Since opening its doors in March this year, R-Haan has firmly etched its place as one the city’s most authentic, fine-dining Thai restaurants. Winning a prestigious Michelin star this November, further cemented that position.
A culinary union between “Todd” Piti Bhirom Bhakdi, a scion of the Singha beer family, and celebrated chef Chumpol Jangprai, R-Haan is paving the way to a gastronomic journey into the soul of Thai cuisine.
R-Haan’s culinary philosophy is derived from an old Thai proverb, Nai nam mee pla, nai na mee kao, translating to “there is fish in the water and rice in the fields”. This adage speaks of the abundance and fertility of the kingdom, in regard to cultivation, harvest and produce, which is why 100 percent of ingredients used are sourced locally – from all corners of the country. For example, finest fish sauce from Rayong, sea bass from Chachoengsao, Jasmine rice from Chiang Rai and Ubon Ratchathani, wagyu beef from Korat, to name a few.
Set in a one-storey mansion within the folds of Thonglor Soi 9, R-Haan emanates a very residential vibe and atmosphere. The long foyer of this Thai home is plastered with a stunning monochromatic black and white mural with Thai Ramayana motifs. Placed around the home are antique Thai artworks such as wooden Buddhist alms bowl in striking red as well as carved, ornate wall art. The main dining area is warm and feels instantly familial with its use of unpretentious wooden furniture and cane back chairs that recalls a traditional family dining room.
Based on the wisdom and traditional preparational techniques of Thai cuisine, chef Chumpol has crafted three degustation menus inspired by three seasons: summer, rainy and winter.
The menu features three samrubs – Eak, Tho and Tri – each comprising 18 courses and distinctly different from one another. Samrub in Thai essentially means a set of dishes that are meant to be shared. Here, appetisers are served individually in bite-sized portion, followed by main dishes meant for sharing. On this evening, we sample Samrub Eak, a set taking its cue from the rainy season, with dishes inspired from royal Thai cuisine.
We get started with a Thongkum cocktail, a sweet and sour concoction of Thai spirit infused with herbs, mango and lime juice. The drink arrives shrouded in smoke, topped with a chunk of sweet mango and the conspicuous aroma of the charred cinnamon. The refined presentation and unique taste of the cocktail whet our appetite for the amuse bouche, a coconut-smoked, homemade pork sausage. This was quickly followed by a tray of appetisers. We are told to enjoy these bites from left to right. So, we start with a spoonful of spicy Thai salad with termite mushroom from Sakon Nakhon, asparagus and organic chicken liver, moving to a bite of crispy rice vermicelli with sweet and sour sauce, served in a pastry shell made of chive and coriander, and then to steamed Thai dumplings with banana shrimp. With this course, we witness chef Chumpol mixing different flavour profiles of Thai cuisine – sweet, sour, salty, spicy and bitter – with effortless ease.
Our sommelier, Yongyut Udompat, preps us with a pour of Stonefish Shiraz from Australia, an elegant wine with rich aromas of plum, blue and blackberry, to complement the entrees. The first of our cluster of mains to arrive is a heartwarming chicken soup with sour turmeric and slices of madan. The consommé comes in a glass siphon, the lower level of which is heated tableside to allow the spicy boiling soup to infuse with a range of herbs in the upper chamber, resulting in an intoxicating aroma that awakens all our senses.
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Next, we indulge in Gang Run Juan, a sweet and sour curry comprised of king river prawns and three varieties of shrimp paste and Naam Prik Lhong Rau, Thai chilli dip with assorted vegetables – both of which are vital components of any traditional samrub meal.
This was followed closely by creamy sun-dried beef in fresh coconut curry and stir-fried pork belly with red curry crispy pork floss – both dishes that turned out to be high points of the meal.
Of course, a Thai meal isn’t complete without rice, and here we get to sample both steamed white Hom Mali rice from Chiang Rai and Ubon Ratchathani and brown rice originating from five regions in Thailand.
The culinary voyage ends with a vibrant selection of desserts, starting with mung bean Thai custard with date palm and bael in syrup, muskmelon in coconut milk, talipot palm in scented syrup, and delicate petit fours.
While R-Haan is an upper crust experience with fine fare in an elegant setting, at its core is a philosophy of staying true to its Thai roots using the finest ingredients – which is most likely also what impressed the Michelin inspectors.
JOURNEY OF THAI CUISINE
Time-honoured recipes made using fresh local ingredients and served with the quintessential warmth of Thai hospitality are the essence that embody R-Haan. And then there’s the element of passion – abundantly contributed by “Todd” Piti Bhirom Bhakdi and celebrated chef Chumpol Jangprai.
For Todd, R-Haan is a gateway for people to indulge and experience authentic Thai cuisine through five key elements, which he regards are the ‘Wisdom of Thai Cuisine’. The use of fresh, carefully sourced local ingredients; the art of seasoning which adds to the fullness of flavour in all dishes; the process of heating which brings all the ingredients and seasoning together harmoniously; balancing the right flavour profiles to achieve a balanced taste; as well as preparing and presenting dishes with
The passionate businessman says, “R-Haan is not just for Thai people, but for foreigners to experience traditional Thai food. The restaurant was established with the purpose to promote Thai cuisine as much as possible to every corner of the world. With this in mind, I have plans to open restaurants in other parts of Asia, Europe and the US too. Working together with chef Chumpol, a well-respected ambassador of Thai cuisine with over 30 years of international culinary experience, our vision is to educate and introduce real Thai food and its distinct characteristics to the world.”
Centered on the wisdom and essence of Thai cuisine passed down through generations, the three degustation menus he has created are based on different seasons of the year. The seasonal menu also pays homage to the royal ceremony of the changing of the robes of the Emerald Buddha, considered the protector of Thai people.
Complementing the extraordinary creations is a stylish Thai décor theme of arts and antiques juxtaposed against a colour palette of rich yellow and golden ochres. The central dining area oozes a home-like familiarity, while those seeking a bit of privacy can tuck into several nooks around the home, as well as the patio facing the garden at the back (up to 22 guests can be accommodated in a private dining room overlooking the garden).
Starting this December, chef Chumpol presents two extraordinary new menus, “Royal Thai Taste Samrub” and “Amazing Thai Taste Samrub”, commemorating the Thai winter season.
Under the concept of Kao Mai Pla Mun, which translates to the new harvest of rice, the menu will see aromatic rice grains prepared using innovative cooking techniques. Fish, fresh seasonal vegetables and ingredients will be highlights of this exciting new menu.
“Royal Thai Taste Samrub” and “Amazing Royal Thai Taste Samrub”, will be available until March 2019.