In the last decade or so, new Nordic cuisine has gained momentum as a major culinary movement that has washed through award-winning kitchens across the globe. The focus is on local produce and ingredients of the season, which are prepared using Nordic cooking techniques such as pickling, smoking and curing. Chef Fae takes her culinary journey in Scandinavia and merges it with flavours from home, to present a seasonal menu – seven- and 10-courses paired with wine or juice – that is a stellar union of new and familiar flavours.
“Nordic food is light and focuses on the freshness of the ingredients, whereas with Thai food, the emphasis is on flavours. Since I have lived in both countries, I am very familiar with the two cuisines, and hence mixing the two opposites was not a difficult task. For me, it comes from the heart,” divulges Chef Fae, as we sip on a sweet concoction of grilled winter melon, infused with coconut and pandan leaves, in the relaxed atmosphere of the eatery.
Designed by award-winning architect André Fu and his design studio AFSO, Front Room’s design aesthetic is a stylish mélange of contemporary architecture and traditional Thai elements. Chandeliers, inspired by traditional Lanna khom lanterns, harmoniously reside with sleek book shelves and furnishing – a touch of Scandinavian minimalism – offering a prelude to the gastronomic concept of the restaurant.
Our first taste of this extraordinary fare starts with an array of amuse bouche or Velkommen, meaning ‘welcome’ in Danish: savoury croustades with shrimp and pomelo dressed with tamarind sauce and coconut flakes; fish crackers inspired by Thai fish cake, tod mun pla, dotted with sweet and sour gel; pumpkin leaf and thyme chips which comes nesting on a bonsai plant; cured salmon and beetroot meringue; and lastly, sweet potato mini taco with peanut and green apple filling.
Our second course was a flavourful Nordic presentation of sea bass cured with black garlic, enhanced with a serving of fresh frisse, sautéed broccoli, coconut pearls and dressed with a citrus vinaigrette. With the next dish, Chef Fae uses beetroot – grilled on high flame to achieve three distinct textures – along with pickled papaya, Beluga caviar and dill oil, to showcase the multiple facets of an underrated vegetable. The dish is served with a concentrated beetroot jus which, when poured over the dish, is aromatically intoxicating.
With the next offering, Chef Fae recalls childhood memories of consuming soup with her family in home city of Chiang Rai. She recreates these fond memories with a serving of thin squid noodles, garnished with pickled winter melon and served with a heart-warming cucumber and winter melon broth.
Sticking with local seasonings, we indulge in Blue of The Sea, a wonderful entrée featuring crispy egg roll, celery crudités, blue crab salad with yellow curry hollandaise sauce. We are advised to break the egg roll, toss everything together and enjoy familiar Thai flavours of the sweet and savoury curry.
The playfully-named, Raised in Chiang Rai, cooked in Bangkok, is a dish certainly worthy of an applause for both creativity and taste. For this extraordinary offering, Chef Fae first debones chicken wings, only to stuff it with minced chicken and herbs, and serve it on a bed of creamy black rice purée, smoked with fragrant lemongrass fibril.
For our next course, the 250-day grass-fed wagyu striploin is served up, accompanied by asparagus, morel mushroom stuffed with chicken mousse and chestnut cream, steamed taro and dressed in a rich, braised oxtail sauce. We savoured every bite of this decadent dish, with the tender beef melting in the mouth.
Easing us into the sweetest course of the evening, Chef Fae sends out two unexpected desserts. First of which is an intriguing mix of asparagus ice cream, minced caramelised asparagus, dill and a sweet topping of caramel and honey. The second, a delightful mishmash of basil ice cream, white chocolate mousse and sweet Thai mango. Despite our dinner being a 10-course, three-hour-long feast, we didn’t feel like we had over-indulged. This, of course, meant we had room for a selection of exquisite petit fours.