David Thompson scours old cookbooks for forgotten flavors at Aksorn.
The buzz: Anything Thailand-based Australian chef David Thompson touches generates buzz. And Aksorn, his latest restaurant, which offers a time-traveling journey to the past via old cookbooks, has drawn tons of attention, if not
adoration, from many in Bangkok’s food circles.
The vibe: Perched on the fifth floor of Central: The Original Store on Charoenkrung, Aksorn is meant to embrace the building’s mid-century bookstore roots. Designed by Tripsters, the restaurant evokes that legacy with a contemporary touch. The homey, 40-seat space swims in warm yellow light that shines off the stone-tiled floor, the building’s red-orange brick walls, and the granite countertop in the open kitchen. The best seats in the house? Those are on the balcony, where sofa and table seating offer views of Sathorn’s sky towers through lush plants.
The food: The focus here is forgotten, uncelebrated recipes procured from a selection of old cookbooks Thompson pored over during the 2020 lockdown. The full-course menu rotates periodically. Currently, it features 13 family recipes from renowned cookbook author and food columnist Nutchanand “Pao” Osathanond, reviving Thai culinary history during the turbulent period from the 1950s to the 1970s (B2,800++). Many are rare if not almost non-existent in today’s culinary scene. Think Miang Mhark (prawns and wild ginger wrapped with coral leaves); Song, a duck egg wafer filled with pork and salted fish; the pungent, spicy Nahmprik Nakornbarn, a relish of smoked fish and prawns from Rama V’s court brought to the fore by Pao’s grand-father; and Plamuek Tomkhem, a stew-like dish of squid braised in plain sugar and soy. The flavors are bold and sometimes unusual—sour, umami, smoky, aromatic—and the dishes are probably unlike any you may have had before.
The drinks: Assuming alcohol will ever be allowed to be consumed in restaurants again, take advantage of the wine list, which is heavy on European and Aussie labels available in a pairing (B1,400++) or by the glass or bottle. Prefer cocktails? Aksorn has some clever options highlighting boutique spirits from Bootleggers. The tangy yet refreshing Cha Kam (B320) combines Thai gin Grandma Jinn, lime, salted lime, chakram (a salty herbaceous plant), and soda, while easy-drinking Butsaba (B320) presents a simple but effective combination of sugarcane-based Kosapan rum, citrus liqueur, honey,lime, and orange.
Why we’d come back: Thompson’s new project is nothing like his previous ventures. Arguably as much for him as for diners, that’s exciting, and it shows in the unexpected classics, the in-your-face flavors, and the energy he and his team bring to the table.