The Michelin Guide rated Baan restaurant at 139/5 Wireless Road in the Lumphini area brand their food as Thai family recipes. Obviously they choose recipes from the wrong family. Seldom have I experienced food this far from traditional Thai home cooking. The food is uninspired, lacks balance, is rather tasteless and not “correctly” made. The Singha beer was the highlight of my meal.
Their websites is full of information about their cows and pigs to be brought up naturally with no chemicals or hormones and without the use of antibiotics. And their seafood is of course from sustainable fishermen from the south of Thailand. In other words, I thought I was in for a great meal. I ordered the Kung Op Wun Sen and Sum Tam Thai to start with. My plan was to order a meat dish a little bit later in the meal as I wanted to avoid being served everything at the same time.
The Som Tum Thai (papaya Salad) got to the table. For an untrained eye it might look good. Fresh colors with some good aromas hitting the nose. For someone who knows what it takes to make a good Som Tum, it was a disappointing view. The ingredients wasn’t pounded, it was all about presentation. When the veggies isn’t pounded flavors from the dressing doesn’t integrate very well. It is not about smashing, but about bruising them in order to take up the flavors from the dressing. And yes, it also has to do with texture.
A good way to make the dressing is to pound the garlic, dried shrimps and bird eye chilies and mix it with fish sauce, tamarind water, lime juice and palm sugar. Some also use pounded roasted peanuts into the dressing. Be aware that the more you pound the chilies the spicier it gets, so if you you don’t want it too spicy you should first paste the garlic and the dried shrimps (and the peanuts if you use that) into a paste before adding chilies and some more light pasting. There is no need to add salt (if you use that) to the first step of pounding as the fish sauce takes care of the saltiness. Then you add the green long beans (snake beans/yard beans) and continue pounding the ingredients, then you add the cherry tomatoes and hit it a bit more. I personally like to work the long beans a bit as it changes the texture in to a better chewing before adding the cherry tomatoes. At Baan they used bigger tomatoes, but that is ok as long as they didn’t do any pounding. If they are pounded they just get mushy. Then you add the papaya and pound a bit more in order to give it some brushes that soaks up the flavors of the dressing. Don’t pound to much as you want to keep the crispiness of the papaya salad. Anyway, this process wasn’t done properly at Baan. I give them credit for making my som tum spicy as requested, as most places would hesitate to do that for foreigners even if they specify that they like it Thai spicy.
Then they served the Kung Op Wun Sen, and I was a bit excited as this is a favorite dish of mine, when correctly made. It was a disappointment of biblical proportions. This dish has to, in my view, be made with a bed of pork fat/bacon to avoid the shrimps/noodles to have direct contact with the bottom of the hot pan. Also fat binds taste and that is quite essential in this dish. The two tiger prawns was cooked far to long, to the extent that it was difficult to separate the meat from the shell. In addition, they tasted next to nothing. There was little or none fluid in the dish and the glass noodles was dry and didn’t add much taste wise. Baan serve the dish with two dipping sauces, one for the shrimps and one for the glass noodles (soy based) that didn’t add much either.
How Baan can be rated a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide for 2019 is a complete mystery to me. The guide have really become a hit an miss guide for Bangkok, and the misses is not about food preferences, it’s about missing skills in food preparation and quality of the food served. It has just become to easy to get into guide as long as you can present an atmospheric room, good chairs with some attention from the waiters, preferable in black and white. If this is the Michelin Guide standard, anything could be in the guide.
Be aware that I only tasted the two dishes described above. I didn’t order any meat or anything else for a second round as I considered it a waste of time and money fro what I had received. Som Tum is something any Thai restaurant should be able to do blindfolded and the Kung Op Wun Sen was described as a specialty of the restaurant.
Will I go back? Not in a life time.
Next week, I will review one of the really good recommendations in the Michelin Guide.
Name: Baan Restaurant
Food: Thai food. Extensive menu
Price: Moderate to expensive
Open: 11 am
Phone: +66 2-655-8995 / +66 81-432-4050
Address: 139/5 Wireless Road
How to get there: The easiest way is to take the MRT to Silom or the BTS to Sala Daeng and walk from there.