IF there are enough faithful proponents to deliver cooking of this level then you might think Thai cuisine has the capacity to lead the world. It has a spontaneity and dynamism that other Asian cuisines lack, a potential marriage of gastronomy and nutrition and, well let us say, joy.
Bo.lan is an urban garden snuck between building sites, a prep school, just a short walk from the SkyTrain Thong Lo and the mega mall of Em Quartier. It is possible you could fly here for lunch for less money than you might spend in a three star Michelin eslewhere in the world. Expense here is unnecessary, irrelevant, decadent even. The values are more to do with modesty, courage, imagination.
The name strictly is Bo.Lan being the nickname for Bo, formal name Duangporn Songivsava and Dy(lan) Jones who met in Adelaide and worked together at David Thompson’s Nahm in London. It is rated as 19 in the 50 best restaurants in Asia by which yardstick puts it as the second best Thai restaurant behind Nahm itself.
It is a self assertive wood building surrounded by its own garden and pool. To begin:
This is an apetiser, in the centre shavings of slow cooked pork neck wrapped in a compleixity of ambitious visions. If you blow the pictiure up you will see parsley, chilli jam, fried shallot, pips, fruits and more, in one mouthful bang. You have arrived. Even the debris manifests as a form of art.
And there is art everywhere, designer uniforms, the mural of the lemon market, the 4D wooden house, the metal work lampshades.
The style is four dishes (at lunch, dinner will be more) – a stir fry, a soup, a curry, a salad each stylish, visual and complex, and of course many a masterclass in chilli, although not everything is spiced by any means.
Meals start with rice doled out of a black wooden bowl, not just rice but jasmin kor khor 105 from Yasothorn. And this is the key, here the mix of seasonings to muddle in, the miang, the krua, the nahm.
Compare two squid dishes. The first is a salad with tiny shoots of samphire, all freshness and dancing fragrances. The second is more mellow, slow cooked cabbage in coconut milk.
Neck of pork reappears both as a hot (very) and sour soup with mustard greens and then as a red curry with banana.
We finish with a small glass that looks like nothing but is an explosively refreshing tonic, a symphony on palm, the base a granita topped with a jelly and then fresh coconut milk.
If there was a Thai masterchef competition between chefs who work indoors and the street hawkers who work outside it might be a close run thing, but this is a good compromise between the two. The bill was £25 each. There are wines but you perhaps do not need them. There is though an excellent little cocktail bar in the next street at Justadrinkmaybe which specialises in gins.