Sala Rim Naam: Thai Cuisine at its Best
The Sala Rim Naam is The Oriental Hotel's signature Thai restaurant which has recently been transformed into a mini royal palace serving fine Thai cuisine. The new addition is the Sala Rim Naam Lounge, an open-air pavillion, adjacent to the restaurant overlooking the splendid Chao Phraya River.
Michelle and I heard about the changes and were anxious to see the results. The old Sala Rim was one of our favourite restaurants, especially when we want to impress visitors. We invited Kathy and Garry Reck to join us one evening. Kathy is Vietnamese/American and an immigration lawyer by profession. Her husband is English and a businessman working in Bangkok. As the Sala Rim is across the river from The Oriental Hotel we boarded the hotel ferry and made the ten-minute crossing. The restaurant loomed up ahead like a photo in a child's book of fairytales. But this was no fairytale. It was real, and Michele and I had a few surprises. It's not the same place we knew.
The Sala Rim Naam's new interior design depicts a palatial atmosphere with its etched glass panels. The chandeliers are very cleverly fashioned on reversed ceremonial parasols which are made of Thai silk and woven in with actual gold threads by a specialist weaver I was told. Thai motifs adorn the wall panels, curtains and various ikats and mudmees, which are used for the upholstery and the traditional triangle cushions.
The most noticeable change that we saw was the addition of dining tables and chairs. Before this, dinners sat on cushions on the floor with well decks under the low tables for their feet. Now only half the restaurant has well decks. It was a rather unique arrangement. Also gone is the buffet display of food. Waiters now serve the dishes.
The food at the Sala Rim is authentic Thai with a menu that includes a vast array of Thai dishes, all traditional Thai favourites such as Naam Prig Makham ("Dip with Tamarind and Minced Chicken"), Yaam Nuea Poo Gub Mamuang ("Spiced Green Mango Salad with Crab Meat"), Gai Hor Bai Toey ("Deep Fried Honeyed Chicken in Pandanus Leaf"), and Poo Phad Naam Prig Pow ("Stir Fried Sea Crab with Chilli Jam and Basil Leaves") and a most delectable set menu and Chef's Recommendations and a family style menu are also available in the evenings.
Served at the Sala Rim Naam Lounge are such delectable snacks as "Pan-fried Scallops Flavored with Chilli Sauce and Black Pepper Sauce Wrapped in Rice Flour Sheet", "Herbed Minced Chicken and Peanut Ball with Fluffy Rice Grains", and sweet snacks such as "Sweetened Silky Egg Yolk Threads", and "Petit Rice Flour Rolls with Coconut and Sesame Sugar".
While we were preparing to order I noticed that Kathy was taking notes. "Why the notes?" I asked.
"I want to tell everyone back home in California what a fabulous place this is." I asked her to email her notes when she had time. Here they are, and I don't have to change a word. This is Cathy Reck's experience at the Sala Rim.
She writes: This is a fantastic venue to take your family and friends to if they are passing through Bangkok, Thailand and want to sample some exquisite Thai dining while watching a Thai dance. The Oriental has a long history of providing the hi-society of Bangkok with fine cuisines, incomparable services and hospitality, so their latest refurbishment of the Sala Rim Naam Restaurant is no exception.
From the moment you walk through the door you can sense the palpable history, texture, and uniqueness of the hotel. No details lost on the staff and the presentation.
We arrived for a 7 p.m. show and dinner, expecting it to be a slow evening as it was Sunday evening and the dark clouds were looming overhead. To my surprise, and the surprise of my companions Steve, Michelle, and Gary, the place was packed with hungry patrons eager to partake in the festivities.
We were seated at the best table in the restaurant so that our view of the show was not obstructed in the slightest with much gratitude to the general manager. The staff brought out the house wine, which was not a mere average house wine as it was a Kingston 2005 Australian Merlot that was quaint-essential in its fruity and clean taste. The wine was complimented with roast duck dumplings and a fish mousse with a tangy sauce on the side. The fish mousse was fresh, yet spiced just enough for the palate to enjoy without leaving too strong of an after-taste. It complimented the roast duck and did not overpower the subtle aroma of the meat.
The next course was a combination of a beef musaman, fish soup, fresh stir-fry vegetables, and fragrant jasmine rice on a plate of fried shrimp. At onset we were uncertain whether this combination of curry and onslaught of fish and shrimp would negate the taste senses to overdrive, but much to our surprise, it was a keen choice of spices and delectable, complimentary dishes.
Moving onto a dessert of fresh fruits and coconut ice cream with mung beans, we were refreshed and rejuvenated by the Thai dancers as they eloquently express their love story through their subtle body movements and the assistance of the musicians. It was a lovely depiction of a love story of ancient time wherein the dancers user facial expression and the slight movements of their hands to suggest the dialogue and communication.
At the end of the evening, the boat picked us up and returned us across the river to the Oriental Hotel. This memorable excursion should be experienced as an evening package of cultural entertainment, sublime food and wine, and always with good companions. Thanks to Steve and Michelle for inviting us!
Thanks, Kathy. With this said, if you ever want to give up law, you would make a good food critic.
The Sala Rim Naam is open daily for buffet lunch from 12 noon until 3.00 pm, and set dinner with classical dance show from 7.00 pm until 11.00 pm, and the Sala Rim Naam Lounge from 10.00 am until 11.00 pm