Paste Restaurant, Bangkok, Thailand
This stylish eatery is run by chef couple Bongkoch Satongun, who used to work at Blue Elephant, and Jason Bailey, who has 10 years’ experience cooking Thai food. Their dishes take inspiration from traditional Thai cuisine, but they also make the most of modern techniques, artful presentation and some personal twists. The result feels almost Mediterranean at times, with less sugar and fish sauce than typically found in the rounded, five-flavors style of classic Thai food. What is lost in authenticity, however, is gained in inventiveness and subtlety. The jelly fish salad with shredded chicken (B230), for example, allows its produce to shine brightly thanks to a simple lime sauce. And what produce! Every mint leaf, every pickled green chili, is bursting with flavor. You can tell everything is home-made and, where possible, from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. If you’re mentally conditioned to expect loud flavors from your Thai food, you may find some dishes a tad flat. And we’d have to agree that the blue swimmer crab with beansprouts wrapped in egg-net (B380) is on the bland side. But overall, we’re very impressed. Meat dishes like the braised beef ribs with ginger (B650) and the stock-poached pork neck with chili, red grapefruit, local flowers and toasted sticky rice (B380) are well-balanced, flavorful and, in the latter dish’s case, simply stunning to look at. You also need to check back regularly for seasonal offerings such as the jasmine and cinnamon smoked wild sea bass fillet with black Chinese vinegar, mint and crushed peanuts (B500). As with their approach to food, the cocktails (B230-250) make use of home-infused vodka and local selections of berries, cinnamon and citrus fruits. While these drinks are excellent, we do wish Paste would try their hand at desserts, too. There’s also an interesting selection of bottles, particularly Riesling and Gewürztraminer, with wines by the glass starting from B260-B290 (five selections). The atmosphere is intimate and suitably plush, the renovated shophouse dominated by a lush red sofa that runs along one side. It’s nice and quiet, making it perfect for a date (service is excellent, too). So why is it expats seem to be the only ones to have warmed to Paste’s charms? That could be due to Thailand’s tendency to label any personal or creative reinterpretation of Thai food as sacriligeous bastardization. Paste is anything but dumbed down; on the contrary, it is an uplifting experience. Corkage B600.