Nahm in Bangkok Serves Better Thai Food Than You’ve Ever Had in Your Life

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Nahm at the Metropolitan hotel is probably Thailand’s most celebrated restaurant. The Australian-born chef David Thompson is the first person to win a Michelin star for Thai cooking, a distinction earned for his former London outpost.

This has been called the best restaurant in Asia and one of the best restaurants in the world.

But it has neither the expense nor the pretension of most of the other restaurants that wind up on these sorts of lists.

The dining concept is either a la carte or a fixed price option — but strangely not a degustation menu. Rather, the 2200 baht set menu involves canapes and then your choosing one item from each section of the menu’s main courses (to be shared by the table) followed by dessert.

I admit, I didn’t want to choose. So I asked our waiter to simply have the chef choose what is best.

“World’s best” and inclusion in fine dining lists conjures either an air of formality, or showmanship, that isn’t part of the experience here. It’s more top notch, original and creative, traditional Thai food in a relaxed atmosphere.

This is the probably the best Thai food I’ve eaten, and the restaurant feels like comfortable food, to be eaten in a casual setting (and Nahm is indeed far more casual than your typical fine dining restaurant experience) that doesn’t comport with one’s expectations that might follow from the plaudits it receives.

Since it’s in Bangkok, expect to pay ~ US$67 per person for the meal (excluding alcohol).

At the table next to us, diners complained that the food was too spicy. Overall it wasn’t surprisingly spicy, though some dishes have spice and you should expect that — it’s Thai food in Thailand, cooked the way it is supposed to be. If you prefer milder dishes you should discuss that with your server.

I liked how casual the place was. At one table across from us a hotel guest came in for the second night in a row, on their own. It was a business traveler simply dining in the hotel restaurant. So while the place can necessitate reservations and a couple of weeks out to get a preferred time, they must save tables for guests in the hotel.

I could have shown up in jeans. There was one person there in shorts, which felt too casual but this is hardly a jacket required sort of place.

Several dishes are brought to the table together, and you eat family style. This isn’t really a ‘course-based’ tasting menu, you are eating lots of different things but you are eating as though with a Thai family rather than one item after another as I had done at Sra Bua.

This menu (.pdf) is current.

Every dish was thoughtful and simple. The staff was helpful and engaging. There was no pretention. I’d even bring small children there, whereas I couldn’t imagine doing that at most fine dining restaurants.

They were surprised when we commented on liking durian, most Westerners don’t.

Nahm is well worth the money, I’ll definitely plan to return, with the caveat that making a booking a couple of weeks out is recommended especially if you’re not staying at the Metropolitan.

The place is controversial, largely I think because it belies expectations — it is so highly rated, and in the context of fine dining restaurants. In some ways it doesn’t fit the mold. It isn’t formal, as expensive, or as course-based. But it towers above most outlets serving Thai food. Yes, Thai food is also street food and many of the dishes are replicated less expensively. But the ingredients and techniques here are top notch, so it’s also a great comparison and benchmark to use in judging this type of cuisines.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Lucky you… We were there in August and were totally let down. Food was ok at best… Only one of two dishes had any sort of wow factor…We love spicy and had heard complaints but didn’t find anything had much if a kick. Went with Thai friends as well who didn’t think much of it either. Also wasn’t terribly impressed that the waiter kept trying to push incredibly expensive wine!

  2. I ate there last February, and had a similar experience.
    The food was delicious, the only negative was that we had quite a wait at 6PM on a Tuesday, we didn’t eat until after 9.

  3. A group of us, including 4 Thais, went there earlier this year and had a horrible experience. The food was so spicy that even the Thais at our table had a tough time with it.

    The waitstaff were sympathetic (we were obviously not the first ones to complain about this) but insisted that nothing could be done per the chef’s directions and that there were no alternatives (ie, everything was going to be very spicy). For the prices they charge it would have been nice to have been able to taste the food.

  4. I also thought that this place was a bit overrated.

    My wife found the menu a little unapproachable. However, we found Iggy’s in Singapore to be well worth its acclaim.

    I do have to hand it to Nahm for trying to take the top title in Thailand.

  5. I dined at Nahm twice and found at both times, that food were way too spicy for my taste — and I am from South East Asia! It’s great that they serve durian sticky rice there, but the same exact one can be had for THB30 (USD1) at Terminal 21 Food Court.

    In summary I find this restaurant doesn’t live up to its expectation. Thai food is more complex than just being spicy.

  6. In the 3rd pic from the bottom, what is the name of that round fruit at the top middle of your plate? I had some in Bangkok last summer at the fruit market and was never told what it was.

  7. I am going to dine there in early Feb. when I made the reservation, I was asked which table I would like to take. An indoor one, or an outside table by the pool? Could you please comment which type is better? Thanks.

  8. Had high hopes for Nahm, of course. Greeted by cold person and then told we had to wait 15 min past our reservation time. No big deal. We got seated finally at the worst table in the place (corner) and already the surroundings seemed very cold to us.

    Waiter was totally unhelpful. His english was also not very good, and he kept emphasizing how spicy everything was – he had no clue we were asking what he and the Chef recommended. When the food did come out, it was OK but not dazzling. Similar to Thai food we’ve had in Calif and NY. The whole experience was just very strange.

  9. I’ve never had a great experience at this restaurant. Been there twice now and both times was not impressed by the food or the service. I just think they are trying to be something they are not. It’s a shame because the place had great potential.

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