As far as looks go, Krung Thep isn’t your garden variety Thai restaurant. Ensconced in the brand new gastronomic enclave of Republik in Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur the restaurant has dim lighting, a huge open kitchen and a distinctly trendy vibe that mimics all the enthralling qualities of an upscale nightclub.
The eatery is the brainchild of founder Tan Boon Wy, whose company Wy & Co also runs a number of other F&B outlets, including PS150 as well as Tickets, which is just next door to Krung Thep.
Tan opened Krung Thep a few months ago on the back of a global Asian food trend he had noticed. “What we saw over the last few years globally has been a push for Asian cuisines so we started looking for an Asian concept. Next we felt that in Malaysia, we had never experienced the complexity of regional Thai food. So instead of the usual Thai menu, we experimented on a nose-to-tail concept and complex flavours,” says Tan.
The kitchen is helmed by seasoned Thai chef Piyanat Yowabut, better known as chef Gug, who has a reputation for elevating family-style fare into restaurant meals. Gug’s menu traverses Thailand’s many regions, from north to northeast (Issan), south and central Thailand.
At Krung Thep, all the spice pastes are made the traditional way, using a pestle and mortar while a binchotan (charcoal grill) also plays an important role. There is also a strong focus on authenticity, which is why all the recipes have remained intact, impervious to finicky local tastebuds and predilections.
“We have chosen to stay 100% authentic. In Thailand, the flavours can be very powerful, and while we are wary of this, we carefully select certain dishes which are palatable for Malaysians without compromising how that dish should be traditionally served. As we serve multiple regional dishes, there should be something for everyone,” says Peter Lamb, the restaurant’s general manager.
Each meal starts with complimentary deep-fried chicken skin, which translates to light, crispy shards laced with hedonism.
Having completed that delicious opener, dig into a plate of Pla Merk Go Lek (RM26) which is essentially grilled baby squid in a southern style curry. The squid is cooked phenomenally well and is so soft and tender, it yields willingly in the mouth with almost no mastication required. The dry curry that coats it is also delightful and has traces of coconut that linger pleasantly on the palate.
Up next, try the Som Dtam (RM24), a dish that originates from northeastern Thailand.
“It is considered one of the fundamental components of Thai meals in this region. At Krung Thep, our rendition is based on the central Thai version, often referred to as ‘Som Tam Thai’, which includes Sida tomatoes. These tomatoes are imported from Thailand, as they are sourish in nature, and once pounded, they release that addictive tang which is a key characteristic of a delicious Som Dtam,” says Lamb.
Here, Hat Yai green papayas coalesce with long beans, Sida tomatoes, bird’s eye chillies, dried prawns and peanuts in what proves to be a tangy, uplifting affair with textural contrasts and fiery heat lurking in every crevice. If you’re even the tiniest bit sleepy, this offering is likely to perk you right up.
If you’re after something served piping hot, you’ll appreciate the nourishing qualities of the Tom Yam Pla Insee (RM38). The clear soup is light, with an overarching sour component and a distinct homemade quality to it. It’s the sort of thing you won’t be able to stop thinking about when you’re having a flu or just feeling in the doldrums, although fair warning – the sourness might not find fans in all diners.
The Gung Orb Woon Sen (RM42) or claypot baked sea prawns, with glass noodles, ginger and green chilli sauce has a very simple, unadorned quality to it. In fact, it’s so simple, it’s like an encounter so uneventful, you’ll forget it as soon as it happened.
The same cannot be said about the Pad Ped Gai (RM42), a southern style fiery dry curry with Ipoh kampung chicken, green peppercorns, wild ginger and holy basil. The dry curry is inherently spicy and laces every fibre and molecule of the chicken perfectly. It is almost like a Thai version of a dry-style rendang (rendang tok).
Perhaps the star offering on Krung Thep’s menu at the moment is the Phu Gup Goong Pad Gong Garee (RM48) which is essentially Pulau Ketam flower crab, ming prawns, yellow curry powder and coconut milk.
“This is a typical seaside dish that is very popular in restaurants that are located along the coastal areas in Peninsular or southern Thailand. At Krung Thep, we use the flower crab from Pulau Ketam, which we find has a wonderful flavour and the benefit of being fresh and locally sourced,” says Lamb.
The dish is intoxicatingly good – plump morsels of crab and prawn slathered in a sumptuously creamy, slightly sweet gravy that is extremely endearing and very, very addictive.
Up the luxe quotient of your meal with the Neur Yang Jim Jaew (RM118) or 120-day grain-fed Angus rib eye with a mixed herb salad. The beef has been grilled on the pinchotan, which in turn has yielded an exterior with a lovely crackly crust and an interior that’s still pink and tender. It’s the perfect combination of smoky flavours supplemented by velvety soft meat. The salad on the side meanwhile is fresh and herbaceous, with more pronounced Thai flavours.
It is evident that a lot of time, effort and attention has been poured into getting the dishes at Krung Thep just right. Although portions are not princely (and prices are not cheap), nearly every dish effortlessly captures your attention and continues to captivate your senses long after the meal is over.
Given that the eatery is only a few months old now, Tan says he is in no hurry to expand, although he is keeping an open mind.
“At this stage we are looking to keep it humble with just the one restaurant although should an opportunity arise for us to expand the brand and showcase the depth of Thai flavours, we will consider it,” he says.
Jalan Medan Setia 1
50490 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-7622 8760
Open daily: 11.30am to 2.30pm; 5.30pm to 10.30pm