn, Wang Hinghoi’s rendition of the World famous Thai traditional soup served with tiger prawn, mushroom and cherry tomato. The soup was presented in a creative manner with a large, freshly caught tiger prawn and mushrooms placed in the centre of the bowl and the soup made from simmered Thai herbs, shrimp and crabmeat cream on the side. We were, of course, all camera ready for that instagram-worthy moment as the waiter poured the soup gracefully into the bowl.
For main course, we digged into Kaeng Phed Ped Yang, a classically French duck confit that has been slow cooked for 48 hours. Drenched in red curry paste infused with fresh, fragrant Thai herbs, the spicy duck confit with a contemporary spin is bold in flavour. It’s a no-frills dish, but we like how the meat is precisely cooked to meltingly tender and the organic vegetables that were thrown into the mix for a balanced taste.
We ended the meal on a sweet note with Young Coconut Panna Cotta, a refreshing dessert of creamy young coconut panna cotta with fresh coconut meat topped with fresh fruits.
Fans of traditional Thai food might baulk at seeing old favourites being given a gentrified spin, but there is always a time and a place where going fancy fits the occasion. While Wang Hinghoi is not the first to reinterpret Thai cuisine with modern twists, it boasts a unique fine dining venue filled with real fireflies (a gimmick that actually works) that in itself is worth-visiting. Besides, the establishment is only for 18 months, just as the lifespan of a firefly. So if you’re looking to impress a romantic date, this is the place to be (let the fireflies do the magic).
Opening Hours: Daily from 6:30pm-11:30pm
Recommended Dishes: WHH Tom Yum Tiger Prawn
Price: 8-course set menu priced at THB 2,490++ and 9-course set menu priced at THB 3,290++
Noise Level: Quiet
Service: Friendly and efficient, well-trained