It’s not a secret that we are in love with Thai food. Last time we did our Bo.lan Review and now we have another pearl – one Michelin star, Saawaan restaurant. We were thrilled to try a fine mix of Thai food prepared in a 9-course seasonal degustation menu. The taste of Thailand showed us a free-spirited take on local dishes ranging from Northern (Lanna) cuisine to the south. Our meal included not only locally sourced ingredients but also a fair amount of peaceful kitchen theatre. Are you interested in taking a tour of Saawaan’s offer with us? Then let’s start a detailed Saawaan Bangkok review.
Table of contents
- Saawaan Drinks Menu
- The Food at One Michelin Star, Saawaan Restaurant
- Amuse Buche
- Palate Cleanser: Miang
- Saawaan Bangkok Review Card
- Price and Location
Saawaan Drinks Menu
Saawaan drinks menu is oriented towards the world’s wines and Fhaang forest tea, but it also includes Bangkok soda, water, and beer. You’ll have the biggest freedom of choice when choosing the bottle of wine, although wine per glass is well thought out.
Saawaan Tea Pairing
Saawaan is one of a few fine dining restaurants in Bangkok, where you can have your meal paired with tea. Probably the only one where you can taste six different specimens in one evening. To our slight disappointment, the tea repeated itself three times, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t fit with the dish. On the contrary, it paired wonderfully, but we longed for some extras. Maybe some smoked tea next to the charcoaled dish…
Forest Teas by Fhaang
To say nothing of the sustainable, forest-friendly Thai tea by Fhaang would be a crime; after all, they are focusing on freestyle growing tea trees and not the usual tea plantations. Their focus is to spread awareness of native Northern Thai tea plant (Camellia Sinensis Aassamica) through making high-quality tea. No logging, no pesticides, and no herbicides, with business in the hands of local people, sounds like a dream. Ian and I support the eco-friendly practice that brings local people a brighter future with all our hearts. That is why we were more than happy to toast to our dinner with some hot brew.
In truth, all Camellia Sinensis Assamica variations are as special as Geisha Coffee is. Hopefully, the trend of wild tea varieties will pick up and who knows what else is hidden in the forests. Well, whatever is left of them.
As a lovely tribute to the place of origin, some of the teas are named Lanna after the Lan Na in English this means Northern Thailand. Equally important is also the fact that the Thai Northern cuisine is known as Lanna Cuisine.
Saawaan Wine Pairing
At Saawan, you can enjoy your degustation menu with pairing wines. Presented wines are from France, Spain, Italy and Australia, but that can change as the seasonal menu changes.
The Food at One Michelin Star, Saawaan Restaurant
Given that Thai cuisine is known for its balance between salty-sweet-sour-spicy flavors expect all of them in many dishes. In the light of respecting the Thai cooking tradition Chef Sujira ‘Aom’ Pongmorn, prepares some of the dishes “old school style” using fermentation, grilling, steaming and stir-frying. While modern cooking techniques include foams and a slow cooking technique known as Sous vide, among others. Awareness that every dish is firstly enjoyed with eyes is also part of Thai food carvings, but at Saawaan, the art of plating is done only in the modern style, and there is nothing wrong with it.
Seasonal 9-Course Tasting Menu for Our Saawaan Bangkok Review
In the Saawaan Bangkok review below we’ll go through individual dishes through Wild and Free diary experience. We loved spicy Thai flavors and aromatic dishes created by both Chef de cuisine and pastry Chef. Here we have to point out that not everything is produced in Thailand but the majority is.
Heart-warming first bite consisted of purple yam blini topped with a reduction of coconut chicken soup and Oscietra caviar finishing touch. By the way, Oscietra or Ossetra caviar is most prized and Saawaan imports it from France. This Thai take on the Russian classic is about creamy deliciousness refreshed by freshly grated kaffir lime zest.
Tea Pairing: Kombucha Tea
Probably nothing fits better at the beginning of the meal than kombucha tea. I loved the tiny cuppa, which made absolute sense due to the strong homemade brew. By all means, it wasn’t kombucha vinegar, it still retained some sweetness and it provided a beneficial foundation for all that followed.
Sea urchin resting on top of the fruit salad sure looked tempting, even though it was served inside its shell with still attached black spines. Quite a dramatic plate that might scare you a little, but eating it with a spoon was easy and safe. Leading taste without any doubt belonged to sea urchin’s creaminess and sweetness even when eaten with the powerful salad seasonings like ginger, lemongrass, chili, and mint. Although without delay Madan fruit added a firm yet sour crunch.
Tea Pairing: Steamed Assamica Green Tea
Tea with earthy and vegetal taste on the first note, but it also hides a hint of seaweed inside it. Precisely that was just the perfect match to this dish in addition to tea’s ability to prolong the creaminess.
“See who you eat” approach also made sense when rice paddy crab’s shell converted into the dipping vessel. The thick dip was made of seasoned rice field crab’s guts and roe, known under catchier name crab butter or crab fat. Actually, this part of the crab gets discarded too often, but once you try the real deal, you’ll lick your fingers. We sure did! It was fun unwrapping the burned banana leaf before reaching the aromatic sticky rice cooked in coconut milk.
Tea Pairing: Steamed Assamica Green Tea
Vegetal notes in the tea served as a light contrast towards the thick dip.
The star of the plate was the fermented Black Berkshire pig, also known as Kurobuta pork. This pork is celebrated for its juiciness coming from marbling texture and rich taste. Through a week-long fermentation, its taste only developed and meet got even more tender. Before we got it on the table it received yet another treatment with a quick dip in the hot oil. Another fermented item on the plate was the one-minute cucumber pickles with a really refreshing taste. In the light of intense flavors, even the fried rice stood its ground with the help of red curry seasonings.
Tea Pairing: Lanna Black Tea
Free-grown black tea from Chiang Mai cleaned the palate between the bites and revived the chili heat. Regardless of intensified heat, we tasted some dried plums while aroma indicated some dried figs.
Slow-cooked beef soup seasoned with Thai herbs and leafy vine Bai Ya Nang. Although the Bai Ya Nang is known to be pretty much tasteless, it is packed with health benefits. No wonder it has been used in traditional Southeast Asian medicine! Honestly, this soup at large felt like a medicine, a very aromatic and intense rebound broth. After 8 hours of braising, a piece of hump beef released plenty of flavors and reached the desired tenderness. Indeed, marbled meat was so soft that we wouldn’t have known it was there without munching on it for a second. Separating it from the soup to taste it was the key, probably because the broth was too salty to our taste.
Tea Pairing: Lanna Black Tea
At this point, I must admit that the soup wasn’t my favorite Saawaan dish but tea fixed the biggest flaws. It not only lowered the saltiness and added a little bit of roasty flavor to the tongue but also presented slight sweetness to the aftertaste.
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Palate Cleanser: Miang
Miang literally means “food wrapped in leaf” and we got a neat quenelle in the middle of the shiny betel leaf. This type of snack is part of an old Northern Thai tradition that continues to this day. The minimalistic presentation left the expectations to roam free, but nothing could prepare us for the following; a combination of tangy sourness coming from fermented wild tea leaves and betel leaf’s sweetness. This bite leaves diners with only two options; love it or hate it. We loved it! I guess princess Dara Rasmi was hoping for the same “love it” feedback when she introduced her Miang version to King Rama V.
If there would be an option to have one dish on the Saawaan degustation menu twice, this is the one Wild ‘n’ Free Diary would select. There are a few reasons for this with the first and most significant one affecting the wonderfully prepared sator beans or stinky beans. This was the first time Ian agreed to eat them, let’s say a miracle happened.
As we learned, the secret for diminishing bean’s pungent aroma lies in the preparation. The trick is to cook stinky beans over the charcoal, while seeds are still sealed inside the pod. Later Chef pealed and seasoned them with some coconut milk, cashew nuts and stir-fried everything together with some yellow curry paste. Freshly ground sprinkles of dried crab roe with kaffir lime leaves also didn’t hurt. Plus, they lifted the stir-fried Mud Crab claw.
Tea Pairing: Jungle Oolong
As the name indicates, this tea grows wild in the jungle so hand-picking it can be a challenge. After harvesting, the half-oxidized tea leaves develop slightly sour taste with hay connecting the grassy aroma. Its aroma of freshly cut grass caught me by surprise and indicated that a very special cuppa stands in front of me. Here we must admit that slight fermentation of wild tea leaves really enchanted us and made Jungle Oolong our favorite brew on the Saawaan tea pairing menu.
Colorful papaya salad never looked better, and we loved some extra time for admiration. In no time chef arrived at our table with smoked quail inside a big clay pot. What is special about organic quails served at Saawaan is that they are fed coconut. I swear I could taste it! Maybe that was due to the stuffing or maybe the tomato sauce had a splash of coconut milk in it. It doesn’t really matter; the point is that charcoaled dish tasted great with noticeable charcoal characteristics.
Tea Pairing: Lanna Silver Needle
This fine tea has a slightly sweet aroma and vegetal character with a light astringent taste. Paring it next to the juvenile quail reduced the intense flavors and lengthened its sweetness simultaneously.
Curry is a staple in Thai cuisine and is often eaten as a stand-alone dish just pored over rice. At one Michelin star Saawaan restaurant, we got to taste a few different curries before this one and none of them felt like Penang curry. This type of red Thai curry has peanuts in it and it’s sweeter than any other. Its sweetness matched the BBQ-ed eggplant and Andaman black Grouper file. If it weren’t for coconut milk in the curry, it would be overpowering but the fish had a backup. Solid enhancement appeared as the deep-fried fish crumble.
Tea Pairing: Lanna Silver Needle
Velvety mouthfeel nourished the taste buds while tea’s lightness welcomed the perfectly cooked Grouper fish.
If you skipped the wine pairing and crave a glass, we advise you to pair the Curry dish with Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Turckheim. It’s a great match.
The final part of our Saawaan Bangkok Review is a dessert. This sweet journey started with refreshing tamarind sorbet beside aromatic jasmine meringue sticks. The last touch to this divine treat can easily escape the eye, but sprinkles of salt and chili are there for the wow factor. When we captured everything, they turned the sourness down a notch and deepened the taste. Tea pairing doesn’t come with this palate cleanser, but I dared to dream about iced jasmine tea.
Deconstructed Traditional Thai Dessert ‘Gluai Buat Chii’
Cooked banana in coconut milk is easy, actually idiot proof simple. Although this may be true for the Chef Paper’s inspiration, her creation is far from easy. It’s a show-stopping case with beautiful eye candy and complex tasting explosion of textures. Just like in the original, you can’t miss the comforting taste of cooked banana and sweet coconut cream is also right there. Then you get the Michelin star goodies that form a tropical dream with trendy caramelized white chocolate code-named the blond chocolate.
Tea Pairing: Lanna Oolong Tea
Buttery tones go hand in hand with the fulfilling dessert and the same goes for a slight bitterness. In the end, it completely cleared the palate so we could have a fresh start whenever we pleased.
Flowers are important in Thai culture not only as a seasoning but also as an offering. Floral chains, for example, are present everywhere, not only at the Buddhist temples. We’ve seen the white crown flowers on many garlands but never an edible one. As expected, white crown flower-shaped meringue tasted like flowers. Well as a cloud of jasmine flowers, to be more specific. That was just one part of the floral chain and only one of the petit fours. This extended Saawaan Bangkok Review too long anyways, so I’ll say one more thing about the durian chocolate truffle. You’ll love it even if you don’t like durian.
Despite the apparent respect for the original food we felt at home with the modern presentation and attentive staff. Dinner at Saawaan will stay in our memory for a long time. If you are thinking about trying their food, we can only encourage you. I hope you liked our Saawaan Bangkok Review, see you next time.
Saawaan Bangkok Review Card
- ATMOSPHERE - 8.6/108.6/10
- SERVICE - 9.2/109.2/10
- PRESENTATION - 9.4/109.4/10
- FOOD - 9.3/109.3/10
- DRINKS - 9.2/109.2/10
- VALUE - 9.3/109.3/10
Price and Location
Degustation menu like we had for this delicious Saawaan Restaurant Review will cost you about 95 USD per person. For wine pairing, you will add an extra 75 USD, while tea pairing will settle at 26 USD. Here is the location of the Saawaan Restaurant.
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