Sister act


When it comes to a profound culinary matter and taste-buds pleasure, the name chef Chumpol never disappoints.

Authoritative to Thailand’s food scene, Chumpol Jangprai, celebrated as a star-studded chef, a cooking instructor, a restaurateur and a TV personality, has for more than two decades been adored by Thai food fans worldwide.

This adoration has led to his R-Haan restaurant garnering two Michelin stars in recent years.

There, authentic Thai recipes are crafted, following age-old culinary traditions and modern science, into exquisite dishes that are served as part of a multi-course semi-fine dining meal.

Such refinement and the chef’s ingenuity brought the restaurant its first star in the very first year of opening.

This week’s subject of review is R-Haan’s newborn sister, Waan Thai.

Opened a week ago, Waan Thai is established with the aim to elevate classic Thai desserts to a superior level via an innovative approach and beautiful imaginative presentation.

Waan Thai High Tea set.

The breezy high-ceiling 60-seat cafe, which takes over the east wing of the R-Haan premises, not only adds a sweet complement to the flagship brand, but also provides a dining alternative for those who wish to sample Chumpol’s creations but aren’t in for a lengthy dinner.

Other than a repertoire of gorgeously presented Thai desserts, Siamese recipe-inspired confections and house-concocted drinks, Waan Thai also offers a decent selection of light meals and main dishes.

The 20-item savoury menu lists home-styled favourites such as yum som-o, or pomelo salad; khao tang nah tang, or crispy rice crackers with shrimp-peanut dip; khao mun som tam, or coconut-cooked rice with papaya salad; clay pot rice with chicken and Chinese sausage in brown gravy; five-spiced khai phalo eggs; khao soi curry noodles; and tom yum goong with river prawn.

Just like that of its big brother eatery, ingredients used in Waan Thai kitchen, whether they be rice, vegetables, fruits, meat, poultry, seafood or condiments, are sourced from the best within the Kingdom.

Sai krok pla naem with fresh betel leaves.

My lunch was enjoyed in a very laid back manner amid the cafe’s lovely setting comforted by plenty of natural lighting and sweet background music.

A glass of butterfly pea honey lemon juice with honeycomb (170 baht) started off the visit impeccably.

For starters, we were recommended with a palace-styled sai krok pla naem (350 baht) and a royal mee krob (680 baht). The suggestion proved truly trustworthy.

Sai krok pla naem is an old-fashioned snack comprised of crumbled fish meat and spicy pork sausage to be eaten with fresh betel leaves. Today the rustic-looking treat is rarely found in the city and is mainly enjoyed by a generation of great grandmas.

Waan Thai’s version, while meticulously preserves the characteristic taste of the bygone delicacy, promises to delight your artistic sense and appetite.

The royal platter of khanom jeen nam phrik.

The flame-grilled homemade pork sausage came with an inviting coconut smoke accompanied by a generous portion of pla naem, a fluffy mixture of minced river fish, roasted rice, fine pork skin, coconut milk and bitter orange zest.

Putting a scoop of the minced fish and a piece of sausage into a leaf wrap, and perhaps a bird’s eye chilli for a fiery dash, you’ll get one of the most delicious addictive treats.

The mee krob was likewise beyond criticism. The sweet and crispy rice vermicelli came with a grilled river prawn for a more luxurious touch.

I would definitely make a return visit for Chumpol’s khanom jeen nam phrik, or Thai fermented rice noodles with sweet coconut curry, an assortment of fresh and cooked vegetables and tulle-like shrimp fritter (450 baht).

Crispy crepes with sweet golden drops and caramelised coconut.

Even though this intricate dish is commonly available in markets, a decent rendition, let alone a praiseworthy one, can be very hard to find.

In this full flavoured pungent rendition, the curry developed a thick body from chopped prawns and pork while got a nutty sweet taste from coconut milk and peanut as tamarind paste and bitter orange lending it a nice fruity touch.

There are beef green curry, prepared with Thai Angus rib finger, served with crispy roti bread (590 baht) and pad kaprao beef, prepared with Korat Wagyu, served over rice with cured duck yolk (350 baht) to indulge beef loons.

For a sweet ending, the choice includes Thai melon parfait, mung bean custard mille-feuille, khanom bueang crispy crepes, young coconut sponge cake, candied kaffir lime in chilled syrup and Chiang Mai chocolate nuggets with Thai fillings.

A durian cheesecake (180 baht) and tubtim krob, or ruby-hued water chestnut dumplings in coconut milk (180 baht), that I had were as much brilliant to the palate as to the eyes.

Ruby-hued water chestnut dumplings in smoked coconut milk.

Should you wish to sample many different items at one go, or if you come with dining companion who you could share with, Waan Thai High Tea (612 baht per set for one person) is an ideal option.

The set features four choices of bite-sized desserts and four of savoury finger food including khanom krok with caviar, pad Thai noodle crepe, grilled free-range chicken, chocolate nugget, and young coconut cake, to name some. The food is complemented by a pot of aromatic house-blended tea.