Ari meets Hong Kong’s Soho at this stylish Cantonese joint.
This review took place in November 2019 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.
Chinese cuisine is having a moment in Bangkok, with new openings from high-end Nan Bei to biang biang noodle specialist Yoong Chang. Ari’s Dai Lou certainly fits within the gastronomic zeitgeist, although, depending on your geopolitical position, you might want to choose your words wisely when talking about this glossy Hong Kong-inspired restaurant.
Occupying a glass-fronted space that looks like it could have been a fashion designer’s showroom, Dai Lou screams “rich dude’s home.” The decor is all teal and gold, with small touches denoting prestige, like guardian lion statuettes on black marble tables and cutlery coated in prismatic paint. Even the blue mosaic tiles in the garden—a nod to Hong Kong’s MTR stations—give the place a palpable air of material comfort.
But it all feels surreal when you consider how empty the place is. At 7pm on a recent visit, ours was the only table in the room. That put the wait staff in an awkward position, not sure whether to dote on us or leave us be (ultimately, they did both, just at different points). Maybe that imposing design keeps people away, because the food doesn’t. Sure, we wish the signature Wan Chai crispy pork belly (B220)—named, like many of the dishes, after Hong Kong landmarks—weren’t so dry and had that wafer-like crunchy skin, but you can’t fault the flavor of the ma po tofu (B220), which balances its numbing mala and spicy elements with a splash of rice wine and a cool block of fresh tofu. And while Dai Lou advertises “modern Chinese tapas,” that merely implies that the chef has taken slight creative liberties with large plates made to share. The totally filling, fork-tender steamed grouper (B320)—served atop a bed of crispy wonton skins and alongside a bowl of warm soy sauce—steps just slightly outside the box. Likewise, the drunken chicken (B180) tweaks the Chinese staple with a trio of house-made sauces and tea leaf-infused rice. Small touches, but the result is a hearty, interesting bite.
All that’s missing is something other than hot tea or fruit-infused water to wash it down. Right now, only Tsing Tao and basic cocktails are available under the table. No one in their right mind wants to pair a Long Island with, well, anything really, but certainly not with drunken chicken or duck po piah (B280). Still, these are some of the best Cantonese dishes we’ve had in Bangkok—especially at this price point—and it’s hard not to root for a place with so much time and care clearly pumped into it. So do yourself a favor: go with a group, sample everything and end with a nightcap at any one of Ari’s excellent bars.