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Top Tables Update: Bangkok's 10 Best New Restaurants 2013

Showing our dedication, we’re already thinking about our Top Tables guide for 2014 (out in March, next year). Here are the new restaurant openings most likely to make the cut—along with a few things that have fallen out of favor. 

By Gregoire Glachant, Pieng-or Mongkolkumnuankhet | Oct 17, 2013

  • Top Tables Update: Bangkok's 10 Best New Restaurants 2013

Still don't have a copy of Top Tables 2013? Get it here.

 

1. Opposite Mess Hall

Under chef Jess Barnes’s stewardship, Quince placed third in Top Tables 2013. So really, there’s not much suspense as to whether his new venture, Opposite, will make the cut for Top Tables 2014. It’s the same wonderful Aussie-influenced European cuisine he was doing at Quince, and even if it’s been copied a lot since (see This Needs to Stop), he’s still the guy doing it best. The bigger issue is that Opposite is super noisy (a problem they’ve promised to address) and the bench seating is not the most comfortable. Also, the kitchen is tiny, meaning Barnes can’t do some of his more elaborate, or slower-cooked dishes in there—no bone marrow risotto, for example.

Eat this: Steamed Chinese bun with pork belly, slaw, shrimp mayo and pickled cucumber (B140).

27/1 Sukhumvit Soi 51, 02-662-6330. Open Tue-Sun 7pm-midnight

Paste

Paste is one of the most exciting openings this year. For one, it’s Thai food, which always gets extra points in our book. Secondly, the Australian-Thai couple in the kitchen isn’t shy of personalizing recipes (please don’t call it fusion). Thirdly, the food is delicious. The space, a narrow shophouse, is definitely cozy, but the separation between back and front of the house is a tad clumsy. We had to put up with the din of waiters putting away cutlery in the cupboard next to us for nearly an entire meal once. We’ve also been awkwardly seated with a view on the open kitchen, despite never interacting with the chef (in a place this tiny, trust us, it can feel odd).

Eat this: Stock-poached pork neck with chili, red grapefruit, local flowers and toasted sticky rice (B380).

120/6 Sukhumvit Soi 49, 02-392-4313. Open Wed-Sun noon-2:30pm;Tue-Sun 6pm-midnight

3 Chef Man

The first Chef Man opened at the Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn where it generated instant buzz as the new go-to place for dim sum. Chef Man’s second branch, at the Eastin Hotel Makkasan has done it again, with reservations an absolute must if you’re hoping to sample a steamed cream bun with salted egg or a pork dumpling with abalone. As for the piece de resistance, Chef Wai Yin Man likes to boast about his B2 million kiln made especially for peking duck (B1,200) and his Beijing-native cook who serves up the dish. Do be punctual as the duck will be ready the very minute you booked the table—but note that there’s now also a third branch in Bang Na.

Eat this: Steamed cream bun with salted egg (B110).

3/F, Eastin Grand Sathorn, Sathorn Rd., 02-212-3741. BTS Surasak. Open daily 11:30am-2:30pm; 6-10pm

4 Hong Bao

Run by the high-rolling investor behind Water Library, this Chinese restaurant is another place stirring people into a dim sum delirium. While the food leans towards a decidedly Cantonese direction, the decor is quite lively and, unlike most typical Chinese restaurants, features Shanghainese accents like dark red and black lacquer and basket ceiling lamps. Noon is the best time to visit as, while some of the regular dishes are merely OK, their expertly prepared dim sum packs some serious wow factor.

Eat this: Steamed buns stuffed with lava cream and salted egg (B110).

G/F, Thanya Shopping Park, Srinakarin Rd., 02-108-6055. Open daily 11:30am-2:30pm, 5-10pm

5 Maya

You wouldn’t expect a Holiday Inn to be the center of a big buzz, but Maya’s striking cantilevered structure on the 29/F of the new hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22 has certainly been turning heads. The kitchen serves up the North Indian culinary creations by Chef Ramneek Singh Lamba such as murgh chandi kebab (marinated chicken with yogurt, cardamom and mace, B380) and crispy okra with cashew and mango powder (B320). Is it going to be competition for heavyweights Indus and Rang Mahal? It’s a still a bit early to tell.

Eat this: Jhinga khada masala (king prawns with shallots, tomatoes, spring onion and spices, B800).

Holiday Inn Sukhumvit, Sukhumvit Soi 22, 02-683-4704. BTS Phrom Pong. Open daily 6pm-1am

6 Rocket

Rocket is bordering on annoyingly hipster, with its marbletop bar, brunch-y menu and Scandinavian-style furniture. Still, it’s definitely one of the more handsome places out there, and the food, while very simple, is both tasty and fresh. Lunch is usually expedited with a salami-cheese on homemade focaccia (B175) or gravlax on Danish rye (B175) but there are also breakfast options from omelettes (B95) and eggs benedict (B185) for those lazy weekend mornings. But while Rocket is a lovely coffee shop with its own in-house bakery, can it offer enough choice to really be considered a restaurant? We’ll have to see how the planned expansion pans out.

Eat this: Gravlax on Danish rye (B175)

149 Sathorn Tai Soi 12, 02-635-0404. Open Tue-Sun 7am-7pm

7  Scalini

With its dark hues and clandestine corners that evoke 1920s prohibition era New York, it may surprise you that the kitchen here is really extroverted and inclusive—you can actually help shape the pasta or just sit back and enjoy watching the loud and lively Italian chefs cooking up dishes like the stellar paccheri pasta with duck ragout, black truffle and pecorino cheese. Need help with pairing your cheese platter with wine? Ask the restaurant manager, Roberto Visaggio, who will impress you with his extensive knowledge.

Eat this: Oven-baked black cod fillet with caramelized white asparagus, Sicilian couscous and black mussels sauce (B600).

Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok, 11 Sukhumvit Soi 24, 02-620-6666. Open daily 7am-11pm

8 The District

 

Meat-loving Bangkokians already know all the best steakhouses in town. But, compared to the up-scale competition, The District’s real draw is their claim of cheaper prices, with classic dishes ranging from the 240-day grain fed Australian Angus or tender tenderloin (180 grams, B1,350) to the seafood platter (B2,800). It may help you impress your date but does the quality stack up against the likes of New York Steakhouse at JW Marriott? And is it enough to make up for the pretty tired industrial New York-style décor (again, see This Needs to Stop, page 11)?

Eat this: 240-day grain fed Australian Angus (B1,350 for 180 grams).

2/F, Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit, 2 Sukhumvit Soi 57, 02-797-0000. Open daily 6-11pm

9 Aston: Dining Room & Bar

Run by the young Chef Zra Jiraratana, this modernist kitchen has moved into a more hip neighborhood and into a very striking building that’s a chaotic blend of concrete beams, ferns and steel cables. Head up to the second floor, sit down at the counter in front of the large kitchen and witness the fancy kitchen tools in motion whipping up some molecular tricks. If you’re not that hungry for a full meal, there’s also a wine bar with an interesting snack menu downstairs.

Eat this: Yarra Valley lamb rack in red wine jus, seared with eggplant paste and tomato (B2,800 as part of the set menu).

68 Sukhumvit Soi 31, 02-102-2323, 084-551-5559. www.astonbkk.com. Open Tue-Sun 6pm-1am 

10. Appia

Appia actually opened early 2013 and made it into Top Tables 2013. And you can rest assured it'll be in Top Tables 2014. It's the brainchild of Jarret Wrisley of Soul Food Mahanakorn on Thonglor and Chef Paolo Vitaletti, who wanted to open a trattoria doing “Roman-style family recipes.” The decor is warm and avoids the industrial trend through a wood-paneled ceiling with beams, ceramic tiles behind the deli-style counter, turn-of-the-century bistro chairs and rustic chandeliers with little lamp shades. The homemade pasta has a lovely al dente texture that no other restaurant in town can rival. The other notable presence in the kitchen is a beautiful rotisserie, which roasts pork and chicken to a perfect crisp. One of the partners in this venture is a European who owns vineyards in the South of France. As such, you can expect a carefully curated wine selection.

20/4 Sukhumvit Soi 31, 02-261-2056. Open Tue-Sun 6-11pm

You’re Fired! : Restaurants That Could Get The Boot in the 2014 Edition

La Table de Tee

We cut Chef Tee a lot of slack when he opened. Here was this scrappy kid opening a French-influenced restaurant using Thai ingredients—how bold! It was also incredibly cheap. But truth be told, we’ve never been as impressed with the food as with the ideas behind it, and with his prices shooting up, this love affair is now on the rocks.

Signor Sassi

Did Bangkok really need another expensive Italian hotel restaurant, moreover one that’s an imported brand from London, where the place doesn’t even have a Michelin star to its name? Not really. And recent feedback is that Signor Sassi, while not bad, is really nothing to get excited about.

Johann Bistro

Johann had big shoes to fill, being the son of the Mandarin Oriental’s Chef Norbert Kostner, one of the forefathers of Bangkok’s fine dining scene. And despite plenty of buzz initially, Johann fell way short of expectations. “Mains are beset by a bizarre inattention to detail and ill-considered sides,” we wrote in our review.

Hot Chefs : Old Places, New Faces

Charles Christiaens 

at Eve

Chef Chatree Wongsriphaisan lit up Eve’s kitchen with his classic dishes (including superb steaks), but thankfully the new Chef Charles Christiaens continues the focus on European cuisine albeit with the added bonuses of more colorful presentation and some appealing modern textures like jelly. Chef Christiaens previously worked in a few Michelin-star restaurants in Belgium and France, as well as long-term stints in Thailand at Harvey and Pathumwan Princess.

3 Ratchadamri Rd., 02-209-1234. BTS Ratchadamri. Open daily 6-11:30pm

Omar Ugoletti 

at Angelini

The arrival of Chef Omar Ugoletti late last year really brought this aging hotel restaurant back into the spotlight. Ugoletti honed his craft during stints at two-Michelin-starred establishments Uliassi and La Madonnina del Pescatore in Italy, and his dishes combine modern techniques and beautiful presentation. Try the garden of lobster with citrus jelly, fennel and orange (B720).

Shangri-La Hotel, 89 Soi Wat Suan Plu, Charoenkrung Rd., 02-236-7777. BTS Saphan Taksin. Open daily 6:30-10:30pm

 

Blair Mathieson 

at Quince

Wilfrid Hocquet, who came and went after Jess Barnes left for Opposite, tried and failed to take Quince into a more elaborate, fine-dining territory. He’s now been replaced by Blair Mathieson, who looks very promising based on the first couple of meals we’ve had there since he started, with a style that’s more like Jess Barnes’. Mathieson’s resume includes The Chedi Chiang Mai, Alila Bangalore and Bangkok’s The Siam.

Sukhumvit Soi 45,02-662-4478. www.quincebangkok.com. Open daily 11:30-1am

 

Feed us : What do people want more of?

Ploy Tang-u-thaisuk

26, stock analyst

“ASEAN cuisine. Thais are not aware of the cuisines of their neighboring countries. There are plenty of Vietnamese places here, but they are totally different from those offered in Vietnam. And what about Burmese (their fermented tea leaves salad is awesome), Cambodian, Laotian, or Peranakan cuisine? We barely know anything about them.”

Orapa Chueyprasit

29, news reporter and translator

“Healthy and organic fast food restaurants. When I was in London, I saw that joints like Leon are big hits with the health-conscious crowd who are on the go. Plus, they have nutritional information and calorie intake labels on their prepackaged meals.”

Atapon ThienchumpHan

27, musician

“I would love to see much more fun had with Mexican cuisine. Some Mexican restaurants, as well as many others, are really adapting their food to the Thai palate. Also, I visited London recently and just came to realize how badly some restaurants here cook their fish and chips differently from the original.”

Romchat Sangkavatana

26, business owner

“More diversity and more real deal tastes. My favorite cuisine is Middle Eastern. I would love to see more dishes like you would find in the kitchen of [famed Isreali-born chef] Yotam Ottolenghi. It’s so beautiful, rustic, delicious and healthy.”

Get your digital copy of Top Tables Bangkok 2013  from the BK iPad app or as an e-guide here

This Needs to Stop! The Three Most Tired Dining Trends in Bangkok

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