The buzz: Through a theatrical entrance that depicts the monkey god Hanuman eating the moon, you get to one of this year’s most elaborate dining rooms, at which Iron Chef presenter Thanintorn Chantrawan serves an ambitious menu of reinvented Thai classics. They also serve what’s possibly Bangkok’s most expensive pad krapow at B1,500.
In the plate: A high-wired pairing of molecular techniques and Thai comfort food. Thanintorn produces a memorable culinary experience by applying contemporary techniques to enhance flavors. In the goong chae nam pla (B380), for example, liquid nitrogen is used to cleanse prawns of any unwanted fishiness, while chili turned into a granita provides fiery spice that’s also refreshing.
The verdict: Aside from a few headline-grabbing dishes, Osha’s food is actually very reasonable, especially for somewhere so hip and theatrical. The cocktails are also excellent.
99 Witthayu (Wireless) Rd., 02-256-6555. Open daily 11am-2:30pm, 6pm-midnight
The buzz: This partnership between actor Chakrit Yamnam and celebrity chef Chumpol Jangprai (Blue Elephant, Anantara) is one of the biggest
Thai openings of the year. Rather than choosing between authenticity or invention, Chumpol has created three menus: ancient, classic and innovative.
In the plate: Stand-out and rare dishes include the homemade sai kork pla nam (ancient pork sausage), gaeng buan (herbal soup with pork intestines) and khao tok with nam pueng duen ha (roasted rice with honey collected at the end of the dry season). The “innovative” options throw some fusion into the mix with dishes like namtok with rib-eye steak and parmesan taco shell (B280) and duck confit with chili paste (B580). If you want to sample a range of flavors, drop by for the lunchtime à la carte menu as dinnertime is reserved for the set menu (B1,800 for 12 courses) only.
Verdict: As anyone who watches Iron Chef will tell you, Chumpol knows his stuff. At Siam Wisdom, he puts his money where his mouth is.
66 Sukhumvit Soi 31, 02-260-7811-2. Open daily noon-2pm, 6-10:30pm. MRT Sukhumvit/BTS Asoke
The buzz: It’s hard to overstate the importance of Danish Chef Morten Nielsen, even though you don’t hear about him nearly often as the Bo.lan team or David Thompson (we’ll take the blame for that). Nielsen was at the helm of Siam Kempinski’s Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin, a spin-off of Copenhagen’s one-star-Michelin Kiin Kiin. As such, he was the only one in Bangkok doing molecular Thai food, and one of the very few doing ultra-finedining Thai cuisine, right up there with Nahm and Bo.lan. He got poached by Dusit Thani, and now he’s overseeing the Thai cuisine for the entire group, including the good ol’ Benjarong in Bangkok, which he’s revamped, even if it’s not to Sra Bua levels of molecular madness.
In the plate: Nielsen does a great job of retaining an authentically Thai taste despite the refined, European-influenced presentation. For a good taste of what he’s doing, order the seasonal three-course Aromatic Journey menu (B1,100 or B1,900 with wine pairing). Of the à la carte menu, standout dishes include the 24-hour braised lamb shank in massaman curry (B690) and crispy sweet pork ribs and salted sriracha cabbage (B320).
The verdict: More Thais should come to Benjarong and be surprised at what Chef Morten has to offer.
G/F, Dusit Thani, 946 Rama 4 Rd., 02-200-9000. Mon-Fri noon-2:30pm, 6-10pm; Sat-Sun 6-10pm. BTS Sala Daeng/ MRT Silom
The buzz: This refined-yet-homey Tuscan restaurant on Ruamrudee comes from the former head chef of Medici at Muse Hotel, Frencesco Lenzi, and focuses on traditional fare from Northern Italy.
In the plate: Make sure you try the cured ham from Antica Norcineriaone, which belongs to Lenzi’s uncle. To get a taste of everything, go for medium-sized Tagliere del Lenzi (B790). For more comforting and substantial fare, order gnocchi with gorgonzola cheese (B420), or pan fried pork cappicola (B720), which are both finished in a wood-fired oven for maximum flavor.
The verdict: Lenzi’s upscale Tuscan fare is one of the highlights of 2014’s boom in region-specific Italian food.
Ruamrudee Soi 2, Wireless Rd., 02-001-0116. Open Mon-Sat 6pm-midnight
The buzz: After working at one of Bangkok’s most reliable Italian restaurants—La Bottega Di Luca—Dario Busnelli has moved to the new Radisson Blu hotel, where he serves dishes that contrast Italy’s North and South in an inviting dining room.
In the plate: There are some really wonderful antipasti which we’ve yet to try anywhere else in Bangkok, from Lombardy salami to mufatto (cheese wrapped in walnut leaf) and ubriaco (a cheese soaked in raboso wine and aged for at least 12 months). Much of the food is big and unpretentious, like the 1.3kg Australian wagyu tomahawk steak (B3,990) with roast potatoes, grilled vegetables and truffle-infused red wine shallot reduction.
The verdict: Prices are quite high but so are the standards. We also like the rustic presentation that’s still refined enough to feel special.
28/F, Radisson Blu, 27 Sukhumvit Rd., 02-302-3333. Open daily 6-11pm. MRT Sukhumvit/BTS Asoke
The buzz: Chef Paolo Vitaletti’s Appia ranked fourth in Top Tables 2014, so frankly, there isn’t much suspense as to whether his pizza joint is going to make it into Top Tables 2015. Expectations were high, though, and there was some initial grumbling that the pizza, while delicious, wasn’t crispy to the point of brittleness (the way it is at Sukhothai’s Scala). Well, that’s just not how you’re meant to make Neapolitan pizza, we’re told. The center should be moist and tender—though not soggy, of course.
In the plate: Textural debates aside, the dough’s flavor is incomparable, thanks to a lengthy fermentation process, and the toppings are both fresh and flavorful. Even the humble Margharita (starting B200) is a must-try. Do also tuck into some grilled meats—Vitaletti really excels at carne—such as grilled baby lamb chops sourced from Pak Chong (B590).
The verdict: The space—exposed beams, bare cement floors and walls, dangling light bulbs and blocky Scandinavian furniture—the constantly packed dining room (book in advance) and the affordable food make Peppina pretty irresistible.
27/1 Sukhumvit Soi 31, 02-119-7677. Open Tue-Sun 6:30-11pm
The buzz: Opus is a huge favorite with the fine-dining crowd—to the point where all its chefs go on to open their own places. Just like Francesco Lenzi, Italian chef Christian Martena is now doing his own thing at Sensi, an old house even more sleek and luxurious than Opus.
In the plate: Martena’s primary focus is on high-quality ingredients, mainly sourced from France and Italy, such as the stracciatella cheese from Andria and foie gras from France. You can try them as part of the brief à la carte menu, which also includes dishes like beef tartar smoked with cherry wood (B520) and risotto infused in merlot wine served with homemade sausage and red grapes reduction (B560). They also offer a seven-course set menu (B2,690) with dishes like delicious burratina cheese served with fresh artichoke and balsamic caviar and ravioli stuffed with ricotta spinach and egg with black truffle
and parmesan air.
The verdict: Lots of imported produce, lots of truffle—this would be textbook Italian fine-dining if it weren’t for the occasional molecular technique.
Narathiwat Ratchanakarin Soi 17, 02-117-1618. Open Mon-Sat 6pm-midnight
Bars and Brasseries
The buzz: Is it a bar? Is it a restaurant? Frankly, the verdict’s still out, but what is certain is that the food—although tinily portioned—is excellently executed. The chef, Vincent Thierry, comes from Hong Kong’s two-Michelin-starred Caprice restaurant. They’re calling him a three-star chef, which is partially true since Thierry led his team in Hong Kong to a third star in 2009. It’s also a properly elegant space, and has an outdoor air-conditioning system which, while no doubt a plague on the environment, makes this the comfiest outdoor lounge in Sathorn.
In the plate: The Japanese wagyu sirloin with black truffle potato and bone marrow butter, and onsen egg yolk with sea urchin espuma and pork knuckle stew are particularly amazing. We did think the price of B350 per dish (savory) was pretty expensive until someone pointed out that, if you order all ten, you’ll have an unbeatable tasting menu for B3,500.
Verdict: Don’t be put off by the brand; the food is something special. (But you might want to fill up at Dean & DeLuca after.)
6/F, Mahanakhon Cube, Narathiwas Rd., 02-001-0697. Open daily 10am till late. BTS Chong Nonsi
The buzz: There’s a definite New York chic thing going on here—think Minibar or Hyde & Seek—and the barrel-aged cocktails are worthy of the hippest bars in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But Vesper isn’t just a very cool bar with a phlegmatic Scottish bartender. Its kitchen is helmed by Chef Luca Appino of respected Italian restaurant La Bottega di Luca (Sukhumvit Soi 49), which nearly made the Top 10 in Top Tables 2014.
In the plate: Get started with parma ham, sundried tomatoes and burrata cheese (B1,290 for 350 grams/B1,490 for 500 grams) before tucking into the ossobuco (braised veal shank with red wine and mash potatoes, B790).
Verdict: A bit pricey, making us partial to the two-or-three courses (starting B350/450) set lunch and the very cool happy hour where B300 gets you a cocktail and some tasty nibbles like the crispy pizzetta.
10/15 Convent Rd., 02-235-2777. Open Mon-Thu 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-midnight; Fri 11:30am-2:30pm,5:30pm-1am; Sat 5:30pm-1am; Sun 5:30pm-midnight. BTS Sala Daeng
The buzz: The owner, Lalita Bautet of Bouchot Restaurant (Sukhumvit Soi 24), initially opened the small counter-like Belon Oyster & Raw Bar on the ground-floor of Seenspace last year, before expanding to incorporate a full menu, here. The décor resembles a ship below decks, albeit a well-stocked one, and the food demonstrates that, yes, there is an art to raw food.
The food: On top of the wide selection of fresh oysters (from B125), expect global recipes celebrating all things uncooked: carpaccio (starting B360 for seared tuna), tartarki (B660 for wagyu striploin) and ceviche (B380 for tuna). For the raw averse, there are also cooked dishes like the angel hair Canadian lobster arabiata (starting B1,650 for 700g).
The verdict: Simple and simply delicious, with a very handsome space to boot.
440/9 Thonglor Soi 14, 02-713-8335. Open daily 5:30pm-1am
The buzz: Barely a month of 2014 went by without more news from Water Library, whether it was a new restaurant opening or the revamp of an existing branch. But this steakand-seafood-focused brasserie slap-bang in the middle of Sathorn is perhaps the most exciting.
In the plate: Don’t expect spectacular molecular techniques or out-of-this-world presentation. The menu is simple and satisfying: cuts of beef, platters of seafood, fillets of fish. On the most elaborate end of the scale is Kamichiku wagyu (starting at B1,400 for A2 striploin), but you can also get a generous 350g slab of Thailand-bred, grass-fed Angus rib eye for B980.
The verdict: The food isn’t as elaborate as Chamchuri Square or Grass Thonglor (currently under renovation), but that’s not always a bad thing.
3/F, Empire Tower, Sathorn Rd., 02- 286-9548. Open daily 11:30am-11pm. BTS Chong Nonsi
The buzz: Dutch chef Henk Savelberg has won four Michelin stars in four different restaurants, and now says he wants to establish an “ultrafine-dining” culture in Thailand. To do so, he’s closed his eponymous restaurant at The Hague and moved here.
In the plate: Simple yet elaborate. We loved his half-cooked langoustine served with parmesan mousse, pata negra ham and an intense clarified tomato consomme (B1,550). His approach can be playful—especially with desserts like the hazelnut cake, coffee lacquered poached pear and lychee syrup (B750)—but his prices are deadly serious. A seven-course menu will cost B4,900, and that’s without the wine pairing.
The verdict: For those wealthy enough, we’re calling this a genuine Michelin-level experience.
G/F, Oriental Residence, Wireless Rd., 02-252-8001. Open Mon-Sat noon-2:30pm, 6-10pm
The buzz: As rumors about Atelier Robuchon’s opening date continued to circle, another French three-Michelin-star chef moved into town relatively silently. Jean-Michel Lorain of the Côte Saint Jacques hotel in Burgundy, is the man behind this elegant but playful restaurant at the U Sathorn.
In the plate: Classical, elegant and with a few modern touches. To start, try the labor-intensive ocean oyster terrine with confit shallots, Irancy wine gelée and spinach (B910), a refreshing delight from the mother restaurant. For a taste of the old-school, try the onion soup with veal shank confit and Gruyère cheese (B350). If you care to share, any dish can be pre-divided onto smaller plates and then passed around on the lazy Susan.
The verdict: Good for when you don’t want too much creativity—just perfectly executed classics.
U Sathorn Bangkok, 105, 105/1 Soi Ngam Duphli, Sathorn Rd., 02-119-4888. Open daily 11:30am-3pm, 6-11pm
The buzz: Randy Nopprapa’s eight-seat pop-up sushi bar at Portico Langsuan has turned into this permanent restaurant doing omakase-style service (the chef decides what you eat).
In the plate: Combining superb fish with Milky Queen rice from Ibaraki prefecture, the sushi here is really worth trying—even if a full omakase course will set you back B6,000. For something more laidback, try the assorted donburi (rice bowls), made with quality toppings such as assorted raw fish (B950), Saga wagyu or local kurobuta pork (both at B1,500).
The verdict: There was a big trend for omakase sushi restaurants this year. Fillets distinguishes itself by being the most casual. Although the food is excellent, it does lack the precision of main rivals Ginza Sushi Ichi and Sushi Hinata.
3/F, Portico, 31 Lang Suan Rd., 02-652-2607. Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm, 6:30pm-midnight. BTS Chit Lom
The buzz: After expanding to Singapore, Tokyo’s one-Michelin-star Ginza Sushi Ichi has now made a splash in Bangkok. Gaggan Anand, head chef at the number-three entry for Top Tables 2014, has given it his stamp of approval, calling it some of the best sushi he’s ever eaten.
In the plate: The chefs’ selection (B1,300/lunch, B4,000/dinner) changes according to the day’s seafood delivery, with the intention of providing the same standard all year round. One specialty includes the live Hokkaido taraba crab (starting B4,500 per crab), which is boiled, cleaned and then portioned according to the number of diners in the party.
The verdict: Not a single sushi restaurant made the top 10 in Top Tables 2014. There’s little suspense that Ginza will place somewhere next year, but how high?
LG/F, Erawan Bangkok, 494 Phloen Chit Rd., 02-250-0014. Open Tue-Sat noon-2:30pm, 6-11pm; Sun noon-2:30pm,6-10pm. BTS Chit Lom
The buzz: Central Embassy’s pop at the 2014 sushi crown. This one is affiliated with a brand originally from Nagoya.
In the plate: The lunch set starts at B1,200 with appetizer, nine pieces of sushi and miso soup. There are a few à la carte options, too, like the rover eel rolls (B650) and aburi zukushi (B600), which includes assorted grilled sushi served with three kinds of fish. The fermented ginger, here, is wonderfully aromatic. The rice is firmer and less moist than you might be used to, which, they say, is more authentic.
The verdict: The biggest competition for Ginza. Everyone we speak to who’s eaten at both has their own favorite.
5/F, Central Embassy, 1031 Phloen Chit Rd., 02-160-5935. Open daily daily 11am-10pm. BTS Phloen Chit
The top 2014 openings in 140 characters or less.
Chef Somkiat “Joke” Pairojmahakij of Seven Spoons cooks up fresh produce by the river. We’ll stick to our beloved Seven Spoons, though.
Ian Kittichai decided he’d go for Asian comfort food in this adorable 100-year-old house with a solid bar
on the ground floor. The man can cook—shame the place is always empty.
Take Hyde & Seek, move it to Groove, add the word Peek-a-Boo and voila. (Stick to the scotch eggs.)
It’s a tourist-trap in Paris and Groove’s branch is a pretty accurate rendition of Parisian bistro food: uninspired yet competently executed.
We stopped at the B150 Coke. Non
Our favorite opening at Groove verges on fine-dining in terms of quality and service, but keeps prices reasonable. Not bad for a chain restaurant.
WATER LIBRARY BRASSERIE
With so many Water Library branches and so much bistro/brasserie food, you kind of want to
start hating their growing empire. Except their food tastes darn good, a somewhat redeeming quality in our book.
This Supanniga spinoff has charming decor, towering bay windows and a menu of regional Thai dishes that often dazzle. Also, the music is terrible.
From some of the partners behind Le Beaulieu, 661 opened with a bang, snatching chef Cyril Cocconi from Okura’s Elements. Now that he’s gone to Vogue Lounge, we haven’t been back—or met anyone who has.
It’s Japanese. It’s Southeast Asian. It’s chef driven. In other words, it’s way too complicated for mere mortals to wrap their heads around. Oh, and the views are amazing.
What a beautiful design, and how daring to open a lifestyle destination across the river, in the remote land of Thonburi. Still, starchitect Duangrit Bunnag will be remembered for his buildings, not necessarily for our last meal here.
Japanese rolls and a design by Be Gray (who did half the hip places in town). This one isn’t going to win any points for originality but it is one sexy place.