The main dining area and lanterns of Som Chai
Som Chai opened last month on Jalan Kerobokan, Seminyak and you would have to say the Sarong Group, who brought Bali the award winning and downright fabulous Asian cuisine inspired Sarong, Mamasan, Hujan Locale and Tiger Palm restaurants, have done it again.
Written by: David Trauts
Som Chai is another stylish and authentic Southeast Asian restaurant and notch in the belt for the Sarong group, this time concentrating on delicious Thai cuisine and an abundance of Thai style. You would think that Will Meyrick, after so much experience already in Thai food, travelling the country extensively and cooking some of the finest Thai in his many restaurants, would have enough fire power in his little black book of recipes to open another restaurant without too much effort, but no, as we all know, the man is possessed and once more was out on the mostly unridden trails of Thailand searching for new dishes for this new project. He did a trip for almost two months with his perennial offsider and sous chef Palm Amatawet and new Som Chai head chef, Wayan Suprapta. They travelled throughout Thailand before sitting down to develop the menu and according Meyrick the menu is influenced by the era of the first Kings of Siam.
Crispy soft shell crab som tam with green apple
We arrive early, around 7pm and walk through the heavy wooden front doors and are greeted by the young lady at reception who takes us straight through to the main dining area. We pass a corridor-like lounge area draped in silk and chiffon curtains, with swings, as in the kids swings hanging limply waiting for someone to take the required position.
The main dining area is enormous, with what could be called Bali’s largest vaulted roof. Large, Thai-style metal lanterns hang from the ceiling, while rattan patterned panels divide the dining sections. Comfy chairs and sofas surround multiple solid tables and a full-wall, vertical garden on one side definitely brings an organic touch to the elegance, and the large container look bar tops off a very inviting and interesting look and atmosphere. The décor is reminiscent in many ways of the Kempinski Bangkok’s fine dining restaurant, Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin.
Spacious dining area with rattan patterned dividers
Dining at Som Chai starts with great service. The attentive staff are obviously trained to a T and show great poise and style, knowledgeable of each dish and helpful with selection. The dishes could be complex for the novice Thai diner so this does help. A nice touch was one of the waiters first coming around with the house wines on a trolley for us to taste while checking the extensive menu. This makes the selecting of wine a breeze.
Since we were on a night out, we first ordered signature cocktails Barrel Aged Manhatten (Rp 135k) and Drunken Monk (Rp 120k) for the lady. While sipping on those delightful, infused kickstarters we order a number of entrees.
The extensive menu consists of entrees, salads, mains, curries, stir-fries and noodle and rice dishes – just what you would imagine on any fine Thai menu.
The swings are ready in Som Chai Lounge
The four entrees start with the signature Will Meyrick starter, betel leaf topped with coffee wood smoked mackerel and Jeow Bong relish (Rp 45k), crispy shell crab som tam with green apple (Rp 120k) substituting the typical green papaya with green apple for a new sensation, and two specially prepared entrees by the chef, Stir Fried Pumpkin (Rp 70k) and a Pork Rib Soup (Rp 120k). The flavours of the fresh local produce and Thai spices burst from the plate and onto the palate. The waiters also asked, as we ordered, if we liked our food spicy or not, which is something to keep in mind as some of the dishes are rather spicy.
Crispy barramundi with pineapple holy basil lime leaf
For the mains we moved straight to the crispy barramundi with pineapple holy basil lime leaf and three flavors sauce (Rp 195k). The whole grilled fish had a sweet and tangy sauce and was perfectly tender and juicy. The other main was a grilled “Aeb pla” of barramundi marinated in chili turmeric kaffir lime leaf wrapped in banana leaf served with nam pla prik (a hot Thai sauce) and sticky rice (Rp 170k). “Aeb pla” means wrapped in banana leaf in Thai.
We finished off with a delicious selection of the Som Chai dessert favourites, which is aptly called the Chef’s Dessert Selection (Rp150k). After all that food we were lucky to be able to move at all, but after finishing dinner we did manage to move to the front bar area for a couple of drinks and to see what exactly happened with those swings.
Sample plate of Chef’s selection dessert
By this time, and I believe it’s Thursday to Saturday nights only, the Som Chai Lounge area turns into what appears to be a dark, smoky den of iniquity that they say harks back to the old hedonistic days of Bangkok’s Chinatown. It also leans to the risque of modern clubs in the bustling and cosmopolitan new Bangkok like Maggie Choo and Sing Sing. We enjoyed another drink while the boudoir attired girls swung languidly on their swings nearby.
It’s an all-round fun and a sensorial experience at Som Chai and a perfect addition to Seminyak’s dining scene. The food is as delicious as you would always expect from Will Meyrick and the Sarong Group and for the service, style and excellence in cuisine, it is definitely excellent value for money. It ticks all the boxes.