Bangkok’s Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin restaurant is to Thai cuisine what MEGU is to Japanese – the ultimate new take on a superlative tradition.
Who could imagine that that old staple, a red curry, could become a spoonful of the most delectable red curry icecream wrapped in a foam ball and served on a slate next to lobster and lychee?
The gal went to find out, and took a culinary journey that she finds ideal once a year, so she can live off the memory (real foodies might like once a week but the gal has other things on her mind and cannot, honestly, afford time for a three-hour meal other than once in a blue moon). Anyway, dear readers, you too need to know what it is like, so read on…
Enter the restaurant, designed by Hirsch Bedner HBA, and you find a cathedral-like theatre of heavy teak, walls and ceiling. Six-foot high square lampshades hang down as golden-brown chandeliers, and ceiling-set pinpoint lights illuminate every table.
A mock ‘salad’ stage in one corner has a draped brown tent-like roof. Colour comes from fresh lotus leaves, with tightly-furled white flowers, in the pond in the centre of the room.
80 people can be seated, in teak-bordered bankettes or at free-standing wood tables, set with mushroom-coloured shiny fabric runners. The scene, you feel, is set.
I am with Ansgar Schlemmer, from near Hamburg, and it is his first time of dining-Kiin Kiin, too. He explains there is a Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen, run by Henrik Yde-Andersen and Lertchai Treetuwatchaiwong, a Danish-Thai IT software engineer.
Their Danish empire includes Kiin Kiin, which has a Michelin star, plus Aroii take-away, The Rivemarket bistro, Cantonese Dim Sum, and all-Asian Aroiidee.
Kiin Kiin was doing a promotion at The Sukhothai, here in Bangkok. Holger Schroth, boss of the Kempinski here, saw it, liked it, signed it up. Kiin Kiin’s chef Morten Bøjstrup runs the Kempinski show, but Henrik comes regularly to visit.
Does Denmark too start you off with a welcome drink, a soup bowl (drinking straw provided) of a sweet consommé of lemongrass and pandan?
Then, the meal proper starts. You have chosen the short version, or the long, for which you need three hours, every minute of it. Exquisite ladies in golden-brown Thai silk dresses bring course after course.
You start with Niblings, three small black dishes: one has Soy roasted cashew nut meringue, another Kaffir lime leaf-scented lotus root, another a Prawn cracker with chilli tomato dip.
A second ‘preamble’ brings one bite each of Tuna tartare with lemongrass, Miang som-o pomelo, Crispy pork crackling above a nam prik num eggplant mass, Prawn stick coated with sesame and Smoked chicken sausage stick with a bite of pickled cabbage.
This is not, we say, the kind of food we would cook at home – at least, not me (Schlmemmer might, he has just arrived in Bangkok as executive chef of the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok which, marsupial-like, hosts this amazing restaurant).
Next come small bowls of Tom yum shellfish consommé with an adjacent Oyster a bit of foam. Now we divide. He has a Deep-fried soft shell crab with green mango and soft nam jim (a deconstructed salad, actually). I have a bowl of Orchid salad with some vermicelli noodles atop a broth of poached squid.
He has the house special, Gang Dang frozen red curry – yes, the ice cream in a ball of foam, with lobster and lychée to one side. I have a platter of a ‘dust’ of Crunchy coconut with some who baby mushrooms, pickled, and some tiny mounds of mushroom foam and two sprigs of coriander.
He goes on to a tower of Quail in aromatic tom kha. I go on to a ball that is a Confit chicken leg on a fresh pea base, and a grilled asparagus and peashoot salad mound, and peanut sauce spooned on.
We then converge, having all three desserts, which all feature icecream. First comes a barely-liquoriced Liquorice ‘sorbet’ on a cream, with tiniest meringues.
Next, a triumph, is Four kinds of tea in a glass, a jasmine tea white foam, green tea crumble, Earl Grey icecream dome, and the whole topped with Thai tea powder.
Last of the main desserts is Pistachio cake, crumbled into bits with a pandan icecream and lots more bits of frozen coconut foam. The combination of an icecream structure paired with crumbled bits is a major cuisine trend, says my mentor (he also predicts that in the next decade food will become more healthy, more simple, and there will be increasing attention to better products).
With that, I say goodnight and skip, rather than stagger, back home. Tonight I am sleeping in the gorgeous 303-room luxury Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, right, it seems, in the hub of town – for shopaholics, it is right next to the Paragon shopping centre.
My room, 35, is like a modern Thai house. I have two floors, and downstairs and up, via 20 light-wood stairs, I have light wood and matching silk, not much else, except for the main selling point.
Pull back the two-floor-high (light wood-coloured) silk curtains and step out on to my private patio, six foot deep, ten food wide, and, swimgear on, I take four steps down into the swimming pool, with curves, as a canal, past my ‘dock’ and those of a few other lucky travellers.