Restaurant POTONG – Thai Chinese Fine Dining by Chef Pam

By Mark Wiens Bangkok
Restaurant POTONG – Thai Chinese Fine Dining by Chef Pam

Tonight we’re eating at Restaurant POTONG, one of the hottest restaurants in Bangkok, serving progressive Thai Chinese food by the talented Chef Pam (Pichaya Soontornyanakij), the youngest and first female to receive the coveted Michelin Thailand Opening of the Year award in 2021.

Her love affair with food started at a young age and eventually led her to New York where she studied at Culinary Institute of America and landed a position at Jean Georges, a world-renowned Haute French restaurant, before returning to her Thai roots.

In addition to her Michelin recognition in her debut year, Chef Pam has consistently garnered praise, earning distinctions such as Asia’s 50 Best and World’s 50 Best restaurants in the same year.

Her journey of critical acclaim has been remarkable, with the pinnacle being her latest achievement: Asia’s Best Female Chef of the Year 2024.

In this post, I’ll share our entire dinner experience, so you know exactly what to expect when you eat here.

Restaurant POTONG

First of all, let’s talk a little bit about the restaurant itself: opened in 2021, POTONG is a Thai Chinese fine dining restaurant owned by Chef Pam. The word ‘potong’ roughly translates to ‘simple’ in Chinese, but Chef Pam’s food is anything but.

From the busy Yaowarat Road in the evening, you navigate your way down the narrow lanes of Sampeng market (mostly an early morning market for clothes and trinkets). In the evening it’s quiet and peaceful. 

Nestled within the historic market lanes of Bangkok’s Chinatown (Yaowarat), Chef Pam’s restaurant resides in her family’s renovated pharmacy shophouse and heritage home.

For over a century, this space served as both residence and hub for producing Chinese medicinal herbs. On the exterior, you’ll spot the original awning of Thai and Chinese characters, another homage to the family’s lineage.

So what was it like eating at restaurant POTONG? 

POTONG is incredibly thought out, with a distinctive design of SINO-Portuguese heritage and historic shophouses surrounding it.

However, once inside the the ground floor it’s like entering a modern speakeasy-meets-science lab, that serves as a lounge waiting area. The friendly staff immediately welcomed me with a glass of champagne while I waited for my friends to join.

From this room, you can start to learn about the heritage of Chef Pam, family pharmacy, and the effort they needed to go through to renovate the property, which took nearly 3 years of research and planning during the pandemic.

There’s a small elevator that can fit two or three people at a time, or you can take the steep staircase. We took the stairs all the way to the top floor, passing Chef Pam and her open-concept kitchen along the way.

On the fifth or sixth floor was where we had our appetizer, a Yunnanese style air dried cured ham, paired with surprisingly a quite fantastic local Thai wine.

Once finished, we proceeded downstairs to our table. I was impressed with the dimly lit dining space with ancestral nods, Chinoiserie motifs and beautiful dark wood tones.

Our first bite, was dedicated to chicken. It included a chicken wafer, and some of the most flavorful black chicken broth you’ll ever have. The combination was very flavorful and sophisticated, you could tell it had been simmered for hours.

Next up was the banana course. 

Something I love, is that Chef Pam is always thinking outside of the box and very creatively, using all parts of every ingredient. For this course she used the banana meat, banana stock, and the banana flower.

Crab course

First, you take a bite of the crab arm, one of the single best bites of the crab, it was extremely sweet and juicy.

But one of the highlights is when you lift the crab shell and there’s spiced roe tucked into each side. Spread onto crispy toast, the flavor is sweet, nutty, buttery, and so complex.

Pad Thai 

You’ve probably had Pad Thai before, perhaps the most famous of all dishes. But Chef Pam‘s version at POTONG is different than any other Pad Thai you’ve had.

It was nice how they first presented the history of Pad Thai, and how it was inspired by the Chinese migration in Thailand.

The dishes self started off with a shrimp on a plate, and table side it was draped in a noodle of the Thai flag.

I picked up the shrimp and took a bite.

Immediately I could taste the sweet-and-sour tamarind flavors of Pad Thai, yet in a totally different form. Not carb heavy, but rather focused on the shrimp itself. It was more of a deconstructed version of the popular dish, unlike any other Pad Thai I’ve ever had.

Next course included squid noodles topped with a morel mushroom, a very delicate dish with well balanced flavor, and a perfect representation of Thai Chinese.

Then came Chilean toothfish, cooked in a sauce of shrimp paste.

Everything was very well, balanced, not a strong flavor of shrimp paste, but just the perfect amount of umami and hint of cheesiness.

14 Day Dry Aged Duck 

One of Chef Pam‘s most famous dishes is her duck course, a two week dry aged breast, cooked, so the skin is extra crispy, but the meat remains juicy and pink on the inside. It’s one of the best bites of duck in Bangkok!

This course comes in all its glory on a table sized Lazy Susan, with the golden breast starring as the centerpiece.

Chef Pam makes all parts of the duck, and the duck head beak with the brains on the inside was insane. Give it a try – it is unexpectedly delicious! 

Some of our side dishes:

We had a ginkgo nut fried rice, stirred in a stone pot table side.

Additionally, we had a braised eggplant dish, and a number of vegetable sides and sauces. The chili oil was mild on heat, but big on flavor.

We also tried Wagyu Char Siu, which was as good as it sounds – totally melted in your mouth.

Onto the palate cleanser:

This was one of the most clever palate cleansers I’ve seen, stuck to the bottom of an intricately carved block of ice, which reminded me of a maze.

I picked up the block of ice and on the bottom was a bite of snake fruit. it provided the perfect balance of sour, and sweet.

For dessert, we enjoyed a tribute to corn, skillfully transformed into a variety of styles.

And we finished our meal with petite fours and some outstanding oolong tea.

Overview 

Restaurant POTONG is without a doubt, a very high-end fine dining Thai Chinese restaurant in Bangkok, perfect for a special occasion.

To me what really sets it apart, is the thought and creativity behind each dish, and the entire story of Chef Pam and her Thai Chinese family heritage. You can really see how she puts her heart and soul into everything she does.

The food is truly exceptional, as is the atmosphere and the entire staff. Highly recommend if you’re ever in Bangkok.

Restaurant POTONG

Address: 422 ถนน วาณิช 1 เขตสัมพันธวงศ์, Samphanthawong, สัมพันธวงศ์, Bangkok 10100 (Google Map)

Hours: Thursday to Monday, 4:30-11PM, Closed Tuesday and Wednesday

Price: ฿4,000 – ฿6,000 per person

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