Excellent Thai food can be found almost anywhere in Thailand: shopping mall food courts, street side stalls, or morning wet markets. But the food at Nahm is something else altogether. It's not fusion. It's not a homage. Nahm serves authentic Thai food, but at the same time, it's a more delicate and refined approach that simultaneously captures the essence of traditional Thai dishes and Thai cooking techniques, while also borrowing from classical and modern techniques from around the world.
Nahm is the work of Australian chef, David Thompson, but it wouldn't be surprising if he considered himself more Thai than Australian. Thompson first moved to Thailand in the 80s where he lived for several years before returning to Australia to open Darley Street Thai and then Sailor's Thai in Sydney. Nahm was first opened in London in 2001, and Bangkok's branch was opened in 2010. The restaurant has consistently appeared in the top 5 of the 'Asia's Best 50 Restaurants' list since the list's inception in 2013.
The concept behind Nahm isn't groundbreaking. It presents punchy flavours from shrimp, herbs, garlic and pastes and balances the salty, sweet, savoury, sour and spicy elements of dishes. It's these strong but balanced flavour profiles that don't just represent the menu at Nahm, they represent food all over Thailand. Thompson's food isn't necessarily better than other Thai food, it's just different. Rather than focussing on one particular region, the menu samples dishes from Thailand's different regions and presents them as an edible encyclopedia of the country.
Unless you're lucky enough to visit Nahm on a regular basis, you have to try the set menu at least once. At lunch it will you back THB1,600 and the dinner set menu is THB2,500. It's more expensive than your average meal in Bangkok, but it's a fraction of the cost you could expect to pay at similarly ranked restaurants around the world. Ordering the set menu, the table is quickly filled with plates sampling a wide variety of dishes also available a la carte. There are curries, soups and salads, but there are also a variety of smaller snacks that are almost identical to those you'll find sold on roadside carts in Bangkok. There is a small difference though. The flavours are more complex; small tweaks here and these make each dish both familiar and novel at the same time.
There is a wine list, but like much of Asia, the prices are always going to be a bit steep compared to the cocktail list. Many on the list are based on more traditional drinks, but feature twists like using chilli, lemongrass, kaffir or ginger to give the drinks a decidedly Thai flavour. Even if the wines were a bit less pricey, exploring the signature cocktails is a better way to sample what the restaurant has to offer.
Like many hotel restaurants, the decor is classic and not too outlandish in any way. Hotel restaurants rarely seem to push design boundaries in the same way that you might see in other top restaurants of the world. There's a particular feel that seems it's designed to feel comfortable to guests no matter where they come from in the world. Service is top notch, and just what you'd expect at a restaurant like this. For some, Nahm might be a fairly regular representation of their dining experiences. For others travelling through Bangkok on a smaller budget, Nahm might be a once off luxury. It's nice to be made to feel truly special and looked after, especially if you've been used to taking the less comfortable route.
The set menu ends with dessert, which likewise is a true representation of Thailand. It's not just the more complex dishes like the bright green pandanus noodles served with black sticky rice, water chestnuts, tapioca and coconut cream, but also simple things like a fresh mangosteen presented whole on the plate with half its skin peeled away, or the slice of green mango sprinkled with flavoured sugar. Just as much as the recipes that Thompson has studied and adapted from recipe books, street stalls and even the royal court, fresh fruit is the perfect thing to really sum up what Thailand and it's cuisine is all about.
Nahm is located in the COMO Metropolitan Bangkok. It's not too far from the Silom MRT station at Lumpini Park or the Sala Daeng BTS station, but a taxi or Uber can also get you there with no issues. The restaurant is open for lunch from Monday to Friday 12pm-2pm and for dinner daily from 6:30pm, with last orders taken at 10:15pm.