Thailand native food is flourishing in popularity, but to some Thais and the out-of-towners, many dishes and ingredients still remain unfamiliar. Luckily for us, with Sawaan, a new fine dining Thai restaurant opening its door a few months back, the much-lauded venue under the helm of Fred Meyer, whose restaurant empire (Issaya and Pizza Massilia) has pleased the discerning taste buds of connoiseurs, is bringing to the table authentic and hard-to-find Thai delights, leading by the mastermind, Sujira “Aom” Pongmorn.
Honed over years of experience at Lord Jim’s, Sra Bua, The House On Sathorn, Issaya Siamese Club and at the Michelin-awarded Baan Padthai, Chef Aom’s fresh and innovative perspective is something that’s clearly evident in her first menu for Saawaan which places great emphasis on showcasing the Siamese taste, traditional cooking techniques, and locally sourced ingredients — in the realm of fine-dining. Undoubtedly, you may have had authentic Thai food in Bangkok before but true to its name, Saawaan (literally translates “heaven” in Thai), this refined restaurant and its five-star makeover menu will elevate your Thai-food experience into something of a sky-high excellence.
Nestled in Suan Phlu, the bustling neighbourhood with its status as a dining hotspot in Bangkok’s Business District, the former sushi house has turned into a humble den of Thai cuisine. Entering the venue, Saawaan’s design aesthetic nods to its name of ‘heaven’ and focus on Thainess: Dimly lit with golden lights, dark wooden floors, wooden table and black walls, peppered with Thai painting-inspired, cloud-shaped metal decorations and flower-printed wallpapers, adding a touch of warmth to the cold decor. Featuring only 24 seats and another 6-seat counter at the bar slash prep station where you can watch the chef and her team in action, Saawaan creates a space that’s unapologetically elegant but at the same time serene and intimate.
Mimicking a typical Thai meal which usually consists of chilli-based dips, salads, stir-fries, curries and grilled or fermented dishes, the menu is a one-pager listing, splitting into 10 courses with each one representing the technique commonly used in traditional Thai food or what you can find on Thai families’ dinner tables.
The meal began with Chef Aom stood by our table side whipping up Koi Pla, a raw salad comprised of roughly chopped amberjack fish, toasted sticky rice powder and a party of pungent Thai herbs served simply on a banana leave. One absolute dish that provided a bracing starter to a meal with delicate yet powerful flavours.
Lover of Thai relish will swoon over the next dish of Nam Prik, the Thai chilli-based dip made of premier crab fat and fiery curry paste, which the chef served on a halved crab shell along with the velvety sticky rice cooked in coconut milk. As playful as it was delicious, this is a traditional Thai dip reimagined.
Our favourite dish was Naem Nua Khao Tod, a play on a popular Isaan street food comprised of fried curried rice salad, with one-week fermented organic beef brisket replacing Thai fermented pork sausage. Topped off with a confetti of golden-fried young ginger and a side of tangy and crisp pickled cucumber, this made each mouthful a beautiful medley of textures and flavours, enchanting us to want to scoop up every last bit.
Next up we were delighted with the luscious Kai Kati Khao Luem Pua which you’ll appreciate after the flavourful rice salad. The dish was the oft-forgotten coconut milk curry from central Thailand, served with chicken roulade, bathed in a sweet and sour pineapple sauce, and paired with pineapple pieces grilled until caramelised and a side of the Forgot Husband Rice, which was the highlight of the dish. Known for its nuttiness and soft texture, this black glutinous rice was so delicious that it may make the wife devour all the rice and forget that her husband hasn’t eaten yet.
The dessert menu was well rounded with the modern take on Sangkaya Fak Thong, a silky smooth Thai coconut custard made with Thong Ampai pumpkin purée and coconut milk, which showcased the domain of pastry chef Arisar “Paper” Chongphanitkul, Saawaan’s chef patissier and also the executive pastry chef of Issaya Siamese Club. Rich, luscious, and subtle, it was the kind of dessert that relied solely on the true nature of the ingredients.
At the end of the Saawaan experience, we were also treated to a tray of mignardises paying homage to Thai indulgent treats. Resting elegantly on a wood tray were bite-sized sweets including the durian-flavoured chocolate and som saa tart to end the meal with exotic flavours.
Thai food plays with an array of flavours: Sweet, salty, spicy and sour — all for the sake of creating umami-rich food, which Saawaan is placing great importance on to maximum tastes while keeping the balance of Thai cuisine in great shape. The menu is a feast of flavours and it’s really all about simplicity and refinement. The service also showed signs of a passionate and enthusiastic team, exuding warm and welcoming hospitality to bring us an impeccable dining experience that is worth another visit further afield.
Opening Hours: Wed-Mon, 6pm-11pm
Price: THB 1,950++ per person, THB 2,350++ per person for wine pairing and THB 680++ for tea pairing.
Noise Level: Quiet.
Service: Friendly and acknowledgeable.
Saawaan, 39/19 Soi Suan Plu, Sathorn Road, Bangkok, +662 679 3775