Bangkok Visit - please critique my (long!) list
- Geoff Oct 22, 2008 11:16 AM
Greetings, fellow Hounds. Fortunately for us, my wife and I will be in Bangkok late next month. Unfortunately for us, we’re only in town for 5 days. During that time, we’ll do what exploring we can, and most of that exploring will be dictated by great food. We’re adventurous eaters, spicy food is no obstacle, and we’d like to focus on Thai food while in town. We’re interested in a variety of experiences, from markets and street food to at least a couple of “nice” places.
Bangkok being the food mecca that it is, I’ve compiled a long list based on research I’ve done so far – many thanks to those of you who have posted their experiences here on the Asia Board. I tried to think of some reasonable way to organize this collection, but I mostly gave up and decided to just go with an alphabetical listing for now. I did separate restaurants from markets/food courts/bazaars. I’d be extremely grateful to anyone willing to look at this list and point at any places they particularly love (or dislike). And of course, please tell me what you think I’ve overlooked!
We’re staying at the Four Seasons. Not at all averse to traveling for food, but proximity to skytrain will undoubtedly factor into at least some decisions. Thanks so much for your help! Now on to planning how to stay in town longer………
Baan Khanita (gallery location)
Baan Klan Krong
Baan Klang Nam 1
Baan Khun Mae
Baan Suan Pai
Bamboo Bar (Mandarin Oriental)
Cabbages and Condoms
Celadon (Sukothai Hotel)
China House (Mandarin Oriental Hotel)
Curries and More
Deck (Arun Residence Hotel)
Face/La Na Thai
Jim Thompson’s Thai Restaurant
Polo Fried Chicken
Raan Jay Fai
Rachanawi Samosawn (Navy Club Restaurant)
Sala Rim Naam (Mandarin Oriental)
Supatra River House
Convent Road vendors
Gourmet Market at Siam Paragon
Nang Leong Market
Old Siam Food Court
Or Tor Kor Market
Soi Lang Suan (many restos, via alley behind Four Seasons)
Soi Pradit Market
Suan Luam night bazaar
Sukhumvit 55 (many restos, alternative to city center)
Wang Lang Market
Wat Phra Kaew Ferry Terminal Market
Yaowarat (Chinatown), especially at night
You got my Thai relatives' favorite 2 restaurants for family dinners in your list: Bua & Baan Klang Krong.
Convent Road's got my favorite duck noodles place in the mornings.
that's quite the list...
-- i also like Bua...very reliable place...
-- if you walk past Bua, down Soi Convent, and take the first soi on the left, there is a famous Isaan stand -- some of the best somdam and other Isaan food you'll find...
-- the moo ping (bbq pork skewers) on the Silom/Convent corner are particularly good...
-- there is another great Isaan place, a quasi-outdoor quasi-stand that's only open for lunch, off Langsuan, soi 5 i believe...if you are going down Langsuan (coming from Chitlom), hang a left, pass the market and it'll be on your left 2/3rds of the way down...folding tables/chairs, almost all Thai office-worker crowd...best grilled chicken i've had in BKK and fine somdam, laab moo, etc...an easy 5 minute walk from the Four Seasons...i ate there almost every day for months...
-- the lunch stands on the market soi just down from there are yummy too (Langsuan soi 7?)...make sure you try some tropical fruit...my fav is ka-nuun or jackfruit, which is the rubbery yellow tulip-shaped pieces that are harvested from a large grey-ish fruit that looks like a dinosaur egg...tastes like natural bubblegum...
-- and on Langsuan itself there is a woman who runs a weekday lunch stand that serves rice noodles w/ spicy Southern style curries: easy to spot because she serves out of pristine big red clay pots...(she's on the side of Langsuan closer to the Four Seasons)
-- i didn't think much of the food i've had at Suan Luam night bazaar...
-- delighted that you have Soi Pradit on your list, which runs between Surawong and Silom...outstanding selection of curries, kanom jeeb, vegetarian stands, etc, and at it's most hopping between 8am and 10am weekdays...it's where i ate on my very first morning in BKK and where i fell in love w/ Thai street food at first bite...
-- if you wake up early enough, one morning you might want to walk from the Four Seasons through the park...head towards Silom and you'll find a find another good breakfast food market, in the park under a covering, near the exit to the park on that side by Rama IV road...(it's possible you already have it on your list and i don't know it's name)...
-- i've always happened to have gone to Vientienne Kitchen rather than Khrua Rommai...reports of either fluctuate and while there is better Isaan food at stands all over, i'd definitely recommend hitting one or the other on your first BKK visit...VK has the added bonus of music...
--- i think Yaowarat is most fun at lunch time on weekdays...fun to get lost in the alleys that run by the river and eat dumplings along the way...
-- in terms of the malls, i used to eat at Food Loft in the mall at Chitlom rather than at Paragon (the tom yum goong at Food Loft is surprising good, really fish-stocky like good bouillabaisse)...but i also like the low-tech food court at MBK (*not* the deserted faux-upscale one on the top floor, but the simple one (3rd or 4th floor?) w/ a few curry and somdam places that's popular with students...there is also a fun slightly trendy Isaan place by the clothing stores in Siam Square...blanking on the name...it's woodsy and cute...sort of on the SE side of Siam Square...
-- if you happen to want upscale Italian food one night, both Calderazzo (near your hotel, on Langsuan) or Zanotti (off Silom) are good...but with only five days, you'll prob want to stick with the ahaan-Thai options...
-- there is a cute place off Thong-Lor called Ana Garden that has some pretty outdoor garden seating...food varies from decent-to-very-good on different nights but the setting makes for a pleasant cozy evening...
-- i think Cabbages&Condoms serves bland food...
-- Face/LaNaThai is a chain (there are ones in Shanghai and a couple other places), so i'd put it near the bottom of the list...
-- Brown Sugar (also near your hotel) is a fun place for jazz (though i've never had the food and been told to avoid eating there)...very tiny club...
-- a restaurant that is tourist-oriented but nonetheless very good is Hemlock, on Soi Pra Athit...some of the yam-tua-plu (best wingbean salad) i've had...
-- you'll want to have a drink either at StateTower/Scirrocco bar or at Vertigo...i prefer State Tower to Vertigo...
-- you mentioned wanting to mix things up betw street food and nice places...in terms of Thai food, you'll get far better food at a medium-price casual place like Bua (or at a great reknowned stand) than you will at most upscale Thai places that cater to farangs...so in terms of planning an evening, it's often fun to mix things up by say, getting some moo ping on the street while wandering, eating somewhere like Bua or Cafe de Laos (a decent choice for Isaan in a nice-ish setting, though a bit toned down in spice unless you ask for the real stuff), then getting a fancy rooftop cocktail at Scirrocco afterwards...
-- last but not least, i'd highly highly recommend learning some basic Thai words and phrases, particularly food phrases, before you go...you'll be fine just pointing at things, but much more fun if you can tell them you want things spicy and Thai-style, thank people properly, tell them their food is delicious, ask if something is chicken or pork, etc... even a mere 15 or 20 or so words/phrases will go a long way...to get you started: "delicious" is "aroi"...have a great trip and please report back here on how it goes...
...there is also a fun slightly trendy Isaan place by the clothing stores in Siam Square...blanking on the name...it's woodsy and cute...sort of on the SE side of Siam Square...
Som Tam Nua ?
I couldnt resist the place because of the lunchtime queues , but in the end it was a place to be seen in , as the som tam was very bland and very disappointing .
yup, that's the place...i agree with you that it's a bit style-over-substance, but my food was fine when i requested things spicy, etc...(but nowhere near as good as the best street food somtam)...
"a place to be seen in" is funny and true, but in a particularly casual Thai pop culture kinda way...like a place where a Thai pop singer or semi-well-known tv actor might stop in when she's in Siam Square and enjoy/pretend-not-to-enjoy being seen by fans...and/or for uni students to gossip and spot each other...analogous to something like Cafe Habana in Manhattan...
I happened to like this place a lot :-) ! I am Chinese and I grew up in SE Asia so this might be the difference. While I resent the "pretentious" dining scenes here in the states I might have subconsciously adored "a place to be seen in" if it's back in Asia? Well, I have a theory :
The place is definitely cute and the food is OK and Issan food (ironically aside from Somtom which I personally don't like) is impossible to be bad anyway. Most "nice places" in Asia are not so intimidating to me. Firstly, it's probably the price. Secondly, the food is the kind I prefer. Lastly and most importantly, even the nice/trendy place in Asia are not "pretentious". So when I sit in a French Cambodian fusion in Boston, I would wonder what the fuss is. I would feel I am paying through my nose because they serve a glass of wine in the dark? I would not complain "Som Tam Nua" even when I don't like somtom that much - a handful of sticky rice down with larb mu and Singha would be good enough in this cozy environment. I don't know, maybe my 2 cents of worth on the restaurant design ...
For the most part, I think restaurant food is cognate. Some Laotian foods will show influence of French cuisine. As far as home food, there will be variation according to location. Different areas have different base foods available, so the local cuisine, especially in the homes, will reflect that. A small number of home cuisines may be available at local restaurants.
I would expect the provinces away from the Thai border to have cuisine that is somewhat different than the areas along the border. There is variation on the Issan side of the border, so I would expect as much or more on the Laotian side. The greater the ease of traveling from one area to the next, the more likelihood of similar cuisine. Of course, restaurants are trying to be profitable, so they will sell food that is what their clientele expect. I would expect a Laotian restaurant in Bangkok to have recognizably Issan and Laotian food (same foods, with a variation on ingredients and preparation), as well as some Laotian specialties.
My only reference is Vientiane (Wiang Chan) and rural areas around there and several Laotian weddings in California. Sam Fujisaka would probably be able to give a complete answer since he has been all over those areas.
another nice list. While you cant go wrong here, I would suggest taking a look at Somboon Seafood. The curried crab, fried morning glory, tom yum and whole fried fish were outstanding. My wife and I enjoyed the food so much that we managed to get back there for a second dinner. Be careful, however, because I believe that there are knock off Somboons out there.
i like Somboon too...the curried crab is good stuff...though if they are there for only 5 days they may have to make a choice between Somboon, Lek, and/or the Seafood Market off Sukmvt...(all fine options)...
i've read the stories of taxis taking people to the knockoff Somboon's too...one way to avoid any trouble would be to give the cabbie the address of La Residence Hotel, which is on the other end of the very short block on Surawong Rd that Somboon's is on...then walk 50 feet back to Somboon's...(or learn to ask the cabbie in Thai to take you to the cross streets of Somboon's, and then you will have no problem)...
The Plaza Hotel is across Surawong from that Somboon also.
The intersection is Surawong and Narithiwat (nah-ree-tee-wat].
We've alway enjoyed the curry crab and stir fried morning glory, but have found much of the rest of the menu inconsistent. For us, the crab, morning glory, and a side of steamed rice makes the perfect meal anyway.
it's a fusiony cafe/diner...not *bad*, but definitely a waste of a meal on such a short trip...i don't think anyone goes there for the food specifcally: just a trendy place to stop in while shopping for a quick bite or a place for farang expats or rich Thai ladies to meet up when they are in the mall..the kind of food you could easily get somewhere like Beverly Hills
After shopping at the Emporium, I was walking back to my hotel on Sukhumvit 24 and I passed by this Chinese restaurant called SEAFOOD TOWN (No. 7 Sukhumvit 24), and decided to have dinner there. I ordered braised Sharks Fin Soup that had 3-4 ounces of sharks fin in delicious thick broth for US$20. I was expecting the Curry Crab to be very spicy, but it only had a light yellow curry flavoring that allowed me to enjoy the delicious crab, which had a light meat texture. The sauce was made with scrambled eggs and sliced onion and pepper. The crab was only US$8. I had ordered Fukienese Fried Rice, but decided to take it back to the hotel because I had to finish the nice curry sauce with white rice. I enjoyed the meal tremendously with a large bottle of Singha beer. I have been travelling for two weeks and have visited Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Saigon and Singapore. This is by far the best meal.
Another bump/question. Re a good place along the river, I might be deciding between Supatra River House and The Deck (at Arun Residence Hotel). Any feelings one way or another? I think i'm leaning to Supatra; any reason for me to worry about my ability, English only, to get a quick boat across the river and actually find the place?
Is this the first time in Bangkok for you? You do realize there are still Grand Palace and Weekend market and Lumpini stadium and cabaret shows and ... Unless you do nothing else but eat - you can't possibly cover even one third of this list. I understand you are probably asking helps to narrow the list down but the very fact you have made the list - implies that you really want to hit all the spots. You ambitious foodie you ...
My suggestion is that you want to make sure to go to Yaowarat and then, just let the sightseeing take your places. I also think the most important thing is to just find out how Thai food is different in Thailand, and get "ruined" for the state side $10 + rice noodle in peanut sauce - for that, even khao san road is good enough (at least price wise). Tears come to my eyes when drinking beer Chang sold at 8.99 6 pack.
I also notice you have a slightly smaller list for Phuket too and you have only 3 days - man, you gotta to give yourself sometime to lie on the beach too. Forget about picking restaurants, I suggest warm beer and deep fried tiny crabs while you struggle to read a book (falling asleep in the sun is likely to happen).
Thanks. First time in Bangkok as an adult, and yes, I started very broad and was hoping to narrow down - no possible intention of going everywhere! We like to travel to cities and just get into the rhythm of the place, so although we don't have a lot of days to do so, we'll have a blast doing whatever we're doing. No worries - we have some dinner reservations but our modus operandi is really to go with the flow, depending on where we are and what we're doing day by day - and meal by meal. We'll cancel reservations if and when necessary. "Sightseeing" for us is not necessarily hitting tourist sites but walking through neighborhoods, etc. Bangkok is a huge sprawling place, of course, and we'll see how we fare re weather etc. And yes, fully intend to wander wherever our noses take us in Yaowarat.
Ditto for Phuket. We have rezzies but the reason to go down there is to relax in paradise, so we'll just take it slow and decide as we go along.
Thank you and all others for your helpful thoughts, will report back next month when we return to the States.
I envy you! Bangkok, in addition to all the cultures and fun, is definitely a top food destination. For a foodie to go thee for the first time is like loosing virginity :-D . It will still be very good, but not as good the next time.
I am a little biased of course, but where ever you go - make sure you have a simple Kao Pad, eat it with Nam Pla (fish sauce) as condiment . I owned a restaurant before, I can tell you that any roadside stands in Bangkok can beat me in the fried rice department easily. I'd say the same applies to most of my former competitors in N. America.
Actually, although I'm Chinese, I happen to love all types of Thai-style fried rice over Chinese fried rice: whether they are fried rice with pork, crab, prawns or chicken. Unlike the Chinese, Thais tend to fry rice without garlic but with onions. They also use very little or no soya sauce, and also add a bit of sugar to offset the saltiness of fish sauce (nam pla).
One of the most unforgettable fried rice dish I've ever had was cooked by a little nameless stall in Bangbuathong (Greater Bangkok area) - it was fried with pork, eggs, onions & tomatoes. It turned out to be the most delicious fried rice I've ever had. I had that same dish for lunch for 5 straight days!
But Bangbuathong is too inaccessible for a plate of simple fried rice. Rather, I'd recommend T-Pochana seafood restaurant in Pratunam for their crabmeat fried rice. Absolutely divine!
Please dont think I am criticising all Thai fried rice , I just like that seperate grain type dishes that you seem to get more in Malay-Indonesia , which I was led to believe , is down to leaving the rice to cool .
There is a stall close to me whose speciality is Khao Man Gai , but she does many dishes in her wok if asked .
"Khao Phat Gai" ?
No problem , and what does she use , but the moist Chicken and the stock cooked rice for the Khao Man Gai ...........wow .......aroi .
My favorite Thai fried rice dish, by far, is Fried Rice with Pineapple ("Khao Pad Sapparot". ข้าวผัดสับปะรด) Often it isn't even on the menu, but many chefs will make it for you. It includes, obviously, pineapple, but also raisins, cashews, chicken and sometimes fresh prawns. All fried with curry powder, which makes it unique.
It is especially delicious in the south where they will often serve it in a half pineapple at the posher joints.
Hey, I think I am the one who mentioned khao pad first . :-)
About the rice used for khao pad - in Chinese restaurant cooking we like to use "over night leftover" rice but that is the point: Thai are blessed with the fabulous jasmine rice that is naturally dryer. There is a reason Japanese don't do good fried rice, and Thai don't do good sushi. Honestly I never asked if the rice was left cooled enough before it went into the stir fry, but I don't argue with the result. I never had a plate of mushy khao pad in Thailand. Each one single grain was "dry body" enough. :-)
Many things on your list are touristy or boring and not worth bothering with like Jim Thompson's restaurant.
Don't miss Chote Chitr and Raan Ja Fai. I don't know if Roti-Mataba is the amazing banana roti with sweetened condensed milk and chocolate sauce, but if it is, you have to find it. The varieties of banana are extraordinary and the roti is totally addictive.
CC is hard to find, but well worth the effort.
Be aware that RJF doesn't open until late afternoon and it's in a very industrial part of town. The cook there is amazing to watch. She cooks over an open wok in a corner of the open air restaurant and I've never tasted noodle dishes like what she literally throws together with cars and motor bikes and tuktuks flying by.
While the JTH restaurant is not worth a meal, do visit Jim Thompson's house. His story is fascinating and aspects of his life and more so his death a bit mysterious.
An American OSS WWII spy who married (for 6 months, divorced and then never married again) after the war and then moved to the furthest corner of the earth he could find and became a textile designer. Highly likely that the marriage was for convention, not love.
He died -- or disappeared (body never found) -- on a walk in Malaysia and something weird about a member of his family being murdered shortly thereafter. Lots of speculation about why.
I only found this site today, and I'm too late to help your current trip, but...the braised lamb in red curry in the Four Season's "Spice Market" restaurant is my favorite dish in Thailand. I hope you at least looked in the door of China House - Wow!. Le Lys is around the corner from my house and the food is boring and the service rude (to farangs). Have a gander at my website. It is the oldest independent travel site on the Internet, and has has a special foodies section - http://www.edwardcarterstravels.com. All the best, Uncle Ted
Thanks again everyone for your input and thoughtful comments. Just returned from our trip, and our timing was unfortunately impeccable - we were in Hong Kong and scheduled to fly to Bangkok the day after the airports shut down - so much to our dismay, we were not able to get there this year. We did get to Phuket, comments in a separate thread.
Living in the far northern suburbs, I do tend to stay more to the north and east. And, the traffic in Chinatown makes it an "only when I have to" destination.
At the far west end is my favorite roti. It's on TriPetch, across from Poh Chang School of Arts and Crafts.
On Dinso Road, just south of Democracy Monument, there is a branch of Krua Apsorn, one of the better "full menu" eateries. If you stop in, be sure to try the crab omelet.
Hello- I consider myself a newbie in chowhound community so I just saw your 2008 post. I am deeply sorry for what happened in my country caused you trouble. I wish nothing would interrupt your trip again this time.
Alright, here are my thoughts. There's a bit of grouping I'm doing here.
1. Typical Thai restaurants:
Baan Klan Krong and Baan Klang Nam 1: the owners are relatives (if the same person) serving very similar type of food. Their food is great. They offer great varieties of seafood prepared in Thai style especially when compared to other Thai restaurants on your list. Oh...and more than half of their seats are open-air. Their locations are not ideal on Rama III road though.
Bua, Taling Ping and Kal-lapapruk (my addition): these three places also serve very good Thai food with possibly high sanitary standard. The style of restaurant and selections on menu would be similar to, say, Tara Thai or most of Thai restaurants in DC area (but, of course, the taste of the food is definitely different!). All of these three restaurants have multiple branches including in shopping malls. I personally think they keep quite good standard across locations (although not exactly the same).
2. Upscale Thai restaurants:
Blue Elephant: I was actually surprised that the food wasn't really modified to meet the taste of westener as most Thais anticipated. But I'm not sure if authentic is the right word for the food here either. Star ingredients, say the main type of meat in the dish, are often unconventional like lamb curry or crab yellow curry (southen style). I'd say it's worth a stop-by but not be a destination by itself. Given the location at BTS Surasak which surrouded by no tourist attractions, you may want to skip it unless you're going to do a cooking class there.
Sala Rim Naam (Mandarin Oriental), Thanying, Bussaracum, and other Thai restaurants in upscale hotels: serve upscale Thai food just like Blue Elephant but more conventional. Sala Rim Naam also offers traditional Thai dance nightly.
Sukhumvit 55 aka Thong Lo: my foodie friend calls this place a food capital of Bangkok due to the number of restaurants in the area. I have limited experience with it because of traffic barrier...Everytime I go there, I'd have Japanese food rather than Thai. There is a Thai restaurant in the area called Bo-Lan which has gained international reputation. (If you ended up going there, there is shop/grocery place called Mae-Waree very close to BTS Thong Lo selling a great mango with sticky rice in individual portion for take-away.- this one is not up-scale though.)
As a Thai, I barely visit these places because Thai food can be found everywhere in Bangkok at a fraction of the price. However, there are some certain types of food, like some that used to serve only in the palace a hundred year ago, that you would be able to find in these places but not over food stalls. Expect to pay at 500+ baht/person, common range could be 800+/-.
3. Food Stalls/Vendors
Convent Road vendors: of course offer variety of food. Growing up in Bangkok, I don't feel it's more special than other alley vendors around the city.
Soi Lang Suan: I'd say it offer nothing short off soi Convent.
Or Tor Kor Market/ JJ Market (on the weekend): very likely that there are more varieties on these locations than those in alleys
Gourmet Market at Siam Paragon: actually is a good place. The area I'm talking about is not the food court. It's more like vendor booths selling mostly for take-home and no seats around the area. There are a lot of local famous specialties from other provinces opening there. They sort of have a well established brand/reputation before Paragon asked them to open a booth.
Wang Lang Market: tons of food but few that are really tasty. Not a bad option if you visit the Dawn Temple near by.
Old Siam Food Court - It's a place for uncommon Thai desserts (desserts that people don't really eat in daily life but associated with particular ceremony or festival). Other than that, I don't think there is anything special there.
Yaowarat (Chinatown), especially at night: may be I'm spoiled. Growing up partly in this area as I'm Chinese decendents, I think the food is just good. If all you want focus on the taste of the food, then it may not necessary be the right place. It actually offers a different experience, I'd say. Fun to walk around and be lost in tons tons of food stalls and restaurants near by as well as lots of people. Anthony Bourdain visited here with Thailand food celeb in an episode. I can't remember exactly where they went but what sticks in my memory watching the episode was they pick good choices.
Patpung Market: do you mean Pat-Pong? It's a red district. Not so much about food.
4. Additional recommendation
A particular dish I recommend you to try is actually American Fried Rice. The dish was created in a military camp in the border of Thailand and Vietnam (I think). It's a Thai chef's interpretation of what American food is like 50+ years ago. The rice was stir-fried with ketchup and raisin (actually no pineapple) then served with fried-chicken drum stick, hot dogs, sunny-side up egg and ham :) It is a kind of Thai food that steals many of Thai kids' hearts. And I don't think you can find the dish in any Thai restaurants outside Thailand. You should be able to find it in many restaurants listed in #1 or Thai restaurants you run into in Siam Sq, Paragon.
A particular Thai restaurant that I would like to recommend is Good View. Again, location is not ideal as it's on Tok Road (end of New Road). It gets very crowded on weekend nights. The first branch of this restaurant is in Chiang Mai then expanded to Bangkok which means you can sample some northern Thai food here as well as other generic Thai food. I've lived in the US for 4 years. On my annual 2.5-week home visit, I make sure Good View was on the list every time. Again, the food is great (but not extraordinary awesome that you can't find anywhere else). I really go there because of the combination of more varieties of Thai food selections (from northern Thai food to seafood to German pork knuckle), good view (by the river), reasonable price range, decent cocktails and live band.
For Isaan food (north-eastern Thai food) in particular, my friends and I love to go to Tam-Nua at Siam Square. Quite a hip place with great food. Not as cheap as food stalls but you can rely on higher sanitary standard.
Hope the reply is not too long. Have a great trip coming here :)