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Bangkok Visit - please critique my (long!) list

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………

Araway
Ban Chiang
Baan Khanita (gallery location)
Baan Klan Krong
Baan Klang Nam 1
Baan Khun Mae
Baan Suan Pai
Baanya
Bamboo Bar (Mandarin Oriental)
Blue Elephant
Bua
Bussaracum
Cabbages and Condoms
Celadon (Sukothai Hotel)
China House (Mandarin Oriental Hotel)
Chote Chitr
Curries and More
Deck (Arun Residence Hotel)
Face/La Na Thai
Jim Thompson’s Thai Restaurant
Khinlom Chomsaphan
Khrua Rommai
Kuppa
Le Lys
Lek Seafood
Pen (Pan?)
Polo Fried Chicken
Raan Jay Fai
Rachanawi Samosawn (Navy Club Restaurant)
Roti-Mataba
Ruen Mallika
Sala Rim Naam (Mandarin Oriental)
Supatra River House
Taling Ping
Thanying
Thonglee
Ton Pho

Bon Marche
Convent Road vendors
Gourmet Market at Siam Paragon
Nang Leong Market
Old Siam Food Court
Or Tor Kor Market
Patpung 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

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  1. 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.

    1. 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...

      6 Replies
      1. re: Simon

        Thanks for such a thorough response! Will definitely report back after this trip.

        1. re: Simon

          ...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 .

          1. re: ChangFai

            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...

            1. re: Simon

              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 ...

          2. re: Simon

            Simon,

            You really are a valuable resource. A question: you write that there is better Isaan food to be had than at Vientienne Kitchen... Are Isaan and Laotian cuisine cognate?

            1. re: guanubian

              guanubian,

              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.

          3. 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.

            2 Replies
            1. re: anothernotch

              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)...

              1. re: Simon

                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.

            2. Thanks for all replies so far! Has anyone heard anything about the Greyhound Cafe? apparently in the Emporium Shopping Complex, 622 Sukhumvit.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Geoff

                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

              2. 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.