Bangkok has always been a foodie paradise, with knockout meals on just about every block. While the street food here is still second to none, the city has also reinvented itself in recent years with an outstanding array of fine dining options and great gourmet selections from around the world. Now featured in the San Pellegrino list of top restaurants in the world, Nahm continuously makes the list and is not to be missed, with chef David Thompson creating authentic and top notch traditional Thai. Other truly excellent Thai spots include Paste, which now has several branches, as well as green friendly Bo.lan, and Iron Chef Ian Kittichai's excellent Issaya Siamese Club, set in a gorgeous old Thai home. For authentic hard to find Thai dishes, The Local is the best place in town, and Soul Food Mahanakorn still gets accolades as one of the city's homiest spots to enjoy creative simple Thai cooking with good drinks.
It's not only Thai food that visitors are coming to Bangkok for now. Gaggan and its molecular Indian recently was selected as Asia's Best Restaurant, 22 Kitchen & Bar features a dynamic young chef doing knockout Pacific Rim cuisine ranging from Peru to Hawaii, and if it is sushi that you want, look no further than Isao, probably the only restaurant in Bangkok that has a line out the door 365 days a year. There are thousands of Italian places to choose from, but for fine dining and great ingredients, you can't top JoJo, set in the prestigious St. Regis hotel.
Issaya Siamese Club
If you are looking for a special evening with gorgeous surroundings, great food, and plenty of romance, Issaya Siamese Club completely fits the bill. This is the flagship restaurant for renowned Thai chef Ian Kittichai, and has received accolades not only for its use of organic and farm fresh ingredients but also for original and delicious food that has not been toned down for the tourist crowd. Most menu items are winners, but the real standouts include the massaman lamb curry, along with the kradook moo aok glazed baby back ribs. Not only is the food good, but the atmosphere is a combination of elegance and garden party, as Issaya is housed in a century old Thai mansion, and the lawn and garden area is set with beanbag cushions for relaxing on, In the evening, the house is lit up in a golden light, making it the perfect city escape. (02-672-9040-1)
Bo.lan makes almost every "Best" list when it comes to outstanding Thai food. Recently relocated to Sukhumvit Soi 53 near trendy Thong Lor, the restaurant prides itself on using bio diversified local products, works closely with local farmers, and is big on giving back to the community. In fact, the restaurant has set out to achieve a zero carbon footprint status in the next few years, doing heavy duty recycling as well as filtering and serving their own bottled water. The restaurant specializes in tasting menus that run upwards of 1800 baht, and feature a rotation of classic Thai favorites from Penang curry to free range duck salad and much more. There are also lunch courses served, either set or a la carte, which are of good value and a great introduction to the artistic cuisine served up here. (02 260 2961)
Soul Food Mahanakorn
Former Atlantic Monthly food critic Jarred Wrisley wanted a place where foodies could enjoy top notch Thai street food without having to sit on stools in the heat, and his converted Chinese shophouse restaurant is now the talk of the town, with divine northern haeng lay Burmese curry and roasted larb phet duck salad heading a menu full of Thai culinary delights. Wrisley's sleek eatery in fashionable Thong Lor is popular amongst both locals and expats, as the ingredients are fresh, spices not toned down, and yet the owner's unique twists and experimentations are what give the dishes that extra pizzazz and set Soul Food Mahanakorn a world apart from other dining options. (085-904-2691)
Classic Thai food is renowned world over, yet rarely does one find it presented in such an innovative way as at Paste. Paste Bangkok is the brainchild of Australian award winning chef Jason Bailey and his Thai partner Bongkoch "Bee" Satongun, who received acclaim for their Thai restaurants in Australia and now have several branches in Bangkok, bringing creative and healthy food with them.
Traditional Thai food is done here with beautiful creative twists and a total attention to taste combinations enough to wow the most discerning diner. At Paste, the dishes almost sound as good as they taste, with creations such as stock-poached pork neck with chili, red grapefruit, local flowers and toasted sticky rice. At Paste, the ingredients are sourced from local growers and avoid preservatives and chemicals wherever possible.
There is a newer and more upscale version of Paste now located in the Gaysorn Plaza downtown, but the Soi 49 eatery is more intimate. (02 392 4313)
Not only is JoJo sleek, sophisticated, and one of Bangkok's most elegant dining spots, it also happens to serve some of the city's most refined and delicious Italian food. You can sit in the stylish dining room or out on the romantic candlelit patio and indulge in offerings like squid ink tagliolini in Boston lobster sauce or a fettucine alfredo served on a Castelmagno cheese wheel. Absolutely don't miss trying the D.O.P Burrata cheese and rocket salad, which is a half kilo of creamy cheese that will leave you salivating with pleasure. Don't forget to save room for the tiramisu martini for dessert! (02 207 7815)
The only Thai restaurant to be included in prestigious Restaurant Magazine's Top 50 Restaurants in the World, Nahm lives up to its billing by serving some of the best food one can find in Bangkok. However, some folks just aren't ready to fork out for a fancy dinner, which is all the more reason to take advantage of the fact that Nahm is now open for lunch. You can try the set menu which features 3 mains and 3 canapes along with dessert for only 1100 baht. The kanom jeen rice noodles served with a choice of curries are fabulous, and the blue swimmer crab and pickled garlic on rice cakes is divine. Lunch is served from 12-2. (02 625 3388)
While this small eatery just off of Sukhumvit is always packed with discerning diners coming to try out creations that just aren't available elsewhere in Bangkok, so much that it is next to impossible to get a seat, lunch offers better prospects, and Isao is well worth a visit.
The owner at Isao studied under the chef at Green Tea in Chicago, and obviously brought back some creative expertise. Try out some of the signature fusion specialties here such as the Volcano, a baked scallop in cream sauce served in its shell resembling orange molten lava, spicy and taste tingling. Or how about the Jackie, a caterpillar shaped sushi roll with egg, boiled shrimp, roe, and tempura, or the Chicago Spicy Crazy, which features salmon, tuna, white fish and vegetables. (02 258 0645)
Owner Kan Markawat and his sister Ploy come from a family of traditional foodies, and they have put their love of traditional and hard to find dishes from all over Thailand on display at the lovely new eatery, The Local, where one can dine in a 70 year old traditional teak home, outfitted with antiques, wooden bird cages, old paddles from the floating market, and bookcases full of Thai cookbooks from throughout the ages.
The menu is large and varied and standouts include gaeng lun juan, which comes from the Rama V Royal Court and is made with beef or pork laced with aromatic Thai herbs and shrimp paste, highly aromatic and bursting with flavor. Another menu winner is the gaeng kua pla bai som pan kee maa, a spicy yellow curry fish with hard to find orange leaves from the south, and don't forget to save room for the homemade ice cream and perhaps one of the signature cocktails such as the Safflower, made with Mekong whiskey, safflower, and kumquat juice, and a perfect complement to the food. (02 664 0664)
Recently named Asia's Best Restaurant, Gaggan is described as progressive Indian, but it might be better to say molecular gastronomy goes Indian and comes to Bangkok! This snazzy restaurant started by Gaggan Anand, the Kolkata native who interned with Michelin-starred molecular whiz Ferran Adrià; at his famed El Bulli restaurant in Spain, turns out wonderful creations such as chicken tikka topped with aromatic cilantro chutney foam or mutton bhuna ghosh pot roasted in a copper vessel then vacuum packed and simmered in a water bath for 24 hours, creating outrageous flavors. For fans of innovative and progressive cooking, Gaggan dazzles the senses, and the classy colonial home the eatery is housed in compliments the wonderful food. (02-652-1700)
22 Kitchen & Bar
22 Kitchen & Bar is a unique and creative addition to the Bangkok dining high end gourmet dining scene. Located up on the 22nd floor of the Dusit Thani Hotel, the snazzy restaurant has large glass windows with superb views of Lumphini Park far below. Even more dazzling is the novel Pan Pacific cuisine, created by half Mexican half Hawaiian master chef Nikolas Ramirez which focuses on Pacific Rim epicurean delights, ranging from Peruvian ceviche to Japanese ramen burgers, kimchi quesadillas, and plenty of fresh seafood. Dishes like langoustine with chimichurri sauce, whole fish with Peruvian paella, and snapper with mountain yam and jalape�o pesto, let you know exactly what a foodie paradise this is, and there are signature drinks and fine wines to compliment all the wonderful fare as well. (02 200 9000)
About Dave Stamboulis
Dave Stamboulis is a travel writer/photographer based in Bangkok. Born in Athens, Greece and growing up in Berkeley, California, Dave first discovered Bangkok while on a 40,000-kilometer bicycle trip; he moved there for good in 2005.
Dave's photos have appeared in publications around the world. He is the author of Odysseus’ Last Stand, which received the Silver Medal for Travel Book of the Year in 2006 from the Society of American Travel Writers. In addition to working for Fodor’s Guidebook to Thailand, his travel stories appear in publications throughout SE Asia. Dave is also Trip Advisor's Oyster.com's photographer for Thailand.
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