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Jan 06

Eating Out in Bangkok – Bangkok’s Best Restaurants

Bangkok, Thailand, best restaurants.

(Click to enlarge)

Eating out in Bangkok has never been as exciting as it is now. Bangkok’s best restaurants offer up everything from Thai street food with a twist and molecular Thai, to creative contemporary French and ‘progressive Indian’.

It’s often said about eating out in Bangkok that the best food is found on the streets not in the restaurants. It’s still true to a certain extent, but in recent years Bangkok’s dining scene has improved immensely. While we’d rather feast at our favourite stalls on Soi 38 than cookie-cutter Thai restaurants catering to tourists who want to play it safe, the restaurants below – the city’s must-do dining experiences, in our opinions – are ones we enthusiastically recommend and here’s why…

NAHM
The Aussie master of Thai cuisine branches out in Bangkok
Terence: David Thompson was the first chef to make me think about Thai food as more than just take-away curries, fish cakes and satay – over 15 years ago when we ate at his restaurant Darley Street Thai restaurant in Sydney. Here at Nahm he’s digging into old Thai cookbooks and cooking up authentic, often long-forgotten Thai dishes, and really pushing boundaries – just try the fermented fish with prawns and pork or the smoky Chiang Mai chilli relish with pork scratchings and quail eggs. Wow. My only gripe is the room – I’ve just never warmed to this hotel and its restaurant and bar spaces. Other than that, it’s a must-do for foodies. Kudos for attempting wine matching too.
Lara: I agree about the hotel, and while I think the restaurant’s décor is clever – I like the pillars, which remind me of the Ayutthaya architecture – the surfaces, especially those polished marble floors, are too cold, and lights too bright. Regardless, this is easily one of Bangkok’s best restaurants – I’d argue that it’s the best – it’s really all about the food, which is fascinating, fresh, complex, and full of flavour. My favourite dish is the fermented fish, which David warned us was like a smelly French cheese, and it was! A yummy smelly French cheese.
Metropolitan Hotel,
 27 South Sathorn Road,
 Sathorn. 02 625 3333.
www.metropolitan.bangkok.como.bz

SOUL FOOD MAHANAKORN 
Super street food, killer cocktails and a soulful soundtrack 
Terence: It shouldn’t work, really. A name that makes you think of American fried chicken. Thai street food taken indoors by a farang in a neighbourhood with inexpensive street food nearby on Soi 38. And a drinks menu with an emphasis on cocktails? However, the ‘street food’ here is market-fresh, organic, and cooked by local chefs, it has a funky soundtrack, the cocktails are brilliant and lethal, and the American farang, owner Jarrett Wrisley, turns out to be a food writer who loves Thailand, is passionate about Thai food, and loves it hot. (Read our interview with Jarrett about Thai street food here.) And the name isn’t so silly after all, fried chicken is soul food in Thailand! Why didn’t someone think of this before?
Lara: This Thai-style take on a Japanese izakaya is my favourite restaurant in Bangkok, for all the reasons you’ve said: funky space, cool sounds, killer cocktails, buzzy atmosphere, affable host, and, above all, fantastic, fresh Thai ‘street food’ with a twist. The fact that Jarrett is continually offering new cocktail and food specials makes it very easy to drop by every week to see what’s new! But there are some dishes I don’t want him to ever take off the menu, like the nam prik pao (chilli jam), the smoked duck larb (minced salad), and the spicy kale with crispy pork salad. Yum! I love this place!
56/10 Sukhumvit Soi 55, Thonglor. 02 714 7708.
www.soulfoodmahanakorn.com

Bo.lan 
Death to the cookie-cutter Thai restaurant 
Terence: Aussie Dylan Jones and his Thai wife Bo (Duangporn Songvisava) met while working at David Thompson’s Nahm in London, and they share that same restlessness and uncompromising nature as their former mentor, really pushing boundaries with the ‘Bo.lan Balance’ tasting menu. Sure, there are curries and soups on the menu, but you’ve probably never tasted them like this – the hot and sour soup of pork ribs and pickled mustard is a revelation. The only occasional let down can be the service, which fortunately brightens up when Bo escapes the heat of the kitchen and visits tables.
Lara: Like Nahm and Soul Food, a meal at Bo.lan is one of those must-do Bangkok dining experiences, offering a different experience entirely again. I love the restaurant itself, set in one of those beautiful renovated Bangkok houses that you occasionally find tucked away in the backstreets. The décor manages to be both cosy and stylish and the striking art on the walls really sets the tone for what the place is all about. The food is uncompromising, and Bo and Dylan are the first to admit that – which means it’s some of the most fiery food we’ve eaten in Thailand, and also means that while we don’t always love everything on the 10-course tasting menu, the dishes we don’t like are nevertheless still interesting. I always love their relishes! My gripe was that the zingy ginger martini, which I loved, wasn’t served in a martini glass.
42 Soi Pichai Ronnarong Songkram, Sukhumvit 26. 02 260 2961.
www.bolan.co.th

Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin
Danish chef. Molecular. Thai. No, really. 
Terence: I guess molecular Thai food had to happen, but I didn’t think that it would taste so good. Thankfully, it’s been tackled by the chef who currently has the only Michelin star for a Thai restaurant, Henrik Yde-Andersen of Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen, and his Thai business partner, Lertchai Treetawatchaiwong. Inventive, playful, thoughtful and (mostly) authentic in flavour, it’s one of the most exciting restaurants in Bangkok.
Lara: Our meal here was delightful. ‘The Harvest’, a small flowerpot filled with ‘soil’ and green curry mousse, with a baby carrot ‘growing’ from it, set the tone for the rest of the meal, but my favourite was the dish that was probably the most talked-about plate in Bangkok last year, the frozen red curry with baby lobster salad and lychee foam. Then there was the tom ka ice cream cone, which was spicy yet refreshing. Could I eat this kind of food every week? Probably not, but definitely every few months and special occasions. And it’s a restaurant you want to dress up for. The high-ceilinged room is elegant and dramatic, yet the wood paneling, lamps, and garden features give the space a warmth and earthiness.
Siam Kempinski Hotel, 991/9 Rama 1 Rd. 02 162 9000.
www.kempinskibangkok.com

D’Sens
The best contemporary French-Med cooking in Bangkok
Terence: A partnership with the highly regarded Pourcel brothers from Montpellier (who have three Michelin stars), D’Sens is an homage to their Le Jardin des Sens restaurant. While the Pourcels visit from time to time, Chef Julien Lavigne is in charge here, creating exquisite French fare with premium ingredients and a light touch. We’ve tried all the other highly fancied French restaurants in town, and this is the best by a fair distance. A great sommelier too!
Lara: I adore this restaurant – sorry, j’adore D’Sens! I think it’s highly underrated and misunderstood in Bangkok. The last time we ate here it was a Friday night and there were empty tables – I don’t think people realise how creative the contemporary French-Med cuisine is. The dish that still stands out for me was the cannellonis with crumbed fresh crab salad, a light liquorice jelly, ‘coral’ of sea urchin, and ‘grains’ of caviar. It was as extraordinary as it sounds. The service is outstanding and the glamorous room is romantic. And those views across Lumpini Park of the city skyline are just stunning once the sun sets. You can savour them from the restaurant bar, which also does superb cocktails. It’s another restaurant that you want to dress up for and settle into for a while. Dusit Thani Hotel, 946 Rama IV Road. Opposite Lumpini Park. 02 200 9000.
www.dusit.com

Gaggan
Indian. Molecular. In Bangkok?! 
Terence: Indian chef Gaggan Anand was the first Indian chef to study under the pioneer of ‘molecular gastronomy’, Spain’s Ferran Adrià. (Read that story here.) Light and contemporary are not words generally used to describe Indian food, but Gaggan makes it work. He calls it ‘progressive Indian’. I’d just like him to push it further and banish the ravioli, risotto and other non-Indian dishes from the menu. After all, Indian cuisine is one of the richest and most complex in the world – plenty to explore without having to put other cuisines on the plates.
Lara: Like Sra Bua, a meal here is a really fun experience. The tasting menu we had was a delight: house-made yoghurt ‘egg’ with Indian spices; oysters with Indian lemonade; corn salad with dried corn powder and fresh coriander and chives; chicken tikka with coriander and mint foam… it was all sublime. While I still enjoyed the mushroom risotto and truffle ravioli that was on the menu when we last ate here (which Gaggan maintains has Indian influences and inspirations), I didn’t get their place on the menu. Having said that, I could eat here every week – I love the light, white, airy dining rooms in what is a truly beautiful, renovated old wooden villa, and the candlelit courtyard, the friendly staff and the down-to-earth yet professional service. And it’s fantastic value. The cocktails here too are fantastic.
68/1 Soi Langsuan, opposite Soi 3. 02 652 1700.
eatatgaggan.com

La Table de Tee
A talented young Thai chef makes his mark
Terence: Tee is a chef to watch. After a stint in London earning his stripes in Michelin-starred restaurant kitchens, Chatree ‘Tee’ Kachornklin returned to Thailand and opened his first restaurant in this modest little space where his cooking is anything but humble. Using Thai ingredients and French/Thai techniques, Tee makes most of the French restaurants in Bangkok look out of touch. While the food is still trying to find real focus, Tee is only 25 years old. I think he’s a great talent.
Lara: Agree! This is another restaurant I can return to often. I like the low-lit, low-key ambiance of the room, and the buzzy atmosphere when the place is full – which is most nights. It feels like a neighbourhood restaurant, with low prices to match – this must surely be Bangkok’s best value tasting menu? Based on fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients, many from Tee’s own farm, the French-Thai food is deftly prepared and prettily presented. And it’s impressive that he presents a new tasting menu every day, based on what’s fresh and available. My only complaint was that some of the portions were too large when we ate there. Pray that the peanut macarons are on when you eat here!
69/5 Saladaeng Road, Silom. 02 636 3220.
www.latabledetee.com

6 comments

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  1. Edna

    I love Soul Food! Don’t know the next time I’ll be in Bangkok, but I’d love to try some of these places whenever I’m back. As much as I love street food, I love trying twists on the classics too.

    1. Terence Carter

      Greetings Edna, we’ve just arrived back and while we’ve been living on street food (a good break after eating only Relais & Châteaux food for eight days in New Zealand) we’d happily go back to Soul Food, Bo.Lan & Nahm in a heartbeat. It’s a great eating city – and not just for street food. Cheers!

  2. Andrew

    OMG, these are straight out of a trendy guidebook! How Soul Food Mahanakorn makes these lists is beyond me. It was so overpriced and pretentious. If the others are anything like it, I’ll stick to street food, which is what my girlfriend and I ate after eating there because we were still so hungry, even after paying our inflated bill!

    1. Terence Carter

      Oh Andrew, a ‘trendy’ guidebook? What is that? Please, leave a list of them, as I’m intrigued.
      I’ve heard criticism from a couple of people about the prices of these places, usually from people who have no idea how much it costs to not only run an actual restaurant as opposed to a street stall, but source organic, sustainably farmed produce.
      If that makes you roll your eyes, please, stick to street food. And yes, before you ask, we eat street food at least once a day in Bangkok*.
      As for leaving Soul Food hungry, it works like an Izakaya bar – if you’re still hungry, order more food – no dishes there are a traditional main course. I’ve never left there hungry.
      If you think Soul Food is overpriced and pretentious, yes, do the other restaurant owners a favour and yes, stick to street food, I’m sure they won’t mind one bit.

      *In fact last month we were there for the entire month and only ate at three ‘overpriced and pretentious’ places because we were reviewing them and photographing them for a magazine story.

  3. Glynn

    Hi guys…my partner and I share your passion for travel and I only just discovered your blog. We travel to Bangkok 3 times a year for biz and I’ve been thrilled to read your posts. I used it extensively while in Siem Reap since it was our first trip there.
    I wanted to mention a restaurant and hotel in Bangkok in case you don ‘t know them. We stay at a boutique hotel called the Ma Du Zi on Soi 16. The wife of Win…one of the owners writes the Bangkokglutton blog you mentioned in your interview with Jarret Wrisley. It has only 41 rooms and I could go on…but you can check it out while in town. The other great restaurant I wanted to mention is ‘Quince’…a great tapas place on Soi 45.
    It’s a beautiful space with an outdoor garden surrounding it, and the food was superb.
    Offmto Luang Pabanf tomorrow and will check out your posts from there.
    Cheers to you both from kindred spirits!
    Glynn

    1. Lara Dunston

      Hi Glynn – thanks for dropping by! Always love connecting with people who share our travel and food passions.

      Pleased you like the posts. We are in the process of redesigning the site and with the new site will come updated posts, esp. eating, drinking and sleeping guides.

      We have stayed at Ma Du Zi actually – love those spacious rooms and it’s in a fantastic location, so handy to the BTS. We only just discovered that Bangkok Glutton owns it on our last stay actually.

      Now I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed Quince. We heard it was great under Chef Jess Barnes, now cooking at his own resto, Opposite Mess Hall (have you been there? We just love it) but we had a very disappointing meal at Quince after Jess left. (Although we loved the space – isn’t it stunning?) Just last night we heard there was a new chef there, so we’re relieved to here it’s in good hands again. We’ll definitely try it again when we’re back in Bangkok.

      Also try Thai Lao Yeh at Cabochon Hotel, at the end of the lane that Quince is on, if you haven’t yet. It’s one of our favourites.

      Hope you enjoy Luang Prabang – one of our favorite little SEA cities. We especially loved the food/atmosphere at L’Elephant and Coconut Garden when we were there. We had a disappointing meal at Les 3 Nagas, however, I heard it’s under new ownership and is good again. We never got around to eating at Tamarind, but we did do there cooking class, so I’m sure the resto is fab too.

      We’ll be returning to Luang Prabang soon, so would love to get your tips. Do drop back and see us here after your trip.

      And if you ever get to our home in Siem Reap, let us know and we’ll have a drink and share stories.

      Happy travels!
      Lara

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