Sunday, November 11, 2007

Nahm (David Thompson at the Thai Kitchen, Dubai)


The Halkin, Berkeley Square

Bookings: res@nahm.como.bz

Review: The Nahm's chef/owner David Thompson cooks as a guest chef at the Park Hyatt Dubai's Thai Kitchen

Sorry this took a while coming, but we’ve been so busy with other stuff on The Fat Expat that it’s getting hard to squeeze things in these days!

Nahm restaurant in London’s Belgravia is host to the world’s only Michelin-starred Thai Chef, Australian David Thompson. So when we heard the news that Thompson was to be visiting Dubai and cooking at the Park Hyatt’s truly fantastic Thai Kitchen restaurant, we made the booking on the spot. The Thai Kitchen is already home to exceptionally good food thanks to its team of Thai cooks and lady chef Khun Supattra who cracks a smart soup ladle. Watching her do so in the restaurant’s four cooking stations is part of the fun of it all for me: a happy diner, but a poor conversationalist during these visits.

It was worse than usual when we went for a night of Thompson’s food: I was speechless most of the time, the silent one in a party of four.

Miang Som: a crab meat and pomelo soong on a betel leaf. A soong is a stuffed leaf, typically a chicken or pork stuffing mixture (coming to this blog soon, a chicken soong recipe that will transform dinner parties. Promise) is presented alongside a selection of tasty and aromatic leaves and herbs. In this case, a small cascade of crab, pomelo and other bits and bobs carefully placed on a betel leaf in just the right quantity to allow the leaf to be pursed around the mixture and the lot lifted to the mouth. And there it explodes: crunchy and sweet, spice and coconut, crab and the betel leaf (sadly, only narcotic in a foodie kind of way). Layers of flavours and textures in a single mouthful.

We had worried about this: what if Thompson’s food was rubbish? We’d dined at a one-star chef’s table in Sri Lanka and spent most of the meal laughing at the pretension and stupidity of it all. Was this going to be a let down, too? Is it really three or nothing?

And so that first mouthful was a moment of astonishment. Food simply shouldn’t be that good. It was wrong. It was so wrong that I didn’t want to let the other one go and shamelessly placed another order.

And then the rest came, an onslaught of flavours and textures in the small portions that make the Thai Kitchen such fun (you’ll possibly get through 8-10 dishes in a two-person evening there and walk away with plenty change from Dhs 500 including great wine) but with a finesse and delicacy that managed to eclipse the Thai Kitchen’s food. And the Thai Kitchen’s food is never less than stunning.

The food was a constantly surprising procession, smiles breaking out as the table sampled, and talked about, each dish. You couldn’t help it: they were worth talking about.

An aromatic dish of tender beef in cumin; velvety sweet scallops with garlic and deep green, aniseedy and hot holy basil; a crisp dish of deep fried chicken with a sweet, deep plum sauce and more. It was a bewildering array of fine food, dish after diverse dish surprising, delighting and just generally impressing.

Thompson’s deftness of culinary touch is as remarkable as his ability to hit a strange kitchen and get that kitchen working with him rather than against him (no easy task, being a guest chef in an already excellent kitchen. Thompson had brought one of his team). His stature in Thailand, where he teaches Thai cookery, probably helps.

A highly memorable meal and one that certainly begs for a follow-up visit to Nahm itself. An outstanding night's entertainment and food. But I still remember that betel wrapped soong more than anything else…

1 comment:

yerba said...

my culinary school instructor is a friend of david thompson. he came to a world of flavors food conference hosted by the culinary institute of america, in napa valley, california. thru great good fortune our small class worked as volunteers at this conference. we helped make the food, got to watch the cooking demos, and eat all the food that was served up. it was 3 days of bliss that culminated with the taste of david's betel leaf concoction. it took me a full 5 minutes to eat. i will never forget it. so glad you shared the same experience. i wanted to do my student externship with david in london but the work papers were a nightmare, so i stayed in the usa. i suggested nahn to a friend who was in london on business. he loved it. we looked at the menu online, and now i want to try and make those crab noodles. ta ta !!!!