Bangkok's flavor explosion: 9 top new eateries

Bangkok's flavor explosion: 9 top new eateries

Craving Thai classics? Asian-inspired French? Haggis? Bangkok's restaurant scene is brimming with new options

Bangkok’s dining scene has had an especially busy year and a half, with new trends and new restaurants popping up across the city. 

From five-star French chefs going bistro to Thai entrepreneurs presenting lesser-known recipes straight out of the history books, here are nine top Bangkok restaurants that are adding even more spice to the Thai capital. 

Le Beaulieu

Roasted Madame Burgaud's Challandais duck with sous-vide nectarine. One of Bangkok’s best new restaurants is also one of its best old restaurants.

Napoleonic and fiercely talented chef Herve Frerard has been feeding Bangkok’s high society and political bigwigs for years out of his bright and airy space on Sukhumvit Soi 19.

After a long, agonizing break, however, he's reopened at the Athenee Office Tower on Wireless Road, where he hopes to attract local clientele with slightly more rustic fare and a casual outdoor wine terrace that serves cold cuts and cheeses.

Inside, however, is where the magic happens.

Meals range from a platter of burrata cheese with heirloom tomatoes (elevated with lemon confit) to sous-vide Wagyu beef cheek in a red wine sauce and a pot au feu with morteau sausage, pork belly and veal tongue.

Athenee Office Tower, 63 Wireless Road; +66 (0)2 168 8220; expensive; www.le-beaulieu.com

Gossip

Gossip's hamachi ceviche. One of the newest openings on this list, the kitchen at Gossip is led by Julien Lavigne, who sharpened his Bangkok knives at the posh jewel in the Dusit Thani crown, D’Sens, the Thai outpost of the Michelin-starred Pourcel Brothers.

From there he moved to the less stuffy Oskar Bistro, before arriving at Gossip with free rein over the menu. 

Here you’ll find a mix of French and Italian dishes, with a smattering of options that reflect Lavigne’s time in Asia. These include arancini with tomatillo salsa, seared red tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes and a refreshing ceviche made with hamachi fish, corn and Thai herbs.

The cocktails are done by Karl Ansaldi of Zuma fame, and there’s a very affordable list of organic wines.

Décor is equally cosmopolitan, with a nod to the aesthetic of "Life" magazine circa 1960 -- a loungey outdoor space flanked by a graffiti-embellished wall.

Thonglor Soi 15, +66 (0)2 185 3093; moderate; www.gossip-bangkok.com

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Issaya Siamese Club

Issaya Siamese Club is set in a renovated 1920s house. Colonial-chic meets vibrant Thai colors in celebrity chef Ian Kittichai’s flagship Bangkok restaurant.

Though removed from the Sukhumvit culinary drama, the charming old Thai house off Rama 4 Road has a sprawling lawn with low tables and bean bags, ceiling fans and rattan furniture on the second-floor verandah, and dark wood and purple and blue walls in the main dining room.

There’s even a chef’s garden in the back where Kittichai grows herbs and greens.

The food is mostly classic Thai, but the execution is novel enough for repeat Bangkok visitors to be delighted.

We recommend the moo manao (thinly sliced pork topped with lime and edible flowers), glazed pork ribs and pla ob prik (baked fish with a chili glaze).

If you're grappling with a dessert decision, the chef’s signature jasmine flower flan is fantastic.

4 Soi Sri Aksorn, Chuaphloeng Road; +66 (0)2 672 9040; moderate to expensive; www.issaya.com

Little Beast

Little Beast's tapas-style dishes are great for sharing. Don't be fooled by the masculine and dungeon-esque décor, and devotion to heavy cocktails and under-loved cuts of meat -- Little Beast doesn't take itself too seriously.

The mascot -- a French bulldog -- appears on the menus and as a heavy brass bust at the front door.

The emphasis on small plates makes Little beast a great place for sharing and lining the stomach for deceptively potent cocktails like the Redolent (Pimm’s No. 1 and Italian bitters, topped with blood orange and ginger ale).

Chef Nan Bunyasaranand trained at Hyde Park’s CIA and worked at a couple Thomas Keller joints in New York City.

At her own eatery, she serves up dishes like sea bream and butternut squash puree and bacon fat–roasted shishito peppers with sea salt. She also makes her own sausages, rillettes and terrines, which change often.

44/9-10 Thonglor Soi 13; +66 (0)2 185 2670; moderate-expensive; Facebook.com/littlebeastbar

The Local

The southern Thailand decor in The Local's main dining room features Thai shadow play. The Markawat family has been in the restaurant business for a few decades, with long-standing establishments Oam Thong and Naj under their Bangkok dining belts.

But they've struck gold with The Local. Championing old family recipes -- the family has roots in Ratchburi, as well as Trang -- the place is a tribute to Thai culinary history.

The two-house space has a small reception area with old kitchen relics and Thailand’s oldest published cookbook on display. The private dining rooms have décor themes paying homage to the reign of Rama V and the heyday of the Damnoen Saduak floating market.

While classics such as khao soi and fish cakes are available, we recommend the more rare, slow-cooked dishes, such as the gaeng lun juan (spicy beef tendon in a shrimp paste curry) and lon kathi (spicy white herbal curry).

There's also a solid Thai-inspired cocktail list.

32 Sukhumvit Soi 23, +66 (0)2 664 3360; moderate; Facebook.com/thelocalcuisine

Smith

For slaughterhouse chic, it's Smith. Brought to Bangkok by the people behind Hyde & Seek, where the city's young, beautiful and well off gather for fancy cocktails and manly fare, Smith is the closest thing Bangkok has to a nose-to-tail place.

There’s something to be said for the house-made headcheese terrine, as well as the haggis -- yes, haggis.

The sprawling space feels like a Williamsburg slaughterhouse -- in a good way -- with staff sporting leather aprons and the bathroom sinks equipped with spray nozzles.

If you’re squeamish about soft animal bits, there's still plenty to order, like a good, wholesome sausage pie.  

It may be big, but it’s constantly packed with hipsters, lured by the stiff cocktails. Reservations a must.

1/8 Sukhumvit Soi 49, +66 (0)2 261 0515; moderate; www.smith-restaurant.com

Somtum Der

Somtum Der, making Isaan food more accessible. This is the least fancy place on this list of bistros and chic standalones.

But Somtum Der offers a rare combination: accessible, authentic northeastern Thai (Isaan) food at affordable prices, served with a bit of atmosphere.

The recipes are inspired by the fiery, less-sweet palate of Khon Khaen province, where the owners even spent a few weeks selling their wares at a local market as a test run with the public.

There’s no lack of “scary” condiments and ingredients, chiefly pla ra (pungent fermented fish). But it’s pasteurized here for tourist stomachs, so don't be afraid of dishes like the traditional somtum pla ra (papaya salad) and lesser-known tum sua (papaya salad with vermicelli noodles).

If you’re still not convinced, there’s perfectly deep-fried gai thod (fried chicken), meaty and herbal tom saep (soup with young pork bones) and the hard-to-find tum pla too khao man (papaya salad with mackerel served with coconut-sweetened rice).

5/5 Soi Sala Daeng, Silom Road, +66 (0)2 632 4499; affordable; Facebook.com/somtumder

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Supanniga Eating Room

Many of Supanniga's dishes are based on the owner's grandmother's old recipes. If you want more from Thai cuisine than green curry, pad Thai and papaya salad, but you’d rather not drop a bomb on Nahm, Supanniga Eating Room is a great new option.

It’s located in a narrow, three-story Thonglor shophouse, decked out with raw cement walls, yellow booths and outdoor sofas on the top floor.

Inspired by Trat province on Thailand’s southeastern coast and the northeast Isaan region, the menu has rewards for the uninitiated.

Highlights include yam pla salid thod krob (sweet and sour salad with crispy fish) and sweet and herbal moo chor muang (fatty chunks of pork in an earthy curry of sour leaves).

160/11 Soi Thonglor, +66 (0)2 714 7508; moderate; www.facebook.com/SupannigaEatingRoom

Quince

Rough-hewn tables add to Quince's rustic appeal. One of the hottest openings of the past year, Quince has taken the locavore ethos to a new level, in a town where pretty much every fancy restaurant makes much ado about organic herbs.

Armed with a strong market-kitchen concept, the cooking at Quince does full justice to the ingredients, mostly juxtaposing them rather than cooking the hell out of them. 

Highly recommended dishes include mushrooms with herbs and sherry vinegar and the rich bone marrow, which comes with a parsley and capers salad.

It's worth keeping an eye out for specials -- they change frequently and are always intriguing. 

Sukhumvit Soi 45, +66 (0)2 662 4478; moderate; www.quincebangkok.com

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