Potong: Transforming a 120-Year-Old Heritage Home Into A Michelin-Starred Restaurant

Award-winning Thai chef Pichaya ‘Pam’ Soontornyanakij’s restaurant is set within her family-owned TCM-dispensary and five-storey home in Bangkok’s Chinatown.

21 November 2023

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Photo Credit: DOF SKY | GROUND      

Touted as one of Thailand’s most recognised chefs, Pichaya ‘Pam’ Soontornyanakij has been on the radar of food enthusiasts and critics alike since she unveiled Potong in 2021. Some of the notable awards she’s picked up over the past two years include the prestigious Michelin star; the Michelin Opening of the Year award; and the 35th place on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 amongst others.

What is the secret behind Potong’s success?

“The essence lies in offering an unforgettable experience to our guests. It’s not just about serving delicious food; it’s about creating memories that make patrons want to return,” Chef Pam says.

Keeping Her Family Legacy Alive

Housed in a 120-year-old Sino-Portuguese building, which belongs to Chef Pam’s family, in the heart of Bangkok’s Chinatown, Potong is named after her great-great grandparent’s traditional Chinese herbal medicine shop. For four generations, spanning over 100 years, her family lived here while producing Chinese herbal medicine. Following a major architectural project which took over two and a half years, the building is now a leading F&B destination. To preserve the building’s rich history, Pam made sure to keep most of its historic structures intact. A notable highlight is the two-man wooden elevator, which was once used by Pam’s family to transfer medicine and ingredients between floors.

Potong’s Sino Bar evoke’s the building’s history as a pharmacy | Photo Credit: DOF SKY |GROUND

Comprising five different floors, each has a unique story to tell. Formerly the storefront for the Potong dispensary, the first floor is now home to the Potong Sino Bar. Apart from retaining the beauty of its 100-year-old wood ceiling, the space is decorated with jars used for fermenting soy sauces and vinegar, to evoke the building’s history as a pharmacy.

Upstairs, the second and third floors have been transformed into elegant dining spaces for guests to enjoy Chef Pam’s modern fine Thai-Chinese creations, featuring beautifully preserved architectural elements such as hand-painted wooden walls and an intricately designed shrine.

Potong’s Sino Bar | Photo Credit: DOF SKY |GROUND

Potong’s Dining Room | Photo Credit: DOF SKY |GROUND   

The Opium Bar, occupying the fourth and fifth floors of the building, is an acclaimed speakeasy offering well-curated cocktails. The meticulously refurbished space takes inspiration from the old opium smoking den that was housed at the very same spot, featuring original architectural elements, charming vintage décor and luxurious furnishings. Across both floors, guests can choose between popular bar seats, plush leather banquette seating or a casual open-air setting on the rooftop. At The Opium Bar the beverage selection centres on the idea of “liquid surreality,” featuring a comprehensive seasonal list comprising both classic options and innovative twists.

The speakeasy-esque Opium Bar | Photo Credit: DOF SKY |GROUND

At Potong, as you traverse the premises, guests will encounter diverse artworks adorning the walls and framed settings. These splendid pieces, including paintings, drawings, letters, and photographs, were created and captured by K.Vichai Utharntharm, the occupant of the historic building 1900s era – they have been restored and displayed in full glory.

Preserving Memories and Stories Through Food

Designed to take diners on a journey through time, Potong’s 20-course menu spotlights progressive Thai-Chinese cuisine, inspired by the intertwining of Chef Pam’s family’s stories with the shophouse’s past as a former TCM dispensary.

Photo Credit: Potong | @poldivina     

“I have learnt so much from cooking traditional Thai-Chinese food since I was young, and always respect these methods but at the same time, use my culinary knowledge to create something that is a mix of old and new. I always learn the traditional ways before applying modern touches,” Chef Pam explains.

Guided by Chef Pam’s culinary philosophy of combining the five human senses with the five elements of taste, the menu shines the spotlight on local and seasonal produce. Each course, from the 14-day aged five-spiced duck to the blue crab served with a crab roe emulsion, black pepper jam and crab butter bread dish, is prepared from scratch with great dedication to detail. In fact, most of the ingredients used for the multi-course meal are made in-house by the Potong team, from the soy sauce to the miso, fermented tea and more. Desserts are equally impressive, featuring a spread of sweet treats like chestnuts and sesame balls, inspired by popular street desserts found in Yaowarat.

The 20-course chef’s tasting menu is priced at 5,500 baht per person.

Photo Credit: Potong | @gastrofilm

Author: Michelle Yee

A content and communications professional, Michelle spent more than a decade creating content for several leading media titles including Lonely Planet Asia, Yahoo Singapore, and Wine & Dine. After leaving the media industry in 2019, she has been honing her craft at a global communications agency where she helps develop and drive publicity campaigns for brands in the consumer and corporate sectors.

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