BK TOP PICK: Best French restaurant in Bangkok
While Singapore and Hong Kong have more Ducasse and Robuchon spin-offs than you can wave a chef’s hat at, Bangkok can only count D’Sens as a proper Michelin-star annex, of a pair of two-star chefs, the Pourcel brothers, from the Jardin des Sens in France. Dinner starts at B1,700 for a menu decouverte. The dishes might have impossibly long descriptions, but there’s always a clear lead actor—usually wonderful, well-chosen meats and fishes, like fresh, plump Hokkaido scallops and tender, flavorful duck Challans (B1,600 or as part of the highly recommended B2,900 six-course set). This is nothing short of a high-wire act and we can guarantee some dishes will have you swooning back in your chairs with your hands on your hearts. Service is impeccable, making the equally knowledgeable Thai and French maitres d’ perhaps a bit redundant. As for the décor, D’Sens’ space age furniture will not sit well with those who can only have their confit in a fake Louis XIV chair, but we’re fans, particularly of the control tower views of Lumpini Park. D'Sens is, to us, the best French restaurant in Bangkok.
D'Sens, 22/F, Dusit Thani Hotel, 946 Rama 4 Rd., 02-200-9000 ext. 2499.
RUNNER-UPS (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)
Le Beaulieu, with its cathedral-like foyer/wine room/bar and intimate sky blue ceilinged dining room, is small but grand. The menu is similarly ambitious, featuring four pages of French dishes with a Mediterranean slant made with the finest imported ingredients. Highlights include a plump seared Alaskan scallop with tender braised beef cheeks, bitter endives and a sauce made from beets; an eye-opening course that elevates the humble pumpkin with ricotta mousse and pumpkin sabayon; and a memorable dessert of molten chocolate soufflé served with a pina colada sorbet and blood orange sorbet. The service at this French restaurant could use some improvement, but still, after only a half year in business, Le Beaulieu deserves to be counted among Bangkok’s top fine dining restaurants, as well as one of the best French restaurants in Bangkok.
Le Beaulieu, Asoke Residence Grand Mercure Building, 50 Sukhumvit Soi 19, 02-204-2004.
Two houses down from Bed Supperclub, Oskar Bistro is a restaurant with a slightly clubby vibe. The place is heaving on weekend nights, the DJ is excellent, the low-ceilinged space is cozy and edgy, drinks are cheap and, surprisingly for this neck of the woods, the food is great value for money. Try the delicious duck parmentier (a kind of French shepherd’s pie, B250) or Aussie lamb skewers with a mint and yogurt dip (B180). As for drinks, ten wines by the glass starting from B145, and a smart selection of some 40 bottles with great buys in the B1,590-1,790 range. Diners at Oskar—a bit like those at neighboring Bed Supperclub—are mostly a savvy crowd of expats and tourists. You'll be back for the DJs, drinks and tasty cuisine. Corkage B500 (wine), B1,000 (spirits).
Oskar Bistro, 24 Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-255-3377.
Chez Pape, for all its cozy kitsch, is the real deal, a true French restaurant in Bangkok. Instead of the usual hodgepodge of somtam, pizzas and pasta that “bistros” usually serve in this town, you will here find a tight two-page menu of resolutely Gallic appetizers, mains and desserts, which the kitchen (and staff) actually dish out in the right order. The flank steak is amazing: cooked rare and with great texture and flavor (the accompanying ravioli with goat cheese are bizarre companions, though, B450). The steak tartare comes very well-seasoned, with a creamy texture that shows a generous use of mustard (B350). We love their carefully curated wine list, the seven wines by the glass (B145-160), and the option to get carafes.
Chez Pape, 1/28-29 Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-255-2492.
Enjoy classic French food and good wine while rubbing shoulders with the local bigwigs. The food is just as classic as the stately decor: foie gras, escargots and plenty of truffles. Its affordable three-course set lunch with menu changing weekly is another reason to pay a visit to the knowledgeable, friendly staff.
Philippe, 20/15-17 Sukhumvit Soi 39, 02-259-4577/8.
Elegant but edgy, with its raw black and white photography of Bangkok, Reflexions is authentic French food without the stuffiness. One look at the handsome, young Thibault Chiumenti (pictured, right) will tell you this is not stodgy French food. Still, Chiumenti cooks with an eye for tradition and bold flavors, without making sacrifices to any fads or shortcuts.
Reflexions, 3/F, Plaza Athénée, Witthayu (Wireless) Rd., 02-650-8800.
A good place to begin is with a drink in the lounge, which opens up into the courtyard. For dinner, if it's not unbearably hot and you're not deathly afraid of mosquitoes, the place to be is at one of the umbrella-topped garden tables. If you’re a fan of steak tartare, the version at Indigo is close to ideal: fresh beef chopped fine but not too fine and expertly seasoned with mustard, chopped capers, etc. Another winner is a tender and juicy milk-fed veal with a creamy morel sauce. For serious beef-eaters, however, the dish is cote de boeuf, which would still be worth every satang if it were half as big. Deftly carved tableside, the bone-in meat comes with a savory crust outside and is tender inside—it’s hard to believe this is local (Thai-French) beef.
Indigo, 6 Convent Rd., 02-235-3268.
This Bangkok institution has been serving Lyonnnaise bistro food to hungry gourmands for more than a decade. The narrow, dimly lit room dotted with mostly French-speaking customers spells an oasis amid chaos. Try the heartwarming hunk of brisket known as pot au feu or fragrant cassoulet—the epitome of French comfort food, even in the middle of a Bangkok summer. Also worth sampling are foie gras ravioli, slices of saucisson and steak tartare.
Le Bouchon, 37/17 Patpong Soi 2, 02-234-9109.
We’re jealous of office workers within walking distance of Café Tartine’s solid sandwiches, soups, quiches and salads, and of residents who can pop in for a B99 breakfast (café latte, orange juice, croissant). The rest of us will probably head here for leisurely weekend lunches, although you’ll have to make it early to enjoy bestsellers like quiche Lorraine or the pain au chocolat. Desserts are very solid, like the crème brulee and tarte tatin, a pleasant combination of acidic applies and a blend of slightly bitter caramel, sweet caramel sauce and crème Anglaise on the side.
Cafe Tartine, G/F, Athenee Residence, Soi Ruamrudee, 65 Wireless Rd., 02-168-5464.
The Mandarin Oriental’s showcase restaurant needs little introduction. For years it has set the standard for service and cuisine and the breath-taking river views aren’t bad. Dinner can easily break the bank, but if you’ve ever wondered what bourgeois French families have for their dejeuner, order yourself their three-course set menu. A sample set: homemade meat pie, duck and pork belly casserole with garlic confit and creme brulee. Le Normandie is ideal for any occasion. Then you can throw your empty wallet into the Chao Phraya.
Le Normandie, The Oriental Bangkok, 48 Oriental Avenue, Charoen Krung Rd., 02-659-9000.