By : KEN BARRETT
30 January 2020
About: A year ago, Karmakamet Conveyance ended what had been a brief sojourn at Lhong 1919 and for a time had been homeless. Late November saw a rebirth in the unlikely setting of a Soi 49 shophouse. Here chef Jutamas Theantae, known to all as Som, is continuing her painterly style, taking elements of cuisines from around Asia and, layer by layer, creating entirely new images. For want of a better term, Chef Som’s food can be described as New Asian, but it defies labels and really can only be thought of as Chef Som’s Cuisine.
Decor: Located at the entrance to Soi 49, it is all too easy to walk straight past the restaurant, for the associated Karmakamet aromatherapy business founded by business partner Natthorn Rakchna is on the ground floor, and the hungry visitor can hurry past, thinking that it is a beauty salon. Twisty, narrow little steps lead up to the floor above, and into the white space that is a canvas for Chef Som. Everything is white; walls, tables, chairs; except for a broken section of wall displaying distressed brickwork, which coupled with the fragments of broken plate on the tables reveals a fondness for the Japanese art of kintsugi. There is too something of the looking glass effect here, for two or three greeters at the top of the stairs share a phone-box-sized vestibule, the sheer open drop to the street below is disconcerting until you see DO NOT LEAN printed on the plate glass, there is a private “room” wedged in that would suit goblin-sized guests, and the open kitchen seems to occupy another dimension.
Menu: There is just one tasting menu, changed regularly, and priced at 2,500 baht. To this can be added a champagne pairing, also at 2,500 baht, with the option of a red wine to accompany the meat dishes. We stayed with the champagne, a selection from Diebolt-Vallois of Cramant, in France, which we felt chimed perfectly with each course. Presentation is on plates and bowls that themselves are little artworks, and of course pure white, enhancing the colours of the food and the intensity of the flavours. A rooty green emulsion floated a tiny salad of asparagus spears. An Irish oyster was accompanied by a small bowl of noodles with a powerful curry sauce and a fried duck-egg. Fragments of crabmeat, a slice of squid, and possibly a cockle were buried under a rubble of translucent coconut jelly. A cube of beef tongue arrived with a pot of what chef calls Incredible Chilli Jelly. A strip of mackerel sashimi was picked up and popped in using our fingers. A thinly sliced lamb chop was coated in a pungent blend of Indian spices. Every course offered the unexpected, but somehow, somewhere, there was an element of friendly familiarity.
Evaluation: Chef Som is one of the new generation of Thai chefs who are pushing food to new frontiers, and a visit to this tiny restaurant will be a new experience. The price, for a tasting menu of this quality, is modest, and although each course is small, with 10 courses even the heartiest appetite will be satisfied.