They’re ready to spin wild house tunes in true cowboy style at Ibiza.

Florian

         

Stephanie

Never leave home without: My BlackBerry phone

Favorite audience: Friends and strangers alike

On a night out you: Feel like a fish in the water.

Rule for life: Don´t dream your life—live your dream.

Most annoying thing I have to encounter everyday: That a day is simply too short for my schedule.

Most inspirational person: My jazz-piano teacher. Every lesson reveals something new to me.

Favorite website: www.berkleemusic.com

 

Never leave home without: Clothes

Favorite audience: Friends

On a night out you: Dance like no one’s watching

Rule for life: Trust yourself.

Most annoying thing I have to encounter everyday: Waking up at 7am

Most inspirational person:
My sister

Favorite website: www.anantara.com

 

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A brainchild of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), Ministry of Culture’s Office of Contemporary Art and Culture and The Art Market Artists Society, the Bangkok Art Market is held in front of the highly-anticipated Bangkok Art and Culture Center (Pathumwan intersection, BTS National Stadium) every Fri-Sun, 4-9pm, through Sep 28.

The Art Market project first started in 2004 on Chao Fah Road. “We wanted the art market to serve as a platform for local artists to showcase their work. The feedback has been positive so we decided to join hands with the BMA to arrange another art market at the BACC before it is officially launched in September,” says cultural officer Boonseup Klippeng of the BMA Contemporary Art and Culture office.

On our last visit, the Bangkok Art Market was far from happening as there were more artists than visitors. But the organizers still have high hopes of attracting more people to the art space. “From paintings to jewelry and photography, we have around 50 well-established artists taking turns exhibiting their works every week. You can also have your portrait sketched in 15 minutes or shop for some handmade products from students,” says Boonseup. “On stage, there are various performances from miming to traditional Thai dancing.”

Looking for a free space to display your works? You can easily bring your resume and portfolio and fill in an application at the registration booth at the front of the art market. If your work passes the muster, the organizers will soon get back to you. “Creativity is what we are looking for,” hints Boonseup.

You can also check out the original art market at the National Gallery every weekend, 9am-4:30pm. For more information, contact the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (02-422-8828/9, www.ocac.go.th).

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Bamblu

171 Sukumvit 63, 02-711-5589. Open Tue-Sun 6pm-1am.
Bamblu in Ekkamai is the newest hot and happening Sunday chill out spot especially if you enjoy live music. The two-story venue has house bands rotating on a weekly basis playing everything from jazz to pop rock music. Be sure to check out the scene on Sunday and return again on Monday night for their open-mic night and don’t forget to grab some yummy food while you’re at it.

Globe

23/F, Centara Grand at CentralWorld, Rama 1 Rd., 02- 100-1234. Open daily 5pm-1am. BTS Siam.
This newly opened earthy toned lounge at the Centara Hotel is a convenient choice for all of you Sunday shoppers. When you’re done walking up and down CentralWorld, head up to Globe and seat yourself on their white beach-like chairs on their patio. Chill out to some easy listening house and order a selection of their special Sunday night “muddling” fruity concoctions.

Sky Beach

Rooftop, Fantasia Wedding Center, 582/23-24 Ekkamai Rd., 08-1899-8987. Open Tue-Thu 6pm-2am, Fri-Sun 4pm-late.
It’s like going to beach except you’re hanging out in the middle of Ekkamai. Head over there in your shorts and flip flops, grab a white cushion and make conversation with the European owners with a beer in hand. Get there just before sunset, that way you can enjoy a pretty view as well.

Tuba

34 Ekamai Soi 21, Sukhumvit Rd., 02-711-5500. Open daily 11am-midnight.
In the middle of bustling Ekkamai stands chilled out Tuba, which is a three-in-one: gallery, bar and furniture shop. This two-story restaurant serves up good food and a selection of cocktails for a reasonable price. Finish your week in true Sunday style and head there with your groupies for a HBO movie marathon on their big flat screen TV.

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The Bangkok Queen Saovabha Institute and Snake Farm is home to a variety of cobras, pythons, vipers, and many more of these reptiles. Visit them between 11am-2:30pm on weekdays and watch the trained staff as they extract venom from these “misunderstood” creatures, to produce anti-venom serum. They also have an informative slideshow presentation to explain the process. If you want the action up close and personal, you’re encouraged to have a stroll down their breeding and holding areas—of course, at your own risk.

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40 of our favorite restaurants. Photos by Gregoire Glachant

Welcome diners, to our annual Restaurant Issue. This year we’ve highlighted 40 of our favorite places to eat. We chose them by digging through our notes, reviews, blog entries and photographs from the last year and combined them with our best food memories. We also consulted various experts, spoke to chefs and revisited a bellyful of venues over the past few months.

What we’ve tried to do is compile a list of places where you can get a great meal, places that have raised the bar or continue to maintain a high standard of quality and/or places that are somehow special.

Now let’s be clear: These are 40 of Bangkok’s best restaurants—but they’re not Bangkok’s best 40 restaurants. We’re good at what we do—and we’re better at it than any other publication in town (fight! fight! fight!)—but we’re not Michelin, either.

This list is subjective, and far from definitive. We’re sure there are a number of good restaurants that are not on this list that we’ve never been to—and probably more than a few we’ve never even heard of. It’s not perfect, but it’s honest, and if it helps you with your dining choices (or provides you with some entertaining reading), then we will have done our job.

We don’t expect you to agree with us every time. Your experience may not be the same as ours. If it isn’t, or if you agree or disagree with us, or if you have suggestions or other comments, we in vite you to post them on our website (www.aziacity.com/bk, where you can comment on all of our restaurant reviews—or any other story, such as this one) or email us at food@asia-city.co.th.

Here are a few other points:

  • Yes, we originally said 50, but we’d rather be safe than sorry.
  • Remember: Restaurants have good and bad nights
  • Prices change, chefs change, your tastes change.
  • It’s just food.

Nuttaporn Srisirirungsimakul / Food Editor

Arirang

The name is common among Korean establishments, but this Arirang is far from common. Where most Korean barbecue restaurants are smoky, greasy, cacophonous affairs with service straight out of Pyongyang, at this bright and modern venue you’ll enjoy not just delicious but also beautifully presented cuisine made with top quality ingredients. Traditional favorites like zesty bibimbap and delicate salt-to-your-own-taste chicken ginseng herbal soup aside, grilled meat is the focus. The portions are small, but the beef here is terrific, and sauces are simple, as they should be with such prime meat. The charcoal grills built into the tables are ably attended to by waitresses with the dexterity of doctors (but better bedside manner), and, thanks to a super ventilation system, you won’t go home smelling like your dinner. Starters: B200+; mains: B300+; meat (for grilling): B200+. Corkage: B300.
1/F Sukhumvit Plaza, Sukhumvit Soi 12, 02-653-0177/8

Akiyoshi

It’s worth braving the long queues, surly receptionists (and management) and impatient naew servers for the unlimited thinly sliced, juicy meat, some of it so marbled with fat that it practically melts in your mouth, plus accompaniments like noodles, tofu and veggies and excellent sauce for dipping. The quality of the ingredients is amazing considering the price: B360 for their version of “shabu shabu” (in a pot filled with soup broth) or “sukiyaki” (in a shallow pan)—or both ways for B400—per person. You’ll be thirsty, of course: Mon-Thu all-you-can-guzzle beer and sake is just B199 more. Three things to remember: book in advance—the waiting area is hell; show up on time or you’ll likely lose your table; and never, ever order off the a la carte menu. Especially the garlic fried rice.
1521/1 Sukhumvit Rd., Taisin Square Bldg., 02-714-0791, 02-381-2267

Alex’s

With a slick menu that reflects Australia’s diverse cultural heritage, Alex’s dishes up sophisticated bistro food to a mostly Sukhumvit crowd of expats and inter Thais. Highlights include Mediterranean “tapas,” barbecued imported steaks, and “Lighter Style” mains that combine refreshing salads with hearty grilled meats. Starters: B100+; pasta: B300+; mains: B400+; desserts: B300+. Corkage: B400.
253/2 Sukhumvit Soi 31, 02-258-6919

Anotai

How many restaurants have you visited lately that also host flower arrangement classes and have on-site yoga studios? Named after its Cordon Bleu-educated owner, this intimate eatery is heaven on earth for the health-conscious. Cast aside any preconceived notions you might have about bland earthy-crunchy vegetarian food. The organic vegetarian dishes served up at Anotai are packed with flavor, such as crispy deep-fried tofu with tangy dressing. Even the brown rice, which can be dry and boring if not properly cooked, is tender and flavorful. End with the sinfully rich warm banana cake with vanilla ice cream. Note: No credit cards. Starters: B110; mains: B100+; desserts: B80+; tea: B85.
976/17 Rim Klong Samsen Rd., Soi Rama 9 Hospital, 02-641-5366

Le Beaulieu

Le Beaulieu is modest in size but cost a small fortune to build, with its magnificent cathedral-like foyer/bar, intimate sky blue ceiling-ed dining room with original art hanging from the walls and gleaming show kitchen visible through a wall of glass. The menu is similarly ambitious and grand, featuring bold French dishes with a Mediterranean slant made with the finest imported ingredients money can buy. At the helm is Chef Herve Frerard, a talented perfectionist who anxiously watches diners through that huge glass window. Eating here is easy (if you can afford it), but, like the décor, a lot of work goes into creating such intense and concentrated flavors. Signature dishes include grilled scallops with a sea urchin emulsion, slow-cooked veal cheeks and exquisite artichoke cream soup. For dessert, the kitchen does superb soufflés and chocolate fondant. Starters B400+; mains: B500+; desserts: B300+. Corkage: B500.
Sofitel Residence, 50 Sukhumvit Soi 19, 02-204-2004

Bei Otto

Head to Bangkok’s premier German restaurant, which is actually a complex that includes a bar and bakery, and join blond-haired diners for a taste and feel of old Deutschland: pretzels and beer, wiener schnitzel, farmer sausages, pig “knuckles,” smoked, pickled pork chops and potatoes and cabbage prepared in every imaginable way. Depending on whether you love or hate big parties, look out for their annual Oktoberfest. Starters: B150+; mains: B250+; desserts: B70+. Corkage B300.
1 Sukhumvit Soi 20, 02-262-0892, www.beiotto.com

Bel Guardo

We weren’t exactly thrilled when Marco Cammarata and his partners decided to open his restaurant in Siam Paragon, but if any chef is worth making a trip to the mall for, it’s Marco. Only 37, he is one of Bangkok’s most talented culinary artists, able to create stunning dishes with bright, perfectly balanced flavors and exquisite presentation. The setting—cool and minimalist with glass walls on three sides, a long open kitchen and a second-floor wine bar—is an ideal canvas for his dishes, which are based on classic recipes but have the benefit of modern techniques. Though he might not look (or act) it, Marco knows how to be subtle, which really comes out when he’s working with delicate leaves, fruit, herbs and oils. A native of Torino, he also makes some of the most delicious risotto you’ll taste anywhere. Starters: B300+; pastas: B300-500; mains: B500+; desserts: B250+. Corkage: B500.
991 Siam Paragon Center, S15, G/F Siam Paragon, 02-610-9380/-1. www.belguardo.com

Biscotti

It’s the buzz as much as the food that makes Biscotti one of our favorites. The Tony Chi design is still handsome after all these years, and the service, even when the restaurant is full, is justifiably legendary. The current chef, Canilo Aiassa, is from Piedmont, so he’s a whiz at risotto. Nice gnocchi, too. Starters: B260+; mains: B350+; desserts: B150+. Corkage: B500.
Four Seasons Hotel, Bangkok, 155 Ratchadamri Rd., 02-255-5443

Chesa

At Bangkok’s best Swiss restaurant, the food is as reliable as a Swiss watch. In a converted house decorated in red and white (which matches the uniforms of the waitresses), mostly European diners dip into traditional fondues and bite into a satisfying assortment of grilled and braised meats. Justifiably famous is Chesa’s roasted venison served with pears, cranberries and walnuts and several side dishes: tangy red cabbage, slightly browned homemade spaetzle, thick gravy, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts with bacon. Of course you can also get your schnitzel and raclette but also trout from the Royal Projects, pastas, salads and salmon tatare. Starters: B100-500; mains: B400+; desserts: B100-300. Corkage: B500 (B900 for spirits).
5 Sukhumvit Soi 20, 02-261-6650. www.chesa-swiss.com

Chote Chitr

This out-of-the-way wooden shophouse restaurant has become something of a Bangkok institution in recent years, having been written up in a number of major international newspapers and magazines. Owner Auntie Tim does triple duty as cook, cashier and server, while her beloved (and amiable) lap dogs stand constant guard over the place and often surprise uninitiated diners—especially when one jumps on a table. What you can also expect from this six-table joint is consistently delicious, inexpensive (B30-150) and authentic Thai dishes with an often flawless blending of sweet and sour flavors and a subtle herbal spiciness. With over 300 dishes on the menu, there are bound to be some misfires, but there are many more hits than misses. Don’t miss legendary mee krob and yum thua phuu (angle bean salad).
46 Phraeng Phutorn, Tanao Rd., 02-221-4082

Crepes & Co.

This long-standing Bangkok favorite makes the list for its brunches. The bad news: It’s almost impossible to find a parking space or to nab a table here on weekends. If you’re likely to feel irked by this, or by family units and their ubiquitous and often highly vocal offspring, this is not your cup of tea. The good news: You can order crepes in any form you fancy, from appetizers to savory mains to desserts, along with apple cider or pitchers of sangria (to calm your nerves). The friendly waitstaff are more than happy to serve you as you nosh your way through a selection of freshly baked breads and pastries as well as yogurts, cereals, eggs toast and 100 kinds of tea. Starters: B125-210; mains: B140+; desserts: B130+. Corkage: B250.
18/1 Sukhumvit Soi 12, 02-653-3990-1, www.crepes.co.th

Cy’an

Cy’an’s charms are many: the sunny Mediterranean mood that turns cool and sophisticated at dusk, dining-conducive lounge music, friendly staff and high-art dishes prepared with some of the city’s highest quality ingredients. Chef Daniel Moran is still finding his way a bit after stepping in to fill Amanda Gale’s huge shoes (she got a promotion), but Cy’an is still one of the best restaurants in the city—and without question the most overlooked of Bangkok’s top venues. The kitchen particularly excels when it comes to lighter starters, in which the true flavors of the ingredients shine through. The raw snapper with ginger, citrus, avocado oil, fennel and flowers is superb. You won’t get away cheaply, but you won’t feel cheated, either. Set lunches are a great option: B580 for a two-course, B680 for three. Starters: B300+; mains: B400+; desserts: B200+. Corkage: B700 for wines, B1,200 for spirits.
The Metropolitan Bangkok, 27 South Sathorn Rd., 02-625-3388

Ember

While its chic original is housed in Singapore’s funky nouveau-retro Hotel 1929, the Bangkok offshoot is as stylish as an ice cream parlor. Fortunately, the food far transcends the lame atmosphere. Ember is an ace with seafood—particularly fish, serving up terrific dishes like crispy pan-fried snapper or Chilean seabass with truffle-yuzu butter sauce. Portions are small and prices high, though, so don’t come here when you’re starving. (But you can always skip starters and fill up on complimentary baskets of delicious naan.) Or take advantage of Ember’s luxe set lunch (B345 for two courses, B370 for three). Starters: B200+; mains: B400+; desserts: B200+. Corkage: B300.
99/11-12 Lang Suan Balcony, Ploenchit Rd., 02-652-2086

Gianni Ristorante

Open for business for more than 11 years now, Gianni Ristorante is an institution. If there is a flaw, it might be the setting—in terms of design, there’s an extremely high standard for Italian restaurants here, after all. But the priority for Gianni Favro is the food, not fashion, and on most nights he’s running a packed house (so reservations are a good idea). The menu is more “homestyle” than haute cuisine, but following a bit of empire building, Chef Gianni is back in the kitchen full-time again. He’s returned with a newfound passion and joy for cooking, and his creative juices are flowing. See what he does with Wagyu beef cheeks—slow-cooking them at low temperature and served in an Amarone sauce with glazed vegetables— or sardines, which are draped over grilled white polenta and dressed with pickled onions, pinenuts, raisins, microgreens and a balsamic reduction. Even mainstays like fritto misto and cannelloni feel “new.” The food has always been flawless, but this year look to Gianni to raise the bar even higher. Starters B300+; pastas: B300+; mains: B400+; desserts: B200+. Corkage: B300 (B500 for spirits).
34/1 Soi Tonson, 02-252-1619

Great American Rib

Following a traumatic experience, we advise you to avoid the hamburgers, but otherwise we’re huge fans of the food—southern-style ribs, steaks, nachos, curly fries, jalapeno corn bread, pulled pork and “butt-kickin’” chicken—at this backyard-barbecue eatery, which is much more stylish (“cute,” even) than you would expect. Eating in the air-conditioned area is not much fun, so dine elsewhere on especially hot days. Starters: B95+; mains: B300+; desserts: B75+. Corkage: B300.
33 Sukhumvit Soi 36 (Soi Napasup), 02-258-5942, 02-661-3801, www.greatrib.com

Greenhouse

We agree that this venue seems a bit out of place here. And in fact we’re talking about two outlets. We sit in the Greenhouse, which has an Asian menu that includes tasty congee and noodle dishes, and order sandwiches from the Garden Court Restaurant, which is located downstairs but a bit too far from natural light. Nowhere else in town can you enjoy a bowl of joke alongside a sandwich as perfect as their awesome Brown Bread Reuben. Starters: B60+; pastas: B200+; mains: B200+; desserts: B120+. Corkage: B600 (B1,200 for spirits).
The Landmark Bangkok, 138 Sukhumvit Rd., 02-254-0404

Indigo

Kitted out as a charming colonial home, the setting alone makes Indigo worth a visit. (We especially like its garden tables, weather-and mosquito-permitting.) French specialties, from a textbook cheese soufflé to yummy escargot, are impressive; and there’s a good selection of wine by the glass at wallet-friendly prices. The best items by far are from their butcher shop: various patés, rillette and saucisson and their amazing cuts of local beef—veal, steak tartar and huge cote de boeuf for two (or three). Starters: B190+; mains: B390+; desserts: B190+. Corkage: B400.
6 Soi Convent, Silom Rd., 02-235-3268

Indus

Indus is unique among Indian restaurants in Bangkok in that as much attention is paid to the atmosphere and service, which is outstanding, as to the food. It’s a beautiful setting—multiple rooms in the restaurant, cool lounge and expansive patio and yard—for a meal of northern Indian food made without yucky stuff like MSG and ghee. Some have dubbed it “India Lite,” but there is no shortage of Indian patrons dining here on any given night. Snack on Indies Fries, tikka and samosas washed down with Kingfisher beer, then move on to herbal curries and daal. Starters: B120+; mains: B260+; desserts: B100+. Corkage: B400+.
971 Sukhumvit Soi 26, 02-258-4900

Je-Ngor

There are now 13 branches of this well-regarded seafood establishment, though the two-building original on Siphraya Road is still the best. The décor is a bit aged with pale green walls and big, round family-style tables, and you’ll still see waiters crossing the busy street with food, but you don’t go to Je-Ngor for the atmosphere. Go instead for fresh, well-prepared seafood like stir-fried crab with black pepper sauce and charcoal-grilled salt-coated sea bass. At dinner, you’ll want to call ahead for a table. Starters: B100+; mains: B300+; desserts: B50+. No corkage.
541/9 Soi Charoenkrung 39 (New Road), Si Phraya Rd., 02-235-8537, 02-234-8275, www.jengor-seafoods.com

Keyaki

The Pan Pacific’s 22nd floor Japanese outlet really feels like Japan. Not only is the décor reminiscent of some 1990s (or even 1980s) luxury Tokyo hotel, the food also has a real “Japanese taste.” This is one reason why the restaurant is not all that popular: Many non-Japanese would find the food bland and boring, and the kaiseki-ryori style of cooking that it specializes in is particularly understated. Keyaki doesn’t try to be stylish or hip—no models nights—which is just the way we like it. Teppanyaki sets B400-1,000; bento boxes: B500-1,600; set lunches: B300-700. Corkage: B350 (B800 for spirits).
Pan Pacific Bangkok, 952 Rama 4 Rd., 02-632-9000, www.panpacific.com

Kuppa

If you’re looking for something in the way of a culinary adventure, you are better off elsewhere. If it’s comfort and consistency that you seek, Kuppa fits the bill. This airy loft is the place to see and be seen and is a favorite lunchtime spot for young executives, embassy wives and the hiso set. The menu has changed very little over the years; beef short ribs and Thai sirloin served with jaew sauce and sticky rice are our firm favorites. Dessert is definitely a high point. The blueberry cheesecake and hot fudge brownies are worth a special trip. Starters: B150+; mains: B250+; desserts: B100+. Corkage: B400.
39 Sukhumvit Soi 16, 02-663-0495

Lim Kwong Meng

The bare-bones décor and furious shouting from the kitchen at this unassuming two-story shophouse can easily scare away any couple looking for a romantic rendezvous. Your visiting friends might also be intimidated by the moody servers who hardly speak English. But if you are in for consistently good Chinese food replete with some Thai oomph and tasty seafood fare plucked fresh from the sea, here is the place. Suckling pig and steamed crab are musts. It’s a good idea to snatch a table downstairs, which doubles as the living room of the owner and her family, so that you’d be in earshot of better-informed staff. No credit cards. Starters: B100+; mains: B200+; desserts: B40+. No corkage.
294 Chula Soi 15, Rama 4 Rd., 02-215-4171, 02-215-4260

Lord Jim’s

At night, with its expansive views of the Chao Phraya River, the setting is wonderful, the service is impeccable and the Brazilian jazz duo creates a pleasant aural backdrop. But we include the aquatic-themed Lord Jim’s more for its peerless buffet brunch than its dinner menu. Starters: B750+; mains: B950+; desserts: B450+. Corkage: B1,000.
The Oriental Bangkok, 48 Oriental Avenue, 02-659-9000

Nanjya Monjya

Prices are at first glance on the high side, and the portions are tiny. But most of the clients at this Bangkok outlet of the Japanese chain are Japanese businessmen with expense accounts. If you can afford it, Nanjya Monjya offers high-quality ingredients, pleasant atmosphere and helpful service by jean-clad waitresses. Teppanyaki is the focus here, but you won’t see grinning cooks flipping your dinner in the air, nor will you hear occasional bursts of applause from the diners—they’re too serious for that. What makes Nanjya Monjya really special is their monjyayaki, a lighter take on okonomyaki (a.k.a. “Japanese pizza). A warning: Small tables and big grills means don’t wear your best shirt. Starters: B160+; mains: B200+. Corkage: B500 (B800 for spirits).
Ascott Bangkok Sathorn, 187 South Sathorn Rd., 02-676-7190-1

New York Steakhouse

The competition is fierce among Bangkok’s steakhouses, and to be honest we don’t find them all that different: Sinatra; martinis; gorgeous waitresses; meat from at least four different countries; tableside Caesar salad and steak tartar; and sides you pay extra for that are inevitably disappointing. But for an over-the-top experience, there’s nothing quite like NY, with its huge handlebar platters and knives, oversized chairs at tables that are so close you can’t help pause when the couple next to you are talking, and a stuffiness that’s more Monaco than Manhattan. The steaks are pretty good, too. Starters: B300-1,000; mains: B500-2,200; sides B100+. Corkage: B500.
JW Marriott Bangkok, 4 Sukhumvit Soi 2, 02-656-7700

Le Normandie

The Oriental Hotel’s showcase restaurant needs no introduction. For years it has set the standard for service and cuisine, an it’s the place for well-off elites to close business deals, pop the question, or celebrate anniversaries. Dinner can easily break the bank, especially if you’re drinking (their) wine. For those on a budget, take advantage of Le Normandie’s little-publicized annual summer (through September 30) degustation menus. They’re a steal at B1,000 net for lunch and B1,900 net for dinner—with a free bottle of wine for you and your date. Starters: B800+, mains: B2,000+; desserts: B450+. Corkage: B1,000.
The Oriental Bangkok, 48 Oriental Ave., 02-659-9000

Pen Restaurant

Time has stopped at Pen. The tables and chairs made of dark wood have been there for decades, as have the mirrored walls, the hanging objets d’art made from stained glass and covered with gold-colored leaf and the plastic flowers. The menu is basically the same, though it’s a continuing commitment to sourcing quality ingredients—mostly seafood—as much as it is to cooking skill that make Pen such a great restaurant. It’s all about the food here, which is why trendy young Thais can only be found here when they’re dragged along by their wealthy Chinese-Thai parents. Our favorites include a spicy herbal beef soup, fried parrotfish, sea asparagus and crab baked in glass noodles, then wrap things up with mango and sticky rice or sesame balls in ginger. Starters: B100+; mains: B200+; desserts: B50+. No corkage.
2068/4 Chan Rd., 02-287-2907, 02-286-7061

Royal India

Tucked away in a back alley off Chakrapet road in Pahurat, Royal India’s faux brick walls, cramped tables and harsh lighting are hardly inviting to the uninitiated. Yet for years the restaurant has been serving some of the most consistently delicious no-frills Northern Indian food in Bangkok. The murgh malai, chicken in a heavily spiced sauce of yogurt and cream is a stand out, as is the chicken tikka masala. Vegetarians fear not: there is plenty of rabbit food on the menu as well. If you’re an okra fan, go for the perfectly spiced bindi. Freshly made naan, chapatis, puris and the like are in the offing as well. Starters: B70+; mains: B170+; desserts: B25+. No corkage.
392/1 Chakrapet Rd.., 02-221-6565

Scoozi Pizzeria

Scoozi has scored with a winning formula of pizzas and pastas, reasonable prices and courteous service. Though not the most authentic in town, high marks go to its consistently good pizzas and good-value pastas. There are over 30 kinds of pizza on offer, with a combination of tangy sauce, excellent cheese, premium toppings and smoky crust. Appetizers: B40-300; mains: B200+. Corkage: B300.
Fenix Thonglor Bldg., near Thonglor Soi 1, 02-391-5113, www.scoozipizza.com

Shahrazad

Brave your way through late-night vendors, foreigners in Islamic and African attire, and wafts of sweet-smelling shisha and you’ll find Shahrazad. It’s hard to miss actually as there will be lamb carcasses hanging on hooks in front and a display case full of animal parts. The atmosphere is informal and the decor is nothing to write home about, except for maybe the waitresses in hijabs. The menu can be perplexing, so usually we stick to tried-and-true staples like hoummos (pureed chickpeas with sesame seed paste), mutabbal (pureed eggplant with sesame seed paste) and freshly baked naan. Anything lamb here is also excellent. Starters: B80+; mains: B80+; desserts: B70+.
6/8 Sukhumvit Soi 3/1, 02-254-7392-3, 02-251-3666

Shan

Named after the Mandarin word for food, Shan brings together Japanese aesthetics and bold Mongolian tastes to create Bangkok’s best Chinese hot pot. The setting is a bit odd with a piano at one end of the dining room and a corner of what looks like a Chinese herbal shop at the other, but the food is terrific. You can order a la carte, but the trick is to go with sets (B500 for lunch, B900 for dinner) that include everything from tasty bite-sized starters, a plate of stuff you dump in the pot, a basket of veggies, to desserts and coffee. Two kinds of soup—“spicy” and “non-spicy”—bubble away in a divided hot pot like the yin and yang of broth, and eliminate the need for sauce. Yes, they are that good. Corkage: B300.
United Tower, Thonglor Soi 17, 02-712-6612-4

Shunbo

Japanese salarymen in the know head to this discreet eatery for its excellent food that is priced far lower than you might expect. They usually head for a private room, while we prefer the dark and stark downstairs dining area. With a combination of premium ingredients, skilled preparation (sometimes in unexpected ways), and exquisite presentation, simple Japanese dishes are brillantly whipped up and elevated above the cheap and common. Don’t miss the grilled saba, which is cooked with a blowtorch at your table. Absolutely amazing. Appetizers: B150+; mains: B150+; desserts: B150+. Corkage B500.
33/5 Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-254-5885

Tapas Café

This new, shophouse-wide eatery has quickly attracted a loyal following with its authentic Spanish cuisine, wines and sherries served in a comfy and lively setting. The young Spanish chef has done an admirable job of adjusting to local ingredients while keeping the overall standard relatively high. Must-try dishes include Manchego cheese, platters of sliced meats and garlicky prawns. The menu changes regularly, so keep your fingers crossed lest your favorite Most dishes are B150. Corkage: B400.
Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-651-2941, www.tapasiarestaurants.com

Tsu

Tsu’s Chef Akihiro Izumi is a loud, biker-loving, hotdog-eating giant of a man who can’t drink a drop of sake (it’s tequila or nothing). He also presides over one of Bangok’s most Wallpaper*-worthy Japanese restaurants that serves some of the best sushi you’ll eat anywhere. Where other venues in Thailand order through the same few seafood suppliers, JW Marriott’s status as a licensed importer gives Chef Aki access to truly superior ingredients. He even has the phone numbers of fishmongers in Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market and rings them regularly for tales about the freshest cuts. Quality like this doesn’t come cheap—we suggest you sign up for a Marriott member card before visiting Tsu for a dinner of super-fresh fatty tuna, melt-in-your-mouth seared matsuzaka beef, tarabagani nabe with juicy Hokkaido king crab and scallops straight out of the shell. Starters: B200+; sashimi: B300-2,500; desserts: B150+; set menus: B450+. Corkage B300. 
JW Marriott Bangkok, 4 Sukhumvit Soi 2, 02-656-7700

Tsukiji

Named after the famed Tokyo fish market, Tsukiji is one of the better restaurants on Soi Thaniya. Still, we wouldn’t go out of our way to eat there for dinner. But lunch is another story. Here’s what you do: Get there early. Order the sushi set. It’s a lot of food for B180. Hungry? Order the special sushi set. It’s not on the menu, though, so if they look at you funny, insist. It’s B297—don’t ask us why. Say “Thank you, BK.”
62/19-20 Soi Thaniya, Silom Rd., 02-238-4146

Le Vendôme

We must admit that we preferred the cool, cozy darkness of the old restaurant, with its kitchen facing the center of the room. But from a business standpoint, it makes more sense for it to be in its present location, a two-story house with purpose-built kitchen, shaded garden and pool, and posh private rooms for big-spending VIPs. Chef Nicholas Joanny is still creating sublime food to an appreciative clientele of not just wealthy Thais and expatriates but also a steady stream of visitors from Hong Kong, Singapore and the Middle East. From langoustines and Canadian lobster to foie gras and baby lamb chops, various elements of his intricately designed recipes are given only a kiss of heat so that the true flavors shine through. A tip: Suppress your controlling tendencies and leave the a la carte menu alone—let the chef cook what he wants to cook. The degustation menu (B1,900/B2,200) is not just a steal; it’s an experience like none other in town. Appetizers: B100+; mains: B300+; desserts: B790+. Corkage: B700.
267/2 Sukhumvit Soi 31 (Soi Sawasdee), 02-662-0530-1, www.levendomerestaurant.com

Xuan Mai

This small 10-table space has won over the pickiest connoiseurs with its refreshing interpretations of Vietnamese favorites. The restaurant won’t win any awards for interior design, but the food is simply fantastic. You’ll relish gregarious owner Meyung’s fresh spring rolls, palate-cleansing pickled vegetables, flavorful pho, and dishes like cha ca, grilled catfish that arrives in its own wok, with handfuls of fresh dill and homemade fermented shrimp paste. The former FBI agent makes regular trips to Vietnam, so the ingredients are always fresh—and no MSG. Appetizers: B100+; mains: B200+; desserts: B100+. Corkage: B200.
32 Sukhumvit Soi 13, 02-251-8389

Yamagoya

The second branch of this leading Japanese ramen chain offers the same small menu as its original on Thonglor, minus the noisy crowds and grumpy servers. There are seven kinds of Kyushu-style ramen on offer along with a few starters. Its signature Yamagoya ramen is served with boiled egg, seaweed and tender slices of BBQ pork and comes in a thick and opaque tonkatsu broth that is rich and hearty with deep pork flavors. Starters: B100+; noodles: B150+.
98-102 Suriyawongse Rd.,02-637-0588

Zanotti

Drop in for a taste of Tuscany created with some of the freshest authentic Italian ingredients to be had anywhere in town. Weekday evenings you can rub elbows with investment bankers and well-heeled expatriates guzzling a unique selection of wines from some of Italy’s finest estates. If your corporate expense account has been temporarily frozen, drop in for a value-for-money set lunch. Water is free if you ask for it, as is the bread. Starters: B200+; mains: B450+; desserts: B200+. Corkage: B420 (B600 for spirits).
921/1 Silom Rd., 1/F Saladaeng Colonnade Condominium, 02-636-0002

Zeist

In this cozy bistro wrapped in yellow walls with dark wood décor and tanks filled with tropical fish, chef Art serves hearty European fare to neighborhood regulars and the occasional group of women who remember his TV cooking show (or perhaps his days as a championship swimmer). Braised meats and roasted meats are among the highlights. Starters: B200-700; pastas: B300+; mains: B400+; desserts: B100+. Corkage: B300.
40/25 Ekamai 12, 02-391-9946

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Since the publication of his first novel, Sleepy Head in 2001, Mark Billingham has devoted most of his time to writing crime fiction, with six books now published and a seventh in production. However, he still returns to the stage from time to time, to reprise the role of stand-up comedian with which he began his career. He is performing in Bangkok on May 18-19 at the Bull’s Head Pub.

Crime fiction and stand-up seem a little incongruous. What motivated the move from the one to the other?
MB:
It wasn’t deliberate. I’ve always loved crime fiction and when I started writing it I got very lucky. I enjoy doing the two things: dark imaginings by day and jokes by night. They’re not as different as you might imagine.

Is your comedy influenced by your fiction or your fiction by your comedy?
MB: I don’t think so. There are certainly jokes in the books, but they’re very dark. My comedy is certainly not dark. There are a great many comics whom I admire enormously, but as with fiction, it’s important to find your own voice. As far as inspiration goes, it comes from anywhere and everywhere, rather in the same way that ideas for the books come from a variety of sources.

What are your best/worst memories of the stand-up circuit?
MB:
I’ve had some terrible heckles, but I can’ t tell you what they were. Just thinking about them makes me cry. My best experiences have been on trips such as this one, discovering a country I have not visited before.

Do you foresee any more radical changes in your career, or is crime fiction here to stay?
MB:
No, barring disasters, I will be writing crime fiction for the rest of my life. So many people want to write books that I consider it a great privilege to do it for a
living. I just hope I don’t run out of ideas.—Alexander Suebsaeng

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Quick Cure

Too busy for a proper long spa escape? Visit Relax One Hour (173/1-2 Surawong Rd., 02-634-9500), where you can quickly unwind before heading back to your PC monitor, without the need for a change of clothes or a shower. Designed for the time-short urbanite, the shortest treatment (manicure) takes only 20 minutes (B300) while the longest ones take 90 minutes max. We recommend Floating in the Wind (B1,300), which employs not one but two therapists; Heaven’s Touch (B3,500), a 60-minute four-hand massage; and Sensory Journey (B1,400) which works you with aromatherapy oils. A quick foot reflexology checkup is given to all customers before massage.

Coming Soon

Expected to open this month, Tria Integrative Wellness (998 Rim Klong Samsen Rd., 02-625-6699. www.triaintegrativewellness.com) is a four-story building containing a holistic health center which offers a variety of programs to serve the balance of your mind and body. There are different methods of workout and healing available, including Pilates, body stretching, and Yoga; as well as pampering menus which include acupuncture, massage, body wrap, and colonic hydrotherapy.

The New Face

After a long day at work, enjoy a relaxing Thai massage at the recently renovated Imperial Queen’s Park (199 Sukhumvit Soi 22, 02-261-9000-4 ext 5959/-5961). Reenergize yourself with the 90-minute signature massage, the Imperial Four Hand Ritual (B4,000), or try out other treatments on the menu such as facial treatments, body scrubs and foot massages. Full- and half-day spa packages are also available.

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We talk to the people in the business of serving other people.

Chet, taxi driver

Who are the worst passengers?
The impolite ones. For example, recently I stopped for a group of young girls who asked me, “Ja pai mai?” Why couldn’t they just say, “Pai mai ka?”? They sounded like they didn’t care whether I gave them a lift or not, so I drove off.

What else bugs you?
Besides the traffic, I hate cars that honk every time I pull over to pick up a passenger. They really don’t have any sympathy. This is a taxi,and a taxi picks up passengers.

Do people tip you?
Farangs, mostly—and they usually take short trips. When the meter is B35, they will pay me B50 and tell me to keep the change. Some Thais tip, too, but only five or 10 baht.

Ever been robbed?
Never. But others taxis warn me not to pick up passengers from Pathumthani or Lum Lukka because they’ve been robbed there before.

Chayanit Kritsirithanarat, flight attendant

What’s the hardest thing about being a flight attendant?
Not to lose your patience, to compromise, to be punctual, to be alert and to take care of your health.

Any “bad passenger” stories you’d like to share?
Yes, we had a troublemaker yesterday. He asked one of my co-workers for a Pepsi, but she was busy. So she asked him to wait a minute and suddenly he started shouting at her, “F*** you!” and “F*** the captain!”

How did you deal with the Pepsi guy?
She told the supervisor who reported him to the captain. He was arrested when
we landed.

Vinai Priamsati, masseur at Sabai Thai Massage

What did you do before this job?
I was a “cheer” guy in an ab op nuat. I would talk to customers and say things like, “Number 30 is cute—she’s our star.” Compared to that job, being a masseur is much better.

How much do you earn per day?
I get 35 percent. So for a one-hour Thai massage, the customer pays B200 and I get B70.

Is this enough to live on?
Well, most of my income is from tips.

Do you get bad customers?
Yes, from time to time. Gays—mostly farangs—often misunderstand our service and try to harass me sexually. When this happens, I simply say, “What exactly do you expect? We offer massage. If you’re looking for something other than that, we don’t have it.”

X, Spa supervisor at luxury resort, Phuket

What is the secret to delivering good service?
If you’re in the service business, you need to have a service mind. Then you know naturally what the guest wants and needs. For example, I was the butler of a famous designer for years. He didn’t like to talk much, but with a single glance I could guess what he wanted. That’s how you make people really happy.

Any problems?
Rich Thais cause a lot of problems and have a bad attitude. They treat you like dirt.
In general, farangs respect employees more.

What about tipping?
Some guests put money on the table at the beginning of their stay and just say, “Take care of my family.” Maybe US$100. I like that. If you tip first, you know what kind of service you’re buying. If you tip at the end, some staff might not deliver 100% because they don’t know what they’re working for.

How do you deal with rude or angry guests?
The Thai way. We stay calm, quiet, gentle and we smile. You have to be more clever than your guest.

What would you like to tell guests?
When foreigners come for a Thai massage, they sometimes expect that “something” will happen at the end. We don’t blame them, because this is OK in some places, but not in our spa. We’ve had some guests slap money onto the massage bed and shout, “Do it!” At this point, the girls will leave the room.

Horror stories of service gone oh-so-wrong


Pak Torungsri, 35, proofreader

Recently, I went to Big C Ekkamai to pay my Quick Cash loan. As usual, I handed the bill to the staff. An eternity passed as they tried to scan the barcode, after which I was told, “It just doesn’t work.” So what now? It doesn’t work and that’s it? I ended up walking out to pay at another branch instead. A few weeks later, Quick Cash called to inform me that my bill was overdue. It turns out that the staff at Big C scanned the wrong barcode; the one she scanned was Citibank’s. So I’ve paid Citibank twice and I haven’t paid anything to Quick Cash. The incident has ruined my record at Quick Cash. Now my credit’s not as good as before and it’s all her fault.

Suthikiat Singka, 21, photographer

The worst service I ever experienced was from a nurse at Sappasitthiprasong Hospital in Ubon Ratchathani. This lady didn’t care about the patients’ feelings at all. I once saw an old lady queuing for a long time. When she asked how long it would take to see a doctor, the nurse pointed her finger to the back of the waiting room and told the lady to sit there and wait. I don’t know if it’s because she’s tired or what, but a nurse shouldn’t behave with such bad manners.

Supaporn Padungsawat, 27, systems analyst

Just a few weeks ago, I went to a minimart on Koh Pa Ngan. There’s only one convenience store on the island, so everyone has to buy snacks, drinks, toilet paper and everything else there. The staff at the shop are very unfriendly to Thais, but take pains to please farangs. I tried to buy a snack and put it on the counter, but the cashier completely ignored me. Another place is MK Suki, next to Central Bangna. Other branches may be better—MK Trendi is good—but this one is unbearable. You have to wait ages to place your order, and the staff don’t take care of your table at all. I was very upset, so I criticized their service in the comment form. I hope they improve.

Kitisak Singsungneoun, 27, lecturer

I went to a bar—can’t remember the name—and everything was fine until I tipped the waiter. My friends and I were about to leave, when the waiter walked back to our table to give back the money that I’d tipped him. I was stunned. I’m not sure if I tipped him too little or if he misunderstood and thought that I’d forgotten my change, but it’s rude either way. A waiter shouldn’t refuse a tip. So I just dropped the money on the floor and walked out. Other tables were looking, but I didn’t care.

The Tipping Points

BK guides you through the delicate protocol of international tipping

Australia: Tipping is not widespread in Australia. Some may leave coins on the bar or tell cab drivers to keep the change. A tip of 10 percent in restaurants for impressive service is normal. But tipping in hotels and hair salons is still an uncommon practice.

UK: Tipping is preferred and expected here in places. At hotels, 10-15 percent of the room cost is already added to the bill, so no need to tip more. But for restaurants and taxis, it’s 10 percent. In hair salons, the customary rate is 2 pounds for the hairdresser and 1 pound for the assistant. No tipping in pubs.

USA: Tipping is universal in the States. In sit-down restaurants, you are expected to tip 15-20 percent of the bill; for taxis, 10-15 percent. If you go to a restaurant with a large group, however, they’ll often include a charge for service on the bill. And remember: never tip government officers.

Japan: Tipping is not practiced in Japan except in exceptional cases—a personal limousine driver, for instance.

Singapore: No tipping here, either; it’s just not the Singaporean way. A 10 percent service charge is already included in your restaurant and hotel bills. Also, tipping at the airport is strictly forbidden.

Hong Kong: In restaurants, there’s a service charge included but additional tipping is expected. Bellboys and porters also look forward to tips. But for taxis you don’t need to pay extra.

Thailand: Normally, tipping is not a must, but in some cases it can provide incentive for staff to take good care of you on your next visit. Tips of B10-20 for bellboys and waiters are standard practice. Technically there’s no need to tip taxi drivers, but if you insist on waiting for that 3 baht change, we’re not getting in a cab with you.

This May Day, Duangtawan Nilayon raises a toast to all of the workers who have to deal with our crap.

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BreakS
Silom Soi 2/1, upper floor of @Richard’s, 02-632-8928. Open Wed-Fri-Sat 6pm-late.

Hidden in the wrong location and surrounded by places for men from over the rainbow, this tiny place is for straight people to hang out and listen to hip hop, house and even some percussion performed by the Japanese owner himself.

Flix

Royal City Avenue, Rama 9, 02-203-0377/-8. Open daily, 9pm-2am.

Though it’s part of the big Slim complex, the music is far different. Neither hip hop nor live Thai pop music is played here, but house and other alternative tunes are spun by house DJs and special guests from time to time.

Indus

71 Sukhumvit Soi 26, 02-258-4900. Open daily 11am-midnight.

The lavish Moroccan bar and restaurant has no live music but Arabic tunes to shake your boobs and hips. The cute “mixologist” just moved in to create your drinks and smooth out your night.

The room

231/7 Sarasin Rd., 02-650-2955. Open daily 6pm-1am.

Has panache and flair but is often quiet—except late Fri and Sat. For a pleasant and relaxed night out, this is a sane option. Mr. DJ spins mostly house tunes with a little touch of disco dance music for the purple crowd.

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BarSu

250 Sukhumvit Rd., 02-649-8385. Open daily 6pm-2am. www.barsubangkok.com
The loo is located in the back end of the place with dimmed lights and many glass doors and mirrors. The soft music is enough to drown out sounds, and there are plenty of napkins on the way out to clean up any spillage. Indeed, it's time to “eatPLAYdance”.

GLOW

96/4-5 Sukhumvit Soi 23, 02-261-3007, 02-261-4446. Open daily 6pm-1am.
Head to the third floor where many people can’t be bothered to climb for a pee. Don’t worry about sweating—that sheen will only enhance your post-coital glow.

Inch

Esplanade Zone, 55/49-60 Ratchadapisek Rd., next to Pump Up, 02-641-2963-/5. Open daily 7pm-2am. MRT Thailand Cultural Center. www.inchclub.com.
There are plenty of toilets either on the ground floor or you can opt for the leopard loo on the second floor for something a bit more animal. No queue, no toilet serviceman and no one cares.

Phranakorn Bar

58/2 Soi Damnoenklang Tai. 02-622-0282. Open daily 6pm-1am.
Don’t worry when you see just one toilet since this place normally is not packed on the weekdays and not till 11pm on the weekends. Most of all, the staffs seem to gather around the counter and don’t really care what you do in the toilet.

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