BANGKOK, Feb 19 — Hidden away on a tree-lined street in one of Bangkok’s well-heeled neighbourhoods, the German restaurant Sühring has the simple, light energy of a summer home. Very different from the rowdy bierhaus one finds in metropolitan cities outside of Deutschland. Therefore one finds very different fare here, also. Don’t expect currywurst or gargantuan, porky chunks of Schweinshaxe.
“German food is more than bratwurst and sauerkraut,” says Thomas Sühring, one half of the culinary pair that owns the eponymous restaurant. Mathias, his twin brother and partner, agrees and promises “a modern take on German cuisine using traditional ingredients in refreshing ways.”
To be honest, I’m quite excited. When I was a student in Munich, I had the good fortune to travel all over Germany and taste the foods of different regions, from a Berliner Pfannkuchen (a jam-filled doughnut) to Weißwürst, the famous Bavarian white sausage. It’s not all hearty, belly-busting fare.
The Sühring brothers, who look so alike they help their staff tell them apart by wearing different chef jackets (one white and one black), grew up in East Berlin and are deeply influenced by their grandmother’s cooking.
They made their bones in kitchens across Germany, Italy and the Netherlands — working under three-star Michelin-rated chefs such as Sven Elverfeld and Heinz Beck — before coming to Bangkok in 2008 to head the reputable Mezzaluna together.
After seven years cooking various European cuisines such as French and Italian (both very popular in Bangkok), the twin chefs decided it was time to celebrate their own gastronomic inheritance. Partnering with Gaggan Anand, chef-owner of the top-ranked restaurant in the Asia’s 50 Best list, they opened Sühring last year to immediate acclaim.
Walking in, we are greeted by the usual Thai greetings of “Sawadee ka!” With tastefully framed artwork and lush ferns hanging from the ceiling, this could be anyone’s house if it weren’t for the professionally-equipped, open-plan kitchen at the rear, complete with a chef’s table for those lucky enough to snag it.
Besides the à la carte menu, Sühring offers a choice of an eight-course or 12-course seasonal tasting menu of curated small plates. Here the chefs truly shine, taking you on a journey of their personal history — from their German heritage to the modern cooking techniques they picked up along the way, served with a healthy dose of their Teutonic wit.
To begin, we are teased with a series of tantalising morsels. Tiny soft pretzels are served with Obatzda, a Bavarian dip made from butter and aged Camembert, and two equally tiny Maß (mugs) of bier (that turns out to be lightly alcoholic lemonade). The Nordsee Krabben cocktail blends North Sea shrimp and sour cream in cones topped with luscious trout roe.
Looking like something out of the Emerald City, the Frankfurter grüne Soße is in fact a traditional green sauce, made from seven different types of fresh herbs; here it’s injected into an entire egg yolk. Liquid gold, or emerald, as it were. The Hokkaido scallop with finely diced pumpkin and red rose apple slices would be the perfect aphrodisiac for couples on Valentine’s Day.
Perhaps the most traditional yet contemporary of these creative amuse bouches is the Himmel und Erde (translated as “Heaven and Earth” in German). Originally a German farmer’s dish, the Sühring twins have layered a generous slice of black pudding on a bed of rösti (fried grated potato) and topped it with crispy shallots on and green apple purée spiced with pumpkin seed oil.
According to Thomas, this dish is a snapshot of Germany in a single bite: “Two ingredients that we use everywhere in Germany are Äpfel (apples) and Kartoffeln (potatoes). The apple represents heaven while the more soil-based potato represents the earth. They’re part of our culinary culture.”
Our Vorspeise or starter is a delicate play of raw and pickled, fresh and smoked ingredients. Squares of Bismarck herring and yellow beetroot are simultaneously lightened by egg and dill, and made more decadent with briny orbs of Ossetra caviar. Classic German cooking methods such as pickling and smoking are on display here, with nary a currywurst in sight.
It’s not a real German meal without bread, however. Time for the bread course or Brotzeit. At Sühring, German-style sourdough breads are baked over open fire. Our maître d’ explains that the plain sourdough bread goes best with Südtirol speck (dry-cured, smoked ham), schmalz (lard) and the house butter. The more rustic rye bread, on the other hand, prefers the cured trout and horseradish.
For the Mittiges (“middle courses”), we enjoy crayfish and salsify in different textures as well as the Sühring’s rendition of the popular Alpine dish, Käsespätzle. Here the Spätzle (soft egg noodles) are cut by hand and cooked in boiling water before being tossed with crispy shallots and rich Allgäuer Bergkäse, an Alpine cheese named after the infamous Lola Montez, an Irish dancer turned mistress of Bavaria’s King Ludwig I. To top it all, some finely shaved winter truffle, making this a dish worth yodelling about.
For the Hauptgang or main courses, we have crispy Hungarian duck that had been dry-aged for a week, served with spinach, quail egg and chervil; and more lavishly, an absolutely “melt-in-your-mouth” (for once, used accurately) Japanese Wagyu beef sirloin from the famed Nozaki Farm in Kagoshima. This highest-quality, grade A5 meat is good enough on its own, but the subtle accompaniments of artichoke chutney and grilled endives bring out the best in what is already quite heavenly.
The Nachspeise or desserts reveal less of the Deutsch influence. Buttermilk crème is paired with mandarin orange served two ways, as a sorbet and cubes of jelly. Quince, buckwheat, almonds and salted caramel dance together like an autumnal forest floor.
The true highlight is the Großmutters Eierlikör, a traditional German egg liqueur, based on the Sühring twins’ grandmother’s secret recipe. Brought to the table in a rustic medicine bottle resting on a nest of ice, there is a touch of grandeur to what is basically a family treasure. We are shown their grandmother’s recipe books too, though Mathias wryly notes she probably wouldn’t be amused to see them displayed in public.
As we depart for the evening, the humid air hitting us as we stroll through the garden lit by lamplight, there’s no denying we’re truly in Bangkok. Yet the taste lingering on our tongues is definitely 100 per cent German, and it’s a very fine taste at that.
10 Yen Akat Soi 3
Open daily 6pm-10pm
Tel: +66 2 287 1799