Spirit by Jim Thompson offers a sophisticated take on beautifully presented classic Thai and Southeast Asian dishes served in refined surroundings, as Matt Wilde discovers.
Dining venues don’t come more stylish than Spirit by Jim Thompson, says Matt Wilde. From sumptuous décor to the authentic flavours and innovative presentation of Thai and Southeast Asian dishes, it’s all done in the best possible taste
Aman of considerable good taste when it came to an appreciation of the finer things in life, Jim Thompson, who set out on his own silk road almost 70 years ago, was well known for his generous hospitality, particularly the frequent parties he hosted at his beautifully appointed Bangkok home—sophisticated soirees attended by a who’s who of the international jet-set of the day. Thompson was also something of an adventurer and travelled widely throughout Southeast Asia, keen to experience different cultures and, of course, explore their diverse cuisines. Which is why the authentic Thai dishes selected for the menu at Spirit by executive chef Montri Virojnvechapant are complemented by exotic, sometimes iconic, dishes from Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Spirit is all about taste. From the tasteful aesthetics shown in famed Boiffils’ design and décor of the restaurant—floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows let in an abundance of natural light and offer views of lush tropical gardens, custom-made furnishings are upholstered in beautiful Jim Thompson silks and brocades and tropical hardwood surfaces abound—to chef Montri’s classic dishes, many made with fresh ingredients grown on the restaurant’s own farm in Pak Thong Chai, Nakhon Ratchasima. “Ingredients reflect on the taste,
naturally, so it is very important to get the balance right, to consider how different combinations will add layers of aroma and flavour to a dish,” Montri explains. “We are also working towards the farm becoming certified as fully organic in a few years, so our ingredients will have the best farm-to-table pedigree.”
Montri, who began his culinary journey by practising his cooking in the evenings after his original day job—preparing recipes taught to him by (among others) Mom Pattama Chakrapan na Ayudhya, head chef at the Sukhothai Palace—uses modern techniques but also respects traditional Thai culinary methods where possible. For a number of years the Suphanburi native was also responsible for the meals of the late Princess Galyani Vadhana. “She enjoyed European cuisines but was particularly fond of salted crab and coconut milk soup,” he laughs.
The aforementioned tantalising aromas and flavours seem to almost float up off the page when perusing the 46 items on the a la carte menu. Take the deconstructed appetiser of mieng kham nam tan grob, which is roasted cashew nuts, shredded coconut, ginger, onion, chilli and diced lime presented in a spun sugar nest and eaten on wild betel leaves. Light and zesty, it gives the taste buds the perfect wake-up call. As do the tangy delights of another appetiser, lhon kati kan mue 3 paak, three canapés representing three different regions of the country comprising central plains fermented rice, northeastern fermented pineapple, Thai anchovy relish and northern fermented pork sausage. Also refreshingly delightful is dok care yad sai goong thod gab nam prik tua thong nam magrood. A bit of a mouthful to pronounce it may be but this salad of deep-fried hummingbird flowers served with a piquant mung bean and kaffir lime juice dip has a lovely sharpness to it.
Highly recommended as a main course is gaeng kua nong ped toon nam man gab look peach, which is duck confit with tangy red curry sauce served with sweet peach slices, curried tomatoes and both steamed saffron rice and brown rice. The duck is infused with the curry sauce and chilled for two days to intensify the sweet, sour and savoury flavour combination. It arrives at the table with a wonderfully crispy skin.
Rounding off a sophisticated meal inspired by recipes developed for the royal court is pathummarasa triple lotus surprise, a dessert featuring lotus stems prepared three ways—as a steamed lotus cake, a sherry vinegar lotus meringue tart topped with lotus petals and as a lotus and coconut ice cream.
Spirit, 16 Soi Somkid. Open daily, noon-3pm and 6pm-11pm. Tel: 0-2700-2567.
traditional tastes ( Clockwise from top) Duck confit is steeped in red curry sauce for two days and comes with steamed saffron rice, brown rice, peach slices and curried tomatoes; deep-fried hummingbird flowers are served with a spicy kaffir lime and split mung bean dip; deconstructed mieng kham is beautifully presented in a spun sugar nest on wild betel leaves
Three's company ( Below from left) Lhon kati canapes represent three different regions of the country; the dessert of pathummarasa triple lotus surprise features lotus stems prepared three ways
Culinary Chic Spirit's smart interiors, designed by Boiffils, feature custom-made fittings and furnishings that make use of Jim Thompson silks and other textiles