Siam Spring is a passion-driven business extension of Praya Palazzo, the multi-award winning boutique hotel on the Chao Phraya River bank, bringing the hotel’s highly-cherished culinary skills closer to downtown gastronomes.
Just like that of the hotel’s dining outlet, Siam Spring’s menu is designed to bring back the epicurean delights of a bygone era when the country was known as Siam. The cuisine thus comprises ancient Thai recipes — palatial and home styles, authentically prepared with seasonal produce by a team of veteran chefs.
Diners will find from the 70-item collection the likes of nam prik kha pla salid (galangal and chili paste served with crispy fish and vegetables) and an inspiring array of curries.
Among a variety of old-fashioned snacks, khangkhao phueak, or deep-fried taro dumplings is prepared with mashed fragrant taro shaped into triangle pieces to resemble bats (khangkhao).
The taro are stuffed with a salty sweet filling, made with shrimp, minced coconut, pepper and kaffir lime leaves, before being lightly battered and deep-fried.
The tubby, ductile dumplings, which reveal a piquant flavour profile of nah goong — the typical shrimp topping of sweet sticky rice — were given a refreshing complement by an accompanying relish of sliced fresh cucumber and chillies in vinegar-infused syrup.
Another dish to follow was the crab and corn cake, an appetiser favoured by King Rama IV. The scrumptious delicacy, also great when eaten with rice, is a simple unification between poo ja, or Thai-style peppery crab cake, and corn fritter. The crab cake was flavoursome and so addictive, it needed no help from the sweet and sour cucumber relish.
Dining at Siam Spring, I recommend that you not let the unfamiliar names or descriptions of the dishes confine you from exploring new culinary ventures. In light of this, one of the most impressive dishes that evening was a dish called gaeng jeen juan, which loosely translates into “curry by a Chinese person named Juan”.
Though it is described weakly on the menu as a chicken herbal curry, the bygone dish created by a Chinese immigrant cook working in a noble family's kitchen was in fact a cross between typical Thai-style red curry and massaman.
The sweet, creamy and reddish-orange curry, in which tender fillets of chicken, pineapple chunks, onions and bell peppers were submerged, had been infused with star anise to provide an admirably subtle taste. Meanwhile, all the elements in the dish proved to complement each other perfectly.
Fans of sataw, aka nitta tree seeds or stinky beans, cannot afford to miss having sataw phad goong in which the beans, treasured for their characteristically strong flavour, are wok-fried with prawns and yellow chilli paste. The dish superbly showcased the crunchy texture and addictive nutty flavour of the beans that were marvellously complemented, and not overpowered, by the not-too-fiery sauce.
Should spiciness be your gastronomic preference, order saeng wa goong naem pla duk foo, or sour and spicy salad of shrimp and herbs accompanied by fluffy catfish. A coupling between the sharp-tasting shrimp salad and the extraordinarily deep-fried minced fish meat, the taste-bud enlivening platter deliciously represented the profound character of traditional Thai cuisine.
Gaeng khua krathon, or sweet and sour santol curry, might have been a common dish half-a-decade ago. But these days it is rarely found either in the household or at a restaurant.
The dish, prepared according to century-old recipe with santol, an exotic Thai fruit which is in season right now, helped confirm Siam Spring’s outstanding dexterity when it comes to the subtlety of curries.
The tart fruit, simmered until the texture was softened, intermingled nicely with the slightly sour and creamy curry and prawns. Other than the fact that the dish was praiseworthy in terms of taste, it’s was also generously portioned, just like most of the entrées at Siam Spring.
There’s also a selection of old-fashioned gaeng jued, or clear soup, for those who are not fond of spicy food or just want something warm and soothing. Among the intriguing choices are tom jued look rok, or egg sausage in chicken consomme and gaeng jued sakhoo khai khem, or clear soup of sago balls stuffed with salty egg yolk.
The latter, which I sampled for the first time in my life, featured steamed dumplings made with tapioca pearls that revealed a salted yolk filling. The dumplings came bathed in clear broth with shredded chicken meat and fried garlic garnish.
The restaurant also has a Western menu featuring a decent variety of professionally-prepared homestyle fare including Black Angus tenderloin steak, grilled lamb chop, steamed sea bass with saffron sauce and spaghetti Bolognese.
At the moment the restaurant offers a limited choice of desserts — all happened to be of Western style. We tried the tropical fruit pannacotta, which was made in-house with sweet mango and simply delightful.
There was amicable service by a team of knowledgeable staff.