When living in or visiting Bangkok, it’s easy to take amazing Thai food for granted. Between street food, fine dining, “mom and pop” shops and everything else in between, there really is something for everyone. But if you are the type of person who covets the “unexpected”, then you have to try the imaginative and creative Thai cuisine at Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. This award winning restaurant continues to defy expectations with its innovative interpretations of modern Thai cuisine.
Having earned one of the top spots in “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Asia 2014”, Sra Bua is a member of an exclusive club of Thai restaurants that have recently gained worldwide recognition. Located in the luxurious Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, this restaurant is like none other. You enter through massive, intricately carved wooden doors into an inner sanctum that can be best described as an exotic gilded fantasy. You are greeted by an extremely high ceiling; silk draped wooden Thai "salas", several evocative water features including a seductive lily pond, and the warm embrace of the smoothly polished golden brown wood that dominates the cavernous space. It’s an easy going mix of traditional Asian design aesthetics and sumptuous modern elements accented by a rich color scheme of shimmering gold, purple, grey and green. The wood, stone and water elements bring the feeling of nature into the space while the soft low lighting sets the entire room aglow. Guests are set at ease by the subdued vibe and encouraged to enjoy the entire space by having cocktails and appetizers in the lounge by the lily pond before entering the main dining area. Dinner is a long and luxurious affair at Sra Bua and you can easily expect to spend 3+ hours for dinner.
The mastermind behind the concept is Danish born Chef Henrik Yde-Anderson. He is the founder and head chef of Kiin Kiin, the world’s only Michelin starred Thai restaurant in Copenhagen Denmark and the creative force behind the menu at Sra Bua. Chef Henrik has an ongoing love affair with Thailand that began with a holiday in 2000 that resulted in four years of living in Thailand. Like many who have come before and after in similar circumstances, Chef Henrick continues to be seduced by Thailand’s charms and admits that the vibrant Thai markets are an ongoing inspiration. “My menu is not 100% local as some things need to be imported, but I use local produce, seafood and suppliers as much as possible,” stated Chef Henrick.
Despite the fact that his menu is heavily steeped in molecular gastronomy and modern cooking techniques, his understanding of the fundamentals of Thai cuisine is apparent. What I particular respect is that he is not trying to cook Thai cuisine in a traditional way, but he is giving it his own twist and taking it to unprecedented levels. “For me cooking is about introducing people to what I see when I come to Thailand. I love the anarchy of Thai food, there are no rules, no boundaries and it’s so full of flavor,” shared Chef Henrick with a mischievous smile. Although they offer an ala carte menu at Sra Bua, your best bet is to try one of the set menus. That way you experience the entire culinary journey from beginning to end just as Chef Henrick envisioned it.
On my visit I opted for the 9 -course set dinner menu with wine pairing priced at $151.70USD (4,900Baht) per person. There is also an option without wine pairing which I recommend unless you are a real fan of sweet white wines. The restaurant has a nice selection of wines by the glass or bottle that you can tailor to your own personal preferences. The 9-course set dinner is preceded by 11 small dishes served in four or five courses called “Nibbling’s”. These are a series of beautifully composed Thai snacks and appetizers. While the Soy Roasted Cashew Nut Meringue left me a little on the fence, I particularly enjoyed the Kaffir Lime Leaf Scented Lotus Root, the Tuna w/ Banana Flower & Lemongrass and the Miang Kham Cornette which is a toned down version of a classic favorite that is wrapped in a crispy pastry instead of champu leaves. Other highlights included the spicy and seductive Frozen Red Curry Pearls & Crab and the miniature Chiang Mai Sausage and the Five Spiced Pork which are exceptional versions of street food favorites. Another visually stunning dish was the Eggplant Relish w/ Smoked Marrow and the delicate and sublime Flan w/Dried Swordfish. The skill and intricacy of the dishes increase as you move from starters to main courses. The Lobster Tempura w/ Yam Meringue & Thai Muesli and the Frozen Tom Kha w/ Pickled Citrus were both exceptional. Perfectly balanced and textually complex, they both highlight Chef Henrick's skill and precision. One of the most highly anticipated dishes was the Tom Yam Cold & Warm w/ Shellfish Galangal & Prawn Noodles. This deconstructed version of Tom Yum Goong defied all expectations and reinterpreted this classic in totally unexpected ways. With a hot and cold preparation, it allows the diner to break it down to its fundamental elements of flavor, temperature and texture and experience this soup in a whole new way. Although personally I am a purest who prefers it the “old fashioned” way, it's well worth trying just to have the experience. One of my favorite dishes of the evening was the Fried Sweet Breads w/ Tamarind & Lemongrass which was heavenly, as was the melt in your mouth tender Beef Braised in Oyster Sauce w/ Jasmine Rice. For wine I recommend the Weingut Bründlmayer, Grüner Veltliner, Kamptaler Terrassen 2011 from Austria which is a nice semi-sweet white and Irony Merlot, Napa Valley, 2010 from California which is a delightful red that is neither too full bodied nor too young. Both the desserts were simply art in motion. As delightful as the pageantry of the dry ice and chemical reactions on the molecular level where, the most memorable part of both of the desserts was their flavor. The Rice Pudding w/ Yellow Mango and the Cinnamon Ice Cream w/ Star of Anis Jelly & Cloves Crumble where light and refreshing without being overly sweet and prove to be the most satisfying way to end an avant- garde marathon of a meal.
To define Sra Bua as simply an upscale Thai restaurant, is missing the point entirely. What makes this restaurant special is the magical alchemy that happens when all the elements come together for a truly unprecedented dining experience. Sra Bua is much more than just the sum of its parts. There is a slight undercurrent of reckless abandon as you dive into one unexpected dish after another. Sra Bua will appeal to anyone who defines themselves as an adventurous diner, and the experience is best when you have an open mind. You don’t go to Sra Bua to eat what you’re used to, you go to challenge your expectations and expand your palate. And for that reason alone, I think this restaurant deserves the accolades and is well worth a visit. Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin is open daily for lunch from 12:00pm to 3:00pm (a la carte only) and for dinner from 6:00pm to midnight with a choice of set menus and a la carte. For bookings and reservations please call +662-162-9000 or email email@example.com.
Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok
991/9 Rama I Road Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
Tel +66 2 162 9000
Fax +66 2 162 9009