Exploring the Culinary Scene in Bangkok

Paul Ehrlich

Bangkok is arguably Asia’s food capital in terms of variety, quality and value. But on a brief trip, it’s the problem of so many meals, so little time to enjoy them all. To navigate one’s way through the city’s high-end dining jungle takes some well-fed research. To help you have an unforgettable dining experience, we’ve tucked into some of the city’s top gourmet choices.

 

Shintori

 

Don’t expect tea ceremonies, kimonos or staff shouting greetings when you enter. This is not your typical Japanese restaurant nor does it want to be. Shintori is spacious and visually theatrical with its Zen-like décor of black tables, raw tones of concrete and wood, soaring industrial-chic ceiling, theatrical lighting, large glass-walled open kitchen, a sake cocktail bar, and towering windows providing stunning 18th-floor views of the city.

 

What isn’t minimalist is the innovative neo-Japanese cuisine. Like the artfully presented sushi platter served on top of a bowl of smoking dry ice and arranged around bamboo and wicker. Or the tuna sushi prepared three different ways, from fresh to a deliciously smoky flavored version. One could happily live on these starter specials and sushi alone; only the freshest and most varied seasonal sushi is available. But definitely explore main dishes like the tender black olive-flavored beef cubes or the honey miso-flavored salmon steak. Other dishes have a unique Asian-inspired twist, such as the Peking duck rolls with beef tongue and unagi sauce. There is also outdoor seating and a glass-wrapped rooftop private villa with a private chef. After or before dining, go up to Heaven On Zen, a rooftop bar with amazing cocktails and expansive views. shintoribangkok.com

 

 

Lan Na Thai

 

Lan Na – meaning  ‘many rice fields’ – is the name of an ancient kingdom in northern Thailand. And this unique restaurant is modeled on a northern nobleman’s longhouse and decorated with stunning antiques, including several large, rare, wooden Buddhas. 

 

Start with crispy golden-fried squid rings with garlic and zesty Thai spices; or minced duck mixed with an array of herbs. From the extensive menu, mains include succulent slices of duck stir-fried with red curry paste, aubergine, bell pepper, kaffir leaf and Thai basil; king-sized tiger prawns marinated in garlic, soya, black pepper and a touch of honey; tender slices of stir-fried sirloin beef in a red curry paste mixed with chili and a bit of coconut milk; or fillet of red snapper mixed with pineapple, tomato and bell peppers. And a separate Japanese restaurant on the village-like premises of lotus pools, wooden walkways, and even a spa massage sala. After dinner, enjoy live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the bar. facebars.com

 

 

 

nahm

 

Run by Australian-born chef David Thompson, nahm showcases Thai cuisine prepared in a seasonal and traditional cooking style, yet with the chef’s own innovative touch. The restaurant has a relaxed elegant appeal: teak tables, pearl-grey leather chairs, chocolate-colored leather sofas, black marble floors, and bouquets of orchids.

 

The richly flavored food includes highlights such as clear soup with thin slices of tender roast duck, Thai basil and young coconut; stir-fried squid in its ink with sugar-snap peas; spicy stir-fried frog legs with chilies, turmeric, basil and cumin leaves; and lemongrass salad of prawns, crispy squid and pork with roasted coconut. There are curry dishes, including a thick, creamy coconut and turmeric curry with blue swimmer crab and calamansi, and the very spicy jungle curry with plaa chorn, Thai basil, apple eggplants and green peppercorns. For dessert try the jackfruit simmered in coconut cream with steamed sugar palm pudding. comohotels.com/metropolitanbangkok/dining/na

Redsky

 

Red Sky’s 55th-floor rooftop restaurant gives vertigo-inducing wraparound city views. The outdoor area looks a bit like a Star Trek flight deck, with orange ostrich egg-shaped table lights and huge arch bathed in neon. Start with a fanciful cocktail, signature Martini or one of the 300-plus wines. Dinners are mainly a mix of fresh fish and prime meats, but if flummoxed, have both. The Surf & Turf Tower, for two, is a tier of large pans piled generously with Wagyu rib-eye, lamb rack, Maine lobster, giant shrimps, Alaskan king crab, scallops and various side dishes.

 

There’s also sea bass with crisp baby calamari surrounded by sautéed Mediterranean vegetables, or a deep bowl of 36-hour slow roasted boneless US Kobe beef short ribs. Save room for the generous cheese platter, or the decadently gooey chocolate fondue. Too full? Have one of their dessert wines and enjoy the breathtaking escape. centarahotelsresorts.com

 

District Grill Room and Bar

 

With supperclub lighting, roomy space and contemporary, relaxing atmosphere, the recently opened District serves cooked-to-perfection steaks and seafood that is refreshing change from the usual upmarket stuffy steakhouse. Large blackboards feature daily specials and the open kitchen creates a lively backdrop.

 

Start with a classic cocktail and starters like the Ice District Heights, featuring a combo of lobster, prawns, oysters, scallops and crab. Or the unique take on the Caesar salad – a deliciously flavorful homemade dressing is mixed with air to create a foam-like texture over a whole leaf of romaine. Then choose one of the grain-fed Queensland Australian angus meats, such as ribeye, sirloin and tenderloin. Or a thick, seasoned lamb rack. If not a carnivore, there’s fresh lobster, seabass and Tasmanian salmon. Finish with the signature dessert, District Sunday, and then head up to Octave, the high-octane rooftop bar in the same building. bangkokmarriott.com

 

Gaggan

 

El Bulli-trained Gaggan Anand overseas his namesake restaurant, set in a charming white two-storey colonial mansion with a lovely outdoor garden. Using liquid nitrogen and other unique techniques from his research lab, Gaggan, who studied in Spain under one of the world’s greatest chefs, Michelin-starred chef Ferran Adria, creates progressive items like organic foie gras, both caramelized and powdered, infused with freeze-dried raspberries and garam masala-and-ginger-spiced raspberry chutney gel.

 

But not everything from the extensive menu is molecular: there’s succulent 24-hour slow-cooked Iberian pork with spiced mushroom risotto, truffle ravioli with coriander and red onions; baked lobster with Bengali mustard; and charcoal-grilled, free-range tandoori lamb chops with green chilli and fresh coriander. eatatgaggan.com

 

Biscotti

A good-spirited buzz and delicious aromas from the Italian cuisine can always be found in this stylish, civilized restaurant located in the luxurious Four Seasons hotel. Begin with a glass of prosecco and enjoy the scene of a crowd definitely enjoying themselves in the intimate, contemporary designed space with a lively open kitchen.

The menu is extensive, so start a customized selection of appetizers and the must-have focaccia marscarpone with truffle oil; so satisfying you could eat it every day. But save room for the selection of pizzas, pastas, risotto, and seafood and meats. Whatever you choose, it’s hard to go wrong. Try the signature dish of black summer truffle risotto with salami and 16-month-old grana padano cheese, or homemade black truffle ravioli with leek and mascarpone. The braised veal osso buco with white polenta, Kenya beans, porcini and red grapes is wonderfully prepared, and the garlic-crusted lamb loin with saffron-crushed potato and salt-based red onion is tender and meaty at once. fourseasons.com

 

Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin

 

Settle into the silk-pillowed chairs in this elegant and romantic of restaurants, with its black lacquered tables with pearl grey-silk runners, a standalone sala, lotus ponds, and high ceilings defined by dark wood. The food is Thai-inspired but imaginatively creative and contemporary. It begins with starters like the bite-sized yam mamung that combines mango, Thai musli, egg, sugar and chili; or stir-fried pork mixed with chili, basil foam and garlic served in an eggshell, or the miang kham cornette that wraps wonton, pomelo, ginger, galangal lime, onion, palm sugar, peanuts and dried shrimp.

 

Dinners are two set menus that change every three months, and can be wine, cocktail or juice paired. After an array of standout starters, such as frozen red curry with lobster and lychee that one could dine on alone, there are mains like slow-cooked flat iron steak with aubergine, leek and oyster sauce, or fried red mullet with curried peanuts and turmeric cauliflower. End with the pineapple and ginger sorbet; the pop rocks mixed in are like tiny tasty fireworks going off in your mouth. kempinskibangkok.com

China House

 

Designed in the chic style of 1930's Shanghai Art Deco, China House cannot help but to impress. One hundred overhead red lanterns give a romantic glow to the two-storey colonial housed space that features an aquamarine bar, floor-to-ceiling columns in Macassar ebony, period furniture, and black lacquer tables with lush red leather booths half-enclosed by wooden screens to give a sense of intimacy. This place is a winner in cutting-edge style, but also for the most important reason to come: the wonderfully delicious Chinese cuisine.

                                               

Menu highlights include Szechuan-style hot and sour soup with fresh lobster; Cantonese-style oven-roasted Peking duck served skin and meat with Chinese pancakes, homemade savory plum sauce, Japanese cucumber strips and scallions; homemade bean curd topped with roasted eggplant, garlic and oyster sauce; deep-fried pork, crabmeat and shrimp dumplings wrapped in crispy bean curd skin; wok-grilled whole Mexican abalone with scrambled eggs, green asparagus and black pepper sauce; and deep-fried soft shell crab with golden crispy garlic and dried red pepper, topped with pumpkin sauce.

mandarinoriental.com

 

Author Bio:
Paul Ehrlich is an American journalist whose been roaming  Asia for more than two decades. He’s worked in all areas of magazine publishing, including an award-winning background in launching and managing high-end publications like Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia and Prestige Hong Kong. He now lives in Bangkok, a city that agrees with him, writing for international magazines and serving as an editorial consultant for several print and Web-based publications.

 

Photos: Einstraus (Flickr); Chinnian (Flcikr); JanneM (Flickr); Ya-Ying (Flickr).

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