Bo.lan, Bangkok 2015
Thailand is famous for it's delicious cuisine which can be tasted everywhere; from small street-stall-vendors to basically every food-joint possible. There's the curries, the stir-fries, the fresh sea-food and spices. But are there places that tries to do something "new" and unique with this style of food? One such place is the restaurant called Bo.lan, which is the joint-venture from husband and wife Duangporn 'Bo' Songvisava and Dylan 'Lan' Jones which met when working at Nahm, a similar style restaurant to Bo.Lan in Bangkok.
Bo.lan serves authentic Thai cooking that draws influence from the country's street food and home-cooking traditions in a modern and "fine-dining"-style setting. A case of "east meets west".
The restaurant has recently moved to new premises in a stylish new "home". When we arrive we're not sure if this is someone's home, a gift-shop or a restaurant — it's a mix of it all; with a contemporary look consisting of dark wood and traditional Thai elements. The chairs are the famous Y-chairs from Hans Wegner, bringing some Danish design into this Thai-style home. Strangely enough, there's several spots on the walls where paint has been chipped of; which brings the otherwise "sleek"-look down a bit from an interior perspective.
We start of with a selection of different style nuts. No clear explanation for them were given by our server; a good mix of texture and flavour though.
As we were the first guests to arrive at the restaurant, the entire service staff decided to stare at our table, which made us feel a bit uncomfortable. We were happy when further guests started arriving and we could start dining more "privately".
We're given a plate of Yaa dong grachai dum (traditional Thai spirit which is sort of like a herbal Whisky) served with pandanus juice, sour fruits, salt and chilli. Once again we're given no explanation of how to eat the different elements. We assume it's sort of a "tequila moment" and taste one after the other. We definitively feel like we're into "new territory" here, which is exactly what we were hoping for.
The five amuse-bouches ranges from good to "meh". This clearly is traditional thai-tastes that hasn't been "changed" to fit into the "western palette". some of the tastes seem well balanced, whereas some probably takes a bit to get used to.
One instance where east meets west is Dylan Jones love for craft beer. There's several great options available which works very well together with the food. Carefully selected refreshing beers with citrus-aromas cleanses the palette perfectly together with the spiced food.
Our server sadly has an english accent that makes it very hard to understand the descriptions of the dishes. This is too bad, as many of the ingredients are foreign to us, and we can't get an explanation of what they are.
In typical Thai-practice, all of the main dishes are served together — filling the entire table with an array of dishes. Salad, stir-fry, curry, soup and more is available together with two options of rise. We're given the brief to "try it all together". The combination of sweet and spicy is interesting, however, the curry is extremely spicy and we have to struggle a bit to get through it. All in all, it's a nice experience tasting this many authentic Thai-dishes, with many new and exciting flavours.
Our desert-course is assorted fruit served with perfumed syrup and crushed ice. This is welcoming after many spicy dishes from before. Very refreshing, but also very sweet.
We're asked if we want to try a dish made from "Durian". We've never tasted this notorious fruit before — so we obviously has to say yes. As soon as it's put in front of us, we understand why we were asked if we wanted to try it. The smell is simply horrible. One of us describes it as the smell of "old socks" or "sewage". Only one of us can finish the plate (try to guess who). We wanted "interesting thai-flavours" — we sure got it!
The petits fours were a beautiful plate of sweet treats, consisting of for e.g. tapioca and coconut , pandan jellies, sweet rice crackers and many more. Many different textures and flavours. Sadly they looked better than they tasted, and only a few of the bites were something we'll remember.
Thai cuisine has a lot of great things going for it, and it's very fun diving into its food culture. The experience at Bo.lan would be greatly improved with better service. There's experimental-lust in the kitchen, which is evident when we talk to Dylan after the meal. Sometimes we sadly feel that the tastes are pretty "flat" when we eat them. Bo.lan has a good thing going but it can't compare to many other "fine-dining" restaurants we've visited before.