Contemporary Indian Restaurant Benares Is Bangkok's New Ray Of Light
Nestled a little way down Sukhumvit Soi 13, Benares Bangkok serves modern Indian cuisine with fine dining finesse. Guests are welcomed to the restaurant, which can accommodate 60 covers and includes a private dining room for eight, by genial director of operations, CJ Singh. Trimmed in black and gold, the venue is dimly but sufficiently lit with a soft glow from a cascade of hanging bulbs that Singh says are inspired by the Ganges River in the holy city of Varanasi (also known as Benares) at evening prayers, when the riverbank is lit up by the thousands of flaming candles and torches of worshippers.
Chef Navin Prasad, who worked at Benares London—the first Indian restaurant in the city to be awarded a Michelin star—developed the Bangkok iteration’s a la carte offerings and tasting menus with vegan options. Currently heading the kitchen in Thailand is chef-manager Pankaj Tiwari. Molecular as well as sous vide techniques are used across many dishes, while the bold flavours of Indian cuisine remain distinct so that the results have an interesting cross-cultural charm.
We kick off with first courses to share. Soft-shell karwari crab comes with a crunchy coating of semolina, which offers a pleasant contrast to the juicy meat. The dish is presented with a tangy raspberry chutney and butterfly pea mayonnaise. Foie gras is given a unique punch—it arrives with Indian savouries, coriander and cardamom and has a lightly smoked aromatic finish. A plate of saffron poached pear salad offers a refreshing palate cleanser. The sweet, luscious fruit pays a lovely complement to the bed of fresh greens, honey mustard vinaigrette, tamarind gel, multigrain crackers and almond flakes.
Also to share is a generous platter of prawns done three ways, our favourite being the grilled version which is plump, smoky and flavoursome, and served on a velvety base of coconut powder for a creamy finishing touch. If you’re craving a more traditional taste try makhrani tangri kebab, or chicken drumsticks marinated in black pepper and cooked with paprika and tandoori spices. It is served in petite shot glasses with a sharp yoghurt sauce.
Moving on to the mains, Benares’ butter chicken makes a scrumptious meaty feast. Beautifully spiced and cooked sous vide for four hours until absolutely tender, it is presented deconstructed with a selection of the day’s vegetables, makhani sauce (composed of cashew nuts, tomato and cream) and a tart beetroot jelly. Pair it with fluffy and fragrant saffron rice. Then again, no true Indian meal is ever complete without a curry. If you prefer seafood go for malai kalimirch jhinga—fresh pan-tossed prawns with crushed peppers that are then simmered in a light but creamy curry sauce. The star, however, is nalli gosht, a gorgeously rich lamb shank slow-cooked for six hours with traditional homemade Indian spices—the result is incredibly tender and flavourful bites that are simply perfect with pieces of warm olive-cheddar naan bread fresh from the oven.
End the meal with an Anglo-Indian dessert such as tasty British-style flourless carrot cake with Indian-style carrot pudding, sweet carrot sauce and smoky cardamom ice cream. Also recommended is khubani ka meetha, a decadent confection of contrasting textures featuring smooth apricot mouse, honey caviar, pistachio vacherin and caramelised apricot paste with cashew nuts and chocolate gel. It is a refined flavour cavalcade and makes a fitting end to a meal that is at once innovative but also full of the comfortingly familiar. To sum up, Benares brings to the table out-of-the-box culinary creations that still respect traditions. From crushing their own spices to making cheese and yoghurt in-house, expect authenticity with a dash of imagination.
15 Sukhumvit Residences, 12/499 Sukhumvit Soi 13
Open daily: lunch 11:30am-3pm; dinner 6:30pm-11pm
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