Sat, Jan 05, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Restaurant Review: Baan Taipei

A Michelin-starred chef sets up an outpost of his Bangkok family kitchen in Taipei

By Davina Tham  /  Staff reporter

Soft sheets of broad rice noodles are stir-fried with seafood and egg.

Photo: Davina Tham, Taipei Times

Baan, which opened this month, is a spirited new addition to the Thai culinary offerings in Taipei.

Headlined by chefs Thitid Tassanakajohn of Bangkok’s Le Du, and Richie Lin (林泉) of Taipei’s MUME, the collaboration marks Tassanakajohn’s overseas debut and caps off a momentous year for the rising chef, who steered his first restaurant to a star in the inaugural Michelin guide to Bangkok and 14th place among Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Baan means “home,” and at its original Bangkok location, also run by Tassanakajohn, Baan distinguishes itself from its acclaimed fine-dining sibling with the promise of home-style Thai cooking drawn from family recipes.

This concept translates well in Taipei, where Baan’s menu will meet and then exceed expectations with its familiar landing points of Thai cuisine — piquant papaya salads, variations on a coconut-based curry, pad thai tucked into an omelet — laid on a foundation of bold flavors that stretch the palate a little more toward the unknown.

Plates are meant for sharing, and that’s the way to go if you hope to sample a respectable selection from the menu. The cooking is confident, producing dishes that come together like a rambunctious family gathering, where relatives jostle and provoke each other as only family can. Heat plays a pivotal role in this love-hate relationship.

The signature braised beef in green curry (NT$480) lulls you in with tender brisket, lung and eggplant in a rich gravy, only for the chili to sneak up like a backhanded compliment from a distant relation. The heat is as impressive for its deviousness as for the fact that it does not upset the balance of flavors. For the price, I only wish that the beef came in heartier hunks.

Baan

Address: 15, Lane 233, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市敦化南路一段233巷15號)

Telephone: (02) 2711-0528

Open: Daily from 5:30pm to 10pm

Average meal:NT$800 to NT$1,000, with minimum expenditure of NT$600 per person

Details: Menu in English, Chinese and Thai; credit cards accepted; 10 percent service charge

On the net: www.baan.tw


Seafood tom yum (NT$480) is a must-order that rules over the popular imagination of Thai cuisine like an indispensable matriarch. Knowing this, Baan stamps its individuality all over its version, which is more concentrated and built upon an assertive base of herbs and spices. The fiery hue intimidates at first, but its bark is worse than its bite. The chili is mild, although some might find the soup overpoweringly acidic. What does pack the heat are young chayote leaves stir-fried in oyster sauce (NT$220), which retain the crunch of a perfectly-cooked vegetable.

It is a sign of confidence — both in itself and its customers — that Baan has chosen not to turn down native levels of heat for the Taiwanese market. While this might bring pain to some, others like myself will appreciate the lack of condescension. Small chili icons on the menu indicate where the minefields are.

Aside from the classics, Baan provides a low-risk opportunity to make some less obvious choices. Consider moo kluk foon (NT$380), a pork stir-fry that eschews the usual accompaniment of holy basil for a delightfully unholy combination of fermented shrimp paste, bird’s eye chili lemongrass and lime. Its intense savoriness demands a bowl of organic jasmine rice (NT$60).

There are some underwhelming moments. An appetizer of deep-fried pork and prawn cakes (NT$380) would work up the appetite more if the sour plum dipping sauce — one of a few nods to Taiwanese ingredients — did not suffer from a curious lack of acidity. Stir-fried flat noodles with seafood (NT$380) are just good enough, though not as remarkable as their “signature” label implies.

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