Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant list 2013 ranked Nahm in Bangkok as the third best restaurant in Asia. On their website, they claimed that this list is voted by some 900 international restaurant industry experts. They explained vaguely: “What constitutes “best” is left to the judgment of these trusted and well-traveled gourmets.” Then stated that: “Given that this well-constructed list is based on personal experiences it can never be definitive, but we believe it is a honourable survey of current tastes.” To many, this is a prestigious list to follow, and getting onto this list usually means a surge in business for restaurateurs. The first and second best restaurants on the list are from Tokyo, logically this makes Nahm the best restaurant in Thailand in their opinion. But the question is: Can Nahm really be the best restaurant in Thailand?
Nahm is a Thai restaurant serving authentic Thai food – as it states. The man who runs this remarkable restaurant is Chef David Thompson – an Australian who is married to a Thai woman, and has been living in Thailand for more than twenty years. Chef David Thompson seems to have completely immersed himself into the Thai culture – I heard it with my own ears when he spoke fluent Thai.
Now, let us go straight to my favorite part – the eating. In the cheesy and only way I would to express it, eating at Nahm is like witnessing a love story – a passionate affair between the creator and his creations. The fastidiousness is evident when you take that first bite, even the steamed jasmine rice is soft, smooth, and fluffy – the best jasmine rice I’ve ever had. You just cannot create something so splendid if you don’t love it, if you don’t give it wholeheartedly.
Dishes I have at Nahm remind me of the street food of Bangkok, but upgraded substantially, some are combined, or even with a makeover, but the history is there if you look carefully. The Prawn and Coconut wafers look like those pancakes you buy on the street, right? Not quite. Notice the wafer is very thin and delicate and it tastes light and crispy – a sharp contrast to the fillings inside that is powerfully sweet and salty. My taste buds are shocked by the intensity but it is quickly smoothed by the next course – the Toasted Coconut with Watermelon and Mango. Then like a roller coaster my senses are taken for another ride by the Softshell Crab Salad. This salad is highly seasoned with a mix of sourness, sweetness and spiciness, it is so overpowering that my eyes twitch.
The curry and stir-fried dishes are much more mild on the tongue. I eat everything, not just the meat, the shrimp, the chicken, the apple eggplants, but the long strands of green scallions, the ginger, the Thai holy basil – my senses have suddenly taken me back to nature, where the leaves flail in the spring breeze and butterflies flutter over blossoming flowers.
With such a pleasant experience, the question remains: is Nahm the best Thai restaurant in Thailand? I have my opinions but I am curious to hear what the locals think – and the unified answer is: “Nahm is foreign to us.”
So can we justify the creations at Nahm as the most amazing authentic Thai food in Thailand when the locals don’t even understand it?
After all food is an important part of a culture, and a culture represents the habits, history, traditions and customs of the local people. I have no doubt on Chef David Thompson’s culinary preeminence and expertise in Thai cuisine, but it seems to me that to crown it the best Thai restaurant in Thailand is ignoring how the Thais feel about their own food.
To blindly believe in any kind of ranking, guidebooks, news articles or other opinions (my post included) will not lead to the ultimate truth. You need to go discover it yourself and to search for your own reality. That being said it does not make Nahm a less exceptional restaurant. It is definitely worth a trip.
Nahm: The Metropolitan Bangkok, 27 South Sathorn Road Tungmahamek, Sathorn, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Phone: +66 2 625 3333
Lunch: Monday – Friday, 12pm – 2pm
Dinner: Daily, 7pm -10.30pm (last order)
Dinner reservation is highly recommended