R.haan, which opened in the Thonglor area in March of this year, is a partnership between renowned chef Chumpol Jangprai and Piti Bhirombhakdi, scion of the family behind Singha Beer. A passionate ambassador for Thai cuisine, chef Chumpol was introduced to the culinary arts as a toddler at the apron strings of his mother, grandmother and aunts in the kitchen of Sa-Nguan Sri, the family-run restaurant that is still going strong in Ploenchit. The former Iron Chef Thailand winner began his professional career with the Blue Elephant group at the tender age of 19 and has been a partner at well-known restaurants such as Siam Wisdom and Vivarium.
Explaining his five pillars of authentic Thai cooking, Chumpol says, “The first is materials—you have to start with the best produce you can buy and at R.Haan we begin our food prep each morning by shopping at local markets for the best fresh ingredients. Secondly, you need to be spot on with seasonings. They also need to be as fresh as possible, which is why we use our own home-grown micro herbs and only the best shrimp paste from Krabi and coconut milk from Koh Phangan. Thirdly, the cardinal flavours of authentic Thai cuisine—sweet, sour, bitter, salty and spicy—require seasonings in respective dishes to be properly balanced and in proportion, so the formula for each dish is very important. The last two points are less precise, requiring more of a gut instinct. When you cook you need to control heat properly—the temperature at which the dish cooks against the time it is in the pan or oven. Finally, you must put passion into your cooking. Turning out a passable tom yum is relatively easy but the reason your mother’s always tasted better than anyone else’s is because she cooked it with love,” he laughs.
The genial chef also highlights cooking techniques, saying that the more authentic they are, the better the food. “Which is why in my kitchen you see old-fashioned Thai-style clay charcoal burners for barbecuing and battered old woks alongside state-of-the-art Western-style salamanders and ovens.”
Based on these wisdoms and techniques chef Chumpol has created three set menus—Samrub Aek, Samrub Tho and Samrub Tri—each comprising 18 courses, a handful of which are individual bite-sized items while others are main dishes for sharing. We sample the Samrub Aek menu, which begins with a beautiful amuse-bouche of coconut cream rice pancakes infused with galangal and topped with Inthanon caviar and is followed by a platter comprising three treats: great grandmother Sa-Nguan Sri’s Thai rice noodles with golden bean gravy and steamed local vegetables; crispy vermicelli rice noodles with sweet and sour sauce infused with bitter orange; and Pak Naam Pho river fish cake served with three flavours sphere. The culinary theatre continues with a zesty tom yum goong served in a glass siphon that is heated tableside to send the spicy soup bubbling over a range of infusing herbs in an upper chamber. Also standout are main dishes of blue crab in creamy coconut milk with garden vegetables and grilled crab’s eggs, Mother Jong’s crispy Bang Pakong sea bass with sticky red curry and ground crispy pork, and a hearty serving of Piti’s bird’s-eye chilli green curry made with local wagyu beef.
To finish chef Chumpol serves a wonderfully vibrant dish of Pakdee mango and sticky rice with coconut milk ice cream and finally a set of beautifully presented Thai petit fours handmade with pounded golden bean paste and rice flour, some shaped as lotus flowers and chillies. Given the restaurant’s elegant contemporary Thai decor and excellent service, it is a suitably sophisticated end to a pleasing meal of contrasting textures and effervescent authentic flavours.
131 Sukhumvit Soi 53
Open daily, 6-11pm