The buzz: The Moroccan-inspired bar and restaurant left the charming old house on Ekkamai Soi 12 a few months back, but fear not, the owners quickly found a new (and easier to access) venue right in the heart of Asoke. Expect a similar laidback vibe, only refreshed and updated with a more colorful décor, to ensure it remains an appealing al fresco option.
Hidden away in the small mall No. 88, Johann Bistro claims to serve up European bistro-style dishes with a hint of Thai flavors. If those final few words set alarm bells ringing, they needn’t, because while co-owner Christian Kostner, an engineer-cum-chef, makes use of native herbs, the focus here is squarely on Italian and French classics (plus a lot of Australian beef). Not that this guarantees success, either. The low-ceilinged venue is refreshingly minimal, as far removed from fine dining as possible, with few decorative items, just leather chairs and a lively open kitchen.
The buzz: Tucked in the small mall No. 88, Johann Bistro serves up Italian and French classics. Co-owner Christian Kostner, an engineer-cum-chef, says he got his passion for cooking from seeing his father, Chef Norbert Kostner, working in the kitchen at the Mandarin Oriental. After going on to train at many Michelin-starred restaurants, including Don Alfronso 1980, he’s back and doing what he likes best no fuss, no sous-vide and no chemicals.
The decor: The place is designed to be as far removed from fine dining as possible. The décor reflects the food—simple and classic. In fact, there aren’t many decorative items in this low-ceilinged glass room, just leather chairs and a pretty large and lively open kitchen. A gourmet deli section sits at the entrance, selling products like pasta and beef, with more soon to come.
The food: As mentioned, Chef Kostner wants to play it pretty straight with regards to recipes and techniques, but one thing he’s keeping in mind is the use of native herbs to make his dishes more attuned to local tastes. Chef Kostner recommends you start with the pumpkin velvet soup with fried gnocchi and herbs (B180) and Johann’s Caesar salad (B250). As for mains, opt for the fusilli with tomato sauce (B350) that comes with fresh tiger prawns or the Australia grain-fed tenderloin steak (B950 for 200 grams). And don’t forget to try the mango shot (B180), which, mixed with passion fruit, is zesty, naturally sweet and refreshing. There’s also a set lunch (B270 for 2-course and B350 for 3-course) available at lunchtime everyday.
The drinks: A small bar sits in a nook of the dining room. The focus is on wine and there’s a sommelier to help you out on that front. Bottles of wine start from B890 with wine by the glass from B120. Bottles of Heineken and Asahi are B130.
The crowd: As the place is quite new and hidden away, it’s currently mostly office workers dining in large groups joined by families on weekends. Pieng-or Mongkolkumnuankhet
Club music and scantily clad female dancers in a generic decor.
The buzz: It seems Bangkok’s nightlife is still enamored with all things retro, particularly if bare brick and black cast iron are involved. Apoteka is the latest such venue. Specifically, it’s going for a 19th century apothecary décor, which translates into lots of old-looking glass bottles on display throughout. The theme also influences the cocktail list (called “antidotes”) where you’ll find drinks with names like Penicilin and Mr. Hyde.
As the name of this new venue on nightlife street Sukhumvit Soi 11 suggests, this new bar looks to stand out from the competition with a 19th century apothecary-inspired décor. That translates into lots of old-looking glass bottles on display, French windows and suitably opulent and vintageinspired upholstered furniture. The pharmaceutical theme also influences the cocktail list (called “antidotes”) where you’ll find drinks with names like Penicilin and Mr. Hyde. Equally noteworthy, they also sell American craft beers from brewers like Rogue and Anderson Valley alongside Belgian brews like Vedett.
Akanoya Robatayaki brings robata (Japanese grilling) to town. Be warned, there’s no menu here; rather the ingredients are presented at a counter display that evokes the Tsukiji Market. You’ll have to ask the staff to translate the signs and prices as they’re all in Japanese, but your reward is exotic fare such a isaki (chicken grunt sea bass) and kinki (rockfish) (B950-1,980), Hokkaido crab (starting from B1,750) or Wagyu beef from Omi (B990). The vegetables are also imported and worth a try if you’ve got the cash: tomato (B200) and taro (B200). This small, fun and energetic place is bringing in the crowds so book well in advance—we mean weeks ahead.
There are still quite a few aging Thai restaurants hidden away on the quieter side-streets of odd-numbered Sukhumvit that make lovely, simple food that you and your family can enjoy. One of these is Gedhawa, though you could argue that its Lanna-style dark wood furniture, hanging tung (fabrics) and other collectibles are more ageless than aging. In fact, at first glance it resembles a furniture shop, a look which could have been a disaster in the hands of less-skilled decorators, but one that the owners tastefully pull off.
There are still a few aging Thai restaurants stashed away in the quieter side-streets of odd-numbered Sukhumvit that still make food like our grandparents enjoyed. Gedhawa is one of these, although it’s more ageless than aging with its Lanna-style darkwood furniture, hanging fabrics, hanging lanterns and intricate textiles meeting display cases painstakingly filled with several decades’ worth of mini-bottles of booze lifted from minibars and other dubious collectibles. At first glance it resembles a furniture shop—this could be a disaster in the hands of less-skilled decorators—but the owners tastefully pull it off. With only 10 or so tables, plus a couple more outside for smokers and kids who can’t sit still, dining at Gedhawa is a very warm and homey experience. Completing the picture is a kind-hearted aunt-like woman who runs the dining room, and a shy waitress in her student uniform. The menu is an elegant cloth-wrapped book that unfolds, accordian-like, to reveal over 100 dishes handwritten in neat script accompanied by photos glued to the pages. The specialty is Northern food, scrumptious dishes like khao soi and nam prik. We like to begin with one of the round wooden trays filled with traditional appetizers; one with both nam prik ong and nam prik noom is served with pork four ways—dat dieo (dried and fried), nam (fermented sausage), moo yaw (white pork sausage) and Chiang Mai sausage—and an artful arrangement of vegetables. The Northern version of yum som-o is bolder than the more common central version with the addition of crab “juice” and bitter green eggplants. Gedhawa also serves excellent Northern-style laab; one made with fish is especially delicious thanks to the quality of the fish and generous use of herbs and chili-heat. We also give high marks to a curry made with hed top (round brown mushrooms that “pop” when you eat them), chunks of coconut and pork. Don’t worry if you’re not a big fan of Northern food. They also know how to cook a few southern dishes that have perhaps a bit less fire than what is served in Hat Yai but have the right taste, including shrimp pan-fried with sataw beans.
The buzz: Thanaruek “Eh” Laoraowirodge is beginning to form a small restaurant empire. He is a partner in Minibar Royale (and therefore Minibar Deli and Singha’s Est 33., managed by the same gang) and he opened Somtam Der this year on Soi Saladaeng.
This cozy-yet-chic Thai restaurant serves up menus based on dishes the owner’s grandmother used to cook up at home—Thai food that borrows both from her hometown on the Eastern seaboard, Trat, and where the family now lives, Khon Kaen. Try the moo cha muang (pork with Guttiferae tree leaves) and pla too tod (deep-fried mackerel).
From late 2011 to mid-2012, Peruvian cuisine was heating up from London to New York, with claims that its foreign influences (Spanish colonization, Japanese emigrants) and Peru’s incredibly varied flora (thanks to the many micro-climates found in its mountainous terrain) made it one of the best in the world. Above Eleven doesn’t quite live up to that lofty hype. But if you’re looking for some tangy small plates that aren’t your usual tapas, a 33rd-story view and stiff Pisco sours (B300), it does hit the spot.
The twist of this rooftop bar and restaurant, apart from a great city view, is a concept that focuses on Nikkei cuisine: a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian flavors.