Saawaan means “Heaven on Earth”, is a new addition to the Thai Fine-Dining scene. It’s not your typical fine-dining experience where they use molecular gastronomy or techniques. At Saawaan, Chef Aom uses the original and traditional Thai cooking techniques and modernising them to create a new dining experience but still stay true to Thai taste and tradition.
As you enter Saawaan, everything tones down. The place is dark, mildly lit and quiet. It sure prepares you for a fine-dining experience.
Chef Aom’s 10-course set menu is named according to the various cooking techniques and they cost 1950 THB++ with an option for the addition of the following: 2350 THB++ (Wine pairing), 680 THB++ (Tea pairing). The menu is fixed but if you can’t take raw or have any food allergies, you have to inform them.
Our journey began with an amuse bouche called “Kai Lukkei”. The sous-vide eggs are coated with tamarind and palm sugar syrup served with toasted shallot. The flavours are strong and you have to mix everything well to fully enjoy the flavours.
RAW – Amberjack, Rice Powder, Kaffir Lime.
This is basically “Koi Pla” using raw amberjack fish mixed with Thai herbs and spices. Kaffir lime and Thai Calamansi (Som Saa) is used to adding the citrusy flavours to the already present larb flavours.
DIP – Rice Paddy Crab, Sticky Rice.
Chef Aom adds her rendition of curry paste into the crab roe, elevating the flavours of the rice paddy crab fats. The sticky rice is also aromatic and delicious because coconut milk was used in place of water.
FERMENTED – Beef, Pickled Cucumber, Thai Herbs.
This fermented beef salad packs lots of flavours and textures in it. It has strong flavours from the shredded deep-fried ginger. For someone who doesn’t really like ginger, the pickled cucumber helps to neutralise the strong flavours.
BOILED – Jean-Paul oyster, Mushroom, Palm Heart, Smoked Fish.
This is “Tom Klong” with flavours quite similar to Tom Yum. The only difference is that the herbs are roasted first and it gives the soup a smokey flavour. It was slightly spicy but a Thai local would probably say that it’s not spicy at all. It can be spicier but perhaps this is the “safe” level for everybody.
MIANG – Wild Tea Leaves.
Made from house-fermented wild tea leaves. The flavours are so complex that you either love it or hate it.
STEAMED – Krabi Cobia, Lotus, Curry.
This is “Hor mok” (steamed fish curry) and Chef Aom uses everything lotus for this dish. From the seeds, stems to the leaves. The water below the pot brings about steam to keep the “hor mok” warm when served.
Photo Credit: Stranger in Bangkok
STIR-FRIED – Songkhla Squid, Basil, Mushroom, Cured Egg Yolk (below)
This is “Pad Krapow Plamuk” (Stir-fried squid with holy basil). If you don’t look at the menu, you will assume that you are being served a squid-ink pasta. But no, the squid was being shredded into thin slices which looks like pasta. Interesting isn’t it. Instead of “grated mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta” Chef Aom cured and dehydrated the duck egg yolk and grates them on top of the “krapow”, to represent the egg element. What a transformation!
CHARCOAL – Iberico Secreto Pork, Thai Marinade.
Instead of using local pork, Iberico pork was being used. The pork was marinated in the Thai spicy dip called (Nahm Jim Jaew). That being said, the right flavours were present in the pork when you eat it, without having the dip at all. This was simply Saawaan (Heaven on Earth)! There’s no better way to explain it but to try it for yourself! It’s the star of Saawaan, despite it being a simple and common dish.
CURRY – Free-Range Chicken, “Forget Husband Rice”
Can this last main course beat my favourite dish above? Well, sadly no but this wasn’t bad. In fact, this will fill you up in case you are still not full. The chicken is tender but a tad saltish. However, if you mix a little of everything together, the blended flavours and textures will make it delicious.
This palate cleanser is a combination of lime and sawtooth coriander sorbet. It is sour and fresh, enough to cleanse your palate.
Following on, the sweets are creations of Chef Paper, who recently won Bangkok’s Best Pastry Chef.
DESSERT – Thong Ampai Pumpkin, Chonburi Coconut.
This is her rendition of “Sangkaya” (Egg custard with pumpkin) with lots of French additions on the sides but it’s still a very Thai flavoured dessert. You get lots of flavours and textures in every bite which is definitely more interesting than just a simple sangkaya.
Mignardise – This is Chef Paper’s petite fours. Som Saa Citrus Tart, Jasmine Meringue, Mango & Passionfruit, Durian Chocolate Truffle. You have to eat them from left to right. All of them tasted really good and would still love the second serving. The durian chocolate truffle didn’t have that strong durian flavour which I expected but still, it was good. A good happy ending to the whole set meal.
The write-up wouldn’t be so detailed without the explanation of every dish from the servers. Service was excellent and they are really knowledgeable about the dishes served. If you are planning to come and try Saawaan offerings, do make a reservation before going because the number of seatings are quite limited.
Saawaan’s offering would probably please the majority including both tourists and locals. Locals might find the food too safe (not spicy) while a tourist might find the flavours too overwhelming. I would say, tourist who are familiar with Thai food the common dishes, it’s time for you to try even more complex Thai flavours which you haven’t even tried before. Don’t worry, the flavours here are authentic Thai but you won’t be able to find something similar served here anywhere else in Thailand because Chef Aom makes it uniquely her way. It’s worth to give Saawaan a try since they are slightly more affordable than most fine-dining restaurants.