Last night my wife and I ate dinner at Renu Nakorn. We ordered several old favorites, including Nam-phrik-noom (green chili dip with fried pork skin), Nue Dad Deaw (fried salted beef), and Kang Hung-lay (pork stew), along with a charcoal grilled catfish dish. The Nam-phrik-noom had muted flavors, instead of the vibrant interplay of distinct, sharp flavors we had previously enjoyed, and had more of a runny, cooked texture than previously. Also, the pork skin was not the chunks with pork meat attached previously served with this dish. This prompted me to ask whether Saipin Chutima was in the kitchen (as she had been on my previous visit after the restaurant re-opened). I was told that she wasn't in the kitchen. I also learned that she isn't in the kitchen very often anymore, and mostly just calls in "to see if everything is going okay." The other dishes were also not up to the standard I had previously enjoyed. There were some echoes and shadows of Saipin's influence and training, but things were clearly not the same. The best dish of the evening was the catfish, which suffered the least by comparison.
I thought the food at the "new" Renu Nakorn was good, even though well below what I had previously experienced with Saipin in the kitchen. My wife was even more negative, and made it clear that I would have a difficult time persuading her to take the one-hour round trip drive to the restaurant. Maybe the new strategy is to call the restaurant and ask if Saipin is in the kitchen that night. But I get the sense that she is in the "disengagement mode," and that her time at the restaurant will be less and less as time goes on.
I've got a terrible case of the blues right now. Maybe for my forthcoming birthday in early January (checking off another decade), I'll ask Saipin to cook dinner and invite fellow Chowhounds and friends. That might cheer me up.