Wine & Dine: Benjarong Manila Invites Michelin-starred Chef Thanintorn Chantharawan
Benjarong Manila, one of T.DiningPH's Top 20 this year, prepared a unique Thai epicurean journey for Manila's gourmands and gastronomes. It was a six-course wine pairing curated by Benjarong Manila's chef de cuisine Watcharaphon "Ja" Yongbanthom, GranMonte Wines' Visootha "Nikki" Lohitnavy, and Michelin-starred restaurant Chim by Siam Wisdom's chef Thanintorn "Noom" Chantharawan. Highlighting the best of modern Thai cuisine, its culture, and fine selections from one of Thailand's premier wineries, the special menu was well received during its limited two-day run.
Chim by Siam Wisdom is a Thai restaurant in the Sukhumvit area, a heritage town in Bangkok, offering traditional Thai dishes perfectly blended with modern twists. Chef Noom is at the helm of this Michelin-starred restaurant, one of Bangkok's firsts last year. As he spent 14 years working in some of London's hottest restaurants before returning to Thailand, his expertise is on European and modern molecular cuisines. However, his heart is still in Thai and Asian cuisine, hence his signature dishes evoke modern fusion yet respectful to locally-sourced ingredients and traditional cooking preparations. Furthermore, he is also quite a celebrity with his stint on Iron Chef Thailand.
Meanwhile, oenologist and winemaker Nikki of her family-owned property GranMonte Wines in Asoke Valley paired Chef Noom and Chef Ja's excellent dishes with a selection of Thai wines. GranMonte's international award-winning wines are made from the finest and freshest estate-grown produce with the use of innovative winemaking techniques that capture all the important aromas and tastes.
With both Chim by Siam Wisdom and Benjarong Manila pushing Thai cuisine to new, modern look and flavours inspired by foreign influences, the collaboration was well-planned and executed, and definitely appreciated by diners both new and familiar to the cuisine.
How did you prepare this menu?
We [Dusit Thani Manila and I] exchanged information about the seasonal ingredients in Manila, its tastes and how we can put it into the course. We work in the ingredients first then the course, and how will the flavours and its intensities will be… Then I sent information to Nikki so that she can pair them with their wines.
Tell us about your cooking philosophy
I think Modern Asian is always the best. I have come from a family with humble beginnings, so thinking about Modern Asian cuisine, you just have to look for the best solutions with limited resources. Nutritional, but simple.
What characteristics of Thai cuisine would you like Filipino diners to appreciate through this special dinner?
I think what I would like them to appreciate is the authenticity of our dishes. The ingredients… the heritage behind.
On the food pairing we did tonight, which for you best highlighted the flavours and heritage of Thai cuisine?
I think the River Prawn. We had this dish for a long time. The recipe is also very unique. Rather than you use a coconut milk, I used coconut juice, reheated it, poured it into coconut meat, and then it becomes milk. I roasted the coconut meat, mixed it with a little bit of palm sugar, water, added it to the milk I made earlier and used it to add texture to the curry sauce. Now you get a smoky flavour, extra texture…
What do you want to get from doing collaborations like this?
I have worked with a lot of Michelin starred chefs and never thought that I would have one of my own. When I see them working, I see them pushing themselves to the limit when working in the kitchen. And then now I understand that through their culinary journeys, by meeting new people, they take in new inspirations and learn new ingredients.
I think by being able to visit the Philippines, I learn something new. To create something great for diners is more important rather than creating what I like and already know. I need to go out, I need to see the world.
Benjarong Manila, G/F Dusit Thani Manila, Ayala Centre, Makati City, +632.238.8888