One of Bangkok’s most exciting chefs has launched a Western sequel to his traditional salvo.
The buzz: In a parallel universe, there is another Samrab Samrub Thai. Here, prominent Thai chef Prin Polsuk isn’t just an arbiter of Thai traditional taste and no longer pays heed to the country’s decades-old recipes. Instead, he adopts a more playful, modern approach dedicated to high-quality produce from across the globe. That restaurant in this universe is Vilas, Prin’s latest brainchild, where ancient cooking is stripped bare and reinterpreted with flair.
The vibe: Head to Mahanakhon Cube’s 2nd floor where you’ll spot an unassuming sign. Inside, the stunning arched entrance greets you before reaching a large automatic second door to reveal a spacious room enamored with sparse, earthy material and wood accents. The restaurant also boasts handcrafted products across the country to celebrate local craftsmanship—from white porcelain dinnerware to ceramic plates, and even the chairs and tables are custom-made.
The food: Though not the head chef here himself, Prin passed his apron to a young Spanish chef, Pepe Dasi Jimenez, to helm the kitchen at Vilas. Skeptics may question the level of authenticity, but with his years under the tutelage of Thai establishments—Udon Thani’s Samuay and Sons, 100 Mahaseth, and 80/20 to name a few—Pepe ticks all the boxes for Thai cuisine (even though he admits he’s still still learning Thai to research more old recipes). His 12-course experience (B4,500) is inspired from King Rama V’s journey to the west, blending Thai traditional techniques with global ingredients. The course begins with kanom buang (Thai street-food crackers) paired with two sides: sweet horseshoe crab eggs influenced from Thai-Portuguese traditional dessert (thong yod) and Spanish salt-boiled fish liver seasoned with Thai chili paste and coconut shavings. Next is miang which foregos the usual leaf wrap for a crispy seaweed potato nest topped with Hokkaido sea urchin, shallots, roasted coconut, and tangy citron—a savory and full-flavored bite to gulp in one go. The nam prik is reimagined as a two-sided cracker made from a Thai gourd with hints of creamy coconut and subtly sweet, acidic snake fruit on one side and a strong punch from Japanese crab on the other. We love the choo chee, the thick red curry with charcoal grilled sea eel, influenced from Khun Ying Plian’s traditional cookbook. Here, the dish features Japanese eel and seasoned sweet fish sauce. The skins are crispy with hints of caramelized sweetness and the roasted coconut oil bridges the flavors. The steamed egg with Japanese pink shrimp, meanwhile, arrives in an adorable egg bowl featuring hen eggs from Suphan Buri. Another fun dish is the pla som, featuring sweet fish ayu fermented in fish sauce, vinegar, and lime and then deep-fried with spicy Sriracha and coconut milk sauce. The main course sees Australian beef curry made from scratch with turmeric, Vietnamese coriander, ginger, and chestnuts—a pungent, bold flavor. Those who can’t eat beef can opt for the pork cheek; we stole a bite from the bystander and guarantee it is worth it. The dish is paired with Japanese coconut rice topped with crunchy garlic and pickled vegetable sides. The course ends with Thai egg custard khanom morgaeng with ginkgo and honey-pickled persimmons, which reminds us of a Spanish flan, a nod to the chef’s hometown, while khanom khrok ice cream features coconut cream filling and chili-salt mango jelly.
Why we’d come back: With its more contemporary take on Thai cuisine, Vilas supplies us with a fresh perspective that blurs the line between conventional and modern Thai recipes, something we wouldn’t normally experience at Samrub Samrub Thai. As the menu takes on a more bold interpretation of the usual dishes, we’d love to see how this rare orchid vilas blooms in the future.