Bangkok Eats Questions
Will be in Bangkok in December. Interested in visiting some of the places described several years ago in a NY Times article by the late R.W. Apple. I know that several posts on Chowhound reported back negatively on Polo Fried Chicken, but does anyone have opinions on:
Chua Kim Heng
Aw Taw Kaw market stalls
Raan Jai Fai
Also, the article didn't mention addresses. Does anyone know exactly where these restaurants and markets are located?
Any other suggestion?
Much thanks in advance!
Many thanks to all those who replied with so much useful information. Just got back from the week in Bangkok. Found it MUCH easier to navigate than the last time I was there 18 years ago, when there was no Skytrain and no underground. Apparently, the baht has gone up about 30% against the dollar recently, and some ex-pats are grumbling that they're getting killed in the exchange-rate crossfire, but I found transportation and most food incredibly reasonable. Here are the culinary highlights:
1) Ate at Somboon Seafood three times. Never had a cab driver take us to a pseudo-Somboon. The real Somboon (or a least a real Somboon -- there appear to be several in the chain) is a three-story fish emporium on the corner of Surawong and Narathiwat, an easy walk from the Narai Hotel or Chong Nonsi Skytrain stop. The crab curry was as fantastic as has been described before in these pages, with hot sauce on the side so you can adjust your own heat. The stir-fried water mimosas were a perfect complement. On another visit had the steamed sea bass with lime and chili, which I highly recommend. Finally, on the last night splurged on grilled river prawns the size of boomerangs, stir-fried pumpkin vines in oyster sauce, and steamed seabass in soya bean sauce (served over burning coals so hot the sauce bubbled). All washed down with Singha.
2) Chote Chitr -- not as hard to find as I had feared -- it's actually an easy walk from Wat Po, passing the pig monument. Had a great lunch of banana blossum salad, pad thai, and beef red curry with pumpkin. My only regret is that we were so full we didn't go around the corner to the sticky rice dessert place the owner/chef recommended.
3) Lek Seafood -- again very easy to find, right under the Chong Nonsi Skytrain shop. At first the place is somewhat off-putting: the tables are outside, a building is being demolished right next door, and there is a faint aroma of crumbling concrete. But all that was forgotten when the food came out. The highlight -- Steamed Catfish with Lime and Chili: perfectly fresh, with delicious sweet flesh set off by the citrus and heat of the peppers. Recommended.
4) Took a cooking class at Blue Elephant. Although we cooked, it was as much demo as hands-on, since almost all of the prep and been done already. But quite worthwhile for anyone who's just starting to learn about Thai cuisine, and just starting to realize the difference between kaffir lime leaf and coreander. The instructor's version of beef curry with pumpkin was probably the most complex, nuanced dish of the whole trip.
5) When it gets just to hot to get around the city, having an outdoor lunch at the Oriental Hotel -- though pricey -- is very satisfying. I recommend the pomelo salad.
6) Also recommend the Aw Taw Kaw market (right above the Kamphaeng Phet MTR stop) for a look at the amazing array of produce, seafood, and meat available in Bangkok. Would have loved to have sampled the food stalls, but had no guide or translator, and wasn't feeling adventurous enough to dive right in. Maybe next time.
To those who are going to Bangkok soon -- I'm jealous. Can wait to get back!
Yes, the baht appreciation is pounding those of us who get paid in Yankee Lira. Fortunately, good food in Bangkok won't dent your wallet too badly.
The Oriental, however, will. My recommendation for the best straight-up Thai food (high end) is not the O, but rather Spice Market in the Four Seasons. The original chef there decamped for New York City a few years ago (he opened Kittichai, if you have ever been there) but the standards didn't slip much, if at all. I never go to Bangkok without going there at least once. I have never had such good pla dook foo in my life. The whole fish with lemon is divine as well, and though it isn't on the menu most of the time, the pad ki maow is fantastic.
We had a wonderful meal at Chote Chitr last year and also visited the Aw Taw Kaw market (did not eat there though). Plan on going back again this year to Chote Chitr.
You can see lots of photos from both and my write-up on what we ate on my website:
Click on the Thailand 04/06 trip.
Aw Taw Kaw is easily reached by the MRT (subway).
Get off at the Kamphaengphet stop.
Chua Kim Heng is a ways east on Petchaburi Road (becomes Pattankarn Road).
You might take the MRT to Petchaburi and taxi from there.
I'm one of the Polo Chicken dissenters.
Years ago it was great.
The last few times we went it's been simply awful.
My site will give some details and other suggestions.
re: Curt the Soi Hound
Everyone seems to go to Gai Tawd Polo. I used to live a couple hundred meters from that place and didn't really like it much either. The restaurant at the mouth of the soi does the same dish much better IMO. But they sell out early every night, so you can call ahead and reserve some. I would just drop by after work and ask them to save a couple of orders if we were going later. Always ask for some extra fried garlic ("kaw kratiem eek noi krap").
I do like the Yam Plaa Dook Foo at Soi Polo though...
Aw Taw Kaw is very extensively discussed, and wonderfully so, in posts from a few years ago on the International board (before partition), especially in posts by Foodfirst and Curt the soi hound. Perhaps you can update some of that information. I ate a lot of good stuff there in February, but could never find the khanom jeen lady Foodfirst mentions, and don't have any particular places to recommend.
It's really easy to find. Take the subway to Kampaeng Phet, emerge, and you are standing in the Aw Taw Kaw parking lot.