Ah, Thailand. Could there be a more culinary tourist destination in the world?
Thai food has a long history of exciting the palate and sending people into not only food bliss but food comas. Every trip to Thailand is not complete without seeking out some amazing street food, or a dish that is unique to the region that you’re in, or in this case, a top ranked restaurant in the world.
Joey and I had already indulged in some great food for breakfast at our hotel, as can be seen here in our joint review for the St. Regis Bangkok.
We also had our share of amazing Thai street food in Som Tam (one of my personal favorites) which is a spicy papaya salad with shrimps in it. We also ate some Thai coconut ice cream topped up with condensed milk and roasted peanuts (that’s healthy, right?) at one of my favorite street stalls right on the corner of the boat taxi terminal off of Wat Pho, home of the world’s biggest reclining Buddha.
But surely the culinary highlight of the trip was our dinner at Nahm, ranked the world’s 37th best restaurant. Joey made the booking months before our trip, as is needed to get a table here. Sometimes in Thailand it feels like every meal is your ‘cheat meal’ but this one was probably ours – in dollars spent, calories consumed and food ordered. We had high expectations of this meal and arrived hungry, fresh off our champagne sabering at the hotel – and we were not disappointed.
After a dodgy Uber ride we arrived at the restaurant, which was trendily designed, dim and bustling with energy. The staff couldn’t have been more polite and charming – they had a better grasp on English than most in Bangkok, and were joking with us and challenging us to try dishes we might not have otherwise ordered (more on that later).
You might ask the question (well, you should) what does one do when first arriving at one of the world’s best ranked restaurants? Well, it’s simple – order a martini – and we stuck to habit and that’s what we did…the first of several, in fact.
After the customary pre-dinner drink, we dove into the real deal – the food.
But before we fully dive into the meal, here’s the unique is the concept that Nahm prides themselves on:
Executive Chef David Thompson believes the traditional Thai meal is an exercise in balance, with the dynamic interplay of hot and sour, sweet and salty.
He uses robustly flavoured ingredients—garlic, shrimp paste, chillies, lemongrass—and melds them together to create a sophisticated, subtle elegance in which every element is in perfect balance. This includes curries, salads, relishes, soups and stir-fries, often featuring traditional ingredients less seen in modern Thai restaurants.
You might be wondering who’s David Thompson, a ‘Farang’ cooking Thai food and doing it very well, earning a Michelin star in the process?
David Thompson is the Australian-born chef at nahm in Bangkok. When not in the kitchen, David is also an author, broadcaster and widely acclaimed expert on Thai cuisine.
Prior to opening nahm, David established himself with Darley Street Thai in Sydney, a restaurant that debuted in 1991 and was voted ‘Best Thai Restaurant’ by the Sydney Morning Herald eight years in a row. David followed this up in 1995 with Sailors’ Thai in Sydney’s Rocks area. nahm London came next, where David secured the first ever Michelin star for Thai cuisine.
So now the good stuff. The meal. The food. The post meal coma.
We started off with an amuse bouche compliments of the restaurant, which were meatballs in a sweet and tangy tamarind sauce on top of some polenta like toast – and we were off to a good start because they were very appealing and made our stomachs rumble for more food.
Our appetizers then arrived:
Crab wafers with coconut, galangal and coriander
- AS: One of my overall favorites of the meal, the crab was amazingly fresh, tender and just the right amount of cold. It paired perfectly with the other aspects of the dish and was closed out nicely with the lightly fried not-oily wafer crust.
- JT: Possibly my favorite part of the meal – a mix of all texture (soft and light crunch) and tastes (sweet crab, savory), and fried to perfection. I could have easily ordered seconds.
Egg nets with prawns, wild almonds and kaffir lime
- AS: This dish was light and fluffy and was very savory, bursting with flavor once bitten into. It was served hot, so it was a good compliment to the crab which was served (refreshingly) cold.
- JT: This was my selection for the starter and it was cooked perfectly. The egg net was unique and excellent. I will admit this fared second for me when compared to the crab wafers, but this dish was fantastic nonetheless.
With a strong appetizer course done with, we moved on to the main course which was a bit more of a played out affair given how much we ordered – no sane person would ever need this much food but what can we say – Thai food does makes us a bit wacky at times.
Coconut and oxtail soup with red shallots
- AS: So this was one of my choices and I was so pleased with it. Joey doesn’t really do red meat let alone ox tail, but I love it and it was both savory and sweet at the same time and what I loved best was that it was rich and creamy (given the coconut milk) but wasn’t heavy…at all!
- JT: I skipped this one – like Arun said, I’m not one for red meat!
Hot and sour soup of chicken, prawns and wild mushrooms
- AS: Spicy! Unexpectedly so too on first glance, because it looked relatively innocuous. It was good but a warning to others…it was definitely on the hot side and had a strong fishy taste to it so if that’s not your thing, maybe don’t order it or have a backup.
- JT: I know this soup is described as “hot”, but I can promise the title does not do it justice! At first glance, this seemed like their spin on the classic tom yum soup, but this is much much hotter! Beware when ordering if you do not have a threshold for heat! I, for one, do not, but I found this dish to be tasty between the piping hot bursts of flavor. Delicious – if you can take the heat! The staff had to bring over some apples and caramel to tune down our taste buds, and suggested eating the soup with some rice – which they had plenty of.
Tamarind and chili relish with grilled catfish and neem leaves
- AS: Another dish that I wanted to try out, and the manager recommended it too. If you like sour and spicy then order this dish – it comes out like a paste and is great to lay over carbs. I liked it! Again though, a bit fishy.
Coconut and turmeric curry of blue swimmer crab with calamansi lime
- AS: LOVED this dish – it was so fresh with the crab and it paired perfectly with the coconut – again, despite the coconut it wasn’t too heavy. The sweet and sourness of the calamansi proved to be the perfect top up to round off this amazing, amazing dish.
- JT: Seriously, sign me up for more of this. Nahm definitely knows how to dish up crab – the curry was perfectly flavored, and did not overpower the crab. Was my favorite dish of the evening!
Stir-fried tiger prawns with deep-fried shallots, chilies and garlic
- AS: Another one of my favorites. The prawns were honestly some of the freshest I’ve had and were meaty and of a good size – they were charcoal grilled to perfection too so they had that nice smokey taste, but was then balanced out with the sweetness of the shallots and garlic (and it was loaded with them). Again, light and fresh.
- JT: Also amazing – though grilled, the shrimp was still tender and juicy, and the shallots and garlic gave it a great burst of flavor.
Spicy curry of minced prawns with yellow eggplants and holy basil
- AS: It’s one of Nahm’s famous dishes. And honestly? Uneatable. Not because it wasn’t tasty – it was good, flavors strong. An umami bomb if you will. It was just simply too spicy. So spicy. I eat spicy. Very spicy in fact. But this wasn’t an eatable dish. And when the Thai wait staff tells you it’s too spicy even for them, you know it’s spicy. In all honesty, give this dish a pass.
- JT: After burning a hole in my tongue from the hot and sour soup, I could barely manage to swallow this. This dish is not for the faint at heart!
You might have noticed that we ordered a good amount of food. A very good amount! Add the unlimited rice that the restaurant offers to go along with all the spice, sweetness, savoriness, saltiness and richness of the food we simply had to pass on dessert.
The Big Takeaway
AS: I would have to strongly recommend this place to anyone visiting Bangkok. What I liked best about the meal was that all the ingredients were incredibly fresh and the dishes were just simply done well. Very well. It was the perfect balance of the savory nature of Thai food without the grease which can sometimes make you feel ill afterwards. It was a trendy place with a twist on traditional Thai dishes but still tasted and felt very authentic. The service was attentive and fantastic as well. Big thumbs up – I can see why Nahm is listed as one of the best restaurants in the world – because simply, it actually is.
JT: Absolutely a must-visit when in Bangkok! When I was looking through top restaurants, fellow Bangkok-based Gaggan was ranked higher on the list at number 28, but the menu at Nahm was just so much more appealing. A grown up spin on classic Thai food, the food was hearty, simple, and done well. I will definitely be returning on my next trip!