Dining and wining highlights from Bangkok – Part 2
Part 1 of Bangkok’s highlights was a bit of a departure from the usual focus of this blog in that it featured cocktails. In Part 2, it’s back to wines (save one fantastic cocktail I had as an aperitif that I thought was worthy of mentioning here).
The next dinner we had in Bangkok was at Eat Me. Eat Me is not a Thai restaurant and its menu is a medley of international cuisines. They have a great bar, which serves impressive craft cocktails. Here’s my martini, served with olives and an oyster.
For my appetizer, I had one of my favorite foods in the world: bone marrow, served with a parsley sauce, toasted bread, and shaved truffles:
For me, nothing goes better with bone marrow than a glass of champagne. Nothing fancy – NV Veuve Clicquot Brut. Bone marrow is delicious because it is such a rich and buttery food. It is generally served with some version of a parsley salad to freshen up the dish. The reason why Champagne goes so perfectly with bone marrow is similar to why parsley is often found on the plate – to lighten up the dish. You need the high acidity and the bubbles of the champagne to cut through the fat and refresh the palate in between each bite. The parsley salad can also high in acid (too much acid in the food and the wine together can make the wine seem astringent). However, the champagne works here because the parsley salad is not a dominant feature of the dish and both the wine and the parsley work together with the wine to lighten the dish, rather than overwhelming it with acidity.
For my main course I had the grilled octopus, served with razor clams:
The classic pairing for octopus is an Albariño from Spain. I had a glass of a 2013 Rias Baixas produced by Santiago Ruiz. Albariño is a crisp and light white wine. Especially with simply prepared seafood dishes (such as grilled and without sauces) need simple wines so that the wine doesn’t compete with the food but rather complements it. And I always find that wines with citrus notes, such as the Albariño, pair really well with seafood. You can substitute lemon wedges (which I find often overwhelm and mask the flavors of delicate seafood) with a citrussy wine and have the flavors of the food shine.
At an earlier trip to Eat Me for lunch, I also had the Wagyu steak tartar served with a fried quail egg.
When it comes to steak tartar, my go-to wine is a Cotes du Rhône. Syrah features prominently in Rhône Valley wines and I opted for a glass of 2008 McLaren Vale Shiraz (The Footbolt) made by d’Arenberg from Australia – I really love Shiraz from Australia! The dish was a bit spicier than I expected (this is Thailand, after all) but the pairing still worked, though I might experiment with a different wine next time.
Next restaurant we tried is Nahm, which focuses on traditional/ancient Thai food. The restaurant has both à la carte and tasting menus. We opted for the chef’s choice tasting menu (you can also select your own dishes to go in to the tasting menu).
We started out with a bite-sized amuse-bouche of pineapple and pork.
We had a selection of four appetizers, each of which had varying levels of heat. We were told the order in which we should eat them (so they got progressively hotter).
The first one we tried was the prawn and coconut wafers with pickled ginger. This was my favorite!
Then we tried the blue swimmer crab with peanuts and pickled garlic on rice cakes:
Next up was pork and lobster with shredded ginger and Thai citron:
Lastly, we had the chiang mai larp of guinea fowl. This was definitely hot. Wowza!
It can be a challenge to pair Asian foods with wine. The first reason is the heat in the food – and our appetizers were definitely hot. Then there is also the multitude of spices and flavors that can added to a single dish, which give Asian foods so much flavor and aromatics.
When you pick a wine, these challenges need to be kept in mind. First, you need a sweet wine to offset the heat in the food and you also need a complex and highly aromatic wine so it doesn’t fall flat in the presence of the many flavors in the food. My favorites, especially when eating spicy, are either an off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer. I absolutely love both wines and we opted for the latter. Gewurtzaminer is one of the most aromatic wines I know, with such aromas as flowers, lychee and Turkish delight, and spice like ginger.
This wine has a hint of sweetness but it is nicely balanced with acidity. The sweetness works great to balance the heat in the food. And it is complex enough to stand up nicely to the flavors food.
Now, the main courses. We started out with a green mango salad with grilled pork and sour leaves:
Grilled pork cheek with smoky tomato sauce:
Coconut and chicken soup with deep fried garlic, green mango and chili:
Coconut and turmeric curry of blue swimmer crab with calamansi lime:
Preserved shrimp and crab simmered in coconut cream with deep fried prawns and vegetables:
Because our main courses are so much heavier and richer than the appetizers, you need a lighter wine. Otherwise, all the coconut cream, and the fried food can be overwhelming to the palate. Yet, you still want a wine with complexity and the aromatics to complement the food. Pinot gris fits the bill.
We had the Brightwater Nelson Pinot Gris made by Light Band from New Zealand. This is less sweet than the Gewurz because our main course had markedly less heat than the appetizers. This is also a more crisp wine than the Gewurz (though definitely less so than its Italian cousin, pinot grigio). You need the crispness in the wine because of the creamy coconut and the heavy fried elements in our main dishes.
Issaya Siamese Club
The next dinner was at Issaya. This is a very interesting place. The decor of the building is very retro and colonial. They also have a beautiful garden where they grow their own vegetables and herbs. We actually moved to the garden after dinner for some after dinner drinks. Pure bliss!
While we’ve had a variety of great dishes at Issaya, I only managed to take a decent picture of the first dish, which used many vegetables they grow in their own garden. Banana blossom and heart of palm salad with roasted peanuts, fried shallots, and chili jam sauce.
Even though there is chili jam in this dish, it was not spicy so no need for a sweet wine. Contrary to what the name suggests – salad – it was not a very light dish. The fried shallots and the sauce added layers of richness to the dish – so I will pick a crisp wine to balance the dish. Typical of Thai cuisine, there were also many flavor and spice layers to this dish as well, which would be best complemented with a moderately fragrant wine. For these reasons, I went with a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand (a dry Riesling would’ve also worked well). Especially with the fried shallots in each bite, this wine was a great match.
And we had so many other great dishes at Issaya, which are not pictured, such as seafood sausage, veal cheek, barbequed pork spare ribs, lamb shank, among others.
Of course, a trip to Bangkok wouldn’t be complete without street food! While I love going to nice restaurants, my favorite part of traveling is trying the street food (and I am lucky to have a stomach made of concrete!). Bangkok has an impressive street food culture and you can see carts and booths throughout the city serving cheap but delicious snacks and meals. These pictures are but a small selection of what Bangkok street food scene has to offer.
Breakfast on the street: fried quail eggs.
Lunch on the street: squid on a stick. You pick out your skewers and they grill them, chop them up, mix them with a spicy and garlicky salsa and serve it to you in a plastic bag.
And to end things on a sweet note, my mid-afternoon dessert was coconut ice cream served in a coconut (with the fresh coconut inside), topped with candied lychee, peanuts, and sticky rice. Yum!
On a different note, I arrived in Paris a couple of days ago. I will spend the summer here and I’m super excited to post all about the wine, the restaurants, and the pairings I try in this beautiful city 🙂