The best of the best when it comes to somtam, laab, gai yang and other Northeastern favorites in air-con comfort. 


Chilli Thai Restaurant 

Elegantly decorated in contemporary style, the cafe serves up luxurious traditional Thai dishes with larb salmon, grilled lamb with jaew sauce and mixed Thai-favorite appetizers served in a basket. By street standards, the servings are small for what you’re paying, but the kitchen does a solid job, the service is smart and the ambiance is oh-so-cool.

G/F, Siam Paragon, Rama 1, 02-129-4761. Open daily 11am-10pm.


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Crying Tiger 

Crying Tiger is a recently-created spin-off from the Ros’Niyom Thai chain, and does a fine job at authentic street flavors within the comfort of a mall. There’s a tum poo maa (blue crab somtam) that’s salty and biting; a cucumber tum pla raa (fermented fish somtam) that’s fresh, punchy and not for the weak of stomach; and a tum kai-kem (salted egg somtam) that leads with a smack of acidity and goes easy on the sweetness—just how we like it.

Market Place Nanglinchee, Nang Linchi Soi 3, 02-287-2786. Open daily 10am-10pm. 

Kai Yang Sua Yai

This colorful shop-house transports the Northeastern dishes of an old street-food favorite into a proper dining setting. Tuck into a whole chicken, along with namprik pla ra (chili paste with fermented fish) and somtam poo (papaya salad with freshwater crab). Wash it down with Singha, fruit juice or wine by the glass. They offer about 15 vegetarian dishes, too.

Piman 49, Sukhumvit Soi 49, 02-662-6428. Open daily 11am-10pm


Lay Lao 

Ari’s Lay Lao serves up Isaan classics and fresh seafood from Hua Hin. The owner, a native of the royal resort town, has brought her family recipes to Bangkok in the form of somtam with crab, spicy mango salad with fresh mantis shrimp, squid eggs and monthly specials. Don’t know where to start? We’re partial to the somtam served in a tray with toppings such as naem sod, fudgy boiled egg, moo yor and kak moo. The photogenic food is matched by the decor: blond wood, corrugated steel, vintage-pattern cushions and cute wall paintings.

65-67 Phahon Yothin Soi 7, 02-023-4521. Open Mon-Fri 11am-3pm, 5-10pm; Sat-Sun 11am-11pm. BTS Ari



Phed Phed Cafe Best Somtam! 

This chic bag showroom turned perpetually-packed Isaan restaurant draws mostly on co-owner Nattaphong Saehu’s Nakhon Phanom roots in made-from-scratch dishes. The heady somtam pu plara may not be for the faint-hearted, but it comes topped with plentiful kratin beans for a burst of freshness to balance out the fermented fish. Their take on the Isaan staple of laab moo thod (herbal minced pork balls) is another spice-laden revelation.

Phahon Yothin Soi 8, 097-918-1175. Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-8pm.



Somtum Der 

Few places do well-executed Isaan food in a more polished setting than this friendly eatery tucked away from the bustle of Silom Road. Owner Thanaruek Laoraowirodge (also of Supanniga Eating Room) brings the strong, vibrant flavors of his native Khon Kaen to Bangkok with the help of chef Kornthanut Thongnum, resulting in a parade of somtam, laab and tom saap that rivals anything to be found on the street.

5/5 Sala Daeng Rd., 02-632-4499. Open daily 11am-2:30pm, 4:30-10pm. Other branch: Thonglor Soi 17.



Zaab Eli 

With its aqua blues, popping pinks and patterned tiles, the friendly styling of this Isaan joint makes a chill spot to unwind with plates of down-theline authentic somtam that rub shoulders with the fusion-but-delicious likes of a raw salmon laab. A tom zaap brimming with peppery minced pork dumplings and refreshing house-made sodas keep up Zaab Beli’s reputation for full flavors.

Silom Complex, 191 Silom Rd., 02-392-23317. Open daily 11am-9pm.

Put on your stretchy pants, forget about the macros and tuck in to BK Best Eats 2018. This is the Bangkok dining that ignores fancy restaurants and 10-course tasting menus and goes straight for the comfort food—steaming bowls of fat-rich ramen, triple-decker burgers, all-you-can-eat dim sum buffets with an extra helping of pork buns. In other words, the stuff most of us eat out, most of the time.

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