Just in time for the holidays, The Grid Food Market in Rockwell’s Power Plant unveiled a special holiday menu, as well as a large extension that will eventually accommodate six more food stalls and 160 additional seats.
Jumpstarting the festivities was The Grid’s newest concept, called Samyan at stall number 16, the first one to open at the food hall’s brand new wing. But this is no ordinary Thai food concept, as it happens to be helmed by one of Thailand’s top chefs, Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn, who joined forces with local entrepreneur Patrick Pesengco and Tasteless Food Group’s Charles Paw.
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According to Pesengco, Tassanakajohn developed Samyan as a Thai street food-inspired stall especially for The Grid Food Market. This is his first food hall concept and his first food venture in the Philippines. Tassanakajohn boasts two Michelin-recognized restaurants in Bangkok. Le Du is his one Michelin-starred modern Thai flagship, which also landed the number 20 spot at this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Awarded the more traditional Michelin Bib Gourmand, Baan is his other Thai restaurant which serves his family’s heirloom recipes, including what I consider the best Massaman Lamb Curry and Mango Sticky Rice in Bangkok.
Tassanakajohn started his culinary journey at the Culinary Institute of America, graduating with the highest scores in his class. He honed his newfound culinary skills at the kitchens of top New York City restaurants like Eleven Madison Park, The Modern, and Jean Georges, before returning to Thailand with a vision to elevate Thai cuisine in his homeland.
Just before the opening of Samyan, Tassanakajohn flew to Manila from Bangkok to do a final check and attend the stall’s formal launch. While he was in town, I sat down with this very friendly and humble chef (who I first met at a “50 Best Explores Thailand” dinner) over a casual lunch at The Grid and asked him what we can expect at Samyan.
According to Tassanakajohn, the dishes he developed for Samyan were inspired by the street food that he ate as a kid growing up in Samyan Market, where he used to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. He hopes Samyan at The Grid will be his platform to share with Manila his love for and good memories of these delicious dishes that he enjoyed as a child.
Tassanakajohn made sure to emphasize that the Thai dishes at Samyan are not tweaked to Filipino taste, but cooked exactly as he would in Bangkok. However, some dishes are offered with a choice of three spice levels.
My early favorites include Moo Dad Deaw or crispy aromatic pork strips. It’s an appetizer dish like a spiced-up pork tapa or jerky that I can see myself enjoying with a side order of rice. Another one is Tom Yum Kung Namkun, a creamy tom yum soup with shrimp that gets its creaminess, surprisingly, from evaporated milk, just like the way it’s cooked in Thailand, says Tassanakajohn.
Like a Thai version of sinigang, Tom Yum Soup can be enjoyed as Kway Teow Tom Yum, a one-bowl meal with either noodles or rice. Or for a heftier complete meal, there is also Khao Pad Tom Yum composed of tom yum-flavored fried rice served with prawn and fried fish.
Other must-tries are the Phad Krapao Moo (stir-fried pork) and Phad Krapao Gai (stir-fried chicken) with Thai basil, like a Thai version of adobo that’s ubiquitous in Thailand. At Samyan, Tassanakajohn prepares this popular dish just like it’s enjoyed in Thailand, devoid of the brown gravy that many Thai restaurants in Manila add to the dish to cater to Filipino taste.
Let’s hope Samyan stays faithful to Tassanakajohn’s original concept of offering Manila diners his personal take on the street food of Bangkok.
Christmas offerings at The Grid
Aside from Samyan’s big opening, the rest of the food stalls at The Grid have been gearing up for the holidays with various Christmas specials now available. Among the many offerings, here are my top picks:
While waiting for the rest of the new stalls to open this coming new year, there’s definitely enough happening at The Grid Food Market to satisfy your food cravings this holiday season.
The Grid, R2 Level, Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati City