A taste of Thai at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club
In ancient China, black rice was reserved only for high society, and forbidden to the masses.
Today, however, anyone willing to pay $67 per person, can eat their fill at a new Thai pop up at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club.
Black rice, mango and tapioca in a coconut sauce is one of the deserts on offer at the pop up. Also on the menu are items such as green curry and crispy snapper, shrimp satay, and krapow with Thai holy basil.
The pop up is the brain child of executive chef Danai Hongwanishkul, a Canadian with Thai/Chinese heritage. He and his wife, Kaori, moved to Bermuda from Toronto four years ago so he could take up the post at Marcus’ Bermuda. He has not been able to visit home since the pandemic started.
“Since the pandemic, I have really missed my mother’s cooking,” said Mr Hongwanishkul. “This is the closest thing to it.”
To create the menu he combined typical Thai ingredients such as chilis, basil, shallots with Chinese items such as oyster sauce.
“Thai food tends to have a strong Chinese influence,” he said. “Street food wasn’t around until the 1960s and 1970s. It is a very recent thing, and it was because of Chinese migrants.”
He said things have been quiet at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club since the pandemic lockdown ended in May. There are a few guests at the hotel but the place is not full. And while the hotel’s 1609 and Crown and Anchor restaurants are open, they have not yet reopened Marcus’ Bermuda.
He wanted to do something to spice things up at the hotel.
“I did a couple of one-off Thai food dinners here,” he said. “They were pretty successful. From there guests invited me to their homes to cook.”
Seeing the interest he created the Thai pop up, which is held either outdoors at the hotel or at the 1609 Restaurant.
“The hospital industry is in trouble right now because of Covid-19,” he said. “Everyone back home is in lockdown and they are not working right now. There is no indoor dining at all. Bermuda seems like the best place to be right now. But one of the things we needed to do was to keep everyone working. That is the main objective, for sure.”
While they have had some visitors try out the pop up, it has mainly been patronised by locals.
“Everyone has been very receptive,” Mr Hongwanishkul said. “It has been quite busy. There are a couple of guests in the hotel, but the main patronage has come from the general community.
“There is not a lot of this type of food on the island, so when they hear about it, they gravitate towards it.”
When he first started offering the food in January he thought that finding certain ingredients like papaya might be difficult.
“Sometimes after a hurricane you don’t find it on the island for a whole year,” he said.
But so far, he has had no difficulties stocking the larder.
The pop up offers a choice of two appetisers, one main course and one dessert.
He is insistent that only the best ingredients be used. He said people are always looking for food that is both tasty and also nutritious.
“The food will always taste better with better ingredients,” he said. “There are chefs out there right now, getting Michelin stars in Thailand and Bangkok, and they are using higher-end ingredients organic, locally sourced, small producers.
“That is what I wanted to do here, instead of just going to bang out something cheap and selling it. That is not what I am about.”
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