My Five Star to Dive Bar Philosophy

Bangkok, Thailand

Earlier this year I went on a trip through Cambodia and Thailand with a bunch of expat buddies who live in Bangkok.  Thailand is a second world country but it also has high end hotels and restaurants making it a truly diverse place to visit.

So, when traveling you want to know the best way to experience a culture? You need to eat what they eat, how they eat, and where they eat. And if you want to understand where a culture is headed, you need to eat in their best establishments. Only then can you grasp the soul and spirit of its people.

When I travel, I typically stay in five-star hotels. I know what you’re thinking, but I have a good excuse: my ass has earned it. I can afford it, so what the fuck. Plus, it’s part of my philosophy. Trust me, I’ve slept in some of the world’s finest roach motels and sat in the street, eating food in a fog bank of smog unsure if I’m drunk off Singha or from bong rips of exhaust fumes. I’ve paid my dues. Now I spoil myself because, after a day of eating street food in sweltering heat, motor bikes racing by, and sweat rolling from my head down to my taint, I want comfort. I need comfort.

After a day of eating and drinking, a first-class hotel is truly a beautiful thing. I can wash off all the pollution of the street and reset my senses; CTRL-ALT-DELETE, time to reboot. Taking a nice, long, hot shower and climbing into my Foie Gras fluffy bed, stuffing goose down pillows into every crevasse of my body is exactly what I need. This is my Five-Star-to-Dive-Bar method, and you, too, can use it to get the most out of your travel adventures.

Up to this point, I’ve only written about street food in Asia. Well, tonight we’re going five star, and I decided to eat at the world-renowned and recently voted 28th best restaurant on the entire planet: NAHM. Sorry guys, Hooters didn’t make it! (Here’s the top-50 list)

The restaurant is located in the Metropolitan Hotel Bangkok and was created by Australian Chef David Thompson, who spins French-inspired Thai cuisine.  He’s been in the world’s top 50 since 2012, so it’s a good bet that if he’s in charge it’s going to be a stellar dining experience.

Here’s my favorite way to order at a Michelin-starred restaurant: don’t bother. Just say, “chef’s tasting menu with wine pairing, please!” That’s it, you’re done. Shit, why stress out over the menu when you can let the chef decide for you? He or she is going to know what’s great. Stop being a picky princess trying to customize your order, and let the chef speak to you. Just sit back and deal with whatever comes out. It’s the smartest way to eat, and nine times out of ten, you’ll be glad you did.  Have you heard me bitch about this before? Remember the word Omakase?  Learning is so much fun isnt it?

Chefs get giddy when putting together tasting menus. It lets them be creative with new things that aren’t even on the menu, and you get to go along for the ride. What’s not to like about that?

Tonight’s tasting menu at Nahm (drum roll, please):

  • Crab and pork soup
  • Oxtail curry with fried lemongrass
  • Steamed sea bass with rice noodles
  • Mango salad with pork and kaffir lime leaf
  • Chicken crab relish with deep fried prawn

If just reading about it makes your mouth water, you cannot imagine how great it is to actually enjoy this feast. The symphony of flavors, protein theme, and use of lemongrass across all of the dishes was superb. Everything was in balance. No wonder Chef Thompson keeps showing up in the top 50. My favorite dish? Oxtail, of course!

Three wines were served alongside the tasting menu: an Australian Pinot Gris, French way esoteric (loved it) Roussanne/Vermentino blend, and, finally, a white Burgundy.

If you want to be truly worldly, you need to eat across economic levels; too much of one thing is travel death. Here’s a useful trick: Take a guided food tour, tell the guide you want them to eat and drink with you and you’re paying. Tell them no touristy spots, ask your guide what they like to eat and have them take you to their favorite local restaurants. Listen and learn.  I cant count how many times I have had guides drunk, opening up, laughing and talking away, it completely changes the experience.  I guarantee you that your trip will be more enjoyable and rewarding.

On the other hand, if your idea of eating adventurously is customizing your order at McDonalds, then maybe a Carnival Cruise is more your style. My advice is, stop being a high-maintenance picky prick. Kick back, relax and LET FOOD HAPPEN!

If you liked the story, check this story out about Taiwanese Pizza.

4 replies
  1. Jason Welch
    Jason Welch says:

    The wine pairings with the dishes you listed are making me drool Jim! Great tip about ordering the Chef’s tasting menu, my wife and I will be trying that a few times on our upcoming Paris trip! Keep the adventures coming Jim!


  2. MAG
    MAG says:

    Wow! Thanks for the tips…great advice.
    Now if I can only get back to the 80’s Europe and my 4 years there…oh well, haha.

    Luckily I had these experiences because I was friends with the locals more than Americans…as I said
    great advice!


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