Benjarong - the name translates as “five colours” or “five paradise of the Royal Thai Kingdom”, you may immediately think traditional Thai food, but they combine modern techniques and traditional flavor profiles to produce contemporary dishes that are distinctly Thai at heart.
The ambience has a very romantic Thai feel to it, with well-spaced out tables and you can opt to dine indoors in the majestic dining room with soaring ceilings, grand columns and elaborate murals, or outdoors amidst the ambience of a lush landscaped garden, framing a soothing koi fish pond and stepped waterfall feature of some grand proportions. Benjarong’s lavish decor and five-star hotel service used to be the kind of thing connoisseurs of Thai cuisine would avoid like the plague, but now it has to be one of the city’s best kitchens for genuine Thai flavors. It’s also one of the most inventive.
The long-standing venue’s turnaround was orchestrated by Danish chef Morten Nielsen who was trained in the high-flying art of molecular cuisine in Copenhagen, but here at Benjarong he is taking things down a few notches without compromising on excellence of food and surprising flavours.
The considerate modern touches retain Thai food’s comforting qualities and the requisite flavor profiles. We kicked off proceedings with the hot and sour Tomm Yum Soup of prawn, galangal and lemongrass which set the scene for authenticity. It was sweet and pungent at the same time, providing mouthwatering and tantalizing flavours with whole shallots sweet, plump, fresh prawns which were de-headed for ease of enjoyment.
We segued from a classic into something updated in the form of a deconstructed Yam Pla Duk Foo. This fantastic dish has diners tipping a bowl of crispy catfish and green mango shavings onto tom yam custard with crabmeat, of which the combined effect remains unmistakably familiar and to die for - crispy textures, sweet, soft crabmeat, all atop a zingy tom yam custard with a smooth texture, it is a great dish of contrasts.
We were so impressed with the deconstructed dish that we decided to request a classic Pad Thai noodle to see how the chef would create and present such a classic Thai dish. A very large portion of prawns, bean sprouts, tamarind and peanuts cooked to perfection and the color combination of all ingredients was also a delight to look at. Phad Thai can be a disaster if it is not being handled well, it is either too dry or too soggy, lacking in flavor or overcooked the prawns. With the hint of spice that balance off the sweetness of the tamarind sauce added to this Phad Thai in Benjarong is one hell of a dish that was done very nicely.
Classic Tom Yum Soup of prawn is a must order.
The deconstructed Yam Pla Duk Foo.
The modern age with the Kang Kiew Wan See Krong Neau Toon – A 72-hour slow cooked beef ribs in aromatic curry of green herbs and spices is one of the signatures dishes in Benjarong. This was a dish of excellence, rich in coconut milk with a very beautiful yet complex curry base to balance the meltingly tender ribs with fall-off-the-bone perfection. The portion was larger than expected and oozing flavor that was a highlight of the evening and showed how western and oriental cooking can go so well together.
To contrast the richness of the previous beef dish, we just had to try the See Krong Moo Krob Wan – A crispy sweet pork ribs and salted Sriracha cabbage. The ribs were perfectly cooked to the right tenderness and glistening with the sweet sauce basting. The kimchi style of cabbage somehow did not seem the right accompaniment for our taste, but just goes to show how the chef does not want to stand on ceremony and try something new.
While the desserts looked enticing, we had to content ourselves with all the memorable food we had had the pleasure of tasting and not over-indulging. The food was uniformly excellent, providing some wonderful highlights. Everyone has their own angle on taste and that is the pleasure of being challenged with a re-take on classics. Benjarong manages to marry the best of traditional Thai cuisine with new world innovation that delivers with gracious hospitality at the same time for you to splurge on modern Siamese haute cuisine in Bangkok that can satisfy the fussiest of tastes.
Tel: +66 2200 9000