The unique flavours of Thailand need little introduction. Neither does Bangkok's famous Spice Market restaurant, a firm favourite of local Thais, expats and visitors in the know for the past 25 years since the luxury Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok opened in 1983 at its prime inner-city location in Rachadamri Road. With a new chef at the helm - who has introduced an interesting twist on many popular dishes - Spice Market is all set to boost its fan base over the next 25 years...
Decor and ambiance setting the perfect tone
Tucked away in quiet corner next to a lush tropical courtyard, the multiple award-winning Spice Market is an institution for lovers of Thai food in Bangkok. It offers the finest selection of Thai cuisine in a setting that resembles a traditional spice market from years gone by. An antique wooden spice cart laden with a variety of exotic spices of all colours and textures greets visitors as they enter. Bottles of spices line teak shelves, while jars and large gunnysacks filled with rice and salt sit on ledges around the room. Large sepia images of fruit and vegetables adorn the walls. Enormous mortars of heavy stones are displayed on window-like panes.
Furniture is upholstered in rich fabrics from Jim Thompson, tables covered in off-white linen. Napkins, in burnt orange, are hand-made of woven cotton. Even the stainless steel crockery has been specially designed for Spice Market, and serving dishes in earthenware is another unique feature. For a contemporary touch, plates are black and come in different designs. Cabinets, tables and floor covering include a combination of teak wood, marble and bare red brick. Bottles, jars, plates and glassware are displayed in cabinets. All of which is rounded off with the sounds of traditional Thai music. Indeed, the perfect setting for a gastronomic journey through the regions of Thailand. The proof, however, is in the pudding as they say...
The menu: something for everyone
Dishes are elegantly presented and garnished with the customary hand-carved vegetables (carving demonstrations are also held in the evenings). As expected, the menu is extensive and features dishes from the four regions - each with its own unique influences - but focusing on Central Thailand. Every taste is catered for, with a variety of fish, pork, beef, chicken and vegetarian dishes - as well as fresh fruits and a selection of delectable desserts. The wine list is extensive with an impressive selection from wine-producing regions around the world, including Thai wines.
With so many choices on the menu it's never easy to make a selection, but here are some taste bud treats that come highly recommended: 'Som Tum Yod Mapraow' (spicy heart of palm salad), 'Gaeng Sab Nok Pla Krai' (black feather fish dumplings curry with eggplant), 'Pla Sam-lee Thod Kah-Min' (fried marinated cod fish with crispy tumeric and garlic), 'Nua Phad Sauce Ma Kam' (sauteed beef with tamarind sauce and crispy garlic), and my personal favorite, 'Laab Goong Yang' (grilled river prawns with mint and lemongrass salad). But the 'Hor Mok Pla Krapong' (steamed seabass souffle with coconut cream) and 'Poo Nim Pat Prik Thai Orn' (crispy soft-shell crab with peppercorn sauce and chilli) are worthy of praise and salutations too!
Yes, it's Thai food after all and it can be spicy, but the chef will happily tone it down to suit taste. So don't hesitate to ask. The 'spiciness level' of dishes is also indicated on the menu.
Other specialties not to miss!
For patrons wanting to try a few dishes, set menus offer a good sampling, and specials of the day are also on offer on weekdays. Look out for these specialties: 'Pla Krapong Thod Samunplai Krob' (deep-fried seabass with crispy herbs), 'Keng Hungle' (Chiang Mai-style curry with pork and ginger), and 'Namprik Makam Boran Moo Wan' (fresh tamarind paste with chilli, pork and prawn relish). On Sundays, Spice Market together with two other restaurants in the courtyard, Madison and Aqua, play host to a renowned Sunday brunch.
Surprisingly, and considering what a top-end Thai eating experience Spice Market offers, prices are very reasonable. Set menus start from 850 Baht (++), and include up to five dishes. From the a la carte menu, the average price of dishes is around 300 Baht (++). No shocker at all.
The Chef: Creating happiness all-round
All credit for Spice Market's impressive culinary repertoire goes to Chef Supanut (Ann) Khanarak, who has managed to stay true to the heritage of Thailand's famous cuisine, but at the same time made it all her own with interesting twists and innovative interpretations. Her interest in Thai cuisine began at age of twelve, mentored by her proud parents. She went on to study at the School of International Hotel and Tourism in Pattaya and, after holding positions in administration and guest relations, eventually found her way to Sydney to study English. Here, her path met with that of famous Chef David Thompson at his Sailor Thai Restaurant, and it proved a valuable learning ground for her as a chef.
She later worked at two other Thai restaurants in Sydney and Prymont, before finally returning to Thailand to work at stand-alone restaurants Nara and Senses. Prior to joining Four Seasons, she also held the position of Chef de Partie at the Metropolitan Bangkok for two years. Chef Ann proudly admits that nothing gives her more pleasure than cooking - especially preparing Thai food - and then to see people enjoying it. "Food brings people together, and if it is good food they will always be happy," she says. "If I can make people happy with my food, I feel I have spent my time well..."
- Opening Hours: Daily for lunch (11:30 to 14:30) and Dinner (18:00 to 22:30)
- BTS: Ratchadamri
- Tel: +66 (0)2 250 1000 (ext 1234)