After a fearless, tasty day of street food, with that one final cheat-meal, Alexa and I were pretty sure we had done enough virtuously adventurous eating. We decided to celebrate our ability to drink “chicken water” with a night a little more glamorous. “Chicken water” is how Andrew and his roommate Will refer to the amber-colored, smoky-flavored water on ice that Thai street vendors serve as a table drink. Ok, I’ll admit that we were celebrating our ability to sip it…TWICE. Either way, Andrew escorted us to the other side of food in Bangkok: rooftop clubs and 9 course meals.
Vertigo was our location for pre-dinner drinks. The drinks were pretty bad but it didn’t matter. We just stared across the city for 68 floors up and happily sipped bland tall glasses. This was a whole new Bangkok, far, far away from my daily usual of dusty flip flops, sweat drenched face, and grill smell stuffed pores. The elevator took us to another universe.
I’ll shamefully admit that I needed this excursion to the upper half. I’ll also take full ownership of the materialism and excess of our night. Just two days ago I was cooking food in a slum filled with people happy to drink “chicken water.” Then I ate street meals cooked by chefs who sleep in communal outdoor areas in order to afford their food carts. The entire day of street food didn’t cost me more than $10 but would be at budget for most Thais. Tonight, just my drinks cost more than a week of eating street food.
But I wanted to eat gourmet food, have Thailand’s most expensive imports, wine and cheese, and have bread rather than white rice served on the side. True to Thailand’s extremes, my behavior and my morals were not reconcilable. We were at least a little true to our student-traveler status. Sorry, scratch that. Andrew would protest vehemently here that he has a job. When the waiter came to our table we were still working out, loudly and exactly, who would pay for what and whether or not we were carrying enough cash.
The Baht was SO worth it. Here’s the menu at Cy’an:
Raw black kingfish layered with slivers of avocado, ginger, and a few spicy peppers, and then drizzled with some sesame orange dressing.
An oyster encased with vodka tempura that had a pearls and sea vegetables broth poured around it at the table. Take note of the “pearls.” Alexa the biology expert assured us that the small clear jelly-like orbs that dotted out soup were not premature real pearls since those are, throughout their lives, hardened calcium deposits. However the pearls came about, they were an artistic gesture in the soup without any overpowering flavors but a series of nice tints of vodka, seaweed, and a single oyster.
Next, we had the salad pictured above. There were cashews, strawberries, sweet potatoes, green veggies, and (get ready) a “light gruyere cheese broth.” Some people are against foam on their food. I’ll just say, this was really good foam.
A duck foi gras with mandarin sauce introduced us to stronger flavors.
My favorite late course was the john dory in a spiced yogurt set atop a roasted eggplant. Just to the side of the fish was a spoonful of spicy cous cous.
Cy’an is famous for seafood so it makes sense that my least favorite course was the wagyu beef rib eye. It had some nicely roasted beets and a really good “blue cheese butter” but it was heavy after such a delicate menu filled with fruits and froths and a few sharp hits of spice.
The menu finished with a course of cheese and then two servings of desert. The first was Alexa’s favorite: a strawberry and hibiscus soupy sorbet with a sweetened yogurt cream topping. The last was a passion fruit soufflé that I couldn’t stop eating even though my stomach was actually about to explode.
Andrew is probably right—it’s not good to have too much money in Thailand. But it tastes so good. So there it is, yet another way that Bangkok is an explosive collage of reconciled oppositions. One day you’re on the street, the next moment you’re in clouds (or above them) of opulence.