John Chantarasak is without a doubt one of my favourite chefs, and yes, a friend too. I’m not biassed I promise – he really is extremely talented – heres what the brilliant Marina O’Loughlin had to say about him…
I was absolutely delighted to learn that he was going to be doing a pop up whilst I was back in the UK, and even happier that it was going to be in Stoke Newington so I could drag my little brother, who lives nearby, along for a catch up.
Half English, half Thai, John creates traditional Thai dishes through a British lens, making the most of British seasonal ingredients in place of Thai ones to create something quite unique, and totally delicious.
This pop up was at Wander, a “casual fine dining neighbourhood restaurant, inspired by the travels of Australian chef-owner Alexis Noble” and was in collaboration with Modal wines who showcased wines from Slobodne in Slovakia.
Our first course was vine leaves from the Slobodne vineyards stuffed with Khao Yam, a Malay inspired spicy Thai rice salad, and topped with shrimp floss, and School Prawns in a deliciously sticky sweet Fish Sauce Caramel both of which were served with the 2018 Rebela Rose (a organic wine that is a blend of 50% Rankovka Modrá & Blaufrankisch and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon)
This was followed by a delicate Scallop Crudo served on a betel leaf with greengage paired with a beautifully mineral Gruner Veltliner, the Supermajer 2016 that was sort of in between a white and orange wine owing to the skin contact process the wine undergoes which adds to the wines complexity and intrigue.
Cripple Lobster Tortellini in Tom Yum “Brodo” was next, I loved the Thai spin on an Italian dish (or is pasta an Italian spin on an Asian dish?) the tortellini were spot on, and the tom yum broth had such a refreshing “clean” taste, it was an excellent idea and paired perfectly with the Slobodne Oranzista 2017, a skin contact Pinot Gris with lovely notes of citrus and stone fruit.
We were pretty full by now but pressed on with an excellent Grilled Aubergine & Sea Buckthorn “Nam Tok” more commonly served as beef or grilled meats but the aubergine was the perfect substitute and I loved the bitter notes from the sea buckthorn, balanced by a rich soft boiled egg. This was served with the Slobodne pArtizan cru, a blend of Blaufrankisch, Alibernet, and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in used oak barrels for 18-20 months in used oak.
Our final savoury dish was a fiery Jungle Curry with Turbot, probably the best jungle Curry I have had (I love Turbot) with John refusing to dial down the spices for an English audience. I had been interested as to what they would serve with the Jungle Curry and loved their choice of Slobodne Alternativa, a light red wine at just 11% made from 100% Frankovka Modrá (also known as blaufrankish) which helped temper the spice with its surprisingly earthy notes as well as cherries and cranberry.
Dessert is always a tricky one as Thai desserts are not generally something that the western palate appreciates, however after a sorbet palate cleanser ( from memory I think it was Markrut lime?) John served an absolutely delicious Pandan Mousse with Blackberry, Thai Basil and… Horseradish which was both intriguing and utterly compelling (I may have pinched the rest of my brothers dessert!) a real hit.
I have been to a few of Johns pop up and this was definitely my favourite of the menus (not least as it was so seafood focused) and I cant wait until he finds a more permanent home! Keep your eye on Anglothai and try to attend a pop up dinner if you can.
Our pop up meal was $70 including wine pairing