A GUIDE TO EATING IN BANGKOK
"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
Situated in a generic looking shopfront near Chulalongkorn University, this restaurant serves up some of the tastiest, freshest seafood in Bangkok. This is one of those places you really don't want to miss. Standout dishes are the Deep Fried Seabass with Fish Sauce, the River Prawns and the Clams.
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.
SANEH LARB KOI
Isaan food is famous throughout Thailand for its quintessential dish Larb. This uber-local place treats tourists as a novelty because I don't think too many pass through their doors, but the food is utterly impeccable. Dynamite som tum, obscenely delicious beef soups, great larb and mouthpunchingly amazing beef grilled outside on the hot coals. This place will have you falling in love from the first bite.
A step above the regular restaurants recommended here, in terms of price and ambiance, booking is essential, and everything is delicious.
PHED PHED CAFE
Spice up your life with the FIERY food at Phed Phed Cafe. They have a few branches spread around town, but the food is rock solid and super tasty.
AGALIN GARDEN ROOM
Not exactly downtown Bangkok, but if you're looking for a stunning date-spot with great Massaman curry and a break from traffic, then head out here for a meal in the delightful garden.
Beef noodle soup doesn't come much better than this. Old skool vibes, super friendly Grandma's and delicious bowls.
JEH O CHULA
If you're the impatient type, don't bother coming here. Peak time waits are upwards of an hour, but by jove the food here is worth it. Their shrimp deep-fried with chilli is sublime, and their Tomyum is famous for a reason. Everything was rock solid and cheap as chips.
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 black home-sauce which you plonk on your noodles!
SOM TUM JAY SO
Silom alleys hold some beautiful secrets, and if you're hankering for Somtum, this is your spot. Don't forget to try the chicken wings or pork neck done on the grill.
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.
Not everyone has the flexibility to head to Lad Phrao, but if you do then don't miss this banging Isaan spot.
Tucked behind Suan Plu in a small alley lies this rocking pork or chicken noodle stand. Choose the thick noodle, pull up a chair, and mix in some vinegar-chilli to take the bite out of the sweetness. A seriously good bowl of noodle soup.
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.
HONG TEONG LONG
Legendary little Chinese spot in Silom. You gotta order the Hot Oil Chilli Stewed Beef. It's ridiculous.
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.
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.
For those lost souls who weep at Wong Kar Wai movies, this is your new favourite spot in Bangkok. Tucked away in a dining room that hasn't seen a lick of paint (or "progress") in 50 years, the tables are served by pensioners with kind hearts. Food wise you can expect all your classic dishes cooked with lots of homestyle comfort in mind. The Green Curry is excellent, and the ambience is enough to shed a tear when no-ones watching.
MAE WAREE MANGO STICKY RICE
This should be your only stop for Mango Sticky Rice in Bangkok. Nuff said....
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.
Pae's Brass Pot CongeE
Michelin in Asia is a dicey affair. Whilst they tend to get it wrong far more often than right, this is an example of when they were on their A-Game. Monstrously delicious Congee, must get the pork one with an egg.
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.
A literal part of the Ari furniture, this seafood spot bangs out super delicious plates.
Chua Kim Lhee Din Daeng GoosE
A hidden gem in Lat Phrao serving up delectable goose in black sauce. Make sure to dunk it in the orange chilli vinegar sauce!
The best Indian food in Bangkok for the price. No discussion. Try their Chicken Madras and Dal Tarka!
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.
Their downstairs area is a bit "Suits & Escorts", but the upstairs rooftop is a nice place to relax. Prices are as stiff as the client's near futures downstairs, but it is what it is.
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