newcomer to the bangkok dining scene paste sets
by Richard Mcleish
Long gone are the days of a Bangkok where the choice was either Old World European or simple local food. Diners now demand to know where a cheese is made or what region of Thailand an edible flower is from. Capturing this moment is newcomer to the scene Paste Bangkok (120/6 Sukhumvit Soi 49, 02 392 4313, www.pastebangkok.com), operated by Aussie chef Jason Bailey and his wife and partner Bongkoch “Bee” Satongun, who are pushing Thai cuisine into the modern era with respect and finesse.
Nestled in a sub-soi of Thong Lor, the restaurant is a cozy shop house conversion that entertains about 30 diners at 10 tables. A sprung red signature bench lines one wall, with pages from books adorning pillars on the other. Upstairs, a modest mezzanine sports three more tables and an intimate bar for lone punters. The result is a pleasant nook for a romantic meal or a catch-up with friends, completed by indirect lighting and understated music.
Filled with hidden gems, the menu is a gently modern take on the traditional Thai canon. The chefs bring with them the boldness of the full flavors en vogue in contemporary Australian cuisine. The concept is being implemented by a handful of foreigners and Thais alike, but Paste picks up the mantle with a daring modern twist. The flavors come from the freshness of the ingredients, rather than being an over-reaching attempt at confusing attempts of fusion—much in line with traditional Thai (and indeed Asian) cuisine.
Highlights of the revolving menu include master stock poached organic pork neck (THB 450++), which features avocado, red grapefruit, and toasted sticky rice, and is artfully garnished with local flowers for a visual and flavor feast. The superbly tender slow-cooked Australian beef cheek with fresh curry paste (THB 480++) is a rich stew cut with the zing of pickled garlic, ginger, lemongrass and dry spices. Steamed wild sea bass fillet (THB 550++) is prepared with longan honey, fennel, and lemongrass “lon” sauce. The cocktails, such as the Bangkok Mule, (THB20++) are also fused with local herbs and spices. The drink features citrus-infused vodka, lychee liqueur, and locally grown passionfruit, lychee, and lime. The wine is a balance of Old and New Worlds; it is available by the glass.
Paste is a reassuring sign of a city coming into its culinary own. The understated surrounds add to the multifaceted menu that speaks volumes with every bite. And the eclectic crowd of regulars and curios alike—as well as headhunters looking to poach the formula—is a testament to the attractive boldness of the venue, which will continue to evolve as the menu offers up more delights.
Hours: Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 11 p.m.