Thai nationals approve of hotel’s ‘Taste of Thailand’

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Thai nationals approve of hotel’s ‘Taste of Thailand’

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Thai restaurants mushrooming in every district of Korea may be good news, but to the capital’s cognoscenti in search of fine dining, going commercial can mean disappointment. When I was told that famed restaurateur Shin Sung-soon had sold his finest Thai creation, After The Rain, to a Korean conglomerate, its place in refined dining lost much of the delicious sophistication it once had for me.
That missing slice of the Thai cake is currently being served at “A Taste of Thailand” at The View restaurant in the Sheraton Walkerhill in eastern Seoul. Until July 28, the restaurant is serving a seven course lunch and dinner menu (50,000 won, or $47, plus 10 percent VAT and 10 percent service charge); on weekends, the hotel’s other restaurant, Four Seasons, serves Thai buffet.
Before going to the opening ceremony last Friday, I asked myself: What’s my chance of speaking with Bangkok’s top chefs and sharing my criticism with a group of Thai diplomats? And, I certainly received advice aplenty on Thai dishes, from the Thai ambassador to Korea Vasin Teeravechyan and his wife, Daowimol; Colonel Thiwa Penketgorn, the defense & army attache; Yaowaluck Youngyuen, the labor counselor, and Aphirak Paepuang, the commercial counselor ― from spell checks on the menu by Mr. Teeravechyan to a brief history of Chang Beer from Mr. Paepuang.
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The cuisine is a collaboration between the hotel’s Korean chefs and a team of visiting chefs from Bangkok, led by Renu Homsombat, sous chef at the elegant Saffron Lounge in the Banyan Tree hotel, and her two assistants, Chetcharaporn Prompak and Samnieng Wongsa. Ms. Homsombat, 33, was chosen as one of five top chefs, to lead 150 chefs in preparing King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 60th birthday feast earlier this year.
For the hotel’s modern setting, Ms. Prompak and Ms. Wongsa decorated the dishes with a simple, modern flair ― but not without the heritage of a Thai table. Ms. Wongsa, a food carver, whittled gorgeous blossoms from fresh watermelon and radishes, which were displayed elegantly on the buffet table.
The selection of dishes, from pork and chicken satay and tom yam gung to pad thai noodles, might be nothing fancy but they were prepared with a crisp freshness and a cosmopolitan elegance of manners.
“We normally serve soup with a bowl of rice and other dishes around them all together,” said Mr. Teeravechyan, pointing out that the shrimp in the tom yam gung was overcooked. I personally don’t like coconut milk in food, but the tom khaa gai, chicken soup in coconut milk, was not sweet but subtly flavorful.
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As it turned out, The View also served the first shipment of Chang Beer (8,000 won) to Korea, known as the “people’s beer” in Thailand, according to Mr. Paepuang. He says his family in Thailand distributes the beer, introduced six years ago by the maker of old Mekong Whiskey. With a green-and-white label, Chang Beer at first looks like Carlsberg and tastes bitter, darker and stronger than the light Singha beer. I wasn’t sure the strong taste was good for the mild Thai dishes, but it certainly complemented jovial conversation with the friendly Thais.
All the Thai and Korean guests at the table nodded at the refreshingly light taste of shredded crabmeat tossed in a yellow curry sauce, or poo pad pong kari, because the crab was extra fresh.
The popular pad Thai kung, or Thai-style fried noodles with prawns, was a bit too sweet for my taste, but the khao pad mu, or fried rice with pork, made all the Thais miss home. “Wow, this is long grain rice from Thailand!” said Mr. Paepuang, sifting through the scrumptiously fluffy rice. Pickled julienned mango served with the rice made Mrs. Teeravechyan smile as it is what she has everyday at home. And, she’s very particular about the quality of the mango: “Most restaurants in Korea use canned mango, but it has to be fresh.”
For desserts, slices of fresh mango came with two glossy sushi-lookalikes, of sticky rice sweetened with palm sugar. I liked the fruit, but sweet rice for dessert is too exotic for my taste. Kluai kai, or little banana, cooked in warm coconut milk, was creamy, sweet and deliciously Thai-style, and to my surprise, I didn’t miss my must-have, quintessentially European coffee at the end.


The View
English: spoken, on the menu.
Tel: 02-450-4467
Web: www.walkerhill.co.kr
Address: On the first floor of the Sheraton Walkerhill hotel
Parking: Available
Hours: 7 a.m.-11 p.m. weekdays; until midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
Dress: Smart casual or elegant


by Ines Cho

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