In Food + Drink

Why This Michelin Star Dining Experience In Bangkok Is A Must

The Michelin guide adores Bangkok. From atmospheric street food stalls to high-end restaurants, Thailand’s famously vibrant capital has been delighting epicurean travellers for years, offering some of Asia’s greatest dining experiences and building a reputation as one of the world’s most distinguished food cities.

But behind big-ticket classics like Gaggan and Nahm is a less talked about, Michelin-starred spot called Paste.

After opening the first iteration of Paste on Thonglor’s endless Sukhumvit Soi 49 in 2013, owners Chef Bongkoch ‘Bee’ Satongun and her husband Jason Bailey, an Australian-born restaurateur and chef, moved their modern Thai concept to the top floor of white-marbled luxury plaza Gaysorn Village.

Chive root salad with live lobster from the tank, morel mushroom, Asian citron, air-dried seaweed, and white turmeric. Image: Chris Singh

That was almost four years ago now, and since then Paste has built a solid reputation for heirloom Thai cuisine, bringing to light ancient recipes and adding distinctive contemporary twists to n showcase how vital and dynamic traditional Thai food is.

Satongun, who was named Asia’s Best Female Chef 2018, has said many times that the philosophy at Paste is to innovate “20 percent” and keep “80 percent” of each traditional dish, indicating both a strong commitment to these existing recipes and a desire to experiment.

Given (proper) Thai food is all about precise, pungent flavours, varying textures and delicate balance, there’s plenty of room for Satongun to use her imagination.

And that kind of creativity can be found all through its lunch and dinner menus, like in the 200-year-old recipe for Kaeng Bon from the Jomthong district in northern Thailand which, for Chef Bee, is live Canadian lobster complemented by salted and cured game fish, kaffir lime, mangrove apple flower, and a very rare ingredient called elephant ear plant which only grows in areas like the swampy Chachoengsao Province.

Tapioca dumplings of royal project smoked trout, toasted peanuts, mustard leaf and wild sesame. Image: Chris Singh

Many of these dishes come from the aristocratic Sanitwong family dating all the way back to 1870, as well as various other sources deeply entrenched in the history of Thailand.

The slight reinvention of Kalee Ped, a Loas Duck Curry, is taken from famed polymath Phia Sing, who was the royal chef to the King of Laos in the 20th century.

Massaman Lamb Curry sits with young Mhon Thong durian – instead of the usual potato – as well as Thai cardamom and dried coconut apple, reflecting a classic recipe from the eastern riverside town of Chanthaburi.

A curious dish of watermelon, ground salmon, fried shallot and roasted galangal powder is based on food served at the inauguration of the temple of the Emerald Buddha, which was enshrined in Bangkok during the reign of King Rama I.

The historical narrative tied to the menu adds to the allure of Paste, as well as to the individuality of what is being served.

Aman lamb curry with young Mhon Thong durian, Thai cardamom and dried coconut apple. Image: Chris Singh

As with most well-regarded restaurants, the kitchen’s dedication to provenance is a big focus. The royal-inspired menu is fuelled by Satongun’s constant research and daily adventures, sourcing directly from local growers and picking out precise ingredients at markets all across Thailand’s six regions. Although some high-quality produce is also imported, like Fraser Island spanner crab, used in a 31 flavoured Thai omelette.

Aesthetics play a big part in the Paste experience. The restaurant itself is gentle and modern. The numerous charming handmade lampshades made from paper and bamboo are standout features, but it’s the spiral-like sculpture made from hundreds of silk cocoons that is the true head-turner, twisting towards Paste’s high-ceiling in the middle of several curved booths, seemingly representing two generations of Thai cuisine circling each other.

Then, of course, there’s the plating itself. A smoky Southern Yellow Curry of gulf of Thailand spanner crab, for example, is dressed with elegant edible hummingbird flowers and gets its pleasant aroma from Thai samphire and turmeric.

Watermelon, ground salmon with fried shallot, and roasted galangal powder. Image: Chris Singh

There are also the highly attractive desserts: Smoked Coconut Noodles with palm sugar sabayon, lemon basil seed and dried pineapple; Mango Sticky Rice Roll with golden threads and jasmine sorbet; and a regal looking Chocolate Dome filled with passionfruit, mango and banana gel.

Lovers of fine wine can expect a list which champions aromatic varietals from Germany, Austria and Alsace, as well as lighter reds, and a particular love of Champagne. In fact, there are no less than 18 types of Champagne listed prominently on the menu, the majority from the northeastern French region of Reims.

Smoked coconut noodles with palm sugar sabayon, lemon basil seed, dried pineapple. Image: Chris Singh

With Satongun busy opening an expansion of Paste in Laos, it still seems like early days for the restaurant’s global renown, especially since it’s now listed amongst Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants (#31).

Paste Bangkok is open seven days a week, with lunch being between 12pm and 2pm, and dinner from 6:30pm. Guests can choose from either an a la carte menu or several different tasting menus.

(Lead image: Paste’s smoky southern yellow curry of gulf of Thailand spanner crab, hummingbird flowers, Thai samphire and tumeric / Chris Singh)

Published 28 March, 2019