Chef turns century-old Chinatown pharmacy into dining hot spot ‘Potong’

Photos: Restaurant Potong
Photos: Restaurant Potong

Nestled in bustling Sampeng, a 120-year-old former Thai-Chinese pharmacy has been transformed into a fine dining destination. There, celeb chef Pitchaya “Pam” Utarntham now flies the banner for Thai-Chinese cuisine while honoring her great grandfather’s herb shop by keeping its name: Potong.

To pay homage to the five-story shophouse’s past, Pam has kept most of its historic elements intact. On the ground-floor bar – a judicious mix of rustic and contemporary design – glass fermenting jars line overhead shelves. Look up to spot a wooden elevator that Pam’s family once used to deliver herbs from the second floor — most employees back then were not allowed to see the family’s secret recipes.

Atop the staircase, find a livelier experience in a dining room for large groups, while the third floor offers a more private gathering space. The fourth floor is soon to feature a bar and star-gazing rooftop, perched above busy Soi Wanit with a balcony overlooking the activity below. 

Photo: Restaurant Potong

Pam’s progressive dishes transform traditional Thai-Chinese cuisine across a 20-course dinner menu (THB4,500+). Pam says she caters to all five senses using five elements to enhance the food experience, and that manifests in clever ways.

Dinner starts with an “orange tree” served in a pot. What appears to be a plump orange is in fact white chocolate encapsulating citrus kombucha. Chinese classics like dumplings are revamped as a modern-looking lamb tart, accompanied by house-made white tea broth infused with white mugwort. While frogs aren’t foreign to Chinese cuisine, Pam realizes that many people may not be bold enough to eat them. So she carefully wraps the meat in bamboo lattice, disguising it in a friendlier appearance, and serves it with a Chinese root and frog bone broth. 

The highlight, however, is 13-day, hay-aged duck breast, Angus beef ribs, and rice bowls, which arrive on a lazy Susan — a familiar sight for anyone who grew up in a Thai-Chinese household.

Don’t underestimate desserts here. From soy sauce ice cream topped with a translucent blown-sugar sphere filled with five spice, cinnamon, and fiery mala chocolate to a dessert trolley meant to represent Yaowarat’s crowd-gathering treats — think roasted chestnut mousse scones and sweet dumplings filled with custard lava — the sweet courses see Pam flexing her creative muscles.

The antique-looking wine menu is speckled with Pam’s neatly hand-written manuscripts journaling her thought process in curating the selection. Potong’s cellar highlights uncommon and distinctive wineries from 15 countries. For example, Australia’s Borachio Pash Rash Pet Nat sparkling pinot noir (THB2,500/bottle), or Germany’s Peter Jakob Kuhn 2016 biodynamic riesling brut (THB2,800/bottle). Potong also provides a variety of kombucha drinks—the same that Pam incorporates into her menu creation (from THB180/glass).

All in all, the titles that Pam has received over the years aren’t just for show, and the fact that we haven’t yet had a taste of her signature cocktails inside the opium bar is reason enough to revisit. But the way Potong reconnects with an overlooked cuisine has planning a return trip. 

Photo: Restaurant Potong

This story originally appeared in BK.

FIND IT:
Potong
422, Soi Wanit 1, Samphanthawong district
Open 10am-9pm daily
MRT Wat Mangkon
082-979 -3950

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