On around week three of its fleeting lifecycle, the Bombyx Mori—a silkworm native to the region’s mulberry trees—enters a new phase, encloses itself in a cocoon of raw silk. For the barely sentient larva, this dark place is a haven, a place of protection from the outside world as it awaits its metamorphosis to pupa and then, finally, fully-fledged moth.
Yes, this is the food column you’re reading: Bombyx, the Jim Thompson silk company’s latest concept-led foray into the city’s hypercompetitive restaurant game, must be the first eatery in Thailand, nay anywhere, to draw inspiration from this process. Dark and windowless, this jet-black space located at the quiet, ritzier end of Siam Paragon’s M floor is undeniably cocoon-like. Long, undulating panels of incandescent printed silk that form a rib effect across the ceiling and flutter in the chilly aircon only add to that impression. Meanwhile, in the PR spiel, parallels are drawn between the silkworm’s ephemeral existence and Bombyx itself: as well as a restaurant, it’s also an art space that periodically sheds its skin—the silk hangings, the art on the walls—only to emerge anew.
With the crazed abstract swirls of National Artist Ithipol Thangchalok currently appearing (both as art and as limited-edition silk items, both of which are for sale), it all makes for a moody mall atmosphere that, while unlikely to please all the people all the time, is enjoyably outré. But what about the food, you’re probably wondering by this stage?
Thankfully, art hasn’t been foregrounded at the expense of the cuisine. Indeed, an attempt to achieve a synergy between them means that a lot of creativity has gone into the menu of contemporary Thai dishes and Thai-inspired cocktails too. “I thought hard about the combination of colours and samun phrai herbs in this dish,” explains executive chef Phongsak Mikhunthong as a prawn and lemongrass salad plated in a popping modern style, and replete with blue and yellow edible flowers, is served by one of the demure, black-uniformed waitresses. “Some chefs think about food then just throw in on a plate, but not me,” adds the multiple cooking competition winner, whose long, circuitous CV includes spells at Sala Rattanokosin and Glow. “I take into consideration the plate first and design my food to match that plate.”
This painterly approach has given rise to some real eye-catchers: plates of deep-fried crab cakes accompanied by Yayoi Kusama-esque dots of lurid mango sauce; a Southern Thai-style khao yam salad in which its components (rice, roasted sesame, herbs, etc) are arranged with all the pleasing, machine-like uniformity of one of Damien Hirst’s Spot paintings; and much more besides. And there are, most importantly, bold flavours to boot: both the stewy red crab curry, with its bai cha kram leaves and tender meat, and a dessert, the pistachio madeleine with biscuit crumbs, orange slivers and a kaffir lime sorbet, are proof of that. A similar balance between visual appeal and substance has been struck on the drinks menu, where off-piste ingredients such as rose petals, toasted rice, mulberry shrub and drops of violet liquor add punch and artisanal flair to the concoctions.
Bombyx may, if anything, be too cocoon-like for its own good. Marooned in the poshest part of upscale Siam Paragon, amid jewellery stores, many of which close early each evening and see only modest footfall, its location is a quiet one. And it clearly bamboozles some people. Passersby, en route to buy or ogle some eye-wateringly expensive necklace, watch or handbag, often stop in their tracks on spotting the restaurant’s exterior, look a tad puzzled or take a photo, then trot on. But they’re missing out, as there is much to enjoy about this evolving cocoon of art and food: Bombyx is one of the most outlandish and boldly realised restaurant concepts in recent memory.
Bombyx, Mezzanine level, Siam Paragon, 991 Rama 1 Rd, Bangkok 10330; 0-2129-4840