By Veronica Inveen
Jun 23, 2020
After two months of eating tuna salad on rice cakes and 7/11 rice with kimchi, I couldn’t have dreamt up a more perfect post-lockdown meal than the one I had at Haoma in Bangkok. For two months, the airy dining room of Haoma was shuttered and the kitchen converted into the nerve center of #noonehungry, chef Deepanker Khosla’s COVID-19 relief initiative that provided more than 30,000 immunity-boosting meals to the needy in Bangkok.
But the day I visit the chef is back at his first passion, distilling regional seasonality into 10 nostalgia-driven dishes that deploy ingredients grown on-site or at Haoma’s farm in northern Thailand. Despite how staunchly locavore the restaurant is (even their fish is farmed in tanks of water behind the restaurant) the flavors are full-on Indian. However, Deepanker, who goes by DK, makes versions of classics like daal and bhelpuri that a far cry from what he grew up eating. Not because the chef goes slightly mad-scientist with his korma by serving it under a delicate blanket of scallop or because his chaat is accompanied by spherified pomegranate, but because—and here’s the kicker—the entire restaurant is zero-waste.
This is all part of the Haoma’s palpable do-good ethos, but unlike other hyper-conscious, hyper-sustainable restaurants, DK and his team don’t preach to you between each dish or demand you tour their farm before entering the restaurant. It’s all just kind of just an added bonus to a menu that’s inventive (witness: the somewhat confrontational deconstructed prawns on a rock), satiating (a bowl full of lentils and crispy chunks of potato under a foam of butter and cream I never wanted to end) and delicious (melt-in-your-mouth duck mouse).
It seemed unfortunate that my visit was to take place during Thai government’s (now lifted) ban on alcohol in restaurants, a way to discourage diners from lingering and spreading the virus. The prospect of sitting through a multi-course dinner without a few glasses of wine was daunting (and saddening). But my mood was restored quickly as beverage director Vishvas Sidana swooped in with a few of the best non-alcoholic concoctions I’ve ever tasted. This isn’t to say that I won’t (definitely) be ordering the wine pairing on my next visit. But I’ll be leaving room for Vishvas’s turmeric, ginger tea tonic and reminding myself to request a few bottles for takeaway.
It might be easy to forget about the ideology behind the food mid-bite into the crunchy carmely Melody dessert that is based off an Indian candy bar. But when DK gives a final order to bite into the mind-blowingly pungent mint leaves that top the dish and reveals that he has proudly grown them in that patch of garden to your left, you’re left only grateful for the restaurant’s high-minded, ambitiously thoughtful mindset.