A tiny Michelin-starred restaurant that pairs craft beer with gourmet fare
By Paul Bearer
In December of 2017 the Michelin Guide Bangkok was published, and among the much lauded restaurants that everyone expected to see on the list there were a few curve balls thrown into the mix. Many were surprised (and heartened) to see that Upstairs at Mikkeller had earned a coveted star, but none more so than Chef Dan Bark, who has worked in American Michelin-starred venues before but still admits his Bangkok restaurant’s recent win was “so unexpected”.
The restaurant has been open for a couple of years now, located directly above the popular Mikkeller craft beer pub, and has gained a loyal following. But with this most recent accolade comes even more recognition—call it “Michelin madness”—and nowadays this intimate 2nd-floor eatery (there’s just a half dozen tables in all) is booked for the next two months solid. They’ve also increased their operating days, and now serve their signature set dinner menus with craft beer pairings four nights a week, from Wednesday to Saturday.
For those lucky enough to secure a table, the exquisitely curated feast—there are over a dozen courses if you include every amuse bouche and palate cleanser—is pure gastronomic pleasure. It’s priced at B3,300++ per person (over $100 US), and the beer pairings are sold à la carte, meaning this is a pricey night out. But as an experience it’s absolutely worth it.
One or two of Chef Dan’s culinary creations may prove challenging, such as the Ikura (Japanese salmon roe) with blueberries, and thyme infused milk. It’s like a salty, milky bubble tea; not entirely pleasant upon first sip, but intriguing to the tastebuds none-the-less.
To be fair, expanding the palate is what Michelin-level fine dining is often all about, and even if one dish proved baffling everything else was divinely delicious. A definite standout was the Seafood Bisque, with white shrimp, clams, papaya, guava, and the most wonderful smoky shimeji mushrooms adding a bacon-like tinge. We were also enraptured by the tender Wagyu Beef, served with a dollop of what looked like dark chocolate mousse but turned out to be silky smooth truffled mashed potatoes. Exquisite!
The kitchen team operates with fluid precision, and are easily observed by diners as they toil in their small recessed open area at the rear of the restaurant. They do a remarkable job, and take turns bringing out the food, clearing the plates, and explaining the intricacies of each dish. For the Tortellini course the servers bring to the table a small hourglass shaped device in which flavorful consommé is flame-cooked à la minute (ie: before our very eyes). Once ready, the server pours it over the tender pasta shells filled with braised pork that share a bowl with coconut, cucumber, and coriander, and all the aromas of the fresh-made broth are meant to be savoured in that moment.
Our main dishes concluded with a lovely sous vide Duck, with orange sauce delivering sweetness while an olive purée provided a balancing tang. A series of desserts followed, each more tantalizing than the last, and all displaying the same gorgeous plating techniques that make each dish here a small work of art.
But what about these craft beer pairings the place is so famous for? Well, an expertly prepared menu of craft beers, ciders, meads, and cherry wines is available, with each dish, or dishes, having their own suggested selection of pairings for diners to choose from (no wines BTW, it’s all about the brews here).
We opted to put ourselves into the hands of the restaurant’s “beer sommelier”, and let him decide for us. It’s a great way to both experiment and take advantage of the master’s know-how—and he definitely knew how. As an added suggestion, if two people are dining just order one beer per course between the pair of you, so you can split the bottle and try more unique pairings over the course of the evening.
Our curated craft beer pairing voyage included—among others—the Gyp Wit (B240), a summery, citrussy white beer, as well as the Saison Sauvin (B300), and the Hopwired IPA (B280), both from New Zealand’s 8 Wired Brewing. By the time dessert came we were cracking a can of Modern Times (B310), a smooth oatmeal coffee stout from San Diego, rounding out a truly unforgettable dining experience. It seems a “star” is born from the unlikely pairing of craft beer and gourmet fare.
NOTE: Chef Dan’s menu will change over time, so some of these aforementioned dishes may not be available on any given future visit.
Upstairs at Mikkeller
26, Ekkamai Soi 10, Yaek 2
Tel: 091 713 9034
Open: Wed-Sat, 6pm-10pm