"Eat till you drop"
Landing at Suvarnabhumi Airport and heading downstairs to the taxi-line, always awakens this immediate rush of excitement. The knowledge that whether i’m spending a week or 6 months there, I will be fed like a God. The streets are heaving with life, the roads clogged haplessly with far too much traffic, the sky-trains groaning under the burden of lightening the load, and the subway snaking around beneath the surface offering frosty AC and relative peace. Despite all these handicaps, there are precious few places on earth that fill me with as much optimism, hope and excitement as Bangkok. Once they expand the MTR and Skytrain, then the city will be slightly more inhabitable, from a transport perspective.
Anyway, onto whats important. Food, drinks and accommodation. Ramen restaurants have already been written about here, so this is mostly other cuisine. And since almost all of my Thai friends eat at streetfood places with no name, then I will just focus on brick and mortar places, not only Thai mind you.
Sightseeing you can read about on another blog.
Where to eat
A veritable institution in Bangkok feathery delight folklore, this place has been churning out crispy, moist chicken for over 50 years. In my honest opinion the dark meat is where you want to aim, but take nothing away: This is seriously good fried chicken, the colonel better watch his back.
If you find it, this is one of the best bowls of noodles you'll find in Bangkok. Go at lunchtime and expect to wait in line, don't miss out on asking for the container of special home-sauce which you plonk on your noodles!
Perhaps it's heresy to include an Indian restaurant on this list, but this is truly exceptional. The lamb shank curry is to die for, the cauliflower starter is amazing. Everything is perfectly spiced and seasoned.
WATTANA PANICH BEEF BROTH
Another legendary spot where you better be prepared to wait in line. Deep flavoured beef noodles, tender meat, super delicious broth, worth going out of your way for.
Khua Kling Pak Sod
If it's good enough for Gaggan, it's good enough for me. Solid Southern Thai food. The branch in Thong Lor is better than the Silom one.
Baan Ice ($$)
Moderately priced, packed to the brim with Thai families, perfectly authentic Southern Thai food. Their Beef Green Curry was sublime, as was their house special plump prawns with al dente beans and curry paste.
Warning: This is real authentic local southern food. They don't mess around for tourists here, this is punchy, pungeant, spicy and flavourful. Only go here if you know what you're getting yourself in for, but if you like authentic food you cannot beat it.
Khun Ya Cuisine
Housed in a temple, this old skool Thai diner knocks out superb curries for a pittance. Be sure to come before lunch when the curries are fully stacked.
MAE VAREE MANGO STICKY RICE
This should be your only stop for Mango Sticky Rice in Bangkok. Nuff said....
Hom Duan ($)
Ekkamai's home of Khao Soi. Rich, delicate, delicious. For a restaurant this far away from Chiang Mai, they do a great job.
BAI PLU HOUSE
Bai Plu has been banging out amazing vegan food for over 18 years in this location. Pretty much everything on the menu is delicious and you find yourself hard pressed to notice the lack of animal.
Moo Ping Hea Owen SiloM
If you happen to be walking around these parts, then by goodness sake head here for some delicious pork skewers. Ask them for the house chilli sauce to drown it in. Legit!!
Sensational ramen, perfectly executed, literally close your eyes and you are in Japan. It’s really THAT good. Their house-special was far too fatty/oily for me, but the regular Tonkotsu with Chashu and marinated egg is to die for. Great Gyoza too!
Supanniga eating room
Though I don't rate it as highly as the dearly departed Soul Food Mahanakorn, it is definitely worth trying if you're in Bangkok for a bit and have time for options.
tuang by chef yip
The story of a chef working in a top class hotel in Bangkok who got tired of the rat race and opened up a tiny shack on the street serving 20 customers at a time, with a perpetual line. Not the greatest dim sum i’ve had but very tasty and insanely affordable. The experience is worth it alone, taking a number from the plastic board and waiting your turn while waiters rush past with steaming baskets of dim sum whetting your appetite in the stifling heat.
Honorable mentions and places I didn't take photos:
Issaya Siamese Club - Another one to test if you want to burn the Mastercard. Situated in a beautiful old Thai house near Sathorn, this place serves up “Fine Dining Thai”, and does it well. The Lamb Curry here is potentially one of the best I have ever eaten. PRICE: $$$$
Kabana - A tiny strangely shaped restaurant clinging onto life in the hard fought jewellery shop area of Charoenkrung, the owner sits philosophically and smiles at every customer. The food is top notch, the Lamb Curry especially delicious and the pricing is great. A strange, small place in the middle of the bustling city. Time stands still inside. PRICE: $$
Sri Ganesha - Competing with Sarawana Bhavan for the best dosa in town is the small, quite hidden restaurant quite far down Soi 13 in Sukhumvit. It took some time to find it since it’s inside a small “mall”, but the food here is phenomenal. Gaggan himself recommended it so I had to try it out, and it was 100% legit. Either Sarawana or Sri Ganesha will definitely soothe your cravings. PRICE: $$
Himali Cha-Cha - One of those bastardly frustrating places where you go one night and have the most awesome Authentic Indian meal, then go back 3 days later, order the same thing and it tastes completely different. I did eventually pluck up the courage to ask on the second night if the same chef was in the kitchen “No, different chef today”. So that explains it. When its good its REALLY good, when its bad well….. its the other chefs fault. PRICE: $$$
Jua - If you’re jonesing for a bit of Japanese Izakaya-style Yakitori spot then head over to Jua. A beautiful small restaurant hidden in a back-alley off Charoenkrung. The prices are a little high, but the ambience and quality of the food makes it worth it. PRICE: $$$
Where to drink
23 Bar & Gallery
The best bar in Bangkok.
The Old Other Office
This is not a bar for partying or picking up chicks or being a dickhead. This is the regulars living room and you should treat it like that. Sit back, sip a beer, enjoy the music and the insane decorations on the wall, play a game of pool and suddenly realise its 5am and you need to go home and sleep.
A treasure… I hope it stays around forever.
This charming, small bar on Samsen is one for quiet meditation and drinking. The clientele here seem to have weathered a few storms, and prefer to sit wrapped in their own thoughts which is perfect if you just want a quiet beer to clear your head before moving onwards.
A Bangkok institution for hipsters and crate diggers alike. Next door is a record store, owned by the same people, and Studio Lam has a wide array of old and new Thai and Foreign bands and Djs playing in the beautiful space. The bar is crammed with bottles of bizarre concoctions and infusions leading to a rather original cocktail list. If like me you are a simpleton, they have Beer Laos and when the musics too loud you can sit outside on the wooden patio and watch life pass by. If Pen-Ek Ratanaruang had a bar, it would look like this.
The much loved and revered old location in a small alley off Soi 11 was a spot you could always go alone and end up meeting people. The soundtrack was the same, the toy sky-train made its rounds endlessly and the angry woman kept walking around telling you to stay within the rope boundary. However, the drinks were cheap and the place was amazing. Its moved now closer to On Nut, near the Tesco Lotus, and to be honest has lost a lot of its previous charm. However, if you are out that way, pop by for a drink and support them because their old location was taken away from them to build apartments.
Bars without photographs
Shades of Retro - Not the cheapest bar in Bangkok, but definitely one of the nicest looking. A crazy LSD collection of thrift store stuff mixed in with 60s and old Thai random objects strewn around. The bar does good drinks and they have Fernet Branca!!!!!! There is a tiny outside seating area for those nicotine inclined and a kitchen out front. I haven’t tried the food since I usually pop in here right after Soul Food Mahanakorn, but it looks delicious.
F Orange - Not a lot of budget has gone into the decor of this place, a sorta shabby cavern in the middle of a strange shopping complex, but they have some small touches that make you stop and appreciate that imagination goes a long way. However, the bar tenders are great here and it make a change from all the other spots when you live in Bangkok for a while. Worth checking out on the weekends because during the week you will be the only punter. They sometimes have live music where bands just set up directly on the floor by the entrance. The quality is hit and miss.
Skytrain Jazz Bar - Near Victory Monument this quirky jazz bar is a definite must-do on your bar hopping list. Mostly Thai clientele but no bad looks if you walk in, it’s a great bar with odd furniture and a balcony space to sit if the weathers not too hot.
Asia Today - Slightly more bearable than the ultra-hipster hell of Teens of Thailand, yet owned by the same people, this place is known for its cocktails too. It’s only a 2 minute walk over to Bar23 so this is a nice spot to start with a cocktail to get your courage up to walk into a crowded place with singing patrons.
Tep Bar - Head here if you want to see some traditional Thai music in a very small-intimate setting. It’s a stones throw away from 10 other bars so there’s no problem turning up here, not liking it, and struggling to find something else.
FooJohn - The downstairs level looks like a still from a Wong-Kar Wai movie, upstairs is a rather fancy cocktail bar and on the roof they serve drinks and their famous ribs. It’s become quite a popular place on Charoenkrung and used to be the perfect place to start up and then head to Soul Bar, but soul bar is no more.
Jam Bar - Unfortunately located after the worst intersection in Bangkok where you can literally stand for 10+ minutes trying to cross the road, the bar itself is worth the hassle. Small, slightly “Who-The-Fuck-Are-You”, but in a bearable way, place that oozes trying to be Brooklyn, but whatever. It’s a nice alternative if you’ve done the others to death, and you usually meet at least someone interesting there. Music profile can literally be anything.
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Tastes are subjective, so take everything with a pinch of salty tears"
CITIES / Places