Baan Lao’s chef drew inspiration from his home country’s cuisine to design the menu.
A cricket and a syringe – these are items not usually found in a fine dining establishment, but they were among 12 dishes served at a Thai restaurant in Steveston this weekend.
The meal, titled “From the fields of Thailand to the shores of Canada”, accompanied by wine and tea pairings, was served at Baan Lao on Bayview Street as part of a “media night”.
The cricket sat atop an appetizer and the syringe – inspired by the chef’s training in nursing – was used to infuse a palate cleanser made with lemongrass, pandan and butterfly peas, which gave him allowed to change color.
Baan Lao had invited a group of people working in the media, including the Richmond Newsfor a free dinner.
Although this journalist is not a food critic, it goes without saying that the menu, worth $290 plus $95 wine pairings, offered delicious surprises for the palate.
From “Rice Cracker with Tomato Thai Chili” – which was topped with a cricket – to “Chef Nutcha’s Childhood Memories” – a bonsai-sized garden-like dessert – the meal was all about blending flavors with a presentation exquisite.
Amuse Bouche, the chilli rice cracker, consists of items from Chef Nutcha Phanthoupheng’s rice farm at home, including the hand-roasted insects that garnish the appetizer.
It can be a cricket, a grasshopper, silkworm larvae or a forest scorpion, insects that were a regular source of protein for his family.
The main course of the meal is lobster, which is flown in from Nova Scotia on Fridays.
Phanthoupheng, who grew up in Thailand and worked as an oncology nurse, drew on her childhood experiences to create the menu inspired by life in Canada.
The restaurant has limited seating – its maximum capacity is 24 but often they don’t even serve that many people per meal – and reservations must be made two days in advance.
“It’s not about attacking the general public, it’s about attacking the sophistication and artistry of the Thai dining experience,” Phanthoupheng told the News through a interpreter.
She trained under a Michelin-starred chef who cooked for the Thai royal family, and the restaurant’s atmosphere reflects a regal quality – a far cry from Thai street food.
Phanthoupheng said she is “passionate” about cooking, but she also wants to create an atmosphere that inspires and elevates fine dining in the Lower Mainland.
Since opening, she has noticed other restaurants following Baan Lao’s lead, serving a set menu and adding more decorative elements to their dishes.
“We love it because we opened everyone’s eyes,” Phanthoupheng explained.
Baan Lao’s current menu is inspired by Phanthoupheng’s home region, but in January they will be closing the restaurant to visit different areas of Thailand, hoping to find inspiration for other menu items. .
The Michelin Buzz in the Lower Mainland
There’s been a buzz recently about Michelin ratings at Lower Mainland restaurants, and their guide is expected in the fall.
Baan Lao has been mentioned in the media as one of the restaurants that can be classified in the prestigious Michelin Guide.
Michelin awards restaurants one, two or three stars – but getting just one star is already significant. Two or more stars indicate that the restaurant is worth visiting for a meal.
There is also a Michelin green star, awarded to restaurants that are “leaders in sustainable gastronomy,” according to a recent press release.
The Saturday menu, “From the fields of Thailand to the shores of Canada,” is served at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. and reservations close two days before – to allow time for the restaurant to order East Coast lobster.
On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday nights, the restaurant serves another set menu called “A Taste of Baan Lao” with three seats per night.