POPULAR for the last decade in Britain and Australia, the pop-up restaurant concept seems to have finally found its way to Bangkok with the recent opening of the reservation-only eatery Storehouse Dining in a narrow soi off Rama IV Road.
Open from Thursday to Sunday, this small but intimate dining space - actually the ground floor of Mor Apisitsareekul's home - is an ideal place for sweethearts or friends to enjoy a delicious meal in a homey setting without worrying about disturbing - or being disturbed - by neighbouring tables.
Mor, a self-taught cook who bills her fare as "fusion with an Asian influence", accepts only single parties of two to eight people at a time and bookings must be made at least four days in advance. The eight-course dinner, which changes regularly, is normally priced at Bt1,700 per person with a surcharge added if the ingredients include such delicacies as wagyu beef. The menu will be sent to diners in advance, thus avoiding potential food allergies cropping up on the night.
"It would be too tough for me to run a restaurant that opens seven days a week. I prefer to cook in my own kitchen and change my menu depending on what inspires and tempts me at the market. For their part, the diners feel at home and are open to surprises," says Mor, who has been running Storehouse Dining for the last three months.
The glass-partitioned dining room with a long dining table is bathed in warm light and boasts a comfy sofa, a flat-screen TV and a stereo. A wicker basket on top of a cabinet is filled with complimentary soft drinks and bottled water and arriving guests can help themselves to a welcome drink of soda, elderflower syrup and ice from the attractive glass mason jar or mix themselves a cocktail. Alcohol is not sold but there is no corkage charge for anyone who wants to bring their own wine.
Mor lived in the US for several years but decided to return home after splitting with her American husband. She brought back with her an impressive range of kitchen equipment, which she says is much cheaper there than in Thailand.
"I've spent much of the last decade travelling around Europe and that opened my eyes to several different foods and new ingredients. I spent three months in Spain dividing my time between Barcelona and Ulldecona and it was a wonderful culinary voyage. I learned to incorporate these new ingredients with my Thai-Chinese cooking roots and wanted to share these combinations with others," says Mor.
A charming hostess, Mor takes care of all the guests who can be part of the gourmet experience by watching Mor through the part-glass door as she cooks the dishes. The amuse-bouches vary from grilled cheese to salmon marinated with yellow chilli and fried calamari with cream sauce, depending on what's fresh and in season.
On my visit, I enjoyed steamed Chinese dumplings stuffed with minced abalone, young coconut tips and stir-fried mushrooms seasoned with whipped cream, chilli and vinegar, sweet and black soy sauces, and worcestershire sauce, all served on an attractive slate plate. That was followed by a salad of crisp green peas, butterhead lettuce, and rolls of thinly-sliced cucumbers topped with a honey and mustard dressing that added zest to the deep-fried battered prawns and a grilled pork slice marinated with herbs.
Next to arrive at the table was seared Hokkaido scallop topped with cream and yuzu, mashed sweet potato and carrot puree mixed with mayonnaise and olive oil. Equally tempting was the crabmeat macaroni and parmesan cheese spiced up with sliced pickled Mexican peppers and Tabasco sauce. The abalone cream soup was also a delight, its taste greatly enhanced by the shitake and earthstar mushrooms blended with cream.
Mor's ingredients are sourced both locally and internationally: the abalone comes from Hong Kong, the scallops from Hokkaido, the wagyu beef from Australia, the sea bass from New Zealand, the shitake mushrooms from China and the crabmeat from southern Thailand.
"The flexible ingredients help me to plan on several levels. A French friend sometimes sends me horsemeat sausages and foie gras while a Spanish friend brought me pickled olives."
Three choices for the main dishes were on offer the day I visited and I opted for the 180-gram wagyu beef strips dressed with a sauce made from dried peppercorn, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce and mirin. It was served with potato wedges seasoned with slightly spicy sauce made from fennel powder, coriander leaves, chilli pepper, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, and a morsel of Mexican peppers blended with coriander leaves and olive oil.
The two other choices were tender pork ribs and mashed sweet potato, and seared sea bass served with sun-dried potato and bell pepper puree together with mashed sweet potato.
Mor also excels at desserts and among her favourite preparations are banana fritters topped with caramel syrup, a small cube of dark chocolate cake and cheesecake, cherry ice cream, pickled orange macaroon and cookie crunch.
Inspired by the top chef Thomas Keller and his landmark Napa Valley restaurant the French Laundry, Mor plans to apply molecular cooking techniques to her new dishes. And she's planning on shutting up shop for all of May as she sets off once again on her travels and enhances her culinary skills.
HOME SWEET HOME
Storehouse Dining is on Soi Chokdee off Rama IV Road. It's open for dinner from Thursday to Sunday by reservation only. Call (086) 384 3400 or visit the Storehouse Dining page on Facebook.