Bringing the best culinary traditions of the mainland to an inspired contemporary locale, Rosewood Bangkok’s signature establishment Nan Bei becomes the pinnacle for Chinese fine dining in the city – Prestige indulges.
As soon as we step out of the elevator on the 19th floor, darkness envelopes us. Once our eyes adjust, we’re drawn to a cascading installation of magpies, strung together with soft, glowing lights. The celestial-like work of art is based on a Chinese folklore; a love story between the cowherd and the weaver girl. Legend has it that the star-crossed lovers were separated, and banished to opposite sides of a mighty river, symbolising the Milky Way, only to unite once a year, upon a bridge made of magpies. The installation, also referred to as the “Moon Gate”, sets a poetic prelude to Rosewood Bangkok’s signature Chinese restaurant Nan Bei.
Further inside, the narrative continues with design, where monochromatic, ivy-green walls serenade a room gilded and fringed with Art Deco touches and trimmings. The stunning interiors of the restaurant and its labyrinth of sections are the artistry of leading New York architects AvroKO, with the addition of watercolour murals from Thai illustrator Tachamapan Chanchamrassang, better known as Pomme Chan.
The inspiring aesthetics of the restaurant become the backdrop for the real star of the establishment; a menu comprising authentic regional cuisine from the north and south of China. Nan Bei, aptly, also means south and north in Mandarin.
Merging tradition with modernity, the menu showcases the culinary ingenuity of who’ve chefs who’ve been brought in from Rosewood Beijing, to ensure quality and authenticity. Each of them specialise in particular areas, such as seafood, cold appetisers, dim sums, noodles, and one solely devoted to Peking duck.
As the golden hour draws near, the last rays of the sun casts a gold glow illuminating the stunning interiors of the restaurant, while we toast the start to our evening with signature cocktails. Reflecting the cuisine, the cocktail programme here is concocted with an Asian air, many of which are meant to be paired with the dishes.
While I got started on Yoghurt Pisco Sour, made from an interesting mix of yoghurt sake with lychee, lime and pisco, my companion sipped on Nan Bei’s signature claypot, sous-vide negroni with tea. The menu also stages interesting pairings such as whiskey and cold brewed tea, in which the two worlds collide to o er a truly innovative beverage. We recommend mixing Macallan 18 with lapsang tea.
As is customary in Chinese culture, meals begin with a selection of cold appetisers. The first to make its appearance is a refreshing and crunchy cucumber salad doused with rice wine vinegar, soy and a dash of orange zest. Its followed by house-made tofu sprinkled with crab meat and a chilled jelly fish salad with Chinese cabbage, aged vinegar and wasabi. The balance of flavours in this dish is so delicate, despite the powerful impact of wasabi.
Of course, a visit to a Chinese restaurant isn’t really complete without familiar classics such as pot stickers and dim sums – so we took the liberty to order a few varieties. Nan Bei’s signature pot stickers arrive beautiful over blue and white ware, delicately joined together in a circular shape, resembling traditional paper-cutting pattern. I would feel bad about destroying this art, but the delicious explosion of juicy parcels filled with pork and spring onions, wash away any guilt I may have felt seconds ago.
A few more of these dipped in my personalised concoction of rice vinegar, soy sauce and Sichuan chilli, and we were in epicurean heaven. The delivery of Lobster Siu Mai and Xiao Long Bao with blue crab and black truffle – dishes I am told represent the best of southern China – sees a kind of refinement that is not often associated with Chinese cuisine.
This sophistication continues with the black pepper Australian wagyu tenderloin stir fry with foie gras. The tender properties of wagyu beautifully marry the silky texture of foie gras, resulting in a unique depth of flavour that can only be described as sensational. The dining concept of Nan Bei revolves around sharing, but with this particular dish, maybe you’d rather not.
Scaling the culinary high of the mainland’s capital is the Peking duck. Here it is as authentic as it gets, which also means you need to order it in advance. The mahogany- glazed duck de Chine arrives, and we watch in awe as it is immaculately carved tableside by the chef. Traditionally, the dish is enjoyed in three stages. We begin with the first layer, the crispy skin, which is served with granulated sugar as a dip – a customary combination since the Ming Dynasty. For the second step, the meat is wrapped in steamed pancakes with spring onions, cucumber and a shmear of sweet bean sauce. The third stage allows diners to choose what they prefer to do with the remaining duck – soup or a stir-fry – we opted for a broth. Duck soup served here is homely, unpretentious and reminds us of something simmering in grandma’s kitchen.
After our indulgent bout of carnivoracity, we wrap up our main course with a serving of hand-pulled vegetarian noodles. The wholesome dish, tossed together with green beans, carrots, potatoes and aromatic and spicy Shangxi hot oil, is just the right amount of al dente and a whole lot of deliciousness, guaranteed to leave you scooping out the very last bit in your bowl.
Desserts here, while seemingly simple-sounding, is definitely not a course you skip out on. The earl grey crème brulee and chilled mango pomelo sago are offerings best enjoyed when not shared, and rest assured, no one judges you if you order seconds or even thirds. We sure did!
To find out more about Nan Bei, visit rosewoodhotels.com.