Two of the biggest stars from Thailand’s Iron Chef TV program, Chumpol Jangprai (of MSC Thai Culinary School) and Boontham Parkpho (of Honmono Sushi), are behind this vast, plant-filled warehouse restaurant off Rama 4. The concept is simple: the very best Japanese produce—tuna belly, Kobe beef, kinki fish, taraba crab and more—made into classic Thai dishes. There’s also the addition of some fusion pizzas that use the same highfalutin produce.
Unfortunately for such a genuinely breathtaking space, none of the food lives up to either its ambitions or its seriously steep prices. The ebi (salmon roe) pizza with kaeng som spice (B550) comes with an overabundance of tasteless stringy cheese, an off-putting under-taste of something Thai and a mismatched fishy flavor that makes the whole thing baffling.
The Thai dishes are no better. Though the pad krapow made with hokkigai (surf clam, B550) is strongly spiced and flavorsome, the clams become so rubbery that you may as well be eating cheap street food for a fraction of the price. The Kobe beef green curry (B1,500) is an equally disastrous use of such an expensive prime ingredient. The salmon laab (B550) is the only dish we’ve tried that features a protein cooked with any degree of care, though here the issue is a complete lack of seasoning. We’re not kidding; it very nearly tastes of nothing.
But it’s not just the flavors here that don’t deliver. There’s a lack of refinement in everything. Nothing delicate about the plating. Nothing polished about the service. Nothing as simple as having your table wiped down of all the ebi pearls that have rolled off your pizza before dessert (the matcha lava cake, B300, is another soggy flop). And while we’re aware that fine dining is not where Vivarium is aiming, you’ve got to bear in mind that the food here is expensive. With prices like these, you just expect a little love and attention, especially when Chumpol, one of the Iron Chefs so proudly displayed on the billboard outside, is himself on site and walking around in chef’s whites. It feels like either everyone involved in the operation is cashing in on a customer base they know will pay for premium Japanese produce in any form, or the kitchen team genuinely doesn’t know what they’re doing. Vivarium’s only saving grace? An OK wine list.
This review took place in May 2015 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.