Dining Out 5 minutes 25 May 2023

A Chat With 80/20’s New Chef, Clara Pops Up In Samui, And Other Updates From MICHELIN Guide Restaurants

Here are the latest moves and menus from restaurants and chefs in Thailand you won’t want to miss.

If you’re worried that you’ll miss out on the latest goings-on in Thailand’s culinary circles, never fear. There is always something happening to excite the taste buds as chefs are debuting new menus, moving to new restaurants, and opening up new locations.

What excitement is in store from the movers and shakers in the MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2023?

Let’s find out.

Chef Phouthavong, the new head chef of 80/20. (© 80/20)
Chef Phouthavong, the new head chef of 80/20. (© 80/20)

Chatting with the new chef at 80/20
One MICHELIN Star 80/20 welcomes its new Head Chef Thav Phouthavong. This 37-year-old Lao chef is busy taking over from Chef Andrew Martin, but we were able to spend some time getting to know him.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
“My parents left Laos when the communists came, and they both ended up in Belgium. My dad started washing pots at the Blue Elephant back in the 80s and worked his way up. Now, he's vice president of Blue Elephant. Our family migrated to London in 1986, where we opened the second Blue Elephant. That's why I have an English accent.”

How did you end up becoming a chef?
“I really wanted to really know how they cook the food. But my parents were very much against me wanting to become a chef. They knew how tough it could be. But then, I think it came to a point where I graduated university and then did my master's in marketing. But I still worked in restaurants to put myself through school. So, then I decided to study at Cordon Bleu for a year. Then after that I did a stage [internship] at two MICHELIN Starred Hibiscus in London for a month. And then I started working at a Taiwanese restaurant, Bao [Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2023] before moving to Bangkok in 2018.”

When did you know you wanted to become a chef?
“I think I was around 25 years old. But my parents did not want me to do it. It took me around three years to get their approval.”

80/20’s concept is to use 80% Thai ingredients. How would you integrate your personality and Lao heritage into the menu?

“The same concept, but I think it will probably be more like 90% and 10% imported. In terms of sourcing, it’s very hard with Thai proteins. Supply and demand can be very difficult. As for food identity, I would like to incorporate my Lao background as well. So, what I’m doing now is deconstructing a dish, then reconstructing something new. For instance, lab tod [fried spicy minced meat salad]. Instead of doing it the normal way, I braised pig trotters and cheeks in beer overnight. The next day, we pull it apart, mix in seasonings and bread crumbs, deep fry them, and serve with a puree. This is one of the dishes I’m playing with while still keeping the original flavours. It’s nice to have different textures as well. You still have the crunchiness, but there’s juiciness inside from the braised meat. And the puree adds another dimension to each bite. For me, it’s more about how I would like to cook. How can we present food in a different way, and how can we build on those methods in the future.

“I plan to showcase food from all over Laos. Like or lam, which is similar to kaeng om. Or the Lao version of kaeng khi lek [Siamese cassia curry]. Lao flavour profiles tend to go more spicy, sour, and salty. Not like Thai food, which is sweeter. There’s not a lot of sugar in Lao food.”

What dish would you recommend?
“Khao Soi Luang Prabang. It doesn’t use coconut cream like the Thai version. It’s more like nam ngiao [spicy bean paste noodle soup] or a ragu. Like bolognese. The flavour is very clean. There’s not a lot of chilli. It’s very balanced, that’s why I love it. The shop that’s famous for it is across from a temple in Luang Prabang. This is a dish I’m going to work on soon. I’ve already got ideas for it.”

Location: 1052-1054 Charoen Krung 26, Maha Pruttaram, Bangkok. For reservations or more information, contact +66 09 9118 2200.

Care for champagne sundowners with Blue? (© Blue by Alain Ducasse)
Care for champagne sundowners with Blue? (© Blue by Alain Ducasse)

Cruising the blue with Blue by Alain Ducasse
Along with revealing a new menu this past April, one MICHELIN Starred Blue by Alain Ducasse now offers an enchanting package to bring gourmands to ICONSIAM. On The Blue Journey - Sunset Experience, diners can sip champagne while enjoying the sunset on the Chao Phraya River on a luxury boat cruise before savouring Chef Wilfrid Hocquet’s Voyage tasting experience, paired with the finest wines.

The Blue Journey - Sunset Experience is priced at 50,000 THB for two and 20,000 THB for additional guests. An alcohol-free package is available for 40,000 THB for two. Reservations can be made every day, except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The boat departs from the ICONSIAM Pier or any riverside hotel pier at 5.30 PM.

Location: Unit L101, 1st Floor, ICONSIAM, Soi Charoen Nakhon 5, Charoen Nakhon Road, Khlong Ton Sai, Bangkok. For reservations or more information, contact +66 6 5731 2346, enquiries@blue-alainducasse.com, or www.blue-alainducasse.com.

A home-cooked meal in a beautiful home in Khon Kaen. (© Krua Supanniga by Khunyai)
A home-cooked meal in a beautiful home in Khon Kaen. (© Krua Supanniga by Khunyai)

Krua Supanniga by Khunyai in Khon Kaen debuts Signature Table by Chef Noi
Khon Kaen’s culinary scene is thriving. Recently, Krua Supanniga by Khunyai, a Thai restaurant recommended in MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2023, introduced a 10-course menu of traditional regional Thai dishes featuring ingredients locally sourced from nearby farmers transformed into modern masterpieces with authentic flavours. Dishes from Supanniga’s experienced chefs include Yam Naem Bai Mayom (Thai Isan Marinated Pork Sausage with Gooseberry Leaves, Ginger, Shallots, Scallions, Lime, Spicy Dressing, and Roasted Peanuts), Nuer Wagyu Mueng Phon Yang Jim Jaew Khao Jee Plara (Isan's Jasmine Wagyu Steak with Jaew Sauce and Grilled Sticky Rice Stuffed with Fermented Fish), and more.

The 10-course Signature Table from Krua Supanniga by Khunyai is priced at 2,400 THB++ per person.

Location: 130/9 Supanniga Home, Phothisan Road, Phra Lap, Mueang Khon Kaen, Khon Kaen. For reservations or more information, contact +66 06 3424 1665.

Chef Martena's Samui creation. (© Luna by Clara)
Chef Martena's Samui creation. (© Luna by Clara)

Luna by Clara pops up in Samui
If you long for more than beautiful seas and beaches when you visit, you’ll love to find out that Samui Island is growing as a culinary hotspot, rivalling the nearby resort destination of Phuket. Case in point, Chef Christian Martena and his wife, Clara Del Corso-Martena, bring the flavours of Clara (recommended, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2023) from their location in Bangkok’s Sathon neighbourhood to Samui. Luna by Clara has popped up among the trees and under the stars at the wellness resort, Kamalaya Koh Samui. Chef Martena tells of a new-found enjoyment in creating dishes focused on nourishment and health and highlighting local ingredients, such as seafood, to harmonise with the resort’s Sustainable Mindful Cuisine philosophy. This is different from the offerings in Bangkok, as he got to understand local Samui ingredients and sustainable practises as well. Visitors can take a scenic walk by the beach to dine. There are two tasting menus, non-vegetarian and vegetarian.

Tasting menus are available for 4,700 THB (3,500 THB for the vegetarian menu) or 2,750 THB (1,550 THB for the vegetarian menu) for hotel guests on full or half board. Pair with wines for 3,550 THB or mocktails for 1,550 THB per person. Prices include taxes and service charges.

Location: Moo 3 102, Laem Set Road, Na Muang, Koh Samui, Surat Thani. For reservations or more information, contact https://kamalaya.com/luna-by-clara.

Colourful and playful edible arts by Chef Sanders. (© Sansern Khriengprinyakich/ MICHELIN Guide Thailand)
Colourful and playful edible arts by Chef Sanders. (© Sansern Khriengprinyakich/ MICHELIN Guide Thailand)

Canvas’ first food exhibition is here
Chef Riley Sanders of Canvas (one MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2023) reveals a colourful and flavourful menu that he has been working on since April. This latest menu features a new presentation so that the chef doesn’t feel the need to explain. Rather, each picture tells a dish’s story, allowing diners to interpret each course on their own. He is interested in people interacting and having fun with their food. For a finale, the chef presents a question, literally, with a dish in a dish shaped like a question mark for diners to riddle on. Pretty as a picture, but even more delicious, this tasting menu features new creations and old favourites like Bounty upgraded and plated to enhance sense experiences, conjuring memories of school trays and colouring fun. This is a truly memorable meal, as you can pocket the picture presentation to take home as a souvenir.

The Color of Flavor 20-course menu is priced at 6,900 THB++ per person.

Location: 113/9-10 Sukhumvit 55, Khlong Tan Nuea, Bangkok. For reservations and more information, contact +66 9 9614 1158.

Edible shell and Kalim beach view from the dining room of L'Arôme by the Sea. (© L'Arôme by the Sea)
Edible shell and Kalim beach view from the dining room of L'Arôme by the Sea. (© L'Arôme by the Sea)

L'Arôme by the Sea reveals a new menu
The enthusiastic Swiss-born Chef Yannick Hollenstein of Phuket’s beachfront fine-dining L’Arôme by the Sea (recommended, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2023) unveils a new menu to celebrate the summer breezes blowing across Europe. Seasonal ingredients are the stars, featuring the finest products from near and far for foodies to enjoy along with views of Kalim Beach in Phuket. Dishes include a nage of imported French oyster and local clams topped with a potato crisp presented like an oyster shell and a black rice and caviar tart, as well as dishes that celebrate the young chef’s Swiss heritage like a salt-brined sweet butter pretzel served with a bouillabaisse royale topped with locally caught Phuket lobster. Other seafood delights include yellow-fin tuna home-smoked in coconut husks and wild Carabineros shrimp served with artisanal burrata cheese.

The Discovery Menu is 2,900 THB++ a person and the Prestige Menu is 4,500 THB++ a person. Add a four-glass wine pairing for 4 for 3,000 THB++ or six-glass pairing for 4,000 THB++.

Location: 247/5 Phrabaramee Road, Pa Tong, Phuket. For reservations or more information, contact +66 07 6346 271 or https://en.laromegroup.com/laromebythesea.

CONTINUE READING: 7 Best Street Food Spots In Phuket And Phang-Nga We Want You To Try

Hero images: © 80/20, L’Arôme by the Sea, Blue by Alain Ducasse, Sansern Khriengprinyakich, Krua Supanniga by Khunyai, Luna by Clara

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