Bangkok Italian restaurants?
- vanderb Jul 16, 2012 03:07 AM
Greetings fellow CHers, I will be attending a wedding in BKK next week and have offered to take the bride and groom for a fancy dinner a couple of days before the big event. Both of them live in BKK and have Thai food everyday, they've asked for something different and European. I'd like to do something high end Italian if possible and hope there may be some recommendations here.
If not Italian I'd be interested in other Euro restaurants; price is not an issue, restaurant can be in a hotel and I'm not too concerned about the location but if it helps we are staying a couple of blocks from the Siam Paragon mall in one of the Mercure hotels.
Maybe the Bangkok-based Chowhounds would have some recs for you. In the meantime, my 3 fave Italian spots in Bangkok are:
1. Zanotti, Saladaeng Colonnade, 21/2 Soi Saladaeng, Bangkok 10500. Tel: +662 636 0002. Still a place to see-and-be-seen. Food remained fabulous.
2. La Scala, Sukhothai Hotel, 13/3 South Sathorn Rd, Bangkok 10120. Tel: +662 344 8888. Well-prepared seafood dishes here.
3. Angelini, Shangri-la Bangkok, 89 Soi Wat Suan Plu, Charoen Krung Rd, Bangkok 10500. Tel: +662 236 7777. The pasta dishes here are *the* best I'd had anywhere!!
Other well-regarded Italian restaurants in Bangkok include Gianni at Soi Tonson (off Ploenchit Rd), Giusto at Sukhumvit Soi 23, the ever-reliable Giorgio's at the Royal Orchid Sheraton (nice river views), Rossini's at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit (avoid its Sunday buffet though), Enoteca Italiana (Sukhumvit Soi 27) and the "oldie-but-still-goodie" Biscotti at the Four Seasons Hotel.
My favorite is Enoteca Italiana (mentioned in the above post). It has small portions of very innovative Italian food. I think the nearly constant presence of the chef in the kitchen and the sommalier are what maintain such high standards. The kitchen shines in its modern preparations. For something more traditional I'd look elsewhere. It's also a small place, so would be advisable to make reservations.
My review on trip advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserRe...
I also used to really like Zanotti (a few years ago). Being a large place, it operated more like a machine, but they were using quality ingredients and preparing things quite well. I then found the quality to be way down to the point where I was really disappointed. Kleyoh, have you made a recent visit? I am wondering if it is worth me trying it again. I remember they had some really good platters of assorted antipasti and I recall some pasta (ravioli?) made with white truffles that was excellent (and reasonably priced).
My favorite more casual spot for Italian is "di Vino" on Thong Lor, run by a chef from Milan.
My review on tripadvisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserRe...
Interesting that you guys have revived this topic- I was just thinking about the state of Italian food in Bangkok. I think because there are so many good Italian restaurants run by Italian expats in Bkk, it gets hard to differentiate between them. For instance, I always get Paesano and Gianni both in Soi Tonson confused despite going to them for years. Gianni is more upscale, but I can never remember which is which. To me, despite both being decent, neither really stands out from the crowd, or from each other.
I was just thinking about my favorite Italian in the city, and I suppose right now I don’t really have one. I used to like Enoteca a lot back when it was still rustic and hadn’t hired it’s new chef and went modern and miniscule portioned- it just wasn’t what I personally wanted anymore.
Closest to a place I’d be happy to go to any time now would probably be Rossano on Asoke, which is still pretty rustic. It’s owned by the former owner of L’Opera. Although L’Opera was good, it was also hard to distinguish from all the other places.
I did see the raving reviews for Zanotti and Angellini. I suppose they must’ve gotten much better, as those two actually stand out in my mind because I had a couple negative experiences with both early on when they first opened and so I haven’t gone back since.
Zanotti served me raw meat and when it was sent back they returned it overcooked, the manager or owner (I don’t remember who) did comp the dish and gave our table extra desserts or something to that effect. And Angellini’s food was so over-salted when I went that I remember waking up in the middle of the night from extreme thirst. Granted both were pretty new then, so perhaps it’s time I give them another chance. I was however a fan of Zanotti’s Limoncello pizzeria, until about a year or two ago when their signature mascarpone parma ham pizza (which was the only thing I’d order) seemed to go down hill with runny/watery mascarpone, which made me stop going.
Ah then there’s Biscotti- yes an oldie but goodie- I’ve had some of the best meals in Bangkok there, but again that was early on, and I think they’re less memorable now, well at least I haven’t thought about them enough to want to go back in awhile.
I wish there was an Italian hole in the wall eatery somewhere- like Italian man comes to Bangkok and just wants to stick around so he opens up a small kitchen- hmm, that could be good- they don’t all have to be high-end.
As the OP I won't attest to being a Bangkok Italian restaurant aficionado, but I do know Italian food from travels in Italy and eating a lot of Italian food in many places around the world.
We did go to Angelini's as the bride and groom in question here really wanted good pasta and I trust Klyeoh from recommendations provided in KL and Singapore. While I won't say Angelini's was the best Italian I've ever had it was very good and given the location in the world we were all very happy with the meal, the service, the atmosphere and the wine list.
I too would have preferred a hole-in-the-wall but being BKK and not Bologna, I think Angelini's did a great job of presenting high end Italian in SE Asia. The room itself was worth a visit and I can't complain about anything we experienced there, which is odd for me.
Yeah, I was at Rossano (near Asoke) one time... forever ago... and remember having a decent experience there. I recall ordering sardines grilled... like Sicilian style. I do recall choosing more rustic dishes... as they are difficult to find in Bangkok. It wasn't perfect and wasn't really cheap... but it was a reasonable experience and I'll give it another try soon. If you like this style I would also suggest trying di Vino. However, the specials change constantly so it will vary day to day. The regular menu is very small... and the best dishes I've had there have always been daily specials that I confirm with the chef's recommendation.
I agree that we need a casual Italian trattoria... just like we need some sort of casual French bistro (or even a cafe). Not some sort of expensive precious place in a high rent shopping center made to look like a casual place.
One place that is reliable for me is the pizzeria (name Napoli?) on Sukhumvit soi 29. It doesn't exactly fit the bill as it is a pizzeria... but it also has some pleasant spaghetti dishes and in my opinion the best tiramisu in BKK. Good espresso also. Their osso bucco was great on one occasion and disappointing on another. It's certainly not fancy... but it's easy enough to drop in with no reservation in casual clothes and have some simple food that is worthwhile and reasonably authentic. The Truffle White pizza has nice mushrooms and truffle oil, and the Buffala uses seemingly good quality mozzarella.
As for the fancy Italian places, perhaps I'm applying too high of standards, but very few restaurants excite me at all. I like the fussy food at Enoteca Italiana. But I agree that many of the other places are hard to distinguish. They all seem to have that same "Bangkok Italian" menu full of the same dishes. They all have a poorly prepared carbonara... "rocket" salad of some sort... and tiramisu. I'm so tired of tiramisu on menus here (even though I admit that pizzeria Napoli has a great and authentic version made with lots of coffee and liqueur - nice bitterness to balance the sweetness).
I should try Spasso. Despite my skepticism, I have had good luck with Klyeoh's opinions to direct my dining choices in Singapore (as I'm sure many others have as well).
I had at least five great meals at Zanotti a few years ago... and then two bad dinners and an awful lunch. Consistency seems to be a big problem at most of these restaurants. A lot of things are delegated to staff and if there is no supervision, things fall apart. Your experience at Limoncello is a case in point.
Zanotti has some really cool wines from Piedmonte, which are not the most commonly found. I remember having an amazing Dolcetta d'Alba (I forget which one). However, there is QUITE a variation in the quality of wines on that menu. A similar wine at the exact same price point was vastly inferior.
One bizarre thing about Zanoti is that they don't ALLOW you to photograph your plate. The waiter came and stopped my girlfriend from taking a picture of her own dish and explained politely that it is not allowed. As if it is some sort of intellectual property protected by copyright.
Who has been to Zanotti recently?
Zanotti's became a hangout of the rich and (in)famous in the past few year - perhaps leading to the camera ban, which can be quite annoying to other diners anyway, if flash is used indiscriminately.
The only time I wished I got my camera with me was when I ran into Thaksin Shinawatra in the washroom at Zanotti, he even turned around and chatted with me whilst we were standing side-by-side at the urinals. ROFL!
All this talk of Angellini, and guess what, they got a new chef
towards the end of last year- here are some excerpts from an article I just saw:
"Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok’s Italian restaurant – Angelini, has acquired a new chef, Omar Ugoletti, whose recipes are famous for being healthy, hearty and having a creative touch to traditional Italian cuisine."
"Chef Omar focuses on the use of vegetables of Royal Project to present each dish like an art piece. Braised beef
cheek, polenta flour and tubers (775 THB) is definitely worth a try for both your visual appeal and taste palates. He presents the dish as a garden (interpreted from the greens) and earth (from the beef)."
"Chef Omar’s culinary skills definitely set his Italian cuisine apart from what we’ve tried."
I'm not familiar with the magazine, but they essentially got me with "healthy, hearty and having a creative touch to traditional Italian cuisine"; "beef cheek" presented "as a garden"; and food that's set "apart from what we've tried". Wow that seems to absolutely tick every box for me, especially in light of what we've been talking about;
feeling unexcited about Italian in Thailand or the food being
indistinguishable from each other, etc, etc.
For me, I generally like my food either traditional, like I would find in the originating part of the world (like for Italian, food that reminds me of the little kitchens I visited in the nooks and crannies of Italy) or else interesting and innovative but yet with a firm foundation in or understanding of its origins (ie new takes on familiar things or creative dishes that retain references to the original either literally or in spirit).
I think the new Angellini is incentive for me to trek out to the river (and it's been over a decade anyways since I tried it on an annual visit back to Bkk).
Likewise chrisdds, diVino sounds interesting and just what I need on the rustic/traditional front (agreed with you that Bkk really needs more casual, comfortable, heartier options here. For solid French bistro cooking I like Philippe, never had a bad meal, the lunches are well prepared and well priced (just around 450bt if I recall for 3 courses!), and last I was there chef Philippe was still making the rounds to check on diners. It is more casual for the lunch seating, but feels a bit more formal for dinner.)- I will give diVino a try- thanks for the tip!
Oh and to your comment about consistency- I agree with you completely- for me consistency is key to keeping me happy here in Bangkok, and quality control and staffing to me are some of Thailand's biggest problems, not just in the restaurant industry but in the bigger picture as well. Some places I rate highly in Bkk might not necessarily be because the food is extremely outstanding, but often it is because I can trust that the meal will be served to a certain standard and not likely be bad or sometimes they just have some more unusual harder to find things that might be worth the risk (and it seems you probably use a similar metric), and if perhaps once in a while the food is not so great, I will understand that it was an unusual slip up and not its usual way of doing things.
Here's to revisiting some oldies and possibly trying some new goodies.
I also find that many Thai people have an aversion to Indian food (or they often think they do, with no basis).
The trick is to take them for Indian food when they are very hungry... and willing to eat anything. My girlfriend was forced to try my Indian food out of various combinations of hunger and boredom - rather than sitting there watching me eat. With a bit of time, she has learned to thoroughly enjoy it and even requests it on occasion. She acknowledges (unprompted) the superiority of Indian food in Singapore and Malaysia. I think she appreciates the intensity of this food... as well as the sincerity... the often rustic nature of it. She is less fond of the amazing and refined murgh makhani that I make in my BKK apartment... and even less fond of Bangkok restaurants that serve more 'royal' style food. Likely because they contain more cream, butter, yoghurt, and heavier preparations. My experience with Thai friends is that the cream or heaviness is more of a problem for them than anything else.
My favorite Indian place in Bangkok is a Punjabi place in Pahurat (little India). It is an absolute dive... though it has the best Tandoori chicken. Yes, the same boring, bland tandoori chicken that is ubiquitous in North America. However, this version is heavily spiced and most importantly has wonderful bitter notes from the black charred bits. It is charred from the tandoor outside, the red spice paste perfectly cooked and roasted... yet wonderfully moist inside. A bit of armchur power to finish (or more accurately it is probably chaat masala)... and some homemade mint/coriander chutney from a plastic squeeze bottle intended for ketchup... and there is absolutely NO fancy Indian restaurant that can compare.
For more upscale, I have been to Masala Art on Thong Lor many times. I think they have pretty good tandoori dishes... like the lamb chops and prawns (especially if you request them to be spicy). The curries are nowhere near as good in my opinion. They are not bad... but I can make many of these dishes at home so much better than most restaurants... I have stopped ordering a lot of Northern Indian dishes when I go out.
I have tried so many other Indian restaurants. Most have been incredibly inconsistent and not worth mentioning specifically. The Indian place on Sukhumvit soi 3... at the corner of the tiny soi that connects to soi 3/1... the one with outdoor seating and lots of shisha smoking... this one has a surprisingly good (by Bangkok standards, not Malaysian/Singapore standards) Hyberbad Biriyani. Made with lamb and requested spicy it can be good. Most importantly it's often open until 4 or 5am, making it a good choice when almost everything else is closed. It's good for late night snack and shisha... but not somewhere I'd take relatives.
I would advise ordering them some sort of Barbecue (tandoor) dishes... and some kind of curry without cream. I love a lot of vegetarian Indian dishes, but in my experience many Thais are initially averse to dishes like daal and paneer. I am not sure why.
Gaggan sounds really cool. Although I think it may be more for your benefit and appreciation than necessarily for relatives. It sounds just as much Western as it does Indian. Have you been to Red? That is where chef Gaggan worked before. He has an impressive resume. It sounds like he is directly involved with the goings on at the small restaurant.... making NOW the time to go.
Thanks for the detailed account of the Indian food scene in Bangkok, chrisdds.
I'd not been to Red, and the best Indian food experience I'd had in Bangkok was a traditional one at Rang Mahal atop Rembrandt Hotel - *that's* as good as any North Indian spot in Singapore.
I think Singapore's South Indian food scene has improved by leaps and bounds over Malaysia's in the past few years, especially with the entrance of quite a few outposts of well-established Indian chains like Murugan, Ponnusamy, etc.
Did you ever go to Gaggan? I had a hugely disappointing experience there a while ago. There were some creative ideas, but the level of cooking was simply not at a high level.... not even a mediocre level.
I must say the day I went on turned out to be a Thai holiday... and the chef did not appear to be present.
The only dish that was prepared very well was not a fusion dish, but an Indian dish which they labeled as "tikka masala" but the preparation was absolutely that of murgh "makhani" (the caucasian favorite "butter chicken"). This is an immensely popular dish, but one that is very difficult to find in authentic form. This version was quite correct... fragrant with mace, cardamom, and the most important and characteristic kasoori methi (fenugreek). It seemed to (correctly) not contain any onions. The nan was pretty good too. But this is not wh yI came to this restaurant and spent a lot of money.
It was interesting that our waiter pushed a tasting menu on us (which I wanted anyway) and told us that it was not possible to order from the regular (and cheaper) a la carte menu. However, we overheard and observed a nearby table order a la carte.
I can appreciate traditional and classic dishes as well as modern and innovative ones... but I did not really enjoy ANY of the many dishes here, prior to the curry. I did very much like the cinnamon-banana ice cream in concept. It was a very interesting and atypical flavor combination... and it was an amazing combination. But the ice cream itself was quite grainy and simply not "good". I don't mean grainy the way Indian kulfi is... the 'Indian Ice Cream" which doesn't really have cream. It was well below average ice cream (in preparation) but with very smart flavor combination.
I desperately wanted this dinner to be good... but it simply was not. Was it an off night? Did you end up having any good meal(s) here?
I'd not been able to get to Gaggan yet, but am surprised to hear about your disappointing experience. It sounds like either the Executive Chef himself is not around (leaving the kitchens to less-than-capable sous chefs), or else Gaggan's culinary standards just took a tumble.
Also, it couldn't have been a pleasant feeling knowing that the waiter lied thru his teeth, whilst trying to push the more expensive menu degustation to you.
Thanks for the update - I shall tread with trepidation should I ever opt to try Gaggan.
The chef has such a good reputation... I would suspect the problem was just the lack of his presence... but it's just an assumption. Maybe go on a Friday or Saturday... NOT a holiday.
I hate to complain so much, but I've just has so much bad luck in Bangkok lately.
Today we went back to Masala Art on Thong Lor. This place truly knows how to execute delicate and balanced spicing. It's not the ripping hot and exciting southern Indian food like you'll have in Singapore or Malaysia... but it is nice in a different sort of way.... actually in quite a refined sort of way.
Nothing is really "hot", but requesting hot will will get you 'spicy'... meaning spice that develops layers of flavor that builds with each consecutive bite.
I should warn that there are some dishes that are very good, and some that are too heavy. The dishes from the tandoor are universally good. The saffron fish is especially good (as long as they cook it long enough... I like the black charred bits on it, and don't like it too watery), as are lamb chops (as long as they don't cut them too small). Prawns can be decent as well... either in traditional style or in a marinade of picked mango. As for curries, I like paneer labradar (spelling?)... lamb rogan josh was a remarkably tender lamb in a watery but flavorful sauce (correctly so). A Persian style/influenced dish with lentils (and I think chicken) and some sourness is nice. Dal makhani can be good. I tend to not like their version of saag... and murgh makhani (or whatever they call it there... the butter chicken) was somehow not great at the restaurant, but tasted good when heated in the microwave the next day. I have no explanation for this... unless the flavors had time to meld. I really love that each dish on the menu has individual spicing and character... not like some restaurants with pre-made sauces and different meats thrown in and warmed.
The boss/manager can be quite bossy and tell you to order differently... but his recommendations and guidance are in general very good. Some westerners may be put off by the Indian style service, but he's really a cool guy that ensures great service. The staff are really good. The manager was not even there today, and yet the staff were still perfect today. They put a comment card right in my hand.. apparently wanting a good report, which I was able to provide.
My only critique... too much cream in my paneer dish today. But still good, and everything excellent overall.
Masala chai is good here. Even a dessert of tired gulab jamman took on new life here... soft and fresh.
Again, there is nothing all that spectacular... but the refined, balanced and delicate spicing is truly done in a way that could be called "art". Combined with a really comfortable but not stuffy atmosphere and really pleasant male servers... it is a reliable place for me.
Globalgastronomist - The menu at Angellini does look different. However I have never really been all that impressed with hotel restaurants in BKK. They always seem to have to be "careful" and appeal to the mass market... and therefore end up being not all that innovative... and not all that traditional either. Nor are they all that cheap! But I am generalizing.
When looking at the website, I too started projecting my desires of what I 'want' this restaurant to be. Sort of like meeting somebody online for a blind date. In either instance, the reality is usually not consistent with the expectations. But I hope I am wrong! This restaurant will be a big gamble. Let me know how it goes.
Philippe is not exactly a casual bistro. However, the pictures look like a perfect spot... comfortable enough yet stylish enough. Menu similarly seems to have enough creativity, yet still respect for traditional French cooking. I don't know how I missed it. I will definitely visit, but it is currently closed for Songkhran holiday until April 29.
Have you ever been to D'Sens? There's a hotel restauran I used to like. Similart to my experience with Zanott, i I had many amazing meals at D'Sens in the past... followed by one mediocre dinner (poor value considering the cost) and more recently an absolutely awful lunch.
The inconsistency issue is maddening for me. I think local culture is more accepting of uncertainty and also more accepting about lack of control over all the aspects of one's life. I also think that local culture favors sometimes convenience over quality. With life in Bangkok being SO inconvenient, one can understand. In contrast, some chowhound readers (like me) will trek across the city 30km in traffic just for some Ped ploe (steamed duck in soy sauce)... or simple pad prik goong (shrimp sauteed with large long greenish-yellow medium-hot peppers). I'll spend 150 baht and 40 minutes in a taxi just to eat a good example of Khao Moo Dang for 30 baht.
Wow chrisdds- you sure seem to know your Indian, and can cook it to boot! Very impressive.
Yes, agreed with you and klyeoh both that many Thais do not seem to have much affinity for Indian food. With that said however, I have converted some Thais to Indian food successfully though with Gaggan. If you're interested, the link at the bottom is to a review.
Chrisdds, I do know what you mean about hotel restaurants in general.
That being said though, it’s interesting that you bring up D’Sens, because for me, if there has been one place that has totally fallen through the cracks- that is it. Despite it’s pedigree, the times when there has been occasion to consider it, we’ve actually gone somewhere else, such as the more “established” Le Normandie, or the more “adventurous” Cy’an (years ago), etc.
I’ve just looked at the menus on the web and the lunch menu looks to be more daring than the dinner one. I don’t know which would be better for testing the restaurant’s reputation- the more traditional or the more unusual menu. I would gravitate towards the more unusual items, just to see what they come up with, but at the same time it’s also riskier and could also come out terribly. I assume perhaps that’s what happened with your lunch?
Philippe I think I can confidently say is a safe bet, it’s been around for years and is well loved with many regulars. It may look a bit formal but is quite comfortable and the food is really just well-cooked classic French country fare, think boeuf bourguignon, duck confit, etc, etc- just wonderful, satisfying, comforting.
And on that note- I like the way you think when it comes to getting your Thai food fix. But there is a delivery service nowadays that delivers from all the major famous mom and pops shops and carts from all over town. I tried to call 1133 directory service to get the number but couldn’t get the name right- “zaap” something? or “toh zaap”? If anyone knows the number for this thai food delivery service it would be great if you could report back!
(Btw- just a side note on Spasso, in case you do decide to go- perhaps you or klyeoh are not aware, but the place did have a bit of an image problem (at least from what I know from a few years ago)- it was attracting the kind of people at the bar who didn’t care about the food or the drink- becoming somewhat of a “meat market” if you will. Hopefully they have solved the problem and can go back to focusing on the food, because I did used to enjoy it when we used to go, but this was literally almost 15 years ago! How it is lately, though, I really don’t know.)
(Off to have dinner at Bharani now (in the original Sukhumvit 31 subsoi location)- haven't been in a very very very long time. Will see how it goes.)
I am jealous of the amazing southern Indian food available in Singapore. I don't know which places are good and usually try at random. Sammy's Curry is very good for me but somewhat inconsistent. Same with Appolo banana leaf - sometimes excellent, sometimes just good.
In BKK, Rang Mahal was okay for me... but not spectacular. The environment is nice... so that might count for something. But again, it depends on what is ordered... and who is cooking that day. For Northern Indian food, the rare restaurant that I think is truly special is able to make dishes full of flavor but not HEAVY... and with delicate spicing. I have resorted to cooking at home out of frustration with what's available. That's the problem with a lot of Northern Indian places.... a lot of sauces (or at least the bases for them) have to be made ahead... but the best dishes are those made fresh. I don't know a lot about southern Indian cooking (only eating), but it SEEMS like this food survives well when made ahead and ladled into a banana leaf.
My Indian cooking is certainly not comprehensive... but there are some dishes that I have learned to prepare well... and it's much easier than I thought. It is just an entirely different cooking technique than what I know of French, Italian or even Thai styles, for example. Timing is very important... and the ORDER with which ingredients are added. This is something I never knew. I am now therefore much more critical of Indian restaurants. In the past I was happy with almost any Indian food... the intense flavours being so fun and new. Ignorance was bliss in many ways.
The delivery service sounds cool, but I don't know how interested they would be in going somewhere way out in Thonburi and coming to the other end of the city toward Udom Suk.
You know, a lot of businesses are willing to help you send whatever you need to you (in this case food) on a local motorbike driver. I suppose you could also arrange the same with a taxi for longer distances. Your food can be the passenger... and you can pay upon delivery. But the taxi will want your cell phone number and you or someone nearby to speak Thai with him. I'm sure it can be arranged with a modest tip to the restaurant and the driver. Although a lot of these dishes are best eaten fresh and deteriorate after steaming in the plastic bag for some time in BKK traffic.
As for D'Sens... it wasn't an issue of being overly ambitious. It was embarrassing flaws in basic cooking technique. Something I would never expect from a restaurant of that calibre. My detailed review with full explanation can be found here: