OK, so we’ve done the tourist thing in Bangkok and very nice it was too. We also ate at in a restaurant located in a luxury hotel as in a previous AlphaLuxe Grazing Report. Where else can we graze that is also frequented by locals?
Baan Khanitha Thai Cuisine, of course. This long established Thai restaurant in the Sukhumvit Road is located in a large old house. The furnishings and artwork immediately throws a welcoming arm around you as you step over the threshold. The dark teakwood and whitewashed walls of the sprawling interior gave respite to the balmy evening air outside.
The wait-staff are well trained, knowledgeable and friendly. I saw a dish being taken back for a replacement by the waiter, spontaneously, when a tourist next to me seemed hesitant to answer the question: ”How was it for you?”
This was despite 80% of the dish already consumed!
What a riot of excitement as we sipped a colourful and tart tropical drink to excite the taste buds while looking through the menu. Don’t you Love the cocktail sticks?
The actual Mai Tai was not important. Just kick back and let the vision of a lithe, exotic Thai beauty with downcast, soulful eyes wafting cool air with a palm leaf, over your heated brow. Take a deep abdominal breath and snuggle down on your cushioned chair. Relax. The oil-lamps cast evocative shadows as the wait-staff flit silently around. The dulcet tones of Thai percussion and woodwind flutter unobtrusively.
In real life, we had everything described but the actual wafting palm leaf…….there was air-conditioning! 🙂
The drinks for serious Thai food; beers brewed in Thailand….ice cold: what a relief from the heat outside.
Complimentary nibbles: Thai Basil leaf-wraps.
The leaf is folded into a cone shape and filled with chopped peanuts, dried shrimp, calamansi lime wedges, ginger, chilli, onion, minced coconut and spicy turmeric sauce.
Imagine the balmy tropical aromas and textures mingling in your mouth before being washed down with ice cold beer… mmm – mmm.
Can you almost hear the shrimp laden surf lapping on the beach and swaying coconut fronds suddenly turning into a lash of tropical spice?
Tod Man Pla Krai: fish cakes with traditional dipping sauce. This is an illustration of Thai cuisine, which is all about balance. The flavours should not be harsh or emphasize just one note. Instead, there was salty, sweet, sour and spice complementing each other; You smile indulgently, in appreciation of the holistic balance.
Tom Yum Ghoong Nang: spicy river prawn soup. This must be the national soup. The secret here is a balanced sweet chilli paste incorporated with real chicken stock and infused with flavours of fresh galangal, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, chilli, prawns, and finished with coriander leaves, lime juice and chives.
Baan Khanitha’s version also has the ‘goodness’ from strained prawn heads added to the stock. That’s tasty cholesterol, folks!
Main Tasting Courses (clockwise from top left):
Nam Prig Makua Phao: spicy eggplant dip and vegetable crudités.
The dip contained semi-fermented salt-fish compote which was married with the usual Thai sweet, sour and chilli flavours. In Thai, that is pronounced as “Yumm”, which means “Balance”. The vegetables provided cool relief from the spiciness.
Gaeng Massaman Nua: Beef Massaman curry.
Although the exotic showmanship of green and red curries has been exported worldwide, this curry varietal is the quintessential “Thailand On-a-Plate”. You guessed it – balanced flavours and harmony are the bywords.
Pla Krapong Nueng Manao: Steamed Sea Bass with Chili, Lime and Garlic.
I had no words in ecstasy. The fish was so fresh, it practically must have jumped into the steam bath by itself! The subtle soy sauce, garlic and lime juice flavours partnered with the fish with sublime alacrity.
Yam Som O: Pomelo salad with shrimp and chicken.
This perennial favourite makes another appearance. At Baan Khanitha, the pomelo is torn into chunkier bits than lesser establishments.
Steamed Duo of Rice (fragrant or glutinous) in their quaint serving pots.
If one source of carbohydrates is good for you, then two different carbohydrates must be better. Actually, the dishes did taste different depending on which rice was accompanying the mouthful. Instead of four main dishes, its seemed like we had eight different tastes….Result!
I noted clientele favourites that were ordered by other diners…
A-harn Riak Nam Yoi Ruam Mite: Mixed appetizers platter of deep-fried spring rolls, fried chicken wrapped in pandanus leaves, shrimp cakes, and fish cakes. Of course, we had tasted the fish cakes already.
Pla Khung Lai Sua: Tiger Prawn Salad with Roast Chili Paste Dressing.
Gaeng Massaman Gai: Chicken Massaman Curry. A variant of the dish that we had with beef instead.
Pla Hima Nueng Manao: Steamed Snow Fish with Chili, Lime and Garlic. A variant of the dish that we had with sea bass instead.
There was no room for desserts or digestive elixirs so we sauntered into the balmy night air for a post-prandial constitutional ambulation.
By the time we made it to a lounge-bar, I managed to find room to slip a double Mekhong “whisky” on-the-rocks somewhere. Truth be told, Mekhong is not a whisky, despite the name. It is rum made from sugarcane and rice spirits, fused with spices that evoke ginger, toffee, citrus and vanilla flavours.
Baan Khanitha has maintained its position at the top of the Bangkok ‘Home Cuisine’ restaurants. At this level, it’s about Delicacy of Flavour, Service Supremacy and Charming Ambiance; all that Baan Khanitha has in Spades!
It well deserves the ‘AlphaLuxe Four-Tongues’ award.
About ‘Baan Khanitha Thai Cuisine’
Baan Khanitha Thai Cuisine (original restaurant)
Address: 36/1 Soi Sukhumvit 23, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok 10110
Telephone: +662 258 4181
Transport: Metro MRT Sukhumvit Station (Exit 3)
Transport: BTS SkyTrain Asok Station (Exit 3)
Sukhumvit 53 area: (Baan Khanitha at Fifty Three)
Sathorn area: (Baan Khanitha & Gallery)
Asiatique area: (Baan Khanitha By The River)
In 1993, renowned Thai silk fashion designer – Khanitha Akaranitikul – opened ‘Baan Khanitha’ – literally meaning ‘Khanitha‘s Home‘ on Sukhumvit Soi 23 to realise her personal expectations for cuisine, cleanliness, service and decor for a high-quality Thai food. Filling her ‘home‘ with beautiful antique handicrafts, sculptures, paintings and plants to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, this original ‘Thai Home-Style Restaurant‘ led Khanitha to open more ‘homes‘ in Bangkok.
Baan Khanitha‘s latest ‘homes‘ include an elegant mansion on Sukhumvit 53 adjacent to Baan Khanitha‘s MoonGlass Social Bar & Restaurant for international cuisine and an all-day dessert café, South Sathorn Restaurant and Moom Gafair Café, and a newly constructed ‘home‘ directly on the bank of the Chao Phraya River at the Asiatique Night Bazaar.
Baan Panalai, an in-house organic farm, is located in Khao Yai Plateau, Nakorn Rathasima Province, near the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Khao Yai National Park’. Situated within a 98-rai (almost 39 acres) compound around a central lake and clubhouse with 24-hour security, Baan Panalai Village will have twenty-three plots available for those looking to share Khanitha’s dream of natural comfortable living.
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelog ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).