History is at the heart of both the menu and design of Baan Phraya, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok‘s newest restaurant. Located across the river from the hotel, the restaurant’s name stems from the beautiful, 19th century heritage home it sits in, which was once owned by Phraya Mahai Savanya and his wife Khunying Loearn Mahai Savanya, who were highly regarded in Thai society.
Beyond the charm of the restaurant retaining its original structure, in the past, the aristocratic couple would often host guests from both Thailand and overseas. Khunying Loearn would put together simple yet sophisticated Thai feasts, while Phraya Mahai Savanya would entertain guests by performing traditional together with his band.
In 1986, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok transformed several rooms inside of Baan Phraya into Thailand’s first cooking school, the Oriental Thai Cooking School that was headed by legendary chef, Charlie Amatayagul. Over the years, the school taught thousands of people from around the world about the culture and intricacies of Thai cuisine.
At its core, Baan Phraya aims to capture the spirit of the original owners, and all the chefs who have passed through its hallways, presenting sublime, forgotten Thai dishes that are served with fine-dining flair for a whole new generation of people to enjoy.
Leading the kitchen is Chef Pom Phatchara. Born in Yasothon in the Northeast of Thailand into a large family, Pom attributes her decision to become a chef to her grandmother, whom she spent a lot of time with in the kitchen. In 2019, after making waves in Thailand’s culinary scene, Chef Pom joined the team at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, becoming Chef de Cuisine at Terrace Rim Naam and Sala Rim Naam where she developed her love for Thai food further.
In order to transform The Oriental Thai Cooking School into an intimate restaurant, her process involved spending hundreds of hours researching decades-old recipes that served as the foundation for her menu. Each dish is crafted using an array of regional ingredients; curry pastes, condiments, and sauces made in-house; and cooking techniques that have been long-forgotten.
The dinner begins with a refreshing aperitif — bael fruit kombucha infused with Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok’s own mulberry honey. This is followed by a bite of pineapple relish paired with peanut and tamarind. If the weather permits, these are served to diners outside on the terrace, so they can take in the riverside ambience before moving inside to the intimate dining room fit for 24 guests.
Once seated inside, diners are treated to an amuse bouche that takes the shape of a savoury honeycomb cookie with crab roe and bitter orange. This is followed by the first course, winged bean salad elevated using the chef’s signature chilli paste and naturally-fermented fish sauce made from a centuries-old recipe. It is paired with slices of Hokkaido scallop, quail egg that has been fermented in roselle juice, and salted egg yolk shavings.
What follows is a dish that takes inspiration from an ancient curry called gaeng ron. It comprises of Andaman squid served in a coconut broth with prickly ash, and various types of pepper, including kampot pepper from Cambodia and pink peppercorns. Next is a dish of fish that has been coal-roasted inside of a bamboo stalk with a wide variety of herbs from the onsite garden that is then paired with a smoky relish of charred eggplant.
To cleanse the palate, diners are then given a salad of seasonal fruit dressed in lime and dried shrimp before being served a grilled river prawn served with young tamarind, chillies, and tomalley, also known as prawn fat. To conclude the savoury courses, diners are invited to tuck into a rich panang curry crafted using coriander root, marinated wagyu beef, and heart of palm.
The restaurant’s final nod to capturing the essence of Thai cuisine of the past is the daily selection of homemade sweets, all served from a dessert trolley. Some we were told we simply could not miss included the pink guava served with housemate salt and chilli, the bitter orange granita, and chunks of custard apple served cold with coconut milk.
To enjoy with the meal, the restaurant offers a wine pairing inclusive of glasses ranging from the sweet and aromatic 2018 Robert Weil Riesling Brocken to the refreshing Domaines Ott By.Ott Rosé.
For more information and reservations, visit Baan Phraya.