We had dinner reservations at Bo.Lan – World’s 50 Best Restaurants in Bangkok.
In downtown Bangkok, getting from point A to point B during dinner time is a nightmare by taxi. After a shopping spree at Siam Discovery, we headed to the nearest BTS station. It was the after-work rush hour and the train ride was a blur.
Who is Bo.Lan?
Bo.Lan is founded on the belief that the best Thai restaurants should be found In Thailand. Herald as one of Bangkok’s top tables since its opening in 2009, the restaurant is an advocate to make every day an ‘Eat Responsibly Day’.
The husband-and-wife team co-chefs Thai chef Duangporn ‘Bo’ Songvisava and Australian chef Dylan Jones started Bo.lan.
The ever-changing degustation is based on dishes researched from authentic palace recipes and serves royal Thai-style cuisine.
Coincidentally this dinner was just two days after a lunch at nahm at COMO Metropolitan. This restaurant is No. 10 on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018. I found out during dinner that both chefs met when they served at David Thompson’s erstwhile London outpost nahm.
Can I take the heat? Hell, no!
Traditional Thai dishes are neutral in terms of spice. What makes the delicious dishes spicy is often the red hot chili pepper! From my experience in nahm, I’ve sort of gauge that the level of spiciness that many find acceptable. But to me, it’s really a case of taking the heat. And I have to admit that I don’t have a cast iron tongue.
The point I like most of a Thai meal is that explosion of fiery sensation in the mouth. My friends tell me loudly that it shows on my fire hydrant red face! Sometimes tears squirt out as I attempt to maintain some measure of composure.
The other diners continue to eat at the same pace and rate, the burn on their tongue seem to goad them on. The conversation levels are maintained. As for me, my tongue needed an ice bucket challenge to survive the next onslaught.
Bird’s eye what?
In Thai cuisine, bird’s eye chili, or chili pepper, has a fruity taste and extreme spiciness. The green and ripe red chilis are used extensively in many Thai salads, curries and stew dishes served with rice.
Traditional Thai with fine-dining flair with cocktails that blew my mind!
We started with some munchies before we were served with strong cocktails. The instruction was to pop the single appetizer to eat it whole. I don’t know what was wrapped in the cucumber roll but it was super spicy. After that, we were told to tip the single shot of Thai whiskey. After that, we were to use the spray on our burning mouths.
This completely threw off our palettes at the start of the meal.
What’s the rationale of that experience?
I was confused naturally. Knocking back such stiff drinks at the onset and setting my tongue on fire wasn’t what I wanted to experience.
I wanted a slow build up, like the walk to the restaurant, the quickening of the crowds and then the slower pace. Going single file, through the gate, into the courtyard of leafy trees into the cool shade.
I want to taste the sweetness and crisp of a shredded unripe papaya. The heavy coconut crème in the curries to prep my tongue for battle.
So it wasn’t what I expected. I couldn’t taste Bo.Lan’s authentic Thai cooking on the onset. The restaurant is reputed to draw its taste from organic, locally sourced products, working with local farmers, artisan producers, and fishermen and shares a social responsibility to the local community. Fresh ingredients elevated to refined palace-style cuisine.
Confession: I’m a failure at a fine dining experience. Used to have my meals on the run and quickly, street food and home-cooking are more appealing to me.
Bo.lan’s tasting menu is lavishly presented. There must be an army of chefs in the kitchen to prep, cook and feed all of us simultaneously. Their signature Balance tasting menu features a succession of small dishes. Those delightfully minuscule amuse Bouches. I noticed a mix of macro and micronutrients.
It has many extra accents of Amuse Bouches in-between courses. There were many different, interesting tastes; alas not all to my liking. The curries had intense, herbaceous, floral Thai flavors.
Strong Flavour vs Mild
One of the dishes had such a strong overpowering flavor that I couldn’t eat it. The experience is a little bizarre with a sensory overloaded as our taste buds fought with different taste sensations. Maybe my experience of eating local fine dining in my little hometown differs greatly.
There were about half-a-dozen main dishes served. We were advised to eat all the dishes together. Just as you would at an Asian dinner, alternating between the dishes at will mixed with the rice.
As I munched my way through the courses, my tongue settled and I began to enjoy the food.
It’s just the waiting…
So, I decided to wander around the restaurant …
Yadong Ma Kratueb Rong served with local sour fruits
Bo.Lan amuse bouche
Single plate of the day
Salad of fresh cucumber and Ao Phang nga banana prawn with orange chili dressing
Stir-fried pork tender with Andaman shrimp paste and santol
Grilled chili relish of Isan style herbal-fed chicken served with grilled squid
Sap Nok Style curry of Chachoengsao Duck with ginger and long yard bean
Old style Hot and sour soup of market fresh fish
The restaurant has a charming familiarity with traditional Thai elegance. It feels contemporary yet the low-lit interiors and garden is a reminder of a Thai grandmother’s home. The interiors used with plenty of beautiful untreated wood, to maintain a traditional Thai ambiance. It is glamorous in a way, just not the shiny glamorous. It was a little dark by the time I excused myself.
I wandered around the luscious grounds, little vegetable garden, a water filtering system and waste recycling. Bo.Lan works towards reducing its environmental impact and achieving a zero carbon restaurant by 2018.
Who to dine with?
I recommend taking someone adventurous and shares a discerning appetite. Dinner is only served in set menus in a sharing family style. At lunch, there is an à la carte menu.
If you’re not a fan of Thai desserts, you’ll scoff at the medley of Thai handmade desserts presented. There must have been about 10 – 12 items in total. There are Pre-Dessert and Dessert! The presentation is incredible.
Some of the dessert items come wrapped in banana leaves. There are bite-sized items in the shapes of tropical fruits. These had a light and subtle flavor. Some are creamy and intensely sweet. There are the different texture to feel on your tongue as you taste it.
But if you asked me, the ones at the morning markets tastes better. It is also a fraction of the price. Then there’s my personal preference again, I just don’t like grainy texture for desserts.
Bo.lan | Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 & 2018
24 Soi Sukhumvit 53, Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana Bangkok 10110
Nearest BTS station: Thong-Lo (5-min walk) | Telephone: +66 2 260 2962
Prices: Balance menu 2660 baht++; Brief menu 2280 baht++
Best Route to get to Bo.Lan
The nearest BTS station is Thong lor. Take exit 1, and walk toward Sukhumvit Soi 53. Turn right into Soi Sukhumvit 53. Walk down the small road for about 150 meters. Bo.lan is on the right-hand side. Just turn right into the small pathway.