One of Chef Ian Kittichai’s nicknames is Mue Tong, or Golden Hands, from his weekly, long-running TV show, Chef Mue Tong. And there’s something about it; everything that Ian Kittichai has opened in Bangkok over the past years have become almost instant successes, from the city’s first gastro bar, Hyde & Seek, to the nose-to-tail concept eatery, Smith, to flagship Thai restaurant, Issaya Siamese Club, and its accompanying cookbook, Issaya Siamese Club: Innovative Thai Cuisine by Chef Ian Kittkchai. This year alone, he has launched the Issaya Cooking Studio and Issaya La Patisserie in the newly opened Central Embassy and opened the doors to Hyde & Seek Peek-A-Boo at Central World’s Groove.
So when the news broke that the prolific chef had yet another venue in the pipeline, the only logical reaction was “Again?”
But Namsaah Bottling Trust is different. Artsier than Hyde & Seek, and edgier than Issaya Siamese Club, the Asian Gastro Bar, as it is branded, is a curious mix of the two, taking its drinks cue from Hyde & Seek and the Asian flavours from the kitchen at Issaya.
Just a stone’s throw from Chong Nonsi BTS, Namsaah Bottling Trust is housed in one of those buildings you never knew existed before Ian Kittichai, long-term friend and partner in Issaya, Frederic Meyer, and Justin Dunne of Bed Supperclub and later Ku De Ta, came along and painted it bright pink, gave it a curious name and decorated the walls with early 20th century French porn.
The building is from the early 20th century where it was the residence of a high ranking military officer before it become the headquarter of a bottling company (‘namsaah’ is an old Thai moniker for soda or sparkling water) in the 1940s. During the 1960s, the building become the headquarters of what is today the Thai Military Bank but after the economic crisis in the late 1990s it was allowed to fall into disrepair.
The latest renovation of the building has left it largely intact with beautiful wooden panels, hard wood flooring, shutters, high ceilings and original columns.
You enter the ground floor from a patio in front of the house and arrive at the former dining quarters where the bar welcomes you. To the right of the bar is the DJ booth, at the moment occupied by a mascot of sorts: a human sized figure clad in traditional northern Thai costume but later a space for live acts. The adjoining room, the former living room, acts as a lounge area with wooden chests as tables and plush sofas against some positively kitsch wallpaper. On the walls are old Thai posters of play acts and photographs.
The second floor makes up the main dining area. It consists of ‘The Red Room’ with the aforementioned 20th century pornographic posters and ‘The Blue Room’ where guests are seated under the watchful eyes of two original Chinese ancestral portraits.
The menu consists of an intriguing mix of Asian favourites; the Duck Confit Noodle Salad (THB395) is a take on the Vietnamese bun cha, its crispy-yet-juicy duck morsels a nod to that country’s French influence. Similarly, the Salmon Tartare Wonton “Tacos” (THB260) combine wonton with a tangy chipotle sauce and the Sai Oua “Haute Dog” (THB350) is a playful take on the popular Chiang Mai sausage, here expertly paired with pickled cabbage, ginger and shallots and a dressing of Sriracha-aioli sauce served on the side in a tube.
The drinks menu is similarly inspired by bold, Asian flavours. It comes with a set of ‘Ground Rules” which basically lists everything that’s bad and wrong with the cocktail scene in Bangkok. For the uninitiated, that involves a ban on jars, maraschino cherries and drinks with more ice than spirits. The last we can attest to, the Roasted Tangerine Negroni (THB290) with its Beefeater Gin, Campari, Vermouth and fresh tangerine juice and the Thai Basil Gimlet (THB290) both pack their fair share of alcohol.
Namsaah Bottling Trust is open Monday to Sunday from 5pm to 2am. The full menu is served from 5pm to 12am with drinks and nibbles from a bar snack menu being served until close.
Namsaah Bottling Trust 401 Soi Sirijullassayvok (Silom Soi 7) Silom, Bangrak Bangkok www.namsaah.com 0–2636-6622