Our guide to Sathorn, a fine-din­ing mecca in the heart of Bangkok

Southeast Asia Globe - - Contents - – Dene Mullen

“I think the eas­i­est way to de­scribe our food at De­wakan is mod­ern Malaysian cook­ing. I de­cided to fo­cus on this kind of cook­ing be­cause there just weren’t any ex­cit­ing res­tau­rants [in Kuala Lumpur] at the time. There are so many rea­sons [mod­ern cui­sine] hasn’t re­ally caught on in Malaysia. First of all, I think the mass mar­ket here is quite be­hind. Even a car­bonara, they want it doused in cream sauce. The other, I think, is fear from busi­ness own­ers. The mo­ment some­one com­plains, they want to go back to the car­bonara, to some­thing that’s fa­mil­iar.

“I think KL’s din­ing scene needs to grow up. But even for every Nahm and every Bo.lan in Bangkok, there are still a lot of other shitty res­tau­rants in Thai­land. That’s just the re­al­ity. I think the next step for the restau­rant scene to move on to a new level in KL is more chef-own­ers. We need more chefs who have con­trol over the busi­ness.

“I’m very happy to go some­where smaller where they’re do­ing some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary. We’ve got a few ex­am­ples. There’s Mar­cus Low at Table and Apron, Pete Teo and Lisa Ngan at A Lit­tle Farm on the Hill, and Dar­ren Chin at DC Restau­rant.

“At De­wakan, we try to base our­selves on in­gre­di­ents rather than culi­nary tra­di­tion. We could make a ren­dang and add foie gras and say that’s mod­ern Malaysian. But is that re­ally mod­ern Malaysian? Or is that just tak­ing two con­cepts and meld­ing them to­gether and giv­ing it a new name? What we’re do­ing is look­ing at in­gre­di­ents and try­ing to build some­thing from scratch.”

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