Bo.lan Restaurant, Bangkok, Thailand

Our review of Bo.lan, Bangkok

Our review of Bo.lan, the Thai restaurant featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table…

One of the things that made us excited about visiting Bangkok was getting to visit Bo.lan. I’m not a big fan of fussy restaurants, but I really liked the episodes featuring Asian or South American chefs. Also, there was something about the episode that really stuck with me. In South East Asia, no one pays good money for local food. Local food – in this case, Thai cuisine, is associated with affordability, not elegance.

Bo Songvisava giving us an introduction to seasonal Thai ingredients in her kitchen

So, it was because of this, that I was interested to visit Bo.lan. She is right when she points out that almost all the food we eat in South East Asia (even if your grandma cooks it) is made with sauces produced in a factory somewhere. South East Asian cooking relies heavily on factory made stuff to give those complex flavours – what could it be, if it didn’t?

Quick Review of Bo.Lan

I’d recommend Bo.lan to anyone who has seen the Netflix episode and loves Thai food. The food is truly delicious, the best Thai meal I’ve had. Stay away from the wine though, it’s expensive and not worth the money. The service staff can’t really speak English and it was difficult to understand what they were saying. Like all Thai restaurants, the final price has 17% added on to it.

Menu for Bo.lan feast, April 2019

We were five people, and everyone had a different opinion of the meal we had. I personally enjoyed the meal tremendously, the food was definitely five stars. The service however wasn’t too great, it’s a problem I have in fancy South East Asian restaurants – it always feels like the staff are under qualified and trying too hard.

Rice liquor flavoured with mango and pandan water, served in a Martini glass

The food was really lovely. The ingredients are, as claimed in the Netflix episode, the best and freshest to be found in the region. Although every dish had all five tastes, each had its own unique character. Maybe I am out of practice eating South East Asian food, but I often feel most dishes, when it comes down to it, seem to taste like each other. I am certain it’s because most cooks use the same base of canned sauces to cook with. I loved how the dishes here had a complex blend of flavours and textures that seemed familiar and yet were distinct from each other.

The amuse bouche courses were fun. Each was a wonderful mix of flavours and textures. There was an interesting variation of Som Tham (Papaya Salad) which had thin strips of Thai pancakes made with corn and pork with coconut mixed in. There was also a little “soup” course, which was chilled coconut milk in a broth that had dill and cucumber in it, and little tapioca balls. I really loved that one.

Rice vermicelli in a flavourful coconut sauce, served with mangosteen

The main meals were deliciously savoury. I really enjoyed them, especially the jumbo banana prawns and the shrimp paste simmered in coconut cream, I definitely wish I had more space for more – the portions weren’t huge, but the food was rich and the amount wasn’t skimpy either. I reckon there was enough to go around for everyone.

Shrimp paste simmered in coconut cream served with crispy fishcakes

To be honest, I can’t say I was able to discern all the ingredients in the meal. For example, I did not notice the salted duck egg relish and I wasn’t able understand why the crispy fishcake was a crispy fishcake – it didn’t taste of fish nor did it look like a cake, but it was definitely crispy.

One of our party decided to order wine (by the glass, since the rest of us were drinking cocktails) against his better judgement, and I remember he wasn’t too impressed with it. In any case, wine in Asian restaurants should be avoided if you don’t want to be disappointed.

White Russian with tapioca balls flavoured with blue pea flower

The dessert was lovely – it reminded me of Chendol, a sweet, coconut based drink with jelly. Finally the candies which came with the post-dinner coffee, which I found rather nostalgic.

Sweets inspired by traditional candies found in South East Asia

The final bill totalled to about €150 per person, after tax, which was a bit more than I was expecting. Mostly because 17% of that was additional charges, the same as you’d get anywhere in Thailand. My companions weren’t too thrilled with the price – it’s true, there’s so much great food in Bangkok you can get without blowing the budget – but as a one off, I thought it was worthwhile.