A Daring Dane Takes Thai to Exquisite Heights
Claim to fame: Deconstructions gaining standing ovations
Reason to go: Frozen “tom kha gai”
To look out for: Visiting royalty and arty décor
When in Thailand, it’s not necessary to do as the Thais do – it’s perfectly acceptable to re-imagine and respectfully elevate Thai culture and flavors, it’s been done numerous times by a host of daring Thai-o-philes. But no place has gone further, or offers so elevated an experience as Sra Bua. The highly personalized and stylized creation of driven Dane chef Henrik Yde-Andersen, Sra Bua boasts as peculiar a lineage and distinctive a menu as any restaurant in the Kingdom.
Chef Yde-Andersen was just another adventurous Scandinavian backpacker when he decided to extend his stay by working four years in Thai kitchens. Returning home to Copenhagen with more than carved elephant souvenirs, he opened Kiin Kiin – “eat eat” – with a vow to remain authentic enough to serve overseas Thais. Fueled by the chef’s passion, it garnered massive accolades. When setting up shop in Bangkok, Yde-Andersen knew he had to go further in order to wow the locals.
That begins with the setting. While Sra Bua means “lotus pond,” it’s nowhere near any traditional village compound. As the top-billed in-house restaurant at the regal Siam Kempinski Hotel – coyly luxurious behind the mammoth Siam Paragon Mall – the décor here is decidedly upscale, with high ceilings, lighting that references burning lanterns and walls flecked in muted tones of gold leaf.
Still, the three-course lunch is a relative bargain, as is dinnertime’s full “Journey” – a street food-inspired menu that moves from salt-baked carrots to French foie gras to Southern Thailand’s Massaman curry. But the playful cooking here goes way beyond just cutesy or showy – innovation drives dishes such as “tuna worms” in a soil of edible malt, cold lobster curry mounted in ethereal clouds of dry ice and lychee foam, and snow-like frozen white bits of tom kha ga soup that melt in one’s mouth to reveal rich coco-nutty complexity.
This isn’t everyday Thai cuisine, but something that works with the core essence of the cuisine and then runs wild – an homage to all things Siamese that is as happily eccentric as it is highly edible.