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Year in review: Bangkok's best new restaurants
Hipster heaven, juicy burgers and divine French toast. These additions to the city's dining scene all have staying power
Restaurants come and go every year in Bangkok. Here's a look at the top eateries with staying power that joined the city's dining scene in 2011.
Mugendai Tempura and Sushi Bar
Style: Japanese fine dining
Thailand had been lacking specialized Japanese restaurants, with most often lumping their food preparation methods into one bundle.
But Mugendai does only tempura and sushi, all made with fresh fish caught and delivered from Japan’s famed Tsukiji market. Which, as might be expected, comes with a price.
The menu changes daily, depending on the catch of the day. The sushi stresses the importance of fresh, grade-A ingredients, and the tempura is made according to traditional Japanese tempura house methods.
Try the Uni Hotate Tempura (sea urchin roe with scallops, 700 baht) and Aburi 7 (2,200 baht) -- a series of nigiri which included masazaka gyu beef (tender, barley fed beef) and otoru (blue fin tuna).
This is the place to go when you want to splurge. Expect to pay 6,000 baht for two without drinks (on the upside, there is no corkage fee so you can bring your wine in).
Atmosphere: In the heart of Thong Lor, on a rooftop overlooking the city, the vibe doesn’t get any better. The restaurant is small and cozy, furnished with wooden tables and chairs.
Thonglor Soi 12, atop the Grass Serviced Residence, +66 (0)2 726 9222. Open Monday-Friday, 5:30 p.m.-midnight, Saturday-Sunday, 5:30 p.m. until late.
Style: Hipster heaven
Two favorite cuisines-- Japanese and French -- mingle mellifluously in this hip spot in the hippest area in Bangkok -- Ari.
While Salt’s massive menu doesn’t have any descriptions, whatever you choose is going to be pretty good.
Recommended is the Wagyu beef pizza from the seasonal menu. It's 280 baht for a small, 400 baht for a large. It could very well be some of the best pizza in town.
Atmosphere: Salt has a lot of space. At the entrance, a large room with bay windows showcases the action -- a bar, a DJ and a seating area that's packed as often as not.
Outside is a more relaxed down-tempo courtyard. Around the corner, you can dine on the lawn next to the wood-fire pizza oven.
112/2 soi Ari, corner of soi Ari 4, Phaholyothin soi 7. +66 (0)2 619 6886. Open Monday-Saturday, 6 p.m.-midnight. On Wednesday, open 12 p.m.-midnight.
Style: Slow food
With more than half of the menu being vegetarian (and even offering some vegan choices), this homegrown food joint fills a large, gaping hole in the Bangkok dining scene.
The restaurant stemmed from the Birds in a Row delivery service that became popular with the United Nations crowd for its local produce advocacy. It became mega-popular because of chef Joke’s creative dishes and seasonal menu.
The dishes at Seven Spoons have a Mediterranean flair but are completely original. After tasting the savory and surprisingly filling quinoa salad with roasted vegetables and feta (190 baht) we quickly found out that organic, local whole food doesn’t translate to expensive and unappetizing.
What most people don’t know about this restaurant is that the cocktails are delicious too, especially when paired with Seven Spoons' bar food.
Atmosphere: Turn a Chinese shophouse into a hip restaurant with a hint of hippie and you get Seven Spoons. Wooden walls and tables give the place a warm, earthy feel. It only takes two groups to fill up the space, so call and reserve before you make the trek.
211 Chakkrapatipong Road. +66 (0)2 628 4588. Open daily, 6 p.m.- midnight.
Style: A real deal fish-and-chips shack from New Zealand
Claiming to be Bangkok's first New Zealand restaurant, Snapper is primarily a fish-and-chips shack that dishes out freshly caught seafood.
It’s no fuss, no muss menu makes it clear: if you go to Snapper, you’re going for fresh seafood imported from New Zealand.
It’s a little more expensive than your average fish-and-chips shack, but the quality, great service and a friendly host make up for it.
Atmosphere: Snapper, only a stumble away from Cheap Charlie's, is furnished with tables and chairs made from the wooden planks of a lakeside dock, with a fishing net draped overhead. It feels like you’re dining by the sea. The seating, however, could be improved upon.
1/22 Sukhumvit soi 11. +66 (0)2 6511098. Open daily, Monday-Friday, 5 p.m.-midnight, Saturday-Sunday, noon-midnight
Style: Artsy brunch spot
An outdoor brunch joint featuring an all-female staff in the courtyard of RMA institute, this joint closes mid afternoon, marking a nice contrast with most of the new start-ups this year.
Most importantly, it serves arguably the best breakfast in the city. All the classics are there, including a full English breakfast with sausages, two eggs any style and baguette, for 380 baht. Chef Su's French toast with seasonal fruits, berries and syrup is a Gastro classic (195 baht).
The menu is limited, but every choice you make will be the right choice.
Atmosphere: Gastro 1/6 makes diners feel like they're eating in a secret garden. The outdoor courtyard is shaded by trees. There’s a swinging chair where you can sip espresso, but otherwise seating is scarce and so is the staff.
If you’re planning on having a lazy Sunday brunch, make sure you come early because this place gets packed.
Sukhumvit 22, soi namthip 2 (RMA Institute). +66 (0)80 603 6421. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Bangkok Burger Company
Style: Classic burger joint
Everyone knows burgers. So if you’re going to open up a restaurant, you'd better make sure your burger is right. Some people love Bangkok Burger Company. Some people are disappointed. But everybody is talking about it.
It’s American, Aussie, French and British. Bangkok Burger Company shack crosses borders. They use Charolais beef, which is popular in all of the listed countries. The patty is juicy and tender.
The menu is simple, with choices ranging from the classic bacon cheeseburger (230 baht for a small, 295 baht for a large) to more eccentric selections, like The Emperor (a burger cooked in teriyaki sauce with sautéed onions, mushrooms and wasabi mayo. Small 230 baht, large 295 baht).
Atmosphere: Red booths in this small, Thong Lor restaurant are reminiscent of a classic diner. The decor feels very "America." But when you’re getting ready to chomp down on a burger, that's a good way to feel.
Unit 103, G/F, Opus Building, 139 Thong Lor Soi 10, +66 (0)2 715 9407. Open daily 11a.m.–11p.m.
Style: An informal izakaya in fancy surroundings
With highly-acclaimed branches in London, Hong Kong, Istanbul and Miami, the local "see and be seen" crowd couldn't wait to dig their chopsticks into the contemporary Japanese dishes served up at Zuma's recently-opened Bangkok restaurant, which can be accessed through the posh St. Regis Hotel.
Zuma is the kind of place you take someone you want to impress as the food definitely lives up to the hype. Just don't leave home without your platinum credit card.
Menu highlights include the melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu sirloin with Wafu sauce and garlic crisp, miso-marinated black cod wrapped in hoba leaf and a wide selection of fresh off the boat sashimi.
The problem is, Zuma is an izakaya-style restaurant, which means you're expected to share. With dishes as delicious as these, you're not going to want to.
Atmosphere: Like all five of the other Zuma restaurants, the Bangkok venue was designed by famed interior designer Noriyoshi Muramatsu and features both local and Japanese influences. The stone and wood work is remarkable, while the seating is comfortable yet sophisticated. For those who prefer the great outdoors but not the heat there's an air-conditioned patio.
St Regis Bangkok, 159 Rajadamri Road. BTS: Rajadamri. +66 (0)2252 4707. Email: email@example.com. Open for lunch and dinner.
The Bar and Restaurant
Style: A champagne bar/restaurant serving creative French/Italian cuisine
Thai celebrity Krirkphol Masayavanich and Chef Olivier Daniel's newest venture, The Bar and Restaurant, is Bangkok's first Champagne bar.
Given the stamp of approval by Moët & Chandon, the Champagne is priced a bit lower than what you'll find at most Bangkok venues, plus they have great deals practically every day of the week.
But since opening, there's been a common misperception that this place is just for high rollers who want to sip Champagne and dine on oysters. Not so.
Chef Olivier's creative French and Italian dishes, made with top imported ingredients -- think Canadian lobster, black truffles and U.S. beef -- are priced very reasonably yet never fail to impress.
Atmosphere: The bar, downstairs, is all about flash. There are draped private booths, a gold bar and a sparkling Moët & Chandon sign. Upstairs is the restaurant, which is far more relaxed and low-key.
24th Avenue, Sukhumvit Soi 24, next to The Davis Hotel. +66 (0)82 222 7474 Open daily, 11 a.m.-1 a.m.