The acclaimed braised beef restaurant Yih Sahp Luhk is the real deal. Renowned for their exquisite flavours, quality ingredients, and MICHELIN Plate Award in the 2021 MICHELIN Guide Thailand, the establishment has now been open for three years. However, what’s intriguing about this eatery goes beyond its heavenly offerings that beef eaters sing their praises for. It is the restaurant’s journey, building off its legacy from “Nai Soie”, the famous family-owned beef noodle shop on Phra Athit Road in Bangkok's charming old town.
As heir to Nai Soie, Chef Napatr “Tee” Lertsaowapak wanted to add his creative flair to the well-established recipes developed by his family. So, he partnered with Nattaporn “Pheung” Thapparat to conceive and reveal the next generation of this famous Bangkok braised beef mecca. Now, they share their experiences, from trials and tribulations to meticulous dedication and success as Yih Sahp Luhk has expanded to three branches in three years.
Creating A New Chapter Building On Legendary Braised Beef Flavours
“Yih Sahp Luhk has been open for three years now. It started out with Tee feeling that he couldn’t go any further with his family’s restaurant. It ended there with their noodles, because it’s very difficult for the younger generation to change the mindset of elders. The most they could go with was doing hot pots. We couldn’t apply any creativity to the original business, yet Tee saw that there could be new possibilities,” shares Thapparat.
When the pair decided to open a restaurant together, Thapparat’s background in marketing became handy in overseeing the restaurant’s direction and overall picture. On the food side, Chef Lertsaowapak was responsible for developing all the recipes. The restaurant’s name “Yih Sahp Luhk” is Cantonese and also the chef’s birthdate, the 26th. When written out in Chinese characters, it could also mean “easy to cook'' or “easy to increase”. The pair believed this name portrayed the very DNA of the restaurant — how its story is an extension from Nai Soie. But making the restaurant what it is today was not so easy.
“Neither of us had any experience running a restaurant at all. Even though I had helped out at my mother’s store, it was a traditional Chinese business of buying and reselling,” explains Chef Lertsaowapak.
“As for Pheung, she had only worked in branding and events. There was a lot for us to learn, starting with construction and interior design. Since this building is protected under the Crown Property Bureau, there were many rules regarding renovations. We didn’t have any knowledge about this before, so not only did we get fined, we also had to delay construction and change our designs. This really increased our costs from our initial budget. Besides that, there were loads of other things we had to learn, be it financial management, kitchen operation management, as well as how to develop recipes that would not waste ingredients. I had to create dishes that would go hand in hand with what supplies we had. Then there were all the legal issues we had to bear in mind, such as permits, labour issues, etc.”
For their first store, Chef Lertsaowapak and Thapparat chose Charoenkrung Road because both were born and raised in this historic part of the city. The area itself is undoubtedly one of the most charming and lively in Bangkok, while the road is also the first Western-style-built thoroughfare in Thailand.
“When we were first thinking about where to open our restaurant, we actually thought we’d go to Ekamai. But considering how we were quite new, how fierce the competition is in the city, and how we don’t know that neighborhood at all, we realised we should start in the community we know best, the one we were born and raised in. That’s why we decided on this location. Our restaurant-owner friends in the area are caring and thoughtful, always buying snacks for us when they go out. We’re much happier here and don’t have to compete as much as being in other parts of the city,” says Thapparat.
And so the two-shophouse commercial building sitting at the start of Charoenkrung Road became the original Yih Sahp Luhk. The restaurant’s cool interior of naked bricks and cement reflect Thapparat’s time living in Hong Kong, where she absorbed its ambiance and interior designs. Adding playful details are original components such as burglar bars, a legacy from the location’s origins as a gold store. Red neon lights complete the Hong Kong / Cantonese vibe.
Traditional Flavours Enhanced With Love
The menu at Yih Sahp Luhk has developed and grown from Nai Soie’s, which is owned by Chef Lertsaowapak’s family and specialises in braised beef soup. Not wanting to rest on his family’s famed noodles, Yih Sahp Luhk makes rice pots its star offerings.
“I didn’t want to have the same menu as Nai Soie,” says Chef Lertsaowapak. “So I thought about the dishes from my childhood that my mother used to cook for the family. It made me think of braised beef rice pots, and coincidentally, Pheung thought about the rice pots she used to eat back when she was living in Hong Kong. And so we came up with the braised beef rice pot and braised pork rice pot. At the beginning, these were the only two dishes on the menu.”
Recalling the first days of their journey, the chef says, “When we first opened, we were in a tizzy wondering if the customers would finish eating everything, and we’d peek to see what was left over. After a while, we noticed that some customers don’t eat beef or pork. No land animals at all. So I tried using seafood such as scallops, which got great feedback. Later on, we developed more dishes like beef steak rice bowl, beef rice bowl with cured egg, ox tongue rice bowl, and so on. We now have a larger variety of dishes compared to when we first opened.”
The chef recommends braised short ribs rice pot, a signature dish since day one, featuring ribs that have been braised until delectably soft, coming apart easily with barely a bite. Enjoyed with hot, seasoned rice, a rich explosion of beef flavours in your mouth just conquers your heart.
The same can be said with Sam Yot Beef Bowl. This garlic rice dish showcases thinly sliced, pan-seared beef paired with an egg yolk cured in fish sauce— each component wonderfully enhancing every other’s flavours.
Fans of devouring beef will be in heaven with their varied selection of meat dishes.
Another not-to-miss and not-so-Thai dish is Australian Wagyu beef steak with salad, grilled to pink perfection. Meanwhile, their grilled ox tongue may keep you asking for more. The secret to this tongue’s tenderness comes from a 36-hour sous vide before it is grilled and enjoyed with an egg yolk cured in fish sauce. Or pair it up with their signature chilli oil dipping sauce that’s spritzed with lime—it’s a combination no less addictive (this writer even had to order another portion for delivery while writing this feature)!
Then there’s the beef soup combo, which packs a load of tender beef sections in a soup so tantalising that it needs no further seasoning.
For a more Hong Kong flair, try the braised short ribs bao or Hotate Bao. These snack-sized dishes are ideal for customers who want to try a variety of dishes. For example, solo diners may find the braised short ribs rice pot and the hotate rice pot too heavy. So, the chef suggests ordering a bun, as it’s a smaller portion so you can still enjoy different delicious options.
A Thriving Business Grown From Love
Now in its third year and running, Yih Sahp Luhk’s selection of the finest ingredients that are meticulously seasoned with the utmost care is a major factor to their success. Their second branch is located at Thai Taste on the first floor of the Mahanakhon building in Bangkok’s Sathon area, followed by their newest and third branch which just opened on Sukhumvit 33. This growth has been definitely going against the grain of the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“MICHELIN Guide makes our tiny restaurants known to a wider circle. We may have gotten press coverage in the past and have been visited by chic crowds who follow online reviews, but getting the award from the MICHELIN Guide has really expanded the diversity of our customer base. There are now family groups, as well as serious foodies with spending power. The restaurant has been incredibly lucky,” they share.
“It also makes us feel that all our hard work has set us on the right path and that has brought us great opportunities. If you ask if this is our main success, I would say it is to an extent, but there are still many things we’d like to develop and improve on in the future.”
This includes a vegetarian menu that’s currently undergoing experimentation and should be debuted alongside their core menu very soon. That’s not all though, because we’re sure that Yih Sahp Luhk still has many more good things coming.
Note: Due to the latest pandemic containment measures by the Thai government, please contact the restaurant(s) for the latest updates on menu and seating availability, as well as takeaway or delivery options.
Hero photo: © Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand