Many up market restaurants in Bangkok tries to one up their competition by being gimmicky like throwing a foam and smoke here and there and trying to deconstruct dishes. Paste does none of those. They just focus of make great tasting Thai dishes with a simple presentation and let the experience and tastes tells the story.
You may feel a little suspicious of the food when you enter because it will mostly be non-Thai customers. We went there for lunch, so I am not sure about the dinner crowd.
For lunch for 3 persons, they have 2 lunch tasting menu at about 1,200 and 2,100 baht each. However, this means that we only get to eat about 4 same dishes so we opted for ala carte instead and it was a good choice. Not only were we able to sample many different dishes, the total costs comes out to be about the same had we chosen the 2,100 baht set lunch.
We got two starters which is complimentary. The first is a refreshing bael fruit soda drink. Then came the “Australian Abalone, minced prawn with Thai herbs, Thai mustard leaf on sour dough” The flavors packs a punch within this small sample full of umami and a blend of Thai herbs like ginger torch flower and some other stuff (which I cannot identify lolz).
The “Watermelon & ground salmon with crispy shallots, roasted galangal powder” was a very good balance of Thai Isaan sarb flavors in the salmon, the ikura, coriander and water melon. Both refreshing and savory and the flowers are edible.
The “Roasted duck, nutmeg, curry paste and saw tooth coriander served on rice crackers” was a rich flavor of nutmeg, cumin, shallot, coriander, etc that taste both like a traditional Thai dish and a modern take on it at the same time. The red saga seeds are NOT edible by the way…
The “Coconut cream soup of galangal, chicken with chilli jam & premium plankton paste” is your Tom Kha Gai but super sized in taste. This is perhaps my most surprising and favorite dish as tom kha gai is one of my favorite soups but not everyone does it well. In summary, the soup is a savory coconut dessert soup. Not that its very sweet, it does have sweetness from coconut cream, but the cream blends so well with the herbs. And the chicken piece just melts in your mouth. Enough said.
The “Smoky southern yellow curry of Gulf of Thailand red spanner crab, hummingbird flowers, Thai samphire & turmeric” is well balanced, rich and yet not too spicy which is typical of Southern Thai dishes.
The “Pomelo salad of Japanese baby Sawagani crabs, Asian citron, in-house-chilli jam and gapi khoei” is another of my favorite. The chilli paste that is used to create this dish is nothing sort of perfect. It has the right savory, sweetness, saltiness and sourness. Honestly the little crabs does not lend any flavors to the dish other than a nice crunch, since they are outplayed by the sauce.
The “Chargrilled organic pork loin, smoked eggplant & Tomato relish, fennel seed, glazed with wild honey” was succulent and will charred with aroma of concentrated with Thai herbs. You can eat it alone or paired with the smoked eggplant relish. I can only nitpick that I wished that the eggplant was a bit more smokier like those I had in old school royal Thai restaurants. By the way, those leaves which the pork lion is laid on are edible, called bai chiang da (ใบเชียงดา), it eaten in the northern but they can be somewhat bitter. You may want to avoid the bigger leaves if you are sensitive to bitterness.
Perhaps the only disappointment of the day was the “Massaman lamb curry of crispy young Mhon Thong durian, shaved coconut apple & Thai cardamom”. The lamb was super soft but the flavor seems to stand apart for the curry. I don’t get any of the spice flavors in the lamb, almost as if its been dropped in by mistake. The durian is the raw type and its a replacement of potatoes typically used for this dish. It a daring move and I will say that it does work as the durian do have potato texture and a bit of durian sweetness and flavor and it doesn’t overwhelm the curry. The curry itself, I wished it was more packed with flavors and drier. Massaman is one of my favorite Thai curries and its well-known to be packed with spices and yet not overwhelming. For this dish, the curry does feel a bit tired.
We were really full at the end of the meal, but made room for a panna cotta dessert, i.e. “Lemongrass and white turmeric panna cotta with Chiang Mai strawberrry and som saa ice cream, fresh mango, berries and dragonfruit”. The herbs in the pudding was subtle and well balanced, the sorbet was great. Nothing to rave about overall, but a good dessert to end your meal with. Finally we were presented with complimentary dark chocolate truffle balls, very nice end to the meal.
Paste is definite a place to be for authentic Thai flavors that brings you on a journey from old school flavors to modern Thai fusion.