With Greek owners and a Greek chef, Avra’s promise of authentic flavors delivers in crispy fried appetizers like tigani feta (feta cheese wrapped in crispy rolls, served with honey, sesame and orange, B235) and dolmadakia (grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs, B315). Not everything is a hit—the spanakotyropita (pastry with spinach and feta, B250) are like hollowed-out spring rolls—but that doesn’t stop mains like moussaka (layered minced beef with eggplant, potato and zucchini, B430) and xtapodi me fava (grilled octopus and caramelized onion on yellow split pea spread, B650) being some of the best in town.
Top Tables prediction: Amazing food but probably too casual for Top Tables. Its low profile also counts against it.
G/F, Lotus Hotel, Sukhumvit Soi 33, 02-258-2877
The involvement of Eat Me figures like designer Kelly Wheatley and chef Tim Butler made this the hottest ticket in town earlier in the year. The kitchen, though, is helmed by Arnold Marcella, formerly head of The Elm in New York City and a protege of two-Michelin-star chef Paul Liebrandt. Small plates of beef tongue and snails (B425) and veal agnolotti pasta (B450) are inventive, powerful amalgamations of flavor, while mains such as the sticky wagyu short rib (B2,300) play the role of comforting stomach fillers. Dining at Bunker isn’t just fashionable; it’s properly good.
Top Tables prediction: This was one of the most contentious four stars we’ve ever given out. We have no doubt it’ll make the guide, but maybe not ranking as highly as we first believed.
118/2 Sathorn Soi 12, 092-563-9991. BTS Chong Nonsi
From Soho Hospitality (the group behind Above Eleven, Charcoal and Havana Social) this casual pizza and pasta house stands in a quaint house on the corner of Ari Samphan Soi 3 and focuses on the basics—antipasti, pasta, pizza, cold cuts and, of course, tiramisu (B180). The quality of ingredients shines in dishes like the simple smoked burrata salad (B440), which comprises refreshing buffalo cheese and delicious heirloom tomatoes. They also make pizza the Neapolitan way, raising the pizza dough for 24 hours. Don’t miss their mascarpone e tartufo pizza (B520).
Top Tables prediction: Solid dishes well worthy of the guide, but we don’t see anything special enough to break Top 30.
4 Ari Samphan Soi 3, 02-278-0250
Italian cuisine courtesy of Le Normandie's original chef (Norbert Kostner), a riverside terrace and the Mandarin Oriental's iconic Author's Lounge in the background make this one of the river's easiest spots to recommend. It's more casual than the other restaurants at Bangkok's oldest hotel (though they'll still shoo you away if you turn up in shorts), dishing out Italian staples like wood-fired pizzas (starting B340) and beef stew with polenta cream and gorgonzola (B610).
Top Tables prediction: With the Oriental’s Top Tables chances so wrapped up in Le Normandie, we doubt voters will give this spot much of a look.
Mandarin Oriental, 48 Charoenkrung Soi 40, Oriental Ave., 02-659-9000
Sitting above Revolucion cocktail bar, Clandestino Cantina serves cuisine which takes cues from Italy, France and Spain as well as Latin America. Take the deconstructed Spanish tortilla (fried egg with potatoes, B190), which comes in the form of potato mousse, served in a little jar with sweet onion confit or the scallop salmorejo (pan-fried scallops wrapped in Iberico ham and served in a cold tomato puree, B390).
Top Tables prediction: Latin places have popped up like mushrooms in the past year. It'll be tough for this one to stand out.
2/F, Revolucion Cocktail, 50 Sathorn Soi 10, 02-235-4823
A huge rotisserie oven imported from France dominates this warm, rusticated space, telling you everything you need to know about Cocotte’s food: simple, on the bone, portioned for sharing and heavy on the meat. Don’t miss the massive tomahawk (B3,500/1.2kg). That’s not to say their vegetable dishes aren’t wonderful too, especially its salad made from Northern Thailand-grown vegetables (B360).
Top Tables prediction: We’ve always felt the place feels too put together by marketing men—a combo of foodie fads and local produce buzzwords—but the nightly crowds tell us we’re against public opinion.
G/F, 39 Boulevard, Sukhumvit Soi 39, 092-664-6777
The wedge-shaped slice of bare-bones industrial chic which used to house Opposite Mess Hall was too good a space to waste on any sub-par operation. Good job then that it went to Daniel Thaiger founders Honey and Mark Falconi, who’ve built on their formidable burger brand with tomahawk steak (B250/100g, pre-order only), spicy merguez sausage (B290) and gorgonzola-topped pork chops (B450). Don’t worry: burgers are still there too.
Top Tables prediction: Great-tasting food, but we doubt burgers, steaks and pork chops have what it takes to crack the panel.
27/1 Sukhumvit Soi 51, 097-052-8861
This recent power-opening came backed by an all-star cast of Singapore-based restaurateurs. Their efforts are chic yet relaxed, on-trend yet original, with the wood-dominated, Dwell magazine-worthy space playing host to Aussie-influenced food and coffee. Get the “Taste of Freebird” 10-course tasting (B1,850) for the full experience of things like organic sea urchin and sea grapes with whipped parmesan on a house-made dehydrated flaxseed cracker, and warm sweet potato and chilled shaved fennel topped with smoked walnut and honey. Thanks to cocktails from Liam Baer, the guy behind Evil Man Blues’s menu, the place stands up as a bar, too.
Top Tables prediction: It’s new, it got plenty of buzz and the restaurant community loves what a polished machine it is—all good signs of a strong Top Tables ranking.
28 Sukhumvit Soi 47, 02-662-4936
The chic terrace at this very upmarket take on a Spanish tapas joint is the place to be spotted with Soi Ruamrudee's in-crowd. A former chef de cuisine at El Bulli had a hand in the menu, which dishes out refined versions of tapas staples like chicken croquettes (B170), grilled octopus tentacles served with beans in Castilian stew (B490), baked fish fillet with potatoes and almonds and the highlight Josper-grilled, Segovian-style suckling pig (B8,400).
Top Tables prediction: The restaurant really has the potential to be in the guide. But now that the buzz is running low, it may need something to boost public image.
Athenee Tower, 63 Wireless Rd., 02-168-8100
At the long-awaited Bangkok branch of celeb British chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant franchise, mains are unambitious but comforting. A 12oz rib-eye steak sets you back B1,450 and comes with wild mushrooms, gremolata (a chopped herb condiment), balsamic onions and chips. Elsewhere there's burgers (B560), fish stew (B520) and pan-fried fish-of-the-day (B620).
Top Tables prediction: Jamie’s offers a pleasing mall-food package, but Top Tables it ain’t.
G/F, Siam Discovery, Rama 1, 02-255-5222. BTS Siam
The renovated house on Soi Goethe sits peacefully in grounds that include a cozy outdoor terrace where you can dine outdoors, lounge on a sofa or play a game of petanque. The chef, Nino Scognamillo, takes La Casa Nostra in a comforting direction with creations like grilled Sardinian pecorino cheese with eucalyptus honey and fresh figs (B180), paprika-spiced roasted octopus on potato veloute (B490), and plenty of pasta dishes. Owing to the partnership with Global Vineyards, their wine menu is a peach. Try the 2011 Chateau Gigault Cuvee Viva (B175/75ml, B280/125ml, B1,400/bottle)
Top Tables prediction: No question this is one of the hottest spots in town right now. Food is competent but without much wow factor. We’re sure it’ll place, just not super high.
22 Sathorn Soi 1 Yaek 2 (Goethe), 02-287-2402
Little Bao Hong Kong was one of the kickstarters of the global Bao trend and still commands queues for chef May Chow’s playful, fast food-inspired take on traditional Chinese fare. Tucking into the delicious pork belly bao (B260), there’s no doubting Little Bao’s reputation: the succulent braised pork is slathered in hoisin ketchup, sprinkled with shiso leek salad and sesame dressing, and jammed between a soft, fluffy white bun. The cold, smoked eggplant salad (B240), fried cauliflower coated in caramelized fish sauce (B220) and fried caramel ice-cream bao (B140) are no after-thought either.
Top Tables prediction: More a diner than a restaurant, we don’t see the Bao—delicious as they are—being TT material.
G/F, 72 Courtyard, 72 Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thonglor), 02-392-6922
Self-trained Thai chef-patron Kirati Butdeevong takes on the omakase big leagues. At any one time, the place can accommodate only six diners, who get to watch the chef making sushi from the best possible seasonal ingredients, delivered every other day. A meal sets you back B3,500 for 12 items and B5,500 for 15 items, excluding appetizer and dessert.
Top Tables prediction: There’s just too much competition happening in high-end sushi right now. It might break the guide, but we doubt in a high spot.
G/F, Sathorn Gardens, 39 Sathorn Rd., 092-369-7924
In contrast with the more conservative high-end Japanese restaurants in town, Iron Chef America’s Masaharu Morimoto adds fun, modern touches that set it apart. There’s a real mix of traditional, fashionable and fusion dishes. You’ll find straight sushi and sashimi (from B1,300) served alongside Sashimi Caesar Salad (B320), playfully “giftwrapped” in a clear plastic sheet, and Morimoto’s Championship burger (B590), which boasts a katsu-style breaded wagyu patty.
Top Tables prediction: Well-executed international franchises are certainly not above the Top Tables’ panel (see Robuchon at no. 1, 2014/15). We expect Morimoto to place.
4/F, Mahanakorn Cube, 96 Narathiwat Ratchanakarin Rd., 02-060-9099. BTS Chong Nonsi
Though the hipster-cafe decor might set alarm bells ringing, this little Vietnamese operation delivers all the flavor one could hope for in its banh mi packed with liver pate and two types of pork sausage (B185), grilled pork with vermicelli (B180) and a deliciously well-balanced pho (B160). One of the first spaces to open in Sansiri’s ambitious Habito development at On Nut, it’s well worth the trip out of Thonglor.
Top Tables prediction: Another spot doing fine dishes but whose cafe-like credentials just don’t speak of Top Tables.
2/F, Habito, Sukhumvit Soi 77, 092-959-4629
No ordinary chain, Punjab Grill has a formidable rep on Indian soil, and made it into our sister mag SG’s Top Tables 2015 for the Singapore branch. Modern creations like cones of avocado papdi chaat sit alongside classic kebabs—tiger prawns (B900), chicken tikka (B450) and lamb chops (B900)—flawless biryanis (starting at B320), curries (butter chicken, B450) and a variety of dal. Formidable competition for upstarts like Charcoal and Maya.
Top Tables prediction: Foodies like it and the fact it's in SG's Top Tables plays in its favor.
G/F, Radisson Suites, 23/2-3 Sukhumvit Soi 13, 02-645-4952
Vaulted ceilings, rich vermillion-red accents and dining tables hewn from whole tree trunks create a majestic setting to indulge in refined Thai cuisine drawn from ancient recipes. Local food guru Torroong Jarungidanan, who has published two cookbooks and also writes a regular newpaper column, consulted for the menu, which packs powerfully flavored dishes like gai baan kua bai jan (free-range chicken stir-fried with wild basil, B390) and gaeng ranjuan (shrimp-paste pork soup, B380).
Top Tables prediction: This is the biggest Thai opening of the year, thus a solid contender. But with all the strong mainstays like Nahm, Bo.lan and Paste, as well as attention drawn toward something new, it’s not easy to sneak in as a straight-Thai place.
Glasshouse at Sindhorn, 130-132 Wireless Rd., 02-650-9880
The debut restaurant of twin German chefs Thomas and Mathias Suhring follows their departure from Mezzaluna, the ultra-fine-dining restaurant at LeBua hotel. It was one of the year’s hottest topics among Bangkok’s foodie community partly because they’ve opened in partnership with Gaggan Anand (see Meatlicious, opposite) and partly because the twins have always cooked superb food. At Suhring, the chefs introduce diners to a different perspective of German cuisine that’s not just about hearty chunks of pork knuckle, sausages and sauerkraut. Instead, tasting menus are spread across eight or 12-courses (B1,900-2,500), all served in a beautiful mid-century house.
Top Tables prediction: The question isn’t whether it’ll make the guide but rather how high. We’re predicting big. Top 10 big.
10 Yen Akat Soi 3, Yen Akat Rd., 02-287-1799
Don’t pay attention and you’ll walk straight past this restaurant’s wooden facade without even noticing it. Shizuoka-born chef Masahiro Misaki (formerly of Nippon Tei) serves only omakase. Expect both seasonal fish and classic offerings like fresh Ishigeki clam, plum vinegar-marinated iwashi (sardine), and melt-in-your-mouth otoro (fatty tuna) served on flavorful red sushi rice. Cleanse your palette with Misaki’s custard pudding-like sweet tamago (crisp like a creme brulee on top), before tucking in to the mizu shingen mochi (water mochi). Two seatings per day at B4,000 per person.
Top Tables prediction: There’s stiff omakase competition at the pointy end of the guide. This one has its own followers but still lacks the hype of other venues.
G/F, Rain Hill, Sukhumvit Rd., 02-258-1783
Tucked on the mezzanine floor above Boon Tong Kee, chef Seiji Sudo (previously head chef of Ginza Sushi Ichi) serves just six diners per night—meaning waits of up to two months to get in. He offers the “Sho” sushi style, derived from a family of just five restaurants in Japan. The prettily-plated, delectable courses aren’t limited to a sequence of nigiri but rather switch in items like conch, iwashi roll, grilled mixed rice with hairy crab meat and uni, as well as Seiji's signature sushi soup. An omakase set of about 20 items sets you back B6,500 per person.
Top Tables prediction: Tama started off promising big and still has a two-month wait. With the new omakase style it introduces to Bangkok, we can see the panelists putting it high on the list.
M/F, Piman 49, 46/10 Sukhumvit Soi 49, 091-871-0666
Far from the bustle of Thonglor’s main drag you’ll discover Mexican food so good you’ll want to keep it a secret. From a converted shipping container, the Mexican owners serve standout corn tortilla tacos. The carnitas (braised pork, B280) may be pretty standard Mexican fare, but we love the depth of flavor aided by the mind-blowing sauces made with imported Mexican chilies. Also don’t miss the comforting chicken enchiladas (B300) and sopecitos (fried lime-soaked ground maize topped with refried beans, meat, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, B180), too.
Top Tables prediction: Fond words from many people we’ve spoken to mean this could be 2017’s underdog.
145 Thonglor Soi 7, 090-913-2131
This exciting new opening sees an American team lead a kitchen specializing in Barcelona-inspired tapas. The name Toro is already well-established in Boston and New York for bold, contemporary flavors, and here that results in dishes imbued with some local touches, like a hanger steak with caramelized red onion and green curry (B420). The space is every bit the exposed warehouse dream, offset by crisp, contemporary furnishings.
Top Tables prediction: Great produce, great space, but the lack of a high-profile chef in the kitchen is going to hurt its ranking. It’s the kind of place people will struggle to recommend.
1/F, 72 Courtyard, 72 Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thonglor), 02-392-7790
This Australian-hailing bar blends Mexican booze, street art and hip-hop tunes into a space that transitions perfectly from dinner into a night out. Along with a dangerously good line of tequila and mezcal (try the Tommy’s margarita, B295), the place also serves some excellent Mexican food. The tacos (from B225/2 pieces) don’t only stand out for the perfectly soft corn tortillas but also fillings that go beyond carnitas and refried beans to the likes of octopus and chorizo (B325). Don’t skip desserts, especially the deconstructed tres leches (“three milk cake,” B195), a cinnamon-dusted horchata ice cream with milk cake and whipped cream.
Top Tables prediction: It’s fun, it’s busy and it’s full of people who are very likely to be Top Tables panelists. We think Touche Hombre will do well.
1/F, 72 Courtyard, 72 Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thonglor), 061-550-6346
The land that used to be pre-game institution Stu-fe now opens with a meaty new concept. Wild & Co. takes you into the wilderness with both its forest-y interior and carnivorous food, served in two stylish glass houses. Heading the kitchen here, Chatphon Thavornvanit (who’s also behind Munchies sausages) focuses on hefty meat dishes, especially game, rolling out dishes like baked bacon-wrapped rabbit with kidney, liver and greens dressed with rabbit jus (B690) and quail salad (B390), as well as Australian Angus tomahawk (B3,290 for 1.2kg). One glasshouse is dedicated to the bar, which serves classic cocktails and the odd spirit-forward concoction.
Top Tables prediction: Just opened very recently, the restaurant is already gaining popularity among foodies. We’re positive about it.
31/3 Soi Farm Wattana, Rama 4 Rd., 087-999-9948
The end of 2015 was packed with amazing restaurants that just missed the voting cut-off for Top Tables 2016. Here are the highlights.
Executive chef Napol Jantraget and Canadian accomplice Andrew Martin use local ingredients and made-from-scratch elements.
Top Tables prediction: A firm foodie favorite which the arrival of chef Martin has taken to even higher standards. We’re saying Top 30.
1052-1054 Charoen Krung Rd., 087-593-1936
Gaggan Anand drives a beef-heavy menu cooked using only wood and coal. The tomahawk (300B/100g, expect 1.5kg) puts its now ubiquitous competition to shame thanks to a crisp, pepper-encrusted char and a deep red heart.
Top Tables prediction: A shoe-in for the guide.
8 Ekkamai Soi 6, 091-698-6688
Though full till the end of the year, strike quickly and you could get to try his B4,000, 22-course omakase as early as January.
Top Tables prediction: Like Suhring, it’s a question of where in the Top 10.
3/22 Sukhumvit 31 Soi 1, 02-040-0015
Alfresco 54th-story views and laidback tapas: Joselito ham, Cochinillo suckling pig and wild porcini mushroom croquettes. Thirsty? There's 36 wines by the glass.
Top Tables prediction: Everyone who eats here loves it. In.
54/F, Centara Grand at CentralWorld, 999/99 Rama 1 Rd., 02-100-6255. BTS Siam/Chit Lom
How is Top Tables made?
BK Magazine’s Top Tables is the most independent and most respected dining guide in Bangkok. Here’s why.
How does BK select the restaurants in Top Tables?
Step 1: In January, the BK magazine editorial team first creates a shortlist of some 200 restaurants. It includes:
• Last year’s Top Tables restaurants
• Major openings from the past 12 months
• Good reviews from the past 12 months
• Select advertisers
Step 2: BK selects 45 panelists:
• 5 BK food writers and editors
• 40 foodies we know to eat out a lot. Some of them may be involved in restaurants (more on that later).
Step 3: The panelists or judges are given the shortlist of 200 restaurants. For each restaurant, they’re given three options:
• Yes, keep it.
• No, cut it.
• I don’t know
We then apply a formula to keep only the places with the best Yes:No ratios. Last year, we kept 116 places. That’s all we had space for in the guide.
How do you select the Top 30?
Each panelist selects their top 10 restaurants. Every restaurant they rank #1 gets 20 points, down to 11 points for a #10 position. (So if a restaurant gets picked in two lists as #10, that’s better than getting picked by only one judge as #1.) We tally all that and we get the Top 30 list.
We always ignore any and all votes cast for venues that panelists' are involved with. That means that while we respect that Mrs. X is a huge foodie who really knows her stuff, we can’t count her vote for Chez Mrs. X Restaurant.
Is your list of panelists public?
No. Some of them don’t want the publicity. And we don’t particularly want them getting courted by award-savvy PRs.
Do advertisers get preferential treatment?
Beyond the fact that they’re included in the shortlist, no, they don’t. The panelists vote on the Official Selection and the Top 30 and we keep only the top ranked places.
I have a restaurant. How do I get in?
Making great food with excellent service in a beautiful location is a good start. Sadly, it’s not always enough. Also make sure your work gets noticed. Buzz matters.
I want to be on the panel
Email your Top 10 to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us where and how often you eat out.