Two innovative chefs Duangporn Songvisava and Dylan Jones believe that the best Thai restaurants should be found in Thailand, with that in mind, Bo.lan, a concept fine dining Thai cuisine in Bangkok by using ancient recipes and fresh local ingredients with a Western twist was founded. mylifestylenews travels to Bangkok to find out what's behind the scene……
Bo.lan The name derived from the two chefs, Duangporn’s nick name Bo and the other half from Dylan’s name Lan, it is also a play on Thai word for vintage or ancient. The chefs pride themselves on working closely with local farmers as part of their philosophy to give back to the community and the menu was designed to take you through the culinary culture of Thailand, with interplay of the contrasts of flavor and texture and just as important, the aromatics.
Our table was booked at 6.30pm, knowing Bangkok traffic, diners still comes after 9pm which is not quite unusual for the local dining scenes despite the kitchen last order pause at 10.30pm. Passing through a private passage way from the bustling Soi 53 in Sukhumvit, we were quite taken by the wooden architectural elements of the renovated house that takes its inspiration from traditional Thai residences. Every arrival of guest will be seated at the wooden floor lounge before their table is called and adjourned to the dining room.
The ambience is quite pleasant with dim lighting creates a nice atmosphere dining in this space. The use of spot lighting to create shadows with the sculptural bamboo chandeliers and the wooden crafted art pieces gives a local Thai home-feel dining mood.
Hand-peeled peanuts in the shell and crispy puffed rice as well as cracked pepper bites were served as nibbles to kick off as snack food, plus a syrup iced cold lemongrass and pandanus drink. Two signature cocktails to follow: a rum, ginger, lemongrass with cucumber concoction and a roasted coconut juice. We wouldn’t rave about it and yet we were still waiting for something that is more delectable with surprise.
Two 8 courses and 10 courses degustation classic Thai menu were offered starting with an aperitif, a Thai rice spirit whisky with herbs and honey and a toothpick laid across the top of the glass with green mango and tamarind dipped in chili and soy. A spray bottle of pandan water that was to be sprayed into the mouth after drinking the rice ‘whisky’, which sounded great, but we couldn’t make the connection to what the intent was for all this ‘to do’. Too much hard work for too little outcome, the edible fresh flower doing no actual palatable effort but just as garnish.
After this pre-amble, we finally launched into the menu proper with the Bo.lan’s muse bouche. The assorted combination consists of salted duck egg salad with cucumber and crispy fish with a ginger garnish, small and piquant in flavor, this was a quick bite to liven up the taste buds for what was to follow.
The first set of dishes reminded us of simple Thai food: pickled mustard greens, a northern-style Thai rice noodle salad with grilled pork neck, sour mango and peanut dressing, a spicy chicken salad with sun-dried chili and cabbage on the side with kaffir leaves and fried shallots, and a black sticky rice pancake with prawn and garlic.
The complex ingredients were well put together in small bites for a mouth full but the bite size was ¼ of a regular sushi bite for each taste as one would expect, but the overall effect failed to impress.
With further anticipation on the next dish, the single plate of the day was a grilled sticky rice in bamboo covered by a sizable cut banana leaf with Thai chicken curry, longan fruit and sun-dried pork with pepper on top. The sticky rice was flavourful but too soggy while the minuscule sun-dried pork was bursting with meaty flavor which we thoroughly enjoyed.
The following courses were served in close succession to create a small banquet atmosphere and encompassed local prawns (described as a lake crayfish), mackerel fish and crispy garlic served with a chili dressing, beef curry, stir-fried local fern with squid, Issan style relish of chicken and a pork-rib soup.
There are too much going on into a lot of detail in the presentation and when the basic elements being deconstructed and suppose to bring it to a high level of enjoyment, the ingredients are not something we would call particularly special, but just consistently quality ingredients.
The level of spice in the beef curry was most welcome but the chicken dish was confusing as the chicken was minced and mixed with aubergine in a very small portion with difficulty in detecting the chicken point blank, we couldn’t help but wonder what was the intent of the menu description?
While we asked the wait staff for further information of the dish description, the lack of product knowledge failed to compliment the gastronomy invention. Staff certainly had their work cut out explaining the intricacies of the ingredients and presentations, but the sequence of service was not always keeping up with the menu, so a few moments that gave us pause for thought.
Still struggle find the niche from the evening dining experience, the desserts came next. There are two parts of dessert, the pre-dessert a was local mixed fruit served with “Tab Tim Grob” – a common Thai street dessert served with water chestnut rubies, jack fruit, coconut Agar Agar and shaved ice, finished with jasmine scented coconut cream.
The main dessert was a plate of petit fours – crispy sticky rice wafer, coconut toffees, tapioca pudding, ancestor rice biscuits, tapioca cookies, banana “Bah Bin”, smokey crunchy rice cake, assorted Agar Agar (local flavoured jellies), roasted meringues, and caramelized coconut wrapped in butterfly pea flour casing.
The ceremony to accompany this plate was to burn a jasmine candle next to candied crispy rice and cover with a glass bell to infuse the rice with the jasmine, but the flavor was rather strange to say the least, so not entirely successful from our perspective.
The colours and flavours were varied, but there was too much going on and the palate had so many contrasts with the main body of food, that to serve so many petit fours in such varied concoctions was making the palate weary by this point.
We love Thai food and we avidly eat Thai street food when in Thailand and were anticipating some extraordinary food after all we have read about this high profile restaurant. As it happened, we were not that surprised at all and we felt that reconstructed elevated Thai street food is served with some dishes felt rather flat and without any ‘WOW’ element.
Looks isn’t everything especially when it comes to food, after all, what you need is an enjoyable meals to satisfy your craving. Moreover, the service staff has a lot of detail to impart for each dish presentation, it is too ambitious and difficult to get on board with everything, as it all seems just too complicated and difficult to always understand what each ingredient is in every multi-ingredient dish.
The evening was quite a journey of delicate to very spicy flavours, but after analyzing the ingredients and breaking down what each dish was in its essence, we came to the conclusion that the chefs have gone to a lot of trouble to create interesting ‘platings’ and aim to impress diners (especially those who are new to Thai food) with food that maybe they have never experienced before or have experienced, but not in this fussy way.
It is all comes down to what is the intent and we feel that the dishes are essentially referencing the favourites you find on the street with some elevated ingredient quality, but this does not change the reality of the situation.
Tried & Tested:
Design & Decor: 3.5/5
Food & Beverage: 3/5
Value For Money: 2.5/5
24, Sukhumvit 53 Alley
Klong Tan Nuea, Watthana
Tel: +66 2 260 2962
Reviews are based on actual day of visit and experience. mylifestylenews reserves the right of final decision in case of any disputes. All images are photographed by mylifestylenews team without any photoshop enhancement and are the property owned by mylifestylenews unless otherwise stated.