Bangkok: Vegan at Nahm Restaurant

26th May 2015

Last year in Bangkok we dined at Nahm, a restaurant consistently ranked among the world’s best. And while we still consider the small market stalls and street vendors in Thailand to offer the best experiences and the most authentic and traditional Thai flavors, Nahm was a welcome change of pace during our stay.

The attention to detail, attentive service and unique local flavors and techniques at Nahm made for an unforgettable vegan dining experience in Bangkok. We unreservedly recommend Nahm to any foodie visiting Thailand. It’s worth taking a detour from the lovely street food in Thailand for one exquisite meal, just be sure to make a reservation.

Nahm is located in the Metropolitan by COMO hotel in Bangkok. COMO hotels have a great reputation for being vegan-friendly and the Metropolitan hotel has a clean, modern aesthetic similar to that of the restaurant.

Nahm is currently on San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants and Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants lists. We spotted Australian Chef David Thompson around the property a few times before and after dinner and saw him in the restaurant during service. Chef Thompson’s passion for and knowledge of Thai cuisine is apparent in the menu at Nahm. He and Thai Head Chef Prin Polsuk have an array of inspired dishes on their menu and were able to offer at least one vegan option from each course. We noted that we were vegan when we made our reservation and when we contacted them we were given assurances that they could accommodate. When we arrived at the restaurant it was a breeze. The front-of-house were well aware of what dishes could be prepared vegan and were always clear with their explanations and details.

Portions were larger than we expected. These aren’t your dainty, delicate little plates. The robust dishes are still mostly served family style.

NAHM Bangkok

Our meal also included complimentary amuse bouche and petit fours. Neither of them are typically vegan but with advance notice they were able to prepare them specially for us.

The cocktail menu includes a number of inventive (and strong) drinks with distinctly Thai flavors featuring fresh local ingredients like lemon grass, chili, sweet basil and passion fruit.

The amuse bouche was Ma Haw/Ma Hor. A small dollop of a savory, stringy, sticky and garlicky mix with peanuts served atop a slice of pineapple and finished with a cilantro leaf and a slice of chili. This moreish morsel was the perfect start to our meal. It was aptly sized to be consumed in one bite. It’s worth noting that the non-vegan version is said to have a strong fishy aftertaste, something not present in our vegan amuse bouche that looked nearly identical to the non-vegan option.

NAHM Bangkok Petit Fours

Clockwise from top left: banana with a rice and nut ball/cracker candied; young coconut, sugar, pandan ; young coconut cream, sugar and arrowroot

After our meal we were brought a small plate of three bite-size sweets and given brief descriptions. Our vegan petit fours were:

banana with a rice and nut ball/cracker candied
Similar in style, texture and appearance to our amuse bouche. This petit four is a small crunchy ball of candied peanuts, nuts and rice crackers served atop a slice of banana.

young coconut, sugar, pandan
Bordering on being overly sweet, this petit four was a small nest of candied, hardened desiccated coconut soaked in pandan.

young coconut cream, sugar and arrowroot
The arrowroot gave this one a very dry mouthfeel and the consistency was similar to mochi. It was subtly sweet with a delicate young coconut flavor.

NAHM Bangkok-2

Clockwise from top left:Thai vegetable and fruit salad with tamarind, palm sugar and sesame dressing; a side bowl of deep fried vegetables and Pak wan stir fried with garlic and mushrooms; Yellow soy beans and ginger dressed with kaffir lime, shallots and chillies

thai vegetable and fruit salad with tamarind, palm sugar and sesame dressing 340฿
Our favorite dish. It was a simple rich and savory salad with the traditional balance of flavors and textures present throughout Thai cuisine.

yellow soy beans and ginger dressed with kaffir lime, shallots and chillies with fresh and deep fried vegetables 400฿
This is served in two dishes. One is a bright, acidic and spicy relish of soybeans and ginger with kaffir lime, shallots and chillies; the other is a selection of local fresh greens and fried vegetables. Combine the tangy relish with the greens and vegetables to achieve your own desired flavor and textural balance.

pak wan stir fried with garlic and mushrooms 400฿
This was a very traditional Chinese-style dish using local greens (skinny stalks and leaves, common in stir fries and soups), garlic and mushrooms. It was the least exciting of all the dishes but it helped contribute to the overall balance of the meal. The staff pointed out that unless you request this dish vegan/vegetarian, it would be prepared with fish sauce.

NAHM Bangkok-3

Clockwise from top left:Durian and sticky rice; Yellow curry of cauliflower and tomatoes with cucumber relish; Wild mushrooms and ginger soup

durian and sticky rice 320฿
Durian, the polarizing king of fruits. We find our opinions widely differ on durian depending on the varietal, quality and preparation. Years ago in Malaysia we hated it, but more recently in Thailand we have come to appreciate and enjoy durian.

The dessert was a smoky sticky rice in coconut cream topped with the soft, creamy and pungent durian. The dish is similar in composition to the ubiquitous mango sticky rice, but the durian and the smoky rice elevated it to another level.

yellow curry of cauliflower and tomatoes with cucumber relish 400฿
Surprisingly it had subtle Indian flavors. It came with a side of relish that comprised fresh cilantro, chili, ginger and cucumber in vinegar. It added a lovely bit of flavor and punch to the curry. A very tasty curry indeed; it included cauliflower, red and green tomatoes (the green ones were firm and sweet, a bit like grapes), baby red onions and green eggplants.

wild mushrooms and ginger soup 240฿
Light, thin, brothy soup with prominent wild mushroom flavors and heat from the chili and ginger.

The dark ambient lighting made it difficult to capture the food at its best but the entire dining experience was nothing short of exquisite. Anecdotally, when we left the restaurant there was an American man from Texas having an absolute fit because, as he put it, he had come all the way from Texas to dine at Nahm and had an American Express Platinum card (clearly this entitled him to a table in his mind). He was determined to beat their fairly reasonable dress code and wasn’t going to be turned away for showing up in shorts, sneakers and a polo. The embarrassing scene continued on longer than it should have but the hostess handled the matter professionally and as quietly as possible. When he raised his voice and said that he was rich and would spend hundreds of dollars at the restaurant, the hostess reiterated that they would gladly welcome him if he returned with pants or even jeans. He argued his entire way out the door of the hotel, he even tried to pull his cargo shorts down and crouch as if to make them look like pants. In the end it was all a bit sad to imagine the impression people have of Americans abroad but it was also a bit of entertaining post-meal theatre for us.

Nahm Restaurant

address: Metropolitan by COMO, 27 South Sathorn Road, Tungmahamek Sathorn, Bangkok 10120 Thailand
contact: +66 2 625 3388;
connect: Website + Facebook

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