Whilst I know I have said it a few times recently, I really cannot get over how vibrant and exciting the Bangkok restaurant scene is. New restaurants are popping up all over the place (I cannot wait to try Peppina, the latest restaurant from the owners of Soul Food Mahanakorn and Appia) and old favourites are doing exciting one off dinners like the outstanding “Forest Foods” dinner I went to at Seven Spoons last week.
The first course was “Beef Shank Consomme with Wild Galangal” beautifully tender, slow braised beef shank in a light, aromatic consommé infused with lemongrass and wild galangal. They also used the galangal – sourced from Sabah, Malaysia where it is foraged by a small indigenous community – as a garnish which allowed it to take centre stage along with the beef.
The Beer pairing for this course was actually the only beer of the evening that I have tried before, the “Kagua Rouge”. This is a Japanese beer, made in the Belgian style using both yuzu and coriander to give it a beautiful citrusy, herbaceous aroma, as well as sansho – a Japanese spice with similar characteristics to Sichuan peppercorns.
Our next dish was “Onion Filo Parcels with Freeland Oyster Mushrooms” a wafer thin filo tart filled with fried onions, Swiss cheese and Freeland oyster mushrooms from the Khao Yai national park. Freeland is basically an organization set up to help provide an alternative income to people who traditionally made a living through illegal poaching or logging. Whilst mushroom cultivation is only a small part of what Freeland do it has been extremely successful with some of the former poachers earning up to 10,000 THB a month through the sale of these mushrooms, both in the local markets and to companies such as Raitong organics who also supply these mushrooms through their CSA “munching box”
This was paired with the “Deschutes Black Butte Porter” which had a slightly fuller mouthfeel than the Kagua with a gentle hoppiness giving way to rich roasted coffee, molasses and chocolate flavours. Porter is one of those things that I never thought of drinking before I tried them at Mikkeller but this was a really interesting match with the onions and mushrooms and I really enjoyed it.
For our third dish, we had “Wild Boar Jerky with Cardamom Spiced Lentils” The wild boar was sustainably (and legally) sourced from Malaysia and had been salted and cured before being sous vided for 36 hours which made it so tender there was barely any need for a knife. It came served on top of the lentils and beans which had just the softest hint of cardamom and were cooked perfectly, retaining all their lovely nutty flavours and just the right amount of crunch. I loved this dish!
Beer wise, the pairing here was also pretty special with them serving it with “Nonge O Sunturn Smoked Barley Wine” a Norwegian beer brewed only once a year on the winter solstice (the shortest and darkest day of the year when Norwegians’ believe the sun actually turns and changes direction) They use a good percentage of smoked barley and rye in this beer and then age it for a year in old bourbon barrels which gives it a wonderful salinity and peatiness – more like an Islay whisky than bourbon – a really fascinating beer.
The main course was “Local Snapper Crusted with Lao Dragon Nuts” using dragon nuts foraged from the forests in Lao. They are not something I had tried previously and it was interesting to note that they are from the same family as cashews and sumac and are popular in Vietnamese cuisine where they are known as Cây sấu. Here, Chef Joke had used them to make a rough sort of pesto with local herbs and garlic which was used to “crust” the flaky snapper fillet, keeping all the moisture in.
The beer pairing with the snapper was “Deschutes Chainbreaker IPA” a refreshing, light, hoppy white beer with herbal undertones which matched perfectly with the fish. This is a great summer beer and one I think I will definitely be buying from Beervana to keep in my fridge!
Whilst all the dishes had been excellent, I think that we all agreed it was the dessert of “Goats Cheese Cheesecake with Himalayan Honey” that stole the show. The cheesecake itself was lighter than light and the honey – which is harvested under extremely precarious conditions by local Nepalese tribes using an ancient technique of suspending themselves from cliffs to smoke out the honey bees from their nests in the rocks and take the honey – was incredibly floral and pure, quite unlike anything you will find in the supermarket jam aisles!
Our final beer was another from Deschutes, a “Freshly Squeezed IPA” which was packed full of citrus and tropical fruit flavour making it perfect with the honey and also able to cut through the slight saltiness of the goats’ cheese. Another excellent pairing, you could really see how much thought had gone into the whole night.
I had arrived a little late and so missed the two beers which were served as aperitifs but I was able to catch up with a quick sip of the “Nonge O Tindved Buckthorn Sour Ale” (made with pressed sea buckthorn it really was sour – not my cup of tea to be honest but still interesting to try!) and the “Deschutes River Summer Session Ale” which was perfectly pleasant and I’m sure would have been great as an aperitif, but after all the other fantastic beers we tried it didn’t really hold its own.
The dinner was a huge success; I can only pass on my congratulations to Chef Joke, Regan, Nianne and the whole team at Seven Spoons http://sevenspoonsbkk.wordpress.com/ who I know put a lot of time and effort, not to mention passion, into making sure the event went so well. I certainly hope there will be more events like this in the future and you can add my name to the top of the reservation list when you do!
All the beers are available to buy online at http://www.seekbeervana.com/ delivery is free within the Bangkok metropolitan area with orders of over 2000 THB or you can find them at events like Pecha Kucha and the Bangkok Farmers Market.