Tim Foolery

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Nahm – Fine Dining in Bangkok

Our first real meal in Bangkok this trip was at Gaggan and was wonderful. The modern redefined Indian cuisine was a great kickoff to our brief time in Thailand, but now I was really in the mood for proper Thai food — and I don’t mean that standard Pad Thai or rolls that are ubiquitous in American Thai restaurants.  We had booked space for a later lunch on our day of departure – our 13h00 reservations would allow us plenty of time for a meal, then some relaxation time back at the St. Regis.  I still needed some time at the pool and a cocktail or two before we began the 24 hour trip back home.

Nahm was just 2.7 kilometers from the St. Regis, but we weren’t going to walk this route – again, this is Bangkok and it is hot and humid and this day, it was raining intermittently.  We hopped an Uber and were at Nahm in about 10 minutes.

Nahm is located in the Como Metropolitan Hotel, on the first floor.  We arrived about 15 minutes before our reservation – traffic in Bangkok is notoriously bad and unpredictable.  We were told that we couldn’t be seated until closer to the time we booked and the area for us to wait was actually in the hotel lobby.  We loitered in some comfortable chairs for about 20 minutes. As a side note, the employees working at the hotel were very attentive, they brought us water, then refills and different people kept coming up asking if we needed a taxi or anything else.  Just based on this limited interaction with the folks at the Como Metropolitan, I’d stay at this property in the future!

We were seated a few minutes after our scheduled reservation and were greeted by a lovely middle aged Thai woman.  She brought bottles of still and sparkling water and took our wine order. We each had a a crisp white wine – I chose a very dry Riesling, which would pair perfectly with the spice in the food.  Our server said she was from Southern Thailand, which can have some of the most notoriously hot food – but Thailand in general is known for their spicy cuisine.

The amuse bouche was the traditional betel leaf, which I love more than almost anything on the planet. A local restaurant in Chicago serves betel (my first time ever eating it was at Herb) and I just can’t get enough of it.  If you aren’t familiar with it, basically, it is toasted coconut (and I’m not a coconut fan), chilies, peanuts, lime and sometimes prawns or a prawn paste.  It is eaten in a single bite and is absolutely amazing.  I will say that the betel leaf we got at Nahm was almost identical to what we get at Herb (here in Chicago), which made me feel great about dining at Herb.  If you haven’t been, you must go.

Betel Leaf Amuse Bouche. Elegant, spicy, flavorful and my favorite way to start a Thai meal.

We decided to split a smaller salad as we knew we were going to be light on the vegetables for the next 24-hours.  Airplane food isn’t great when it comes to fresh garden work.  The salad was a big mix of different fruits and vegetables and everything was at the epitome of ripeness.  Sometimes I really regret living in a place (Chicago) where fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t available from your garden year round.

Thai Vegetable and Fruit Salad

For my entree, I decided on the Spicy Curry of Minced Prawns.  Our server asked if I like spicy food (which I do) and that was it.  She offered no other guidance…yeah, you know where this is going, don’t you?

The Spicy Curry of Minced Prawns with Yellow Eggplants and Holy Basil.

The mixed vegetables added a cooling effect on my wonderfully spicy lunch.

The mixed vegetables were delivered first and we were told those were designed to help reduce the heat that my lunch would be inflicting.  Not an uncommon thing to see, especially in Thai cooking.  Our entrees were delivered and they smelled amazing!  Mine was a big bowl of thin broth and just a ton of shrimp, vegetables and spices.  The first bite was heaven.  Then the spice started to kick in. WOW.  Then the fire continued to build.  I ate another bite, which cooled me off, then my mouth was turned into a three alarm fire again.  I downed the veggies, some water and wine – yes, I know that water and wine don’t really put out a spice fire like this, but I was desperate.  I made Mike take a bite of my curry.  I think he thinks I’m a wimp when it comes to spices, but I’m not. I love spice – I love flavor more though. You can often get a meal that is just so spicy you don’t get any flavor – I’ll steer clear of those.  This wasn’t like that, the flavor was intense and balanced…the spice level was extreme.  He had about three bites and agreed that it was very spicy and he went back to his milder fish curry.

I continued my journey. I drank water. I ate vegetables. I continued the curry. At a certain point, I decided that I’d just eat this curry and not try to put the fire out until I’m completely finished.  I ended up eating about 75% of the curry – I was actually pretty full…you know I had some betel leaf, a salad and about two gallons of water in my attempt to put the fire out.

The server comes back (my water was being refilled by a busboy) and laughed a bit at me.  Not in a mean way, or at least I didn’t take it that way.  She says “I told you it was spicy” – and well, she didn’t, but she implied that.  Her next sentence floored me.  She said that she loves spicy food, but this prawn curry is just too hot for her. You know, that’s a key piece of information that she should have shared with me when I ordered.  I may not have changed my mind on my order, but at least I would have known that a woman from an area of Thailand with traditionally spicy food, thinks this is just too hot.  C’mon!

Not even half way through my meal and I look like I’ve been through the gauntlet.

I didn’t get a choice for dessert, she brought me some dessert soup with mango and said that this would help with the heat.  It did.

Tropical Fruit in Scented Syrup – the Mangoes helped put out the fire.

Oh boy, this was a sweltering meal.  I really enjoyed Nahm.  The food was great although I can’t say if it should be on the list of Top 50 Restaurants in Asia (I haven’t eaten much in Asia).  I likely wouldn’t return to Nahm on my next trip to Bangkok – there are so many great restaurants and our visits are traditionally just a day or two.  I’ve got to get out and try new things when I’m there.

Some of you may be asking “Wait, weren’t you traveling for 24 hours shortly after this meal?  Did you have any, uh, um….issues, especially with a teeny tiny airplane bathroom?”  For those of you who thought that….gross.  For those who didn’t…sorry.  For all – no issues whatsoever!  It was was mouth burn, not anywhere else.  Now that that unpleasantness is behind us (ha)….

Have you eaten at Nahm?  Did you have the Spicy Prawn Curry?  How do you put out the mouth fire of Thai food?  Where do you recommend I visit during my next trip to Bangkok?


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