Dusit Thani Bangkok’s signature Thai breaks from inauthentic, farang-friendly cuisine.
Benjarong’s lavish decor and five-star hotel service used to be the kind of thing connoiseurs of Thai cuisine would avoid like the plague. Except fancy, dainty Benjarong is currently 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. Trained in the high-flying art of molecular cuisine in Copenhagen, he got picked up by the city’s Michelin-star Thai restaurant, Kiin Kiin, to head the Siam Kempinski’s Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin here in Bangkok. Benjarong is taking things down a few notches, though, compared to Sra Bua’s science experiments.
The considerate modern touches retain Thai food’s comforting qualities and the requisite flavor profiles. So that while the deconstructed yam pla duk foo (B370) has diners tipping a bowl of crispy catfish and green mango shavings onto a tom yam custard with crabmeat, the combined effect remains unmistakably familiar—crispy textures, zingy tom yam, sweet, soft crabmeat. The yam neua’s (grilled wagyu beef salad, B470) chunks of cos and cherry tomatoes make it look unmistakably Western but one bite and you’ll be transported back here thanks to the thick yam dressing’s tangy, salty and spicy notes.
Not all dishes are created equal in terms of creativity. Nicely plated, the moo palo (pork neck braised in five spices with Hong Kong broccoli, B470) remains a classically executed delight save for the addition of pumpkin puree. Was it meant as a replacement for prik namsom? If so, we’d have to question swapping a vinegary sauce for a sweet puree. It isn’t the only dish where we’d nitpick the balance of flavors (light on the chili, a bit too sweet), but there’s no faulting the superior ingredients, such as in the tom yam (B340) with plump, sweet shrimps or the kaeng kiew wan see krong neau toon (beef ribs in green curry, B470), whose meat is cooked sous-vide for 72-hours to tender, fall-off-the-bone perfection.
Come dessert, the chef’s modern techniques culminate in a few more displays of virtuosity; and the basil ice cream with fresh pineapple and salty meringue (B210) definitely feels like a grand finale. Crispy, melt-in-your-mouth, salty, sweet, aromatic, icy, room-temperature—it’s all there, and it works beautifully.
This also happens to be a gorgeous restaurant, with giant-sized pillars, elaborate murals, views on a tropical garden and impeccable service. If you’re ready to splurge on modern Siamese haute cuisine, Benjarong is perhaps the most balanced package in town.
This review took place in October 2015 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.
|Address:||Benjarong, Dusit Thani, 946 Rama 4 Rd., Bangkok, Thailand|
|Opening hours:||daily 5-9pm; Mon-Fri 10:30am-1:30pm|
|Parking available, Dress requirements: no shorts, no flip-flops|
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