To take Thai cooking –a cuisine packed with tradition and history–to new levels is an undertaking that most chefs would back away from. Not so with Dalad Kambhu. She just started her two week Thai pop-up at Dóttir together with artist Rirkrit Tiravanija while the original crew from Dóttir are in Hong Kong to pop up at the Test Kitchen.
Kambhu, who hails from New York, is out to create her own version of a contemporary Thai eatery at Dóttir, during her stint from July 26th to August 6th. I set out last night with a group of friends to check out exactly what this means and we were blown away by a meal that exceeded all of our expectations.
“..we were blown away by a meal that exceeded all of our expectations.”
The menu at the Thai pop-up at is fixed and divided into three courses/acts where every course consists of several, small dishes. These are best shared family style, which means you should bring some friends along for this meal. Four is perfect. From the very first bite at this restaurant you will realize that this is not your everyday Thai place. The lightly pickled kohlrabi starter is ridiculously crisp and fresh, and the massive chunks of garlic and shallots elevate this dish in the most amazing way. GIVE ME THIS RECIPE PLEASE! The selection of remaining starters that hit your table consecutively are equally amazing, especially a Thai ceviche-style salmon with crispy salmon skin which made all the diners around the table enjoy a rare 15 seconds in silent contemplation of greatness.
“From the very first bite at this restaurant you will realize that this is not your everyday Thai place.”
That’s far from it though, because what starts out strong, gets stronger by course and Chef Dalad hits it out of the ballpark with her green curry pulled beef stew, a traditionally heavy dish that combines the vibrancy of a green beef curry with an unexpected lightness which makes you crave seconds after the very first bite. Brilliant! The same goes for the exceptional steamed seabass and the red curry duck breast where the bright and popping colours correlate perfectly with the taste experience, and where the level of sophistication makes you question every Thai meal you’ve ever consumed. Especially when you look at Thai food in Berlin. As the ultimate finishing move you get a stunning dessert with Thai banana and chilli chocolate ice creams that makes you contemplate if you’ve ever had better Thai food. I haven’t.
“…the level of sophistication makes you question every Thai meal you’ve ever consumed.”
After one visit at this extraordinary restaurant and a good night of sleep, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Thai pop-up at Dóttir only has one major flaw: and that’s the fact that it’s only open for two weeks. Because this is some of the smartest and most sophisticated Asian cooking I’ve encountered, not only in Berlin, but really also across the world. Ever. Modern interpretations of Asian cuisine are not an easy thing to pull off successfully and they usually go wrong – tampering too much with the original idea of the food and just messing around too much. Kambhu and Rirkrit succeed in doing this in a spectacular way though, by taking traditional Thai dishes to unknown heights – without messing around with the soul of the food. And without serving a single dish that’s not great. That’s extraordinary cooking right there.
Yesterday I had the best Thai meal in my life and I can only advise you to get on the phone for a seat right now. Because the hottest restaurant in Berlin is closing in one week.