Contrary to what its name might suggest, The Cured Chamber is not some dry, clinical room kept under lock and key. Rather, this down-to-earth eatery in Ekkamai has a rustic charm that invites diners to interact with ingredients that don’t always get the attention they deserve. In this case, that means cured meats. The good stuff, too – San Daniele prosciutto, ibérico ham, thinly sliced speck with a special crust of sea salt that’s been left to age for months in the soundless dark. This is the kind of charcuterie that foodie legends are made of, the premium meats that more often than not grace the Sunday brunch buffets at five-star hotels.
The Cured Chamber, however, isn’t just serving sliced salami on ceramic plates. “We’re trying to educate people here about [the possibilities] of cured meats, so we’ve introduced them into dishes,” explains restaurant manager Worapat “Tee” Pornprasertsom. From speck speckled into pumpkin and foie gras risotto to paninis with pesto and smoked buffalo mozzarella, Tee estimates that 80 percent of the dishes on the menu feature cured meats as either centrepieces or components.
It’s these dishes, above all, that are the brainchild of Chef Prawit “Golf” Udompornprasit, a young Thai culinary whiz who cut his teeth in Sydney’s hottest kitchens before working under the direction of celebrity chef Ian Kittichai at Namsaah Bottling Trust. At The Cured Chamber, Golf has carried over some of Chef Ian’s influence. For instance, his penchant for pan-Asian touches. And the results, quite often, are spectacular. Golf has mastered presentation to the point where even a plate of meat and cheese looks like art.
Cooking and plating aside, the design team has played an equally integral part in singing the praises of aged pig. The restaurant occupies the ground floor of the Somerset Serviced Apartments at the tail end of Ekkamai Soi 2 (which is about as tucked away as any city property can get these days).
Upon entry, ham legs hanging from hooks in the ceiling greet guests from behind a glass partition. Around this showpiece, Edison bulbs dangle above tables that are surrounded by wine racks, knotty wood posts and brick accents. Against a back wall, faux firewood rises in a stack on a metal rack. Altogether these elements give the space the look and feel of a European farmhouse. Keeping the meat front and centre, meanwhile, is designed to get guests interacting with the ingredients. Want a specific slice, or wonder what coppa looks like in the raw? Have a look at the chamber and select the product you want.
For a primer on the alchemic magic of salt, sugar, herbs and time, try the full charcuterie platter. Featuring The Cured Chamber’s showcase products, the aforementioned San Daniele prosciutto, jamón ibérico, coppa (aged pork neck), speck (smoked pork belly), Spanish chorizo and Milano salami arrive beautifully tousled on a wood board.
A smattering of pickles, including jalapeño peppers, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and purple cabbage, as well as some chunks of aged Parmesan cheese and green and black olives, accent the selection of meats. Highlighting the flavour, texture and quality of the products, the platter rewards slow, thoughtful discoveries of its various bits and pieces.
While the charcuterie makes for a safe entry into curing, Chef Golf’s creations offer a more special experience, not least because the task he was assigned was anything but clear-cut. When asked about the challenge of making cured meats focal points in dishes, he hesitates before admitting that, no, it wasn’t necessarily easy to put smoked chicken in a plate of rigatoni. But he has no reason for pause; he has done so with aplomb.
A simple mesclun salad with house-cured salmon draws attention to the orange- and fennel-infused fish, while house-made sausage gets its time in the sun in risotto with Gorgonzola cheese and veal jus. But, to be fair, cured meats don’t always star, or even appear, in some of the most popular dishes. For example, the highly recommended half-rack of pork ribs, slathered in sweet-spicy tamarind barbecue sauce and dusted with tangy Thai herbs. The secret here is the quality of the pork and the care it’s been treated with in the kitchen. The meat is so tender it practically falls off the bone, and the sauce so addictive it keeps you reaching for another rib (even if you’re supposed to be sharing them with your partner).
Likewise light on cured ingredients, the East-meets-West amalgamation of angel hair pasta coated in homemade XO sauce, topped with a buttery Hokkaido scallop and contrasted with pieces of crispy pork belly, doesn’t stray far from the script. In fact, it fits right in with The Cured Chamber’s concept. The pasta is as rustic as the restaurant, but it also enjoys a modern touch, with a hint of Chinese (the sauce), Thai (the pork belly) and Japanese influence (sliced nori as garnish) thrown in for good measure.
Plus, the pork belly plays like a sneak peek of what’s to come at the restaurant. Tee says the team plans to offer dry-aged meats within the coming months, in a sense springboarding from curing to showcase the way meat was commonly stored and treated just decades ago. Dry-aging has some significant advantages that the team hopes to highlight, including the way enzymes in the air break down connective tissue, leaving tender cuts with complex flavours.
Charcuterie, of course, is a natural partner for wine pairings, and The Cured Chamber has plenty of bottles to choose from, in particular Old World wines (considering the provenance of the meat, opting for wines from Italy, Spain and France is a logical move). For a more universal experience, try a full-bodied red that can carry you through to a rich chocolate dessert, such as Chef Golf’s chocolate-trio tart. Partnered with a white chocolate crumble, milk chocolate ice cream, fresh berries and a homemade berry reduction, the dark chocolate tart loses its bitter edge, melting into the litany of flavours bound in one single bite.
While the folks behind The Cured Chamber claim to have set out to carry on an ancient tradition, there’s nothing ancient about their restaurant. From interior design down to the details on the plate and even some decadent desserts, this restaurant is proving there’s something new to be found even in an approach we may have considered old.