For our first taste of Laotian cuisine outside of Laos, we head to Bangkok’s Thonglor for Funky Lam Kitchen. The motorcycle themed space of its daytime brunch-serving alter-ego, Luka Moto, takes on an edgier streak at night with the hand-painted black blinds illuminated by red light, stone floors, and modern furniture. It is the brainchild of two members of the Laotian royal family, Bangkok nightlife whiz Sanya Souvanna Phouma (co-founder of Bed Supper Club, Maggie Choo’s, and Sing Sing Theater Club) and his cousin Saya Na Champassak, and their way of keeping their culinary heritage alive.
As we ponder over the menu, we get settled in with a welcome shot of home brew made with rice, yeast, and sugar that’s enhanced with a little honey, and a delightful bowl of incredibly addictive fried dried Laos chillis that make excellent drinking snacks. We continued picking at these throughout the meal.
Much of North and North-Eastern Thailand border Laos, and many in those regions are probably ethnically Laotian. So while it’s not surprising that Funky Lam’s menu contains many similar ingredients and techniques as northern Thai and Esan food, there are produce and pairings that are completely new to us. One of them is the Kaipen (THB190), sheets of fried Mekong riverweed accompanied by three dips – jaew bong (sweet and savoury Lao chili paste), a charred tomato salasa called jaew mak len, and the Laotian eggplant dip jaew ma-keua. Pair it with a side of sticky rice, and voila – a satisfying meat-free meal.
I’m not an expert on Chiangmai-style sausages but the herbs and spices in the Sai Oua (THB290) strike me as well balanced. At the risk of it sounding like the sausage party, we’d also recommend the Hoy Sai Oua (THB350) is a hearty, lip-smacking bowl of surf and turf. The same sausage is used here alongside surf clams, which come in a broth of lemongrass and charred tomato with garlic butter. Flavourful and slightly smoky, we enjoyed every spoonful of it.
Options in large plates include the simple yet well-executed Gai Ping (THB360). The kiss of the grill that our half of an organic baby chicken wears like a cloak pairs well with the spicy jaew bongand creamy smashed avocado jaew. The Le Tigre Qui Pleure (THB980) is Funky Lam’s upgraded take on Northeastern Thai dish sua rong hai(meaning ‘crying tiger’), and its name is based in a Thai forest myth.
Traditionally, it sees beef brisket flavoured with spices and grilled rare. Here? A 225g cut of Australian Wagyu ribeye with a marbling score of 2+ is used – juicy, and worth every baht.
Funky Lam might not have much in the ways of dessert, but you know what? We’d rather have their cocktails created by Carson Quinn of Iron Balls Gin, which showed up in Queen of the South(THB320). Made with plum-infused Iron Balls Gin, fresh lime, bitters, and garnished with dried salted plum, it’s a winner for anyone needs a refresher. Folks in the mood for something more spirit forward can try the bourbon-based Longan Old Fashioned (THB 320). We just wished both drinks were a little more fruit forward so more flavour came through.
In the end, with the plethora of dining options in Thonglor, it’s easy to miss Funky Lam Kitchen. But if you haven’t been or haven’t returned in awhile, it’s an intriguing “same same, but different” dining experience to have.
Funky Lam Kitchen is located at The Taste Thonglor, 235 Soi 11, Sukhumvit 55, Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana,Bangkok, p. +66 2 050 0469. Open Mon 6pm-11.30pm, Wed-Sun 6pm-11.30pm. Closed Tue.