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Out with the old, in with the bold

The Wild mushroom. Photos: Supakit Buyam

The setting: Next to Thong Lor Soi 5 is a rather pleasing-to-the-eye establishment that opened its doors to the public about five months ago. You won't miss the beautiful wooden double French doors that certainly do add a new kind of character to the saturated-with-enough-restaurants area of Thong Lor. Perhaps Canvas will stand the test of time and tough competition. Inside is dimly lit, warm and you'll immediately notice the kitchen and its chefs, most of whom are western. You can grab a table on the ground floor, either right by the open-plan kitchen which is surrounded by a copper-esque counter for guests to sit at or slightly further from the kitchen at a table; wherever you sit on the ground floor, unless you're sitting with your back turned, you'll be able to see the chefs in full swing. Head upstairs if you want something more private.

THE MENU

We spoke to the Head Chef, Riley Sanders (US) about his menu and were very impressed with his commitment to doing something altogether different. Inventive and creative are words that come to mind, with a menu that focuses on using primarily Thai ingredients. Chef Sanders personally heads to Khlong Toey market almost every evening -- we caught him just before he left -- to buy local Thai vegetables that he certainly uses very thoughtfully in different and never-the-same ways throughout his menu. The dishes are inspired by modern Bangkok, being bold, colourful, stimulating and progressive. Let's see what all the fuss is about then, shall we?

If you run your eyes down the menu, you'll notice its simply just a list but that the dishes get progressively more complex and more filling the further down you go; there are no sections, apart from dessert, which, we'll admit definitely was definitely in a league of its own.

Before anything came the Purple yam bread, with a housemade dip comprised of pork floss, corriander, garlic, shallots, kaffir lime leaves and a variety of other herbs and spices. We only had the bread itself which was sensational, but our partner in food-reviewing crime -- a well-known Bangkok-foodie herself might we add, who works for our daddy publication, The Bangkok Post -- tried the yam bread with the dip and was blown away by the "unmistakably Thai" taste. The Market vegetables (B340) were a real hit as Chef Sanders explained that about 45 different herbs and vegetables were used to put the dish together, locally sourced, with some coming from the Royal Project. The vegetables were presented on shaved ice and there was again, an unmistakably Thai flavour -- lemon grass mixed with kaffir lime, garlic, tamarind and fish sauce. The fact that Chef Riley had taken the famous Thai iced dessert, nam kaeng sai and turned it into a savoury vegetable starter was impressive.

The Sweetcorn (B420) had to be our favourite; prepared for hours apparently, crushed and thickened with its own milk and made with Lancashire cheese from Chiang Mai as well as fish sauce and finished with a duck egg yolk at the centre. Just seeing it was quite something as it looked like a green-chilli-speckled-sunflower of sorts. The special thing about each of the dishes at Canvas is the actual dish itself with which it is served on. Each one is different and has a different colour and shape to bring out the visuals of the food. The duck egg yolk was very powerful, rich and we could understand Chef Riley's insistence on using this as opposed to the more widely used chicken counterpart.

The Shrimp noodles (B360) tasted very, very shrimpy, purely because they were strands of pasta made using shrimp. If you like shrimp then go for it. The Wild mushrooms (B420) had to be another favourite of ours, made using very rich and meaty Thai truffles, vegetables from the brassicas family and a duck egg yolk to finish it off.

Our food-reviewing partner in crime said the Pigeon (B1,420) was succulent, moist and very meaty, but was in agreement that the presentation could have been worked on more, as this would have made the dish more appealing. Apparently the pigeon was flown in all the way from France. Certainly explains the price tag but this somewhat shys away from the restaurant's aim to use primarily Thai ingredients... we'd re-think this one Chef Sanders!

The evening ended with possibly the best dessert we've ever had, the Chesnut cake (B340), made using bael and tangerine. It is prepared in the same fashion you would see your street vendors making the oh-so-deletable kanom krok. Definitely worth the extra calories and sugar hit, dear readers. You can also choose to dig into ice-cream (B120); choose from flavours such as Thai tea and rum cake; Orange and cream or peanut and wild plum.

The Sweetcorn. Photos: Supakit Buyam

INSIDER'S TIP

Do look for new additions to the menu which will be coming soon. Make sure you speak to any one of the chefs about their passion for food. It's enough to let that inner-chef you've been hiding all your life... out!

VALUE & VERDICT

We were very impressed with the offering at Canvas, which is definitely doing something different -- successfully, might we add. You can still be different and get it wrong! --from all the other commercial kitchens of Bangkok. We'd say they are being adventurous, in the right ways, presenting new and creative dishes that nonetheless do boil back down to the "unmistakably Thai" flavours. Given the amount of creativity they seem to have injected into the different uses of Thai vegetables, herbs and fruits, we certainly hope that in future they will also be serving more dishes that are solely plant-based.

CANVAS

CONTEMPORARY THAI CUISINE
Sun-Thu, 6pm-midnight
Fri-Sat, 6pm-12:30am
113/9-10 Sukhumvit Soi 55
www.fb.com/Canvasbkk
099-614-1158

Pigeon. Photos: Supakit Buyam

The Purple yam bread and dip. Photos: Supakit Buyam

The Market vegetables. Photos: Supakit Buyam

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