Put this Laotian bar-slash-restaurant on your Thonglor agenda.
Full-flavored Laotian recipes and an old-school funk soundtrack combine at the noir-industrial dining room of Sanya Souvanna Phouma (Bed Supperclub, Maggie Choo’s, Sing Sing and Cactus) and fellow Laotian business partner Saya Na Champassak’s latest venture. Dishes like kaipen, a starter of fried Mekong river-weed served with three types of spicy dips like jaew bong, are drawn from their upbringing. The refreshing feu kra dook seen plays on Vietnamese pho and the French classic pot au feu for a soup that offers roasted bone marrow and broth with sliced raw wagyu beef, herbs and loads of onions.
This review took place in December 2018 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.
With a new breed of Thai restaurants taking pride in regionality (100 Mahaseth, Rarb, Sorn), discerning diners can also hop the border to taste the “same same but different” fare of neighboring Laos at Funky Lam.
A bright, brunch-friendly cafe with a motorbike fixation by day (named Luka Moto), this nook on the corner of Thonglor Soi 11 transforms spectacularly come sundown. Hand-painted rattan blinds, dashes of neon and flickering film projections lend a vibe that’s sultry and clandestine.
This is the baby of nightlife baron Sanya Souvanna Phouma, a master of exotic mood-setting at ventures like Sing Sing or Cactus, and fellow Laotian business partner Saya Na Champassak, who’ve whipped up an intoxicating blend of new and old just made for the start of a big night out.
Fans of Isaan, northern Thai and Vietnamese food will find plenty that’s familiar in the drinking nibbles, salads, soups and grilled meats on offer, but there are surprises too. Kick things off with the kaipen (B190), a starter of crunchy Mekong river weed spotted with sesame seeds that comes with three pungent varieties of jaew (chili dips). Sweet but not too sweet, spicy but not overbearingly so, you’ll want to smear these relishes on everything. More gimmicky is the smashed avocado jaew (or “Laotian guacamole”) that comes with the gai ping (grilled half baby chicken, B360), but you can’t deny this is some incredibly tender bird a good few notches above your regular streetside gai yang cart.
Funky Lam is at its best when it pulls no punches. With its liberal dousing of padaek (aka plara), the tam mak hoong puu tord (papaya salad with cherry tomatoes and tempura soft-shell crab, B260) is the polar opposite of the sickly sweet somtam that finds favor in Bangkok—funky, indeed! Order the larb ped (herbal minced duck salad, B350) for a decent primer on the differences between Laotian and Isaan cuisines. This herbaceous, citrusy salad sidesteps sweat-inducing heat for oodles of umami and will have you dabbing away with your sticky rice (B40) until it’s done.
From the sublime to the merely serviceable, Funky Lam’s sai oua (Chiang Mai pork sausage, B290) is dry, crumbly and a bit of a chore thanks to the impractical but cute mini cleaver it’s served with.
That’s a minor quibble when there’s ice-cold Beerlao (B150) in full flow. Better yet, order up some punchy Asian creations from the coffee counter-turned-cocktail bar—the Lazy Sour (B320), with its sour-sweet hit of tamarind, fully lives up to the blinking sign’s neon mantra, “Keep the Funk Alive.” (Bonus: The bowl of crisp, dried chilis might be the best free bar snack in town.)