Riley Sanders, the young American chef who steers the kitchen at one Michelin-starred restaurant Canvas, is known for his bold treatment of indigenous ingredients and borderless interpretation of Thai flavors. In his latest offering, the fearless chef once again breaks boundaries, putting forth audacious creations that merge seasonal produce, outstanding flavor profiles and artistic whimsy.
The 18-course meal (B4,500++) is representative of a journey throughout Thailand, showcasing an impressive list of local ingredients and one-of-a-kind plating. Each dish also takes inspiration from the art created by local abstract artist Fern Damrongwattanapokin.
The meal starts off with a series of small bites. This includes ice cream made with kapi (shrimp paste) roasted in banana leaves, and accentuated by local produce such as garcinia, bilimbi, green mango, carunda and Indian goose berry, each of which has varying degrees of sourness. The result is an explosion of sweet and sour flavors in every bite. You also have local eel marinated with soy sauce, green onions and white turmeric, and stuffed inside a fried perilla leaf.
The culinary journey continues with grilled river prawn tail served with shaved ice made with the shell of the prawn. Chili, lemon grass and an emulsion made with the prawn’s head, torch flower and pickled santol take this dish to a more elevated level. What follows is confit of locally farmed sturgeon served with earthy Hausa potato. The combination is set off by fried chakram leaf flavored with salty sea grape and spirulina.
But our hands-down favorite is the aged smoked duck served with spiced pineapple and “black pineapple”, which is made by cooking the fruit for six weeks. We also like a dish of grilled beef tongue glazed over with plara (fermented fish). It’s an unusual combination that showcases Chef Riley’s audacity.
You have the option to pair your meal with either a set of wine or tea as suggested by restaurant manager Roberto Cini Mencacci.
A meal at Canvas is a bold and unconventional dining experience, and is not designed to appeal to the mass majority. Just like art, Chef Riley’s dishes will shock some patrons, but they will also amaze those who will take time and open their minds to appreciate the depth of flavor in each bite.