6 June 2024

Bangkok, a global hub for culinary exploration, is witnessing a refreshing wave – the rise of Indian coastal cuisine in fine dining.

Gone are the days of menus featuring only North Indian dishes like chicken Tikka Masala, butter chicken, and daal makhani. The capital’s diners are now embarking on a delicious journey along India’s vast coastline, experiencing a kaleidoscope of flavors unique to each region.

Chef-owner Rohit Sharma of Tapori.//Photo courtesy of Tapori

This shift reflects a growing interest in more regional Indian cuisine, as Chef-owner Rohit Sharma of the newly opened Tapori puts it. Diners are “explorers” seeking “bold flavors, aromatic spices,” and the inherent health benefits associated with Indian vegetarian options.

They’re finally realizing the incredible diversity of Indian food, adds Chef Bharath Shridhar Bhat of NILA, a new coastal-focused restaurant at the Amari Bangkok hotel.

Chef Bharath Shridhar Bhat of NILA.//Photo by Warunee Maneekum

Outside of India, Indian cuisine is often stereotyped as curry and tandoori. However, some leading Indian chefs are now showcasing its incredible diversity.

Punjab Grill Bangkok, once helmed by Chef Bharath, has also introduced a new chef specializing in coastal cuisine.

Welcome to Punjab Grill, where culinary artistry meets fine dining.//Photo by Warunee Maneekum

Introducing Chef Nana Salunke, the culinary maestro leading Punjab Grill to new heights.

NILA – the name is derived from the Malayalam word (used in Kerala) for the colour blue, symbolising the azure waters that line India’s picturesque coast – offers a fresh perspective.

“Indian chefs are crucial in this evolution,” says Tapori’s Chef Rohit.

Indulge in the rich flavors of Benumi Kheer, a traditional dessert served at Tapori.//Photo by Warunee Maneekum

“They bring authenticity and creativity to the table. They are ambassadors of our culinary heritage, using their skills and knowledge to reinterpret traditional dishes for a global audience while maintaining the soul of Indian cuisine.”

At NILA, Chef Bharath showcases an array of dishes influenced by centuries of culinary heritage, featuring fresh seafood recipes influenced by Portuguese cuisine from Goa and the Malabar (Kerala) coast, as well as European culinary traditions along India’s eastern coast.

Meanwhile, Tapori offers food from Mumbai’s streets to the Himalayas, presented in a fine dining setting with a sophisticated ambience.

Tapori’s décor mirrors the chef-patron’s culinary journeys, creating an inviting ambiance.//Photo by Warunee Maneekum

Indian cuisine has come a long way.

It is now embraced as a cuisine that can be both sophisticated and diverse, suitable for celebratory occasions and fine dining settings, thanks to the efforts of innovative chefs and changing diner expectations.

JHOL, a pioneer in Bangkok’s coastal fine dining scene, deserves credit for igniting this trend. Chef-owner Hari Nayak, a culinary authority, presents familiar Indian staples reimagined with haute-cuisine finesse.

Dishes like avocado mousse-filled pani puri with passionfruit sauce exemplify this innovative approach. Jhol’s success has paved the way for other restaurants like NILA and Tapori to showcase their distinct coastal specialties.

The coastal cuisines are no longer unknown to Bangkok foodies. Now in 2024, NILA and Tapori offer a chance to delve deeper.

NILA, drawing inspiration from Chef Bharath’s Mangalorean roots, offers a menu free of tandoors and the ubiquitous Chicken Tikka Masala.

Tapori, on the other hand, champions the lesser-known flavors of southern India, aiming to change the clichéd perception of Indian cuisine globally.

“At Tapori, we see fine dining as an elevated way to celebrate Indian cuisine,” explains Chef Rohit.

“It’s not just about the food, but the entire experience – the ambience we create, the attentive service, and of course, the presentation.

While both casual and fine dining share the warmth of Indian hospitality and the joy of sharing a meal, we offer a more curated experience that lets you plan your own food coma tour.”

This movement goes beyond individual restaurants.

It signifies a broader appreciation for the regional depth of Indian cuisine.

It’s about showcasing the unique culinary traditions shaped by local ingredients, historical influences, and diverse cultural practices across India’s vast landscape.

Bangkok’s fine dining scene is now a platform for this rich tapestry of flavors to be experienced and celebrated.

This growing appreciation is evident in the recognition these restaurants are receiving.

The Michelin Guide Thailand’s praise for Gaa, Haoma, and Indian Accent Bangkok highlights the innovative interpretations of Indian cuisine using seasonal and local ingredients.

These accolades showcase the artistry and finesse that Indian chefs are bringing to the table.

The future of coastal cuisine in Bangkok’s fine dining scene is bright.

As diners continue their exploration and chefs push the boundaries of creativity, we can expect a thrilling wave of culinary experiences that redefine our understanding of Indian food.

With adventurous diners and innovative chefs leading the way, Bangkok’s fine dining scene is poised for a delicious exploration of India’s diverse coastal cuisines.

This is merely the first wave of a culinary adventure waiting to be savored.

By Veena Thoopkrajae