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.
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.
While new restaurants pop up daily in Bangkok, Blue Elephant remains firm as one of the best places to enjoy fine dining Thai cuisine in the country. The Bangkok branch of what is a now twelve restaurants located worldwide has been open since 2002, housed in a gorgeous and elegant early 1900s colonial building. Not only is the food here renowned, the restaurant is also noted for its cooking school, which attracts thousands of visitors each year, eager to try out time tested authentic royal Thai recipes, as well as for its excellent product line of Thai curries and sauces. Most of the dishes here use ingredients sourced from the Royal Project garden up in the northern mountains, and the combination of environment and consistently good food make the Blue Elephant a continuous good choice for a special evening out or for those looking for an elegant fine Thai dining experience.
You might wonder what all the fancy Mercedes are doing in the parking lot of what looks like such a basic restaurant. Simply put Lung Yai is hands down the best local Isaan eatery in Bangkok, which is saying a lot. The homey place, hidden off the street on Din Daeng, does not get a lot of foreigners, but those in the know come back here again and again for its incredibly tasty food. Everything on the menu is good, but highlights include the spicy tom sep pork soup, the fragrant grilled chicken, and any of the various larb meat salads. There is beer, whiskey, and plenty of good cheer to wash down the spice with, and the locals will be impressed that you have found this gem. Its only drawback is its slightly out of the way location via public transport.
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 Thai food one can find in Bangkok. Michelin Chef David Thompson continues his mastery of Thai cooking (his Thai restaurants in Sydney and London were on all the "best" lists) by whipping up fresh and mouthwatering Thai delicacies without toning down the spice. The coconut and curry blue swimmer crab is a knockout as is the kurobuta pork with yellow beans, but just about everything is a winner here.
It might be more like going to a magic show than a restaurant when you see what comes out of the kitchen at Sra Bua. Modeled on the award winning Kiin Kiin restaurant in Denmark, run by chef Henrik Yde-Andersen and Lertchai Treetawatchaiwong, a Thai engineer-cum- gastronomist, Sra Bua sets out to overwhelm its patrons with dishes of amazing taste, texture, and presentation. The tasting menus here are the way to go, offering a gastronomic road trip through all the best of Thai cuisine. The dishes don't look anything like what you are used to in Thai restaurants, yet all the flavors have been preserved and enhanced to the utmost. The tom yum soup is served as a broth with prawn noodles accompanied by a bowl of the ingredients like galangal and lemongrass which have been made into cold foams and powders. Mix the two together and you get one of the most amazing renditions of the dish you will ever experience. Another signature dish is frozen red curry with lobster, in which the red curry has been made into frozen ice cream and is served topped with lychee foam and comes on a plate that is smoked with liquid nitrogen. Mango and sticky rice for dessert comes disguised as a cotton candy ball, which explodes when syrup is poured over it, revealing the mango inside. Food presentation and taste doesn't get better than this, and Sra Bua is truly a Bangkok experience not to be missed.
Owner Can 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 quaint three story shophouse on Thong Lor is easy to miss it looks so small from the outside, but once through the doors, it is a relaxing and homey spot, probably a recreation of what grandma's kitchen was all about, and indeed, the owner serves up his grandma's hard to find recipes that he grew up with in Trat, a town on Thailand's eastern seaboard. The menu is extensive here, and has many hard to find old school recipes that will have you ready to come back before you've even left! The absolute standout that one can see on just about every diner's plate is the moo chamuang, a stewed pork stew dish made with leaves from the Guttiferae tree and Thai herbs, so tender and flavour filled that you'll be begging for more rice to soak up all the juice. Even more amazing is the most plain looking dish you'll ever come across, ka lum tod nam pla, which although it might sound fancy, is basically a plate of cabbage. But oh what a cabbage it is, stir fried up with a super high grade fish sauce from Trat Province that makes it taste unlike any other cabbage you've ever had.
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 have now relocated to Bangkok, bringing creative and healthy food with them. Bailey now focuses on the business end and projects for Paste, while Satongun runs the kitchen, focusing on original Thai flavors and textures, with ingredients sourced fresh from the grower and best markets in the country. Traditional Thai food is done here with beautiful creative twists and a total attention to taste combinations enough to wow the most discerning diner. Try the exquisite Andaman lobster with crispy fish skin or the watermelon and ground salmon with betel leaves and shallots, both are heavenly. The restaurant used to have a branch over on Sukhumvit 49, but has relocated to the posh Gaysorn Plaza, bringing some refined truly refined dining to Bangkok's most elegant shopping plaza.
You'll have to go a bit out of your way for this one, although don't let the distance from downtown deter you, as if you want some really authentic Thai food made from high end ingredients and a menu full of hard to find original recipes, you will need to make the trip up to the Central Eastville Mall. Kin Kao, which literally means "eat rice" in Thai, and is the phrase also commonly used to greet people (in which case meaning "have you eaten?") is run by the same folks behind the superb The Local (also listed in our 10Best Thai restaurants) as well as the raved about Crab & Claw seafood eatery. Restaurateur Can Markawat and his sister Ploy come from a family of old-school foodies, their parents run the prestigious Naj fine dining restaurant, and the entire family is committed to preserving authentic and original Thai cuisine. The clientele at this modern eatery is pretty much 100% Thai, and the menu isn't in English, but the picture menus are concise, and some of the wait staff will be able to answer any of your questions. You'll find hard to come by Thai dishes here, like the delicious pla tapian tom kem boiled river fish which normally has too many bones to deal with to eat, but here is stewed for over six hours with an array of coriander, ginger, tamarind, fish sauce, chilies, and other spices, with the bones becoming so soft that everything just melts in your mouth. The pla chon serpent head fish soup is also divine, as is the sour gaeng som soup. The restaurant recently opened a new menu which featured all of the dishes that the late Thai King Bhumibol use to favor. The food here is simple, bursting with taste, and truly authentic, and for the quality, taste, and portions being offered, they are a fraction of the prices you'd pay anywhere downtown. For those who don't want to make the jaunt up past Lad Phrao, Kin Kao will be opening another branch in Terminal 21 and at Central World in 2017, so stay tuned.