Dinner with David Thompson: Nahm at The Metropolitan, Bangkok
David Thompson has had 17 espressos today which accounts for the overly wide-eyed way he buzzes around his restaurant. He darts from one task to another with the air of someone deeply focused on each moment. One minute he is briefing a staff member in softly spoken Thai; the next he is swaggering up to the table and challenging us to a chilli duel. Can we handle the heat? Yes we can!
I am sitting here with a very distinguished group of journalists and we are all fighting fatigue, having just flown in from Australia. Our body clocks are telling us it’s 11pm but our booking is for 7pm so we’re in for the long haul.
The first course amuse bouche comes out in the form of a pineapple slice topped with minced pork and prawns, the next is a rice crisp topped with aromatics … and from then on, there is a procession of dishes that have an unusual anti-gravitational effect. I say this because as we eat our way through each set, our spirits rise and rise and rise.
David proffers a much-lauded French Pinot Gris and warns us that while this is his recommendation, we may not like it. The truth is, I love it. It’s viscous and sweet, like afternoon sunshine in a glass. Next in line is a Riesling and finally the 2007 Chateau de Neuf du Pape, a French blend that is quite possibly the best red wine I have ever tasted (and let’s be honest; I drink a lot).
Dish after dish – juicy chunks of fresh crab in choo chee sauce, jungle curry with snapper, pepper pork with tiny spears of green chilli, stringily tender salt beef, snap peas and squid ink and green chicken curry that is hot, deep and complicated like an ill-fated love affair.
As an aside to the meal, a very beloved old friend of mine arrives two hours early at the hotel and I take the risk of including her in this ‘work’ dinner. Napat was my host sister 13 years ago so I am beyond delighted to see her. Tonight, she has shown up in leopard print dress with a nose piercing (I always knew she would turn out fabulous!).
What transpires is that David does not react with anything even close to affront (which is what I had feared). He welcomes Napat with genuine warmth and humility. He asks her how she is, where she lives and what she thinks of the food (all in fluent Thai). I am enamoured by this twitchy, pallid man with sharp eyes. He has shown his true colours and I decide that colour is pure gold.