BANGKOK — Dining 13 courses at Karmakamet Conveyance is like viewing a modern art exhibition with no museum labels – one chats about pleasant-enough topics while sipping bubbly, nodding along to to mask one’s slight perplexity.
Karmakamet Conveyance’s first opening was in 2018 at riverside complex Lhong 1919 before closing down in 2019. Their new location on real estate gold between BTS Phrom Phong and Thong Lor, which opened in November, hopes to gain more of their preferred foot traffic.
“From my perception, food is art. What’s the difference? And what’s the difference between music and food?” Chef Jutamas “Som” Theantae said. “We’ve come to the point where it’s past just filling our stomach.”
“This menu is more like me. The last one was realism, this one is like symbolism or expressionism,” she said.
Find the Karmakamet on Sukhumvit Soi 49, but go into the golden-lit stairwell instead of the aromatherapy/bath products shop that Jutamas is also one of the founders of. Diners are greeted with a shard of a kintsugi plate and eviscerated fork.
Unlike other fine dining where each menu is laden with description and probably a story of how the chef had this dish somewhere in Phuket but wanted to make a fancy version of it due to a bet with another chef, blah blah blah, each course is described in a word or two, and none of the words are about the ingredients.
On top of that, the restaurant does not subscribe to any cuisine labels – merely “modern.”
“It’s about using food as a medium. Some people might not like Indian or Thai food, but if they approach dishes without judgement, then they might eat it and go, wow, I can eat this,” Jutamas said.
This is a relief, but also confusing. A lack of backstory is rare in fine dining – but without one, it’s like being in a gallery with only a few words on the museum pamphlet.
Down the amuse-bouche of a mini shot of 40-year-old moonshine (“Miracle Water”) before being greeted with three fried doughy balls very similar to the kanom kai nok kata street snack that include cheese and banana stalk curry fillings (“1st Grains”).
Okay, so it’s like being slightly buzzed at a street food fair where each of the spherical kanom are meticulously made, while sipping on a cup of chicken consomme (“2nd Warmth”).
“Luxury does not always mean from distant places,” reads the description for 1st Grains.
Take the next salad dish for example. I wish I knew more about the mossy “3rd Rainforest” other than that it’s supposed to represent after-rain lushness. It has green beans, Indian pennywort, and some dots of chlorophyll.
Chef Som’s signature oyster hoi tod reappears in “4th Street,” her classic since her Karmakamet Diner days. It’s served with a 50-spices curry similar to green curry crossed with massaman, eaten with a few noodles, fried egg, and pomelo.
The strongest course by far is a cup of Japanese amberjack fish, crab, squid, and bajang (Zongzi sticky rice), all topped with a translucent coconut water jelly. Everything in the bowl of larb-like seafood has fun, bouncy textures. The jelly lightly flavors all the fish with coconut in a far more delicate way than coconut milk. I found myself picking up the bowl from the metal stand it was served in to scrape “5th Village” clean.
Jellified vinegar is the sauce for beef tongue, a mantou, and fried shrimp in “6th Life” – an improved version over her Lhong version which had jellified vinegar as well, but served with the fragments of a noodle bowl. Samut Songkhram sea salt ice cream made a return in the refreshing palate cleanser.
A sushi of smoked black cod served on a piece of curved metal (“7th Pre Motion”) passes by without fanfare, but a tucked roll of Dover sole fish in champagne sauce with a fried zucchini next to it is delicately executed (“8th Motion”).
Of course, it’s followed by a dish that even the chef herself called unnecessary (“9th Wealth”), a rack of lamb with biryani rice, fried corn, and coriander chutney, made to meet a red meat criteria. Not that it’s badly cooked, but one is still thinking of the supple sole.
The meal ends with “10th Celebration,” or a ice dessert with jujube and fried taro that makes one think of Chinatown sweets carts, and “Farewell,” a gulab jamun in silver leaf more succulent and texture-varied than the regular pound cake variety served at the previous branch.
The 13-course menu costs 2,940 baht – double it for a champagne pairing.
“We really don’t earn anything from the champagne pairing, or even the menu,” Jutamas said.
Karmakamet Conveyance’s second reincarnation sees technical culinary improvements as Jutamas played into her strengths of adapting Thai and Indian street food into abstract fine dining – but is a jellified this-and-that and quota red meat dish really staying true to the artist spirit?
The menu will change in March. This review was based on a hosted visit.
Karmakamet Conveyance is open 6pm to 11pm every day except Sunday, a short walking distance from BTS Thong Lo. Reservations preferred.