A tale as old as Thaime
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
Despite being a fledgling in Thailand’s dynamic restaurant scene, Ruen Noppagao, in the heart of Sathorn, is a veteran in authenticity and Thai charm. Established by Linus A. E. Knobel, Managing Director of BAC Group and Swiss- born chef, the restaurant is another milestone in his quest for purely-authentic eateries. Celebrated chef Kanin Sinpan heads up the establishment’s kitchen, bringing his passion for regional specialities and ancient food recipes to the fore.
Embracing its concept of an authentic and rustic Thai space, the restaurant greeted us with a sprawling wall of angled red brick, where its name hung in elegant white, perfect for the Instagram-minded among us. Greenery and slate-grey planters abounded, drawing you in to its deceptively modern interior. Although when I looked it up online, the restaurant had promised a casual atmosphere, I was impressed with the aura of elegance and the glut of traditional charms wherever I looked, from the woven screens to the handmade porcelain crockery brought down from Chiang Mai. Vaulted ceilings of exposed beams suspended rattan lamps of magnificent proportions, while diners were surrounded in floor-to-ceiling windows and ceiling-high partitions of exposed brick and slate-grey. My favourite design detail was the partial mezzanine that draws the eye up, adding dynamic energy to the interior.
FOOD AND DRINK
Because every dish is an ode to authenticity and ancient Thai culinary arts, the restaurant makes sure to use only locally-grown ingredients as well as methods of preparation from the days of yore – an ideal pick for impressing your guests on the lookout for ‘the real deal’ or those of us just tired of the recent fusion revolution. We started off our generous meal with Goong sorn kiln (THB 350), a salad from the central region of Thailand that looks like an airy delight and doesn’t disappoint. The freshness of the river prawns cut across the lavish selection of Thai herbs, replete with a liberal garnish of damask rose petals. I would highly recommend, however, the Kanom bueng sukothai (THB 220) as a starter, a crispy Sukhothai pancake tendered to the restaurant by the Prasarttong-Osoth family, a textural recipe made with love – and it shows. The sweet vinegar sauce is moreish in the extreme, and we couldn’t get enough.
For sausage fans who want a Thai alternative, check out the Gang jued loogrok (THB 350), a consommé of egg sausage or look rog, that’s light on the stomach and the palate. Another easy option for those saving space for richer dishes is the Gapi kua phuk sod (THB 250), an aesthetic presentation of rolls of local vegetables and crispy fish served with a punch of spice in the form of shrimp paste and coconut cream, seasoned in the restaurant’s signature style. Made from Bang Chang dried chillies, the sauce is one to look out for.
Classics for any connoisseur of Thai cuisine are the Khao kluk rama 6 (THB 280) and Pad Thai hed (THB 220) dishes, the former served with snakehead fish and elevated by the piquant sour mango and peppercorn. Our favourite element, however, was the salted egg yolk which charmed our eyes and taste buds. The pad Thai was exactly as one would want it to be, filling and savoury in equal measure.
We ended our meal with the Thong boran (THB 250) a beautiful almond paste dessert that reminded us of Indian mithai in the best ways, but the Kanom ko kati (THB 180) was unequivocally our favourite dessert, caramel coconut dumplings from the south that were melt-in-your-mouth perfection, its flavours ramped up by the generous serving of coconut milk poured over it. Enjoy your meal with a selection of local Thai drinks that are touted to aid in both mental and physical health.
Hands-down the Mee grob rama 5 (THB 280), crispy rice noodles with chicken and tofu; a toothsome dish fit for a king – and anecdotally so, as it was the favourite of King Rama V. Not for the faint-hearted, the Gaeng noppagao (THB 380) a prawn and vegetable curry in their signature style, is worth every spice-filled bite, and will leave you literally panting for more.