There are countless restaurants in Bangkok blessed with the backdrop of the Chao Phraya. Few, however, can boast a spectacle as inspiring as a brightly lit Wat Arun directly across the river from your table like this charming mostly outdoor venue can. The five-room boutique hotel that houses the Deck and the restaurant itself have been growing in popularity, but on a recent Saturday it was fairly quiet. The day began hot and heavy, but a flash afternoon deluge rinsed the thickness from the air and opened up the skies to a breezy night on the upstairs terrace. They key is to arrive before sunset and relax with an aperitif while you peruse the menu before flashlights become necessary. There is a modest list of wines, though if you know your Bordeaux from your Barossa you’re probably better off bringing your own (no corkage). The kitchen is the domain of a pretty young Thai chef who formerly worked at Le Vendome, and the menu features some surprisingly sophisticated Thai and European dishes made with high-quality ingredients like imported meats and cheeses and hydroponic greens.
The atmosphere is what makes the Deck such a delight, but the food is for the most part equal to the setting, and what small faults we noticed can be easily fixed. Crisp, finger-sized prawn spring rolls and crunchy grilled mushrooms drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar are super as starters. The squid and lychee salad also has the potential to be a winner; unfortunately the squid wasn’t as fresh as it was the last time we tried this dish. We feel the same about the Deck’s modern versions of yam nuea and yam som o—both are beautifully presented and offer a perfect balance of bright flavors except for an excessive amount of well-hidden prik kii noo that overwhelmed the succulent beef in the former and the chunks of sweet crab in the latter.
For lazy weekend lunches, we usually go Thai, choosing items such as a tasty pad Thai made with real tamarind juice and woon sen instead of the more common (these days) sen lek, beef masaman with roti or lamb kaeng kiao wan. Service is smart, efficient and enthusiastic, but one complaint is that food that should be served hot, such as New Zealand tenderloin or roasted rack of lamb, doesn’t always arrive the right temperature. If it’s a long walk from the kitchen, heated plates would certainly help, or perhaps the waiters might need to climb the stairs faster. Our fish and poultry fared better than the meat dishes on this night. A delicate steamed seabass was tender, seasoned with restraint and at good value, as was a terrific savory duck leg confit in honey and ginger sauce.
As word spreads we imagine that it will be harder and harder to secure a good table here, especially during high season. So we recommend you visit now, and certainly before the Tha Tien area inevitably blossoms into a hip enclave of stylish restaurants, bars and coffeeshops. In the season of daily downpours you take your chances dining alfresco, but the possibility of a near-perfect evening at the Deck (perhaps preceded by a massage at Wat Po and followed by late-night flower shopping at Pak Klong Talat) is well worth the risk.