Restaurant Chedi in Jalan Besar takes diners on a gastronomic exploration of traditional Thai flavours through a contemporary lens.
Some cuisines are naturally resistant to modernisation. Whether it’s a culture’s steadfast adherence to tradition or its people’s love for comforting, familiar flavours, there is often pushback when new ideas are introduced.
I consider Thai cuisine to be one of those. So when I heard there was a new Thai restaurant in town with a more experimental and contemporary approach, my eyes rolled reflexively. They rolled again when I find out neither its chefs nor owners are Thai.
Decor-wise, Restaurant Chedi – located on Hamilton Road in the burgeoning dining and nightlife district of Jalan Besar – looks everything like the modern Asian restaurant it’s set out to be. Warm hues and wood accents dominate, its walls predictably punctuated with pieces of Thai folkart. The most Western concession is a bar counter overlooking an open kitchen – which you won’t normally find in traditional Thai restaurants – so you can observe the chefs at work.
Here, Restaurant Chedi chef-owner K-Jin Lim and Head Chef Miller Mai hold court. Between giving instructions to the rest of the team and working the stoves themselves, both Lim and Mai still find time to explain their gastronomic creations to customers.
The menu, too, moves away from the usual a la carte offerings. Instead, Restaurant Chedi offers an encompassing eight-course tasting menu that explores (mostly familiar) flavours from across Thailand but with new perspective.
For example, you start off with Miang Kham. Their take on the traditional street snack commonly found on street corners of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai is explosive with flavour and texture, the betel leaf wrapping a medley of crispy dried shrimp and Hokkaido ikura and drizzled in a most delectable sweet-sour-salty dressing. What sets this apart is the accompanying palate cleanser, a shot made with tamarind, palm sugar, salt, and soda water.
Then there’s Nam Prik Gapi, a classic Thai relish normally served as an appetiser. Here you eat the funkyand umami-laden dip with cucumber sticks, battered broccolini, and deep-fried baby shrimp. Those who love their Thai papaya salad will be impressed with the Som Tam Ruam Mit, which elevates som tum with the use of an unusual medley of seasonal fruit, vegetables, and herbs. We had arugula, pink guava and pomelo in ours, and it worked.
Or how about the Gaeng Som Fak Thong? It’s a curry like no other. This comes as a spiced pumpkin curry – think rich earthy notes of Western pumpkin soup melded with flavours of tom yum goong – served with a beautifully seared filet of Chilean seabass set atop house-made fish floss.
It’s the Tom Kha Gai that most showcase Restaurant Chedi’s experimental side. Here the classic spicy Thai chicken broth has been reimagined as a baked chicken wing. This is a wingette that’s been deboned and restuffed with minced chicken, mushroom, foie gras and glutinous rice. It is served alongside a whipped espuma laden with the flavours of the creamy, spicy flavours of the original. This is as delicious as it is sublime.
Other dishes – the Nam Ya Goong Mang Korn and Kor Muu Yang – are less iconoclastic, but are still expressive of Thai flavours but in a different form. We like, for example, how the former is a reimagining of a classic vegetable and seafood stir-fry.
But in our opinion the best dish in Restaurant Chedi is ultimately the most traditional of them all. The Signature Khao Pad Kid Terng is a supplement on the tasting menu, but one you should not miss out. That’s right, it’s fried rice done Thai-Chinese style. Chef-owner K-Jin himself took to the wok, skilfully and deftly flicking the rice over a raging fire to imbue it with smoky flavours we’ve come to love in wok-fried rice. What elevates the dish, aside from freshly-picked crab meat and tobiki, is the bits of salted fish. Chef-owner K-Jin personally sourced this threadfin-based salted fish from Thailand, the condiment infusing so much umami into each mouthful of rice.
“Thai cuisine is broad and diverse, yet most of us only know a handful of popular dishes when in fact, there are thousands of dishes across the entire kingdom,” says Chef K-Jin. “We want to offer diners a deeper understanding of Thai cuisine in a genial, approachable setting,” Lim adds.
“We aim to highlight the nuances of Thai food without the formality that is sometimes present in places that showcase traditions,” supplies Chef Miller, a seasoned kitchen veteran with experience spanning two decades in Chinese, French, Italian and Japanese restaurants across Singapore. “At Restaurant Chedi, we want to serve up serious Thai food without pretension.”
Of how they tries to push the envelope in modern Thai cookery, both Chef-owner K-Jin and Chef Miller say nothing. It seems even the most ardent agents of change understand and respect the sanctity of classic Thai cuisine.
Restaurant Chedi offers an 8-course tasting menu at $148++ person that will change throughout the year.
[Photo credits: Restaurant Chedi]
Address 15 Hamilton Road, Singapore 209185 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 6pm to 10.30pm Mondays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays
Tel (65) 8686 6169