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A taste of Bangkok style at JAM in Dempsey
JAM at Siri House
Blk 8D, #01-02 Dempsey Hill, Dempsey Road
Open for lunch and dinner Tues to Sun: 11.30am to 2.30pm; 6pm to 10.30pm. Closed on Mon.
HEY Siri, find me a restaurant. Let it be stylish yet homey, kind of like a showflat where you don't have to take your shoes off. Let it be in laid-back, with leafy surroundings so you don't feel hemmed in by concrete and time constraints. Make sure the food is accessible and comforting but not at all mundane. Make it so comfortable that you wish you could just spend an entire afternoon grazing and resisting the temptation to take a nap on a plump armchair that holds you in an embrace like a favourite ample-sized aunt in her colourful housecoat.
Your iPhone personal assistant probably won't be able to help you find such a restaurant, but Siri House - named for the luxury Thai developer Sansiri - will, because it's created such a place in the form of JAM.
Even if you have just a passing interest in buying a condo in Bangkok, you'll know that Sansiri is behind some of the poshest apartments in the city, always walking distance to a BTS station, with premium prices to match. The underlying aim of Siri House is to get Singaporeans to buy an apartment in its latest project in Thonglor - hence the model of the block taking pride of place in its smallish showflat decked out in the kind of brash eclectic decor that might give monochrome purists an allergic reaction.
But the Thais have a way of going over-the-top like it was the most natural thing to do. Bling-y chandeliers, shiny reflective bar counters plus brocade furniture fresh from your friendly neighbourhood boudoir come together in an un-selfconscious way that is oddly tasteful.
Comfort is the key here, and it extends to the ambience created by engaging staff and a menu by ex-Lolla chef Ming Tan (who now runs Park Bench Deli) that focuses on uncomplicated robust flavours, textures and a total disregard for calories.
Why else would chef Tan be masochistic enough to create addictive "cookies" out of fat rendered from chicken skin? We dare you to stop at just one Chicken in a Biscuit (S$12) - killer crackers which combine the texture of crumbly sable and the joy of that first bite of shattering crisp roast chicken - smeared with an equally evil whipped cream cheese topping.
It doesn't get any lighter with the Ham and Cheese Bikini (S$16). The original tapa is a simple indulgence of jamon and manchego cheese sandwich toasted in olive oil. But in a case of more is more, Jam's version loads up on three different kinds of ham, gouda and mozzarella cheese, with truffle paste and tomato puree for good measure. Yes, it's overkill but as any cheese addict will declare, "come to Mama".
Tuna tartare (S$26) isn't the namby-pamby minced delicate sashimi that is the norm. Here, you get to sink your teeth into meaty chunks of tuna aged in kombu and marinated in soya sauce and mirin. Finely sliced grapes on top add a sweet distraction to this simple pleasure. In between the sharing plates, nibble on freshly popped corn (not the stale kind that stick to your teeth like a bad reputation) flavoured with pork fat and salt to negate any calorie savings. If you're feeling righteous, don't ask for a refill.
You'll need to save room and trouser space for JAM's version of luxe fried chicken - an offspring of KFC and Japanese karaage. Chicken oysters are used - choice nuggets that are rolled in a rather heavily seasoned spice mix with a hint of curry and deep-fried till extra crunchy. The batter-to-chicken ratio is a little high, so you get more crunch than actual chicken. It's drizzled with a creamy herb ranch dressing and topped with deep fried sage leaves - heavy-going but we don't expect anyone to refuse the come-hither look of those nuggets.
The homemade papardelle comes highly recommended (S$33) and the almost "QQ" chewy al dente flat sheets of pasta make it worth ordering, even if the intense creamy seafood bisque sauce it's bathed in can be too much of a good thing. The first few bites are great as you savour the strong umami of reduced prawn and lobster head stock thickened with roux. A large meaty prawn adds to the luxe feel while the mussels are overcooked. The pasta gets cloying about halfway through, so maybe they'd want to do a few more versions of the otherwise terrific pasta.
S'mores (S$18) are an American childhood treat of graham crackers sandwiched with gooey toasted marshmallows, but are interpreted here as a dessert cookie sandwich of Valrhona chocolate ganache, raspberry and marshmallow cream. It's pretty pricey, but like the rest of the menu, subtlety is not in JAM's vocabulary, so you do get a good whack of chocolate intensity for the price.
Like the decor, JAM is no shrinking violet when it comes to its food. But it's done with such unassuming good-naturedness that you can't help being charmed by it. That, and its away-from-the-city location in a quiet green section of Dempsey Village. We may not be able to afford a Sansiri condo, but getting a taste of its lifestyle (without the smog) isn't bad either.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: The Business Times pays for all meals at restaurants reviewed on this page. Unless specified, the writer does not accept hosted meals prior to the review's publication.