Where fine dining becomes high-voltage entertainment
Claim to fame: The chef-owner Supaksorn Jongsiri (aka Khun Ice), owner of the Baan Ice restaurant chain
Reason to go: If only to check out what the food-loving community is raving about
To look out for: Feisty flavors and service that might give you whiplash
If you’re on your way to the airport and need a breezy 22-course meal before skipping Bangkok, this is the restaurant for you. If you’re training for some competitive eating bonanza, vying for a win at the Coney Island 4th of July hot dog gorging contest, this is also the restaurant for you. Sorn delivers a fine dining experience so expeditious you might even make that earlier flight. It’s a high-octane gastro-coaster ride through thrilling flavor turns and tongue tingling twists.
It’s family affair too. Chef-Owner Khun Ice’s grandmother once worked in the kitchen at Baan Ice, Khun’s chain of casual Southern Thai eateries, and as any good grandma would do, she shared secret recipes and cooking techniques with her offspring. Wanting to up his own gastronomy game, he went on to parlay her tricks at Sorn where he hones his plating and presentation game, and puts his fine-dining experiences to good use in an ultra-polished set-up that offers what’s billed as “fine Southern cuisine”––in summary, a refined extravaganza of seafood and supercharged peasant fare with influences from the neighboring Muslim countries of Malaysia and Indonesia.
Banking on Thailand’s endless bounties, Sorn digs deep into the 14 provinces of its motherland for mostly seasonal, indigenous ingredients and serves them with a distinct nod to Southern Thai cuisine. Bijou sand mole crabs from Phuket, available only on no-rain days, are deep-fried to yield a satisfying crunch and served simply with nothing more than a sprinkle of seaweed powder, garlic and chili, the better to savor their oceanic sweetness. Seven-colored lobster, also from Phuket, makes an appearance as a stump of sashimi that’s been chilled to 2 degree Celsius to optimize its flavor and almost botan ebi-like texture, then topped with a dab of green sauce crafted with a rare berry found only in a deep southern forest.
Sorn’s all-time-signature course of “Gems on Crabstick”, essentially a crab leg crowned with the crustacean’s plump flesh and creamy roe doused in a savagely tear-jerking southern Thai yellow chili paste, is the culinary equivalent of a particularly exhilarating thrill ride. Ensuing courses are served communally, first a salad of Thai herbs, fruits and legumes with grains dressed in a funky fermented fish innard dressing, then an overwhelming parade of mains served samrab (home) style, almost ten dishes––headlined by smoked duck wrapped in lotus leaf––to go with claypot-cooked Jasmine rice.
Housed in a double-story wooden house renovated to fit a glassed-in outer kitchen and a mostly hidden indoor one, the stately space fits just 20 guests at any one time. Beverages here are no afterthought with 150 labels of wines (40% old-world), sake and Thai craft beers thoughtfully proffered by a sommelier.
Now if only the white-gloved staff didn’t seem as rushed to catch your same flight out of Bangkok.