Opened by a local celebrity Chef and his protege, this restaurant brings the nose to tail eating concept to Bangkok. St John made this concept its own in the UK, and the food that comes out of St John is so simple and fantastic that one may be fooled into thinking they can cook it at home too…..or in their restaurant. I mean, how hard can it be right? Simply cooked offal and meats?
Can the team at Smith live up to St John’s philosophy to which they have so blatantly subscribed?
A dish of calf’s tongue with mexican spice and shallots. Firstly, the tongue was slightly chewy, not rubbery, but this hints at a wrong temperature and time for cooking sous-vide or just badly cooked on the hob. I personally like my tongue with a bit of bite, giving lightly after you bite into it and then melting on your mouth. Smith’s version came up short.
The dressing had a bit of acidity to cut the richness of the tongue, but the greasy red pickled stuff (I assume this is pressed cabbage) brought nothing to the dish other than a leathery texture. It seemed to be deep fried to a neither crisp nor tender texture, presenting itself as nothing more than a badly executed garnish on a mediocre dish.
The sticky rice cake cubes interlaced with the tongue cubes was perhaps the nicest component in this dish, even though it puzzles me why the rice cakes were on the plate. You will find a better piece of tongue from a roadside stall in Bangkok that sells all manner of stewed beef parts. This dish did not inspire confidence. Very bad memories of a very bad meal at Hyde and Seek (Same restaurant group as Smith) were flashing back.
We like potatoes in all forms, and I wanted a side of fries, but decided to steal them from a friend’s plate later on. So, we settled on roast potatoes with garlic and rosemary. Other than being greasy, overcooked and tasting like old cardboard (or Old cold potatoes reheated in a deep fryer), I have no idea why the sprig of rosemary is stuck into the potatoes. Will a deep fried sprig do anything? Am I supposed to spear myself in the eyes to distract myself from the pain in my tongue? I stole this pic off a Thai website as I was busy nursing my Guinness.
The best starter came in the form of mini-haggis. I’m not sure if these clowns have ever tasted a haggis before, or even know what it is, but this is a bad bad version of a northern Thai sausage, Sai Oua. Pretend as much as you like that this is a haggis, but I’ve eaten more than a fair share in my life, including 1 quid haggis specials at ASDA (Which taste very good by the way compared to this one).
The sausages were dry and mealy, with a very bad smell that reminded me of andouillette, other than the overtones of spice in a real haggis. I love andouillette by the way, but this haggis was inedible. I doused it heavily with yellow mustard with which it was served, only to be further tortured by a cheap tasting ‘dijon’ mustard probably sold by an American brand.
No acidity or punch to cut heavy flavours, only a heavy, cloying flavour that leaves a curious, powdery texture on the tongue. This dish was a massive fail. If they had served us a real Sai Oua or Saikrok Issan they bought from the roadside and marked up the price, I would have been happier to eat that. The photo here was also stolen.
So we ordered a safe choice, smoked, slow cooked pork belly with a honey glaze. Its very very hard for a restaurant to screw up pork belly, and spying 2 immersion circulators in addition to a Rational combi-steamer in their open kitchen, they had a multitude of means to cook this to perfection.
Well, ladies and gentleman, I stand corrected. All the technique, PR and hype in the world cannot hide a cook’s ineptness in the kitchen. What should be instinctive to any old grandma was lost on this kitchen team, as they overcooked this piece of pork. Instead of being soft and melting with a crisp top, this was dry and stringy. To be fair, it wasn’t dry and stringy in the sense of jerky, but dry and stringy in that there was no delicate gelatinous quality to it.
A piece of pork belly can be tackled by slow cooking until it is falling apart tender, just like in a Japanese Buta Kakuni. Or it can be cooked until just before the point of falling apart, where a butter knife can easily slice through it. Every first bite releases some juice before breaking down gently in the mouth from chewing, simultaneously lubricating it with a wonderful mix of meat, gelatine and fat.
Not this dish, overcooked and tasting more like a Burger King Breakfast Ham patty rather than a beautifully smoked piece of meat that you’d find in America’s BBQ belt. Ok, so they said lightly smoked……but still, whats the point if its going to taste like this?
The burger was just like Hyde and Seek’s, bad. The fries were badly cooked and tasted like a cheap frozen kind fried in oil at the wrong temperature. It wasn’t crisp on the surface with a fluffy interior. Instead, it tasted like fries you would get at a school lunch, with a bit less mushiness. The burger bun with squid ink and parmesan left me wondering if black colouring had not been used instead, as we could not taste anything. No sharpness of parmesan or earthiness of the ink. And yes, we ate the components separately.
The burger patty was mushy mushy mushy. You either have a burger that falls apart in your mouth in small chunks with a bit of a chew, or you can have a burger patty like the one in Maccas or Burger King. This one was like biting into an undercooked meatball. The only saving grace for this burger was the taste of the beef, which was nice and beefy.
I recently ate the signature burger at Daniel Boulud’s Bistro in Singapore and their signature burger was worst than this one in terms of taste. DB’s burger was bland, unbeefy and a total waste of foie gras. Congrats Smith, this burger was not a total failure as it had a very nice beefy flavour.
Thai beef has improved a lot recently and continues to improve. Cooked a pot au feu last week with Thai Brangus (Brahmin crossed with Angus Cow) and it was fantastically beefy.
This unbaked lasagna was a few pasta sheets draping a very badly cooked tomato sauce with chewy sausage slices. This was no ragout, but cheap tomato sauce cooked with mystery meat that reminded me of insoluble jelly babies rather than a beautifully made Cotechino cooked very slowly until it is tender.
Great ragout has a depth of flavour gently married togather from a long, slow simmering at low temperature. This one was more akin to a cheap pasta restaurant with the added insult of cheap, fake parmesan cheese you get at crappy chain pizza restaurants. Greyhound Cafe makes a better lasagna than Smith, and I’d choose Greyhound any day. To be clear, I don’t think the lasagna at Greyhound is much good, but I would not mind eating it, as the price is good for the taste. Smith’s lasagna price is good too at 330baht, but I’d rather take my chances at Swensen’s. At least they would give me more fake cheese to drown out the taste of bad tomato sauce.
I thought we were in Swensen’s when this dish arrived on the table. Overcooked fish lacking all the qualities we look for in fresh sea bass. There was no gently flaking quality or moist interior to enjoy. Instead, it was mushy and bland, with a bad taste of browned fish flesh. Fish browned off the skin usually has this horrible taste to it, as was evident here.
To add insult to what once was a nice piece of fish, its skin was deep fried and subsequently lapped with a foam to accomplish this higher form of cookery technique called soggery. The dodgy green soup this was bathing in added no complementary flavour whatsoever and the cauliflower puree was just not needed, even if it was the nicest tasting thing on the plate. Maybe a big dash of Sriracha chilli sauce to bring me back to dodgy fish and chips.
Speaking of which……we saw a plate of what seemed like overcooked salmon sitting on a bright orange puddle of commercial chilli sauce with delicious helping of FD&C Orange Number 1.
Here’s a stolen picture for you. Its supposed to be a smoked salmon, perhaps inspired by Japanese Shiozake in bento boxes. Would you like to try this?
I think by now, you already know what the desserts would be like. This chocolate terrine with citrus tasted like cheap chocolate with cocoa powder (There was a powdery texture, or the chocolate was not refined enough) . They could’ve told me it was Amedei and I would have believed it, as it shared that signature tasteless quality. What was not tasteless was the orange fluid gel blobs of citrus that tasted curiously like Tang. I’ve never ever tasted mandarins like that before. Smith never ceases to surprise.
This was the best dish of the night. No, not the maraschino cherries re-marinated in something or the powdery meringue or the fake tasting chocolate sponge. Its the passionfruit ice cream that tasted really good and refreshing. A perfect way to cleanse all our tongues of the bad food we just ate.
If you are in to handcuffs, hot wax and all that S&M stuff, I’d advice you not to come here, as it may ruin your plans for the evening. Nothing destroys one’s libido faster than bad food. Unfortunately, Smith is packed full night after night, as this kind of food is new to Bangkok, high class restaurants aside (At which you can as well get a very very very bad meal pray for a small handfull of restaurants).
Marketing and PR goes a long way in promoting the virtues of crap food to an audience that doesn’t know any better. It is a pity that if Thai people took a closer look at their own cuisine and apply the same standards to foreign cuisines, we might be spared the onslaught of well marketed crap food. Sadly, that is the reality of fine cuisine outside of Europe.
The prices at Smith are ok, not too expensive. However, one should never ever mistake a cheap price for a good deal, meaning that I should not complain since it was not that expensive.
However, badly cooked food and cheap ingredients are not the same thing. At St John, cheap cuts of meat are turned into culinary gold, as they do in many other restaurants cheap and expensive. A good understanding of ingredients and cooking is required to pull this off. It can be a granny in Bangkok’s Chinatown selling brain soup, or the porridge shop opposite Sukhumvit 49 selling deep fried intestines to the shop selling beef penis and offal soup in Ekkamai.
At Smith, what we had was just very badly cooked food with very bad flavour combinations designed to fool the masses rather than be respectful to food and cuisine. Much like Thai politics, the masses will, and have been fooled into thinking this is great cuisine. Rather than waste your money on restaurants like this, please keep your money and go to any street food stall that doesn’t look too dodgy to you and plow back a bit of money into the pockets of the hard working folk.
Eating at Smith’s means propagating bad food and it will be painful to see great food be usurped by mediocrity backed with a great marketing team.
Nose to tail eating INDEED. Nothing at Smith’s made me believe that they embrace this concept in any way, just a bunch of hype and conceptualized marketing to create a gimmick so beloved by the masses. The true nose to tail eating is on the streets of Bangkok, not a restaurant with a copied concept more worthy of a bloodied pigs head hung on the front door than in a pot in Smith’s kitchen being cooked badly.