Sometimes dinner is dinner. Other times dinner is amazing. On extremely rare occasions, dinner is more: an unforgettable experience that somehow changes you. It has taken me over a month to write this article. Almost two. The memory of our dinner that evening has stuck with me, but I somehow couldn’t find the words to describe the experience we had that night. And that’s what it was: an experience.
In February, we dined at a supperclub at the home of Chef Josh Haynes. Upon arriving at the address given to us for the dinner, we sat in the car looking at each other and wondering just what kind of situation we had gotten ourselves into this time. The house that looked perfectly nice, but we didn’t see any other people and felt a little odd about walking up to a door in an unfamiliar neighborhood and expecting dinner.
“Let’s take a few laps around the block until someone else arrives” I said to my husband.
After we returned, a couple of other cars were parked along the street and, after taking a few moments to text our last known location to a couple of close friends and family members (just in case), we worked up the courage to walk up to the door. We were greeted by a very friendly man that showed us inside the beautifully decorated home and offered us a place to sit at a long dining room table. There were several other diners who had already taken a seat.
I have not traveled to Thailand personally, but my husband has spent an extensive amount of time there and adores the culture, food and people and he has told me a lot about it. I can only image that the décor of the home falls in line with that of traditional Thai décor. I was struck by the ambiance of the dining room, especially when combined with the exotic smells of the meals being prepared in the kitchen and the joyous laughter and conversations of our fellow diners. We were offered beer, wine, or a craft cocktail that complemented the meal, so we went for the cocktails.
maa haw – ‘galloping horses’ hors d’oeuvres
pineapple, caramelized pork and shrimp, crispy shallots, chile threads
The first dish to be served by one of the two servers working that evening was “Galloping Horses.” This gorgeous dish is a bite-size appetizer of pineapple topped with sweet, spicy, nutty mixture of ground pork mixed with fried shallots, cilantro, and peanuts. The name “Ma Haw” is said to be so named because of King Rama II’s fondness for horse races. I’ve read that the secret to Thai food is a balance of five flavors: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy, adorned with stunning aromas and a delicate presentation. This dish seemed to serve as an overture to the meal to come.
lon tao jiao – Relish of salted soybeans simmered in coconut cream
In Thailand, food forms a central part of any social occasions—and vice versa. When eating, Thais do not combine various foods on their plates, but rather, they sample one dish at a time, always eaten with a mound of Thai fragrant rice on the side. Our servers came around between each course and made sure that our plates were adequately stock with rice. The main appetizer was served shortly after our first portion of rice was supplied: Thai Relish with vegetable for dipping.
This dish was in the top three of my experience at the supper club. The relish, a new concept to me, tasted similar to a very rich curry. In this case, the relish was a lon (หลน), in which coconut cream is simmered with a primary ingredient (usually something salty/pungent/cured/fermented), seasoned well, and finished with a bunch of aromatic garnishes (in this case, shallots, cilantro, chiles, lime). The appetizer left me longing for more and I’ve struggled to find anything that comes close to it locally.
tom kathi neua khem – salted beef coconut soup
The next dish was a soup. Chef Haynes came out of the kitchen upon its presentation and explained the laborious process of preparing the meat which included salting, drying, pounding and several other steps that involved hours of overall labor. It was similar in appearance to other Thai coconut soups, but much richer in flavor and cannot be matched locally.
กงเขียวหวานลูกชิ้นนกกระทา – Green curry quail dumplings
The formal presentation of food is another important aspect of Thai culture. Developed primarily in the palace to please the King of Siam, Thai food presentation is among the most exquisite in the world. Serving platters are decorated with all variety of carved vegetables and fruits into flowers and other pieces of beauty. The next dish, Green Curry Quail Dumplings, a bright green curry dish of quail-filled dumplings, was also a top choice of mine for the evening. The curry was the best I’ve ever had.
Crispy catfish clouds with green mango
Perhaps the star of the evening, the next dish took the longest time to prepare. We all anxiously awaited as it was prepared, giving our stomachs a much-needed chance to digest some of the food we had already consumed. The Cripsy Catfish Clouds with Green Mango was a truly remarkable dish. Fish Clouds are an art form and are not at all fishy in taste. The fish is pulverized in the preparation and the crispy work of art is all that remains. The contrast of the crispy texture with the sour flavor of the green mango salad served alongside was out-of-this-world.
The final entrée was a sweet pork dish, with bite-sized pieces of pork cooked in a sweet and savory sauce. Again, the presentation was remarkable and although we were filled to the brim at this point in the evening, we still made room for a few bites of this savory dish.
Black sugar ice cream and black sesame cookies
Finally, dessert was served: a combination of ice cream and cookies. This light dessert was a fantastic finish to the meal, offering a gentle and mildly-sweet ending.
This experience was truly amazing. Each dish was perfect in its own right. Each dish was a work of art. Every detail of the experience was expertly planned.
Haynes offers pop-up rice and curry events at local breweries and street markets and catering services in addition to the speakeasy/Supperclub dinners.
Learn more about Alloy Thai on Facebook and Instagram @alloythai
Upcoming Alloy Thai Events:
Sunday, March 24th: Rice & Curry Pop-up at Cahaba Brewing
Friday, March 29th: Speakeasy Dinner (tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/alloy-supperclub-tickets-59246973292)