Siem Reap is set to get a taste of – and lesson in – first rate Thai food when Bangkok chefs Duangporn “Bo” Songvisava and Dylan Jones host a series of “pop-up dinners” and a cooking class this week.
The couple’s Bangkok restaurant Bo.lan came in at 37 on the influential Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 list at a gala bash in Singapore this month – the third year in the row the restaurant has made the list – and chef Bo was named Veuve Cliquot Asia’s Best Female Chef at the 2013 awards.
Songvisava, from Thailand, and Jones, from Australia, first met in London, where they fell in love while working for David Thompson, the Australian chef whose London restaurant Nahm was the first Thai fine diner to receive a Michelin star.
The couple moved to Thailand in 2009 and opened Bo.lan, the first of a new wave of world-class restaurants in the Thai capital that launched soon after.
Songvisava and Jones’ first innovation was the Bo.lan Balance tasting menu – a selection of elegant amuse bouche (reflecting contemporary trends) that was followed by dishes that, while beautifully presented, were very traditional (a nod to Thailand’s culinary heritage). Keen collectors of old recipes, the chefs have been sticklers for authenticity.
“Innovative and uncompromising,” is how Jones described their cuisine. They refuse to adapt components of dishes or adjust flavours, including spice levels. “Instead,” Jones said, if guests can’t handle the heat, “we’ll advise people what to eat.”
Siem Reap residents will get a chance to try the flavours on March 27, 28 and 29 at Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor’s Restaurant le Grand during the three pop-up dinners.
Jones said they would present a menu at Raffles similar to the signature Bo.lan Balance that they serve in Bangkok, featuring dishes such as a chilli relish of young peppercorns, a khoa rat style curry, and a coconut soup of prawns with saptdor beans and pickled bamboo.
“We’re bringing the essential Thai ingredients that we may not find there, but we also have a market trip planned for when we arrive to see what’s available locally that we can use,” Jones confided.
“Diners can expect well-executed Thai dishes that are seasoned intensely, yet are still well balanced, that showcase the best of Thailand.”
For those who want to learn to cook the dishes, the chefs will run a one-off cookery class on the morning of the 29th.
“We’re still deciding on the menu,” Jones said. “But it will most likely involve a little from the menu we are cooking and some produce from the market visit we will do [with participants] in the morning before the class starts.”
The trip will be the couple’s first visit to Siem Reap.
“So we are really excited about the dinners obviously, but also about exploring a small part of Cambodia,” Jones said.
The culinary event is the first of a series of special dinners presented by internationally acclaimed chefs to be held at the hotel throughout the year.
Songvisava and Jones’s dinners cost $95++ per person including a welcome cocktail and bottle of San Pellegrino or Aqua Panna water or $145++ with cocktail or wine pairings. The cooking class costs $140++.