Foodie Paradise: 10 of Bangkok's Best Eating Options



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. Gaggan has been voted the Best Restaurant in Asia for four years running now, serving up unique molecular influenced Indian cuisine, and now has two Michelin stars to its name, while just next door, Indian Chef Garima Arora will dazzle your palate with exquisite takes on Asian fare using the freshest locally sourced ingredients at the award-winning GaaMezzaluna, set 65 floors up at the Lebua, not only has Bangkok's best view, but it also has 2 Michelin stars and the award-winning cuisine of Japanese chef Ryuki Kawasaki. Other truly excellent Thai-influenced spots include the unique creations at Canvas and the outstanding Thai tasting menu at Saawaan. For authentic hard to find Thai dishes at very fair prices, both Supanniga and The Local are the best places in town, and if you want Isaan northeastern spice, head to always crowded Baan Som Tam.

It's not only Thai food that visitors are coming to Bangkok for now though. In addition to Gaggan, Japanese features highly on the Bangkok menu. For creative sushi, Isao will knock your socks off and is 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 a real trattoria, head to Appia. For French, Le Normandie not only serves the best haute cuisine French for miles, but it also has two Michelin stars. You most definitely won't be going hungry in this city.



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Canvas, awarded a Michelin star in the latest (2nd) edition of the Michelin Bangkok Guide, highlights locally sourced Thai ingredients, many of which diners may not even be familiar with, serving up superb six and nine-course tasting menus of local favorites that have been given an international twist using progressive cooking methods. The restaurant also showcases the fantastic culinary skills of Chef Riley Sanders, who together with a stellar and well-organized team, runs a dazzling open kitchen, treating diners to one of Bangkok's finest gastronomic experiences.

Sanders hails from Texas, and after a stint at the popular Uchiko Japanese fusion restaurant in Austin, went to work with 3-star Michelin Chef Laurent Gras at the renowned L20 in Chicago. But following this he eschewed climbing the traditional ladder and instead got a position cooking on a private yacht, where he was given free creative range in the kitchen, allowing him to hone his craft even more. More importantly, the job gave Sanders both the time and money to travel, his other passion, and he embarked on a trip around the world, tasting his way through markets, street food, and fine dining establishments all over the globe.

Canvas is the product of Sanders being drawn to Bangkok and its amazing culinary culture, and he's elevated local and often unique ingredients to new heights. Take the soy-smoked king mackerel prepared sous vide and served with an orgasmic paste made of ant eggs, dill, and horseradish. Sanders says that this was inspired by Western "surf n turf" menus, only here turning the mackerel into the "surf" combined with one of Thailand's most unusual inland ingredients, the ant eggs.

Sitting at the open counter here is a joy, as you get to watch Sanders and his team in action, as well as being given the story behind each dish and its ingredients as they are served. You learn that the divine frog comes from a farm in Khao Yai and that the edible flowers served with it are from Samut Prakhan (a province neighboring Bangkok), and that the most succulent honey you've ever tasted (served on fresh gooseberries in season over sorbet) comes from stingless bees that are from Chantaburi, and produce a highly concentrated sweet honey.

Dinner here is a magical event where you never know what's coming next. Take the "rice bread." Served as a humble appetizer, this is actually one of the menu knockouts and will leave you wishing you had a loaf to take home. Made from organic rice from Surin Province, it's served with brown butter and yellow chili emulsion, and topped with salted egg yolk and toasted sticky rice. Light and ever so flavorful, Sanders says the idea behind it was to serve the Thai staple of rice as a version of the Western staple of bread.

Most appropriately named, Canvas features a chef whose artist's palette is a melange of colors, guaranteed to leave your palate begging for more, and is a most deserving entry into the Bangkok Michelin guide and foodie dining scene that has swept the city.


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Mezzaluna is Bangkok's most swank restaurant, and dining up here 65 floors above the Chao Phraya River and the Bangkok skyline is one of the top experiences one can have while in town, especially as the restaurant has been awarded two stars by the Bangkok Michelin guide, and features the palate-boggling cooking of chef Ryuki Kawasaki, who has manned Michelin kitchens in France, the U.S., and his native Japan, and was named Chef of the Year by the Escoffier Society while working at Twist by Pierre Gagnaire in Las Vegas.

Taking over the helm at Mezzaluna in 2015, Kawasaki has combined his superlative French cooking techniques with some of the most exclusively sourced ingredients to be found in Asia. Take the Niigata Murakami Wagyu beef for example, which Kawasaki brings exclusively to Thailand from Japan. The beef comes from a small breed of carefully selected, high-quality calves from Niigata Prefecture, which are raised on rice straw, hay, and premium compound feed, giving the beef a silky texture and absolutely melt in the mouth taste. It is served here at Mezzaluna with black truffles and grilled over binchotan charcoal, and is the signature dish headlining an incredible seven-course tasting menu

Everything about the dining experience at Mezzaluna is done to utmost perfection. A bevy of staff hovers around your table, never failing to notice whether you need more bread or water, constantly bringing palate refreshers before dishes, and giving detailed explanations of all the captivating creations. An expert sommelier comes out to explain each wine pairing served with the food, not only giving the origins of each bottle, but complimenting its highlights and flavor profiles, and the cellar here is one of the finest in all Bangkok, with several of the wines served being exclusive to Mezzaluna.

The menu at Mezzaluna is seasonal, changing every three months, although dishes like the Wagyu beef are always featured. Chef Kawasaki says, "My passion is to create experiences that inspire and leave lasting memories for the people I share them with, and our culinary journey at Mezzaluna consists of various textures, flavors, artisinal seasonal products, and cooking techniques."

This is an entire dining experience at its finest, from chef to server to table to the ambiance. At this point, the sky (and possibly even a coveted third star) is the limit for Mezzaluna and its all-star chef.


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This classy French restaurant on the top floor of The Oriental Hotel is a Bangkok institution. Winner of two Michelin stars, this is one of Bangkok's classiest and premier fine dining spots. Fois Gras and roasted Sisteron rack of lamb are just some of the menu highlights prepared by the visiting French master chefs in residence here, all taken in amidst elegance with views of the Chao Phraya River to boot. While dinner here is an absolute bank breaker, the set lunch provides a way for paupers to dine like princes and indulge in Bangkok's most sophisticated restaurant. An appetizer, entree, and dessert set menu goes for the steal of 1500 baht and introduces you to some world-class cuisine.


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Isaan, or northeastern cuisine, is probably the most common food eaten in Thailand, by both visitors and locals alike. Some of the best Isaan food is found at corner street stalls, which most tourists find too hot and uncomfortable to sit at, whereas the food in fancier digs often leaves a lot to be desired. Baan Som Tam creates a very happy medium with fantastic fresh northeastern cuisine in a homey air-conditioned environment. The sai krok spiced sausages made with sticky rice are superb here, as is the namesake papaya salad (som tam), with all of the ingredients tasting so fresh and flavor-packed you will think they are organic. Packed with happy diners every night, Baan Som Tam was recently given a Bib Gourmand listing by the Michelin Bangkok guide for its combination of excellent food and fair prices.


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Recently awarded 2 Michelin stars, as well as being 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.


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Isao
Photo courtesy of Isao Bangkok


 

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 a 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.


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If you are looking for the perfect mix of authentic cuisine, creative drinks, and the absolute perfect riverside chill out location, Supanniga X Roots has it all. If you've perused the 10Best side for Thai eating options, you've undoubtedly come across owner Thanareuk Laoraowirodge's other Supanniga branches, eateries that have been on just about every Bangkok food critic's list for the past several years. Laoraowirodge opened Supanniga in order to pay homage to his late grandmother's home recipes, which feature many dishes that come from Trat, on Thailand's eastern seaboard, not easily found in most Bangkok establishments.

The the latest branch is set right opposite Wat Arun, incredibly romantic come sunset and evening, and really is the perfect riverside date spot. The menu is downright authentic, with popular favorites like moo chamuang, a succulent long-stewed pork curry, flavored with garcinia leaves, or poo ja, ground crabmeat and pork that has been seasoned with pungent Chantaburi pepper and steamed inside a crab shell, heading a list of unique and flavor-filled bites. What sets this Supanniga apart from others besides the view is it's teaming up with noted local cafe gurus Roots Coffee and creating an extensive Thai desserts menu to go with the coffee. You can eat the popular street food-favorite coconut rice cakes or deep blue butterfly pea custard served with steamed bread, and accompany the sweets with a cappuccino, or perhaps something more adventuresome such as the Hanuman Cold Brew, where cold brew gets infused with dehydrated jackfruit and an oolong and chrysanthemum tea blend, a Roots creation that is totally unique and found only at this location.


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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. The restaurant was named as a Bib Gourmand choice by the new Michelin Bangkok guide.


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Innovative, elegant, and delectable fine dining has reached new heights in Bangkok with the 2nd edition of the Michelin Bangkok guidebook's 2019 release. Heading the list of newcomers awarded one star is Gaa, which features unique and eclectic takes on both Indian and Thai fare, served up with exquisite presentations and creative techniques by head chef Garima Arora, who is the first Indian woman to receive a Michelin award.

Arora hails from Mumbai, and left a career in journalism, opting instead for enrolling in Le Cordon Bleau, France's prestigious culinary academy, and then working at the esteemed Noma in Copenhagen as well as a stint with chef Gordon Ramsay at Verre in Dubai. She then came to Bangkok to work alongside of Gaggan Anand, whose 2-star Michelin Gaggan provided a launching pad for honing her unique and uber-creative techniques which she has put to full use at Gaa.

Set in a leafy side street in a beautifully refurbished house, where comfortable rooms have soft lighting, dark wood, and large windows, diners have their choice of tables. Several rooms are suitable for private groups, while the main dining area looks out into the trees and foliage. One room features a table set under a painting of the home's former owner, who appears to look out in watchful gaze at the fabulous feast appearing in front of her.

Gaa offers both a 10 and 14-course tasting menu in which modern techniques pair with age-old recipes, all of which are made using only fresh locally-sourced ingredients. While the entire evening is a real visual and tactile knockout, there are a few dishes that really stand out. The duck "donuts" are a play on Japanese takoyaki; small pastry balls that are stuffed with duck meat and vindaloo sauce, and just incredibly melt-in-your-mouth succulent (you'll want to see a daily food cart of these outside your house once you try them). Another winner is the signature young corn, in which baby corn is grilled with lime and chili and presented here with its charred skin, that peels away to some of the sweetest corn you'll ever have. The corn is served with a sweet corn and ghee emulsion dip, and Arora took inspiration for this from the grilled and spiced "bhutta," a popular Indian street snack.

While many Michelin restaurants serve up fine Wagyu beef or try to bowl you over with foie gras presentations for their main courses, Gaa again bucks the trend, instead opting for unripe jackfruit, served here with jackfruit roti and a variety of pickles. As opposed to the sweet fruit, the unripe version is thick and meaty and will make a believer of any carnivore. And for those who can't live without their flesh, the caramelized sous vide pork belly served with a tamarind glaze, shallots, coriander, and pomegranate, is not just the best piece of pork you'll have in Bangkok, but possibly in all Asia if not elsewhere.

For the finale here, several desserts seal the deal. One is a deconstructed banana bread, a bite-sized morsel that will have you thinking you are in a fine patisserie, and then another great take on Indian habits, that of chewing a stuffed betel nut leaf (known as "paan") after eating, although here at Gaa the leaf is half covered in 85% dark chocolate, with the other side having crumbled cardamom dust.

In addition to the amazing culinary creations, there are superb wine pairings to go with the dinner, and even juice pairings for those who want to remain completely sober for one of Bangkok's most outstanding feasts.


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There's a reason why Saawaan has been awarded a Michelin star by the prestigious Michelin Bangkok guide. Yes, the name of the restaurant means "heaven" in Thai, and yes, you are going to feel closer to the stars after a meal here, but you also can count on an intimate fine dining experience that features authentic and creative Thai cuisine that is simply some of the best in Bangkok, prepared by a wildly talented chef.

Saawaan's 10-course tasting menu is divided into dishes that represent all of the concepts and techniques found across the board in Thai cooking. You'll get to sample raw, fermented, dip, boiled, grilled, stir-fried, curry, and sweet here, and the fun starts before you even get to the menu. The complimentary starter, an amuse bouche of "kai luk koei," sous vide egg served with cream, tamarind sauce and chili oil, that comes served as if in a bird's nest. It's small and delicate, but packs such a wildly wonderful array of flavors, and sets the tone for what lies ahead.

Chef Sujira "Aom" Pongmorn, who runs a skilled kitchen team, has an incredible knowledge of Thai cuisine, and has put in time with some of Bangkok's most noted dining establishments, such as Sra Bua, Issaya Siamese, The House on Sathorn, Lord Jim at the Mandarin Oriental, and more recently running the show at the Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded Baan Padthai. Here at Saawaan, she showcases regional dishes found at street level that have been elevated to some of the most delectable tastes you'll find across the country.

Take the "nam pu ma", served as the "dip" dish. This comes from rural Thailand, where farmers would make grilled paddy crab fat into a "nam prik" chili dip and eat it with sticky rice. Here, Chef Pongmorn has mixed the paddy crab fat with Thai herbs and grilled them in the crab shell, and it gets served with coconut steamed sticky rice.

Another total standout is the "gai kati khao luem pua," a chicken curry in which free-range chickens from Nakhon Pathom are flavored with a Central Thai curry sauce and served with pineapple and bamboo shoot, alongside of what is known as "forget the husband" rice, so called because it is so good that the housewife serving it would forget her husband was also at the dinner table while she was eating it! From presentation to the creamy curry and perfect spice balances, this is the final course prior to dessert, and pretty much sums up the entire experience here, one of total dining bliss.

You'll also want to leave room for dessert, as Bangkok's most noted pastry chef, Arisara "Paper" Chongphanitkul, a graduate of the French Gastronomicom culinary school, lends her expertise to the sweets here, serving up pumpkin and coconut custards alongside durian-flavored chocolate petit fours to close out the evening.

Add to this Bangkok's best wine pairings to be found, attentive service, and the intimate surroundings, which feature just six tables, dim mood lighting, and an open kitchen, and you've got all the trappings of one unforgettable "heavenly" evening.


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Meet Dave Stamboulis

Dave Stamboulis is a travel writer/photographer based in Bangkok. Born in Athens, Greece and growing up in the U.S., Dave first discovered Bangkok while on a 45,000-kilometer bicycle trip and...  More About Dave

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