Bangkok may be one of the hardest places to find real Thai food at least outside private homes. Posh restaurants and street stalls alike tend to pump out the same standard variations of prepackaged curries, chicken-basil stir-fries and seafood salads drenched in bottled fish sauce. While little on offer is ever bad, little enough is truly great.
To the rescue comes Bo.lan. The name is a compound of Bo and Dylan the daring duo of brash 20-something chefs Duangporn "Bo" Songvisava, local with a mission and a master's in gastronomy, and Australian Dylan Jones. The two met at London's Nahm, one of the only Thai restaurants with a Michelin star, where they trained under David Thompson, leading authority and author on Thai cuisine.
While the pair insist their fare is self-generated, the approach borrows from Thompson's juxtaposition of modern plating, sophisticated setting (decks fronting a remodeled private home), gourmet sourcing (they specify individual rice harvests and which rivers the shrimp hail from) as well as disdain for any shortcuts in preparation, together with undying loyalty to the grittiest peasant flavors (especially the ever present fermented fish paste) and humble dishes reclaimed from old cookbooks. This leads to menu descriptions like "Handpicked mud-crab and fermented rice simmered in fresh coconut cream with lemongrass, white turmeric and chili served with deep-fried stuffed cabbage (pork and preserved fish)." Can one really taste if the crab was handpicked?
"We don't adjust flavors or apologize to anyone," declares Jones, admitting that he sometimes has to tell heat-scalded tourists, "Sorry, this is Thai food, mate." And that leads locals, he admits, "to either thank us for bringing back their heritage or get angry at us for being ridiculously overpriced."
Assuming Thailand's volatile political situation doesn't put him off, David Thompson himself will finally be bringing his hyper-homestyle magic to Bangkok's Metropolitan Hotel in the summer. Until then, Duangporn and Jones stand for the first beachhead in scrupulous, if at times overbearing, authenticity. Details at bolan.co.th.