Chef’s tables are heating up! BK asks three culinary masters why the trend is finally catching on in Bangkok.

Back in the old days, kitchens were dark, mysterious places. Then came the now ubiquitous open kitchen. 2013, it seems, will be the year of the chef’s table in Bangkok. Chef’s tables allow diners to get even closer to the action, throw the menu out the window, and surrender their entire dinner into the chef’s able hands. The setup is usually a private dining room hosting six to 12 people, and either a small open kitchen or at least some kind of preparation table where the chef can add some final flourishes to your dishes before serving. The concept is at its most extreme at Water Library Thonglor, which is a single bar seating a maximum of 8 diners where diners starts at 7:30pm on the dot, and there is no menu. But you can now also find chef’s tables at other reputable restaurants, such as Smith, Le Beaulieu and Sala Rim Nam.

At French institution Le Beaulieu, Chef Herve Frerard explains “the idea of our chef’s table is very much in line with the philosophy we are developing at the restaurant, which we call ‘made to be shared, convivial dining.’” Beyond the opportunity to get up close and personal with diners, Smith chefs Peter Pitakwong and Ian Kittichai see these chef’s tables as a kind of experimental playground. Pitakwong says, “Basically, we’ve been traveling and taking inspiration from around the world and then incorporating them in our plates. I see [the chef’s table] as something that makes us keep thinking forward. It’s an opportunity to cook away from Smith’s regular menu. Some market ingredients, like the sea urchin, can’t be on the menu. So this is an opportunity for us to serve this kind of food.”

Frerard, too, sees the flexibility of the chef’s table as key to his philosophy, which is based on ingredients of the day, depending on what tempts him at the market. For that concept to work, diners at chef’s tables are expected to let the chef take control. You may not even be presented with a menu. In exchange for your loss of control (and a hefty price tag) expect rewards like fresh Brittany razor clams cooked in Café de Paris sauce or some local produce from the Royal Project that just happened to be harvested that morning.

At Sala Rim Naam, celebrity chef Vichit Mukura has been operating a chef’s table for a year now. To him, the chef’s table is also an opportunity to change diners’ perceptions of Thai food. By selecting the finest ingredients, and being on hand to share the stories about their origins, Vichit can justify his restaurant’s higher price tag. He knows how a particular fish was caught, he can share stories about his own rice field, and suddenly ordinary dishes like khao tom (rice porridge) become special. Vichit says he encourages the diners’ curiosity: “Even those who don’t ask questions, I try to educate them anyway. They need to know the unique charm of our food. Thai food doesn’t have to be looked down upon as street food anymore.”

Even if you’re not an expert foodie, chef’s tables have the added value of being entertaining, and bring a sense of occasion. And for celebrity chef Ian Kittichai, theatrics are half the fun: “We once threw nitrogen on the diners’ table. It’s not dangerous but it definitely caused some excitement.”

Le Beaulieu

B2,500-B3,000 (additional B1,500 for wine pairing) per person. For 4-10 guests and booking in advance is strongly recommended.
Athenee Tower, 63 Wireless Rd., 02-168-8220.


Prices start from B3,800 for 7 courses, per person. For 7-15 guests and booking in advance is recommended.
Sukhumvit Soi 49, 02-261-0515-6.

Sala Rim Naam

B3,900 for 6-course and B4,900 for 8 courses, per person. For 4-7 guests and one-day advanced reservation is required.
48 Oriental Ave., 02-659-9000

Water Library

B6,600 for 12 courses (food only), per person. Service starts at 7:30pm.


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Surprise your special one this Valentine’s with four simple chocolate dessert recipes from four top bakers.

Chocolate Mousse

from Chef Nooror Somany Steppe of Blue Elephant

125g dark chocolate
1 egg yolk
1 egg
19g sugar
188g whipped cream
4g honey
1. Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of hot water.
2. Once melted, add the honey, mix well and set aside.
3. Whisk the egg yolk with the egg until foamy. Add the sugar and whisk again then combine with the chocolate mix.
4. Whisk the whipped cream until soft peaks appear, then with the chocolate mix using a wooden spatula. Pour in a cup and put it in a fridge for three hours or until the chocolate gets stiff.
Sathorn Rd., 02-673-9354.

Chocolate Lava Cake

from Peechaya Sukviboon of 103+ Factory

300g chocolate
170g butter
90g cake flour
90g sugar
5 eggs
1. Beat the eggs with a whisk until they are foamy. Then add sugar and mix together.
2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water.
3. Add the chocolate and butter mix to the eggs.
4. Add the flour and combine, then pour it in a tray for baking.
5. Put it in a preheated oven (180 degrees) for 11 minutes.
6. Serve hot with ice cream, whipped cream or fruits.
24/4 Ari Soi 4, 081-495-1555. Open daily 11am-11pm

Chocolate Tart

from Warussaporn Burutratanaphan of Tropical Monkey

85g crushed crackers
35g melted unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate
2 eggs
25g caster sugar
1. Mix the crushed crackers and melted butter together then press them well in either a cake tin, cake foil or mold to make the base. Chill in the refrigerator until firm.
2. Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Cool slightly, then add the egg yolks and mix.
3. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then add the caster sugar and whisk until stiff.
4. Fold the chocolate into the egg whites and pour over the base. Chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
5. Decorate with whipped cream and a strawberry on top.
2/F, Rainhill, Sukhumvit Soi 47, 081-616-3909 

Chocolate Cake

from Suparadi Siwapornpitak of Radi

Ingredients for the cake
180g cake flour
180g granulated white sugar
40g unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
345g icing sugar
90g unsweetened cocoa powder
90g butter
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Stir together the flour, sugar, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Add the oil, water, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Mix all the ingredients together with a fork.
4. Pour into one 4-inch and one 8-inch round tin. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Place on wire rack to cool.
5. Get a medium bowl, sift together the icing sugar and cocoa, set aside.
6. In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.
7. To place the second tier (4-inch) on top of the first (8-inch), carefully take the cake and use a metal spatula to help guide the cake in the middle. Frost the cakes with the chocolate frosting and decorate with pastel colored sprinkles.
Thonglor Soi 11, 090-971-5666


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Looking for restaurants to celebrate Chinese New Year (Feb 10)? Here are the top spots for some peking duck.

Xinn Tien Di

Despite being in the fancy Gaysorn, Xinn Tien Di’s prices are far from what you think. The peking duck here comes in really affordable at B590 (with one dish made with the leftover meat). Not only is the duck heavenly delicious, it’s fun to eat. The skin is cooked to perfection. It’s what peking duck should be—no fat attached at all and super crispy, while the sauce is great and flavorful. The service here is fast and pleasant. And since you’re in Gaysorn, you get to rub shoulders with the hi-so families after some post-shopping feast.
3/F, Gaysorn, 999 Ploenchit Rd., 02-656-2114-5. Open daily 11:30am-2:30pm, 6-10pm

Chef Man

Chef Wai Yin Man boasts over his B2 million kiln made especially for peking duck (B1,200) and his Beijing-native cook who serves up the dish. Here, the Chinese cook easily carves the skin off piece by piece, as the duck is cooked to perfection till the skin is crispy and free of fat. Unlike at other places, the peking duck here is served with mangoes, peanut sauce and shredded garlic to liven up the flavor. The highlight, though, is the pancake which is thin, soft and incredibly chewy. But snap to it, as it gets sticky fast. The miang (stir-fried shredded duck meat with garlic served with cabbage) is another nice accompaniment—flavorful and well-cooked. Since Chef Man is hot on social networks, tables for lunchtime aren’t available till April, but take a punt on this Chinese New Year. You’ll need to reserve one day in advance, and do be punctual as the duck will be ready the very minute you booked the table.
3/F, Eastin Grand Sathorn, Sathorn Rd., 02-212-3741. BTS Surasak. Open daily 11:30am-2:30pm; 6-10pm


A big favorite among the Thai-Chinese families, Shangarila has been around for more than 40 years and it must be the food (the décor is not much to look at) that keeps each branch of the place busy. Here, you’ll see almost every table ordering the peking duck. The amber skin is cooked to perfection, glossy and all the fat rendered. And as you’d expect, the atmosphere is typically Chinese, with lots of red, lots of round tables, and lots of loud families and kids.
306 Yaowarat Rd., 02-224-5933. Open daily 10:15am-10:15pm


For more than 40 years, Scala has been sitting under the Scala Theatre, but look beyond the weird location and you’ll soon realize why this place is most popular for its peking duck (B1,200 with two side dishes). Here, too, the manager waxes lyrical over their kiln, which gives the peking duck that perfectly crispy skin. The sauce is also very tasty, not surprising given that it takes the cooks from early morning to have it ready for the evening—making the stock before adding in the black soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, sugar and some other top-secret ingredients.
184 Siam Square Soi 1, Rama 1 Rd., 02-251-2863. Open daily 11am-2:30pm; 5-10pm

Great Shanghai

If you like your peking duck really crisp, with that nice, cracking sound as you bite into it, this is the spot for you. Not only is the emphasis here on having the crispiest duck (B1,500), but their sauce—whose exact recipe is a closely guarded secret—is favored by many. One of the ingredients that distinguishes their sauce from others is the tao cheow (soy bean paste). The place has been around for more than 40 years and the uncle who owns the place, and hardly speaks any Thai, brought over all the recipes from Hong Kong.
648 Sukhumvit Soi 24, 02-258-7042. BTS Phrom Phong. Open daily 6-10pm


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BK asks the city’s top cooks for their favorite street food stalls in their neighborhood

Somkiat Pairojmahakij, Chef at Seven Spoons

Area: Nang Loeng

“Pig tongue stew—the original nose-to-tail dish. The Chinese community has a long history in the Nang Loeng area and it’s little known that the wooden theater at the market was one of the first in Bangkok. People should go there for the novelty of the stew and for the authentic atmosphere of the market.”

Khao Gaeng Kari Stew, 93/8-9 Supanimit Rd., 02-282-3918. Open daily 7am-2pm

“Jay Wa Jay Yong’s Hainanese noodles are well known among the Hainanese community in the area. They are delicious, authentic and have a particularly strong following among the local r-ma (Chinese grandmothers) nostalgic for tastes of home. I’m a second-generation Hainanese and places like this represent renewed pride in my cultural origins.”
Kanom Jeen Hailum Jay Wa Jay Yong, Look-Luang Soi 8, 02-281-0444, 086-820-7890. Open daily 5-11pm

Christian Norbert, Chef at Johann Bistro

Area: Bang na

“Sataan Bu Lim has many dishes that are good, such as khao kha moo and pork balls on skewers. But the most impressive is the guay jub that comes with a flavorful soup and ingredients in big portions, especially the kra-poh (stomach) that is properly cleaned and very tender. Have it with their homemade drinks like roselle, lemon tea or, my favorite, guava juice—absolutely delicious. The owner is also very friendly.”
Guay Jub Sataan Bu Lim, 970-970/1 Sukhumvit Soi 103 (Soi Udomsuk, between sois 48 and 50), 02-746-5029. Open daily 10am-11pm

Kavin Lim, Chef at Kincucino

Area: Silom

“I like the guay jub (Chinese noodles) stall in Soi Convent. All the spices that guay jub needs are there, plus they put in dried kha (galangal) which results in a pleasant aroma. The important thing is that all the intestines are well cleaned. The moo krob (crispy pork) is perfectly cooked— very tender inside, crispy outside and not too salty.
Guay Jub Silom, Soi Convent (in front of Starbucks), Silom Rd., 087-995-6955, 085-508-0007. Open Mon-Sat 4-11pm

Can Markawat, Chef at The Local

Area: Bangkapi

“My family and I have been eating at Mae Yaa Jai for a very long time. When it comes to khao gaeng, it must be from the South. And Mae Yaa Jai offers you that, while the area is also special. The shop has all kinds of curries like namprik tai pla (fish intestines chili paste) and tai pla kati (fish intestines in curry) and they’re very generous with the sides of vegetables. I think it’s more than authentic enough for Bangkokians.”
Mae Yaa Jai, Flat No. 21, Khlong Jan Housing, Nawamin Soi 6, 02-377-9100. Open daily 7am-7pm

Pasakorn Sae-Eia, Chef at MisterPas

Area: Kanchanapisek

“I always like to eat beef and Khao Suay Po Nai Pol offers a delicious bowl of guay tiew nuea (beef noodles). The style would remind you of the popular noodle shop Soay (Phra Arthit Rd.). All the intestines are really succulent and the Chinese spices definitely make the soup fragrant. The place is pretty old with lots of history, as you can see from the certificates and newspaper clipping singing their praises.”
Khao Suay Po Nai Pol, Moo Baan Krissana, Kanchanapisek Rd., 02-459-2059,081-611-0413. Open daily 10am till they run out.

David Thompson, Chef at Nahm

Area: Yaowarat

“The oyster omelet at Nai Mong is one of the best renditions I have had. A crisp and rich base of eggs topped with an unctuous sauce of oysters and spring onions. Sprinkle it with some white pepper and splash over the Sriracha sauce and you’ll understand why the place has been going for 40 years. They sell other dishes too, but I have never been able to forgo this pearl.”
Nai Mong Hoi Nang Tord, 539 Phlapplaachai Rd. (off Charoen Krung Road), 02-623-1890. Open Wed-Mon 11am-8:30pm 


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