We ate out a lot this year. Here are our favorite restaurants, cafes and food moments of 2016.
Bonnie Sananvatananont, Staff Writer
The affordable steaks at Arno's
In my opinion, this is the best steak in town. The butcher-shop style not only gives you the freedom to choose exactly what meat you want and how you want it, but it also takes away the pretentiousness that a lot of other steak places in Bangkok have. This is not a place for snobby fine-dining steak that you’ll cut into while sitting under a crystal chandelier and sipping on ridiculously expensive wine. Instead, this is real, home-style steak. That you can drink with beer. That you can pair with casual sides like mac and cheese or curly fries. And, most importantly, that you can actually afford. The beef itself is seriously delicious, too. You’ll be dreaming of that sizzling hot-plate of steak for days after.
Carl Dixon, Deputy Editor
The evolution of 80/20
When our food writer [Natcha Sanguankiattichai, see below] first told me about this cool little spot on Charoenkrung claiming to do “80-percent local ingredients, 20-percent creative twists,” I had my doubts—really, who wouldn’t? But my expectations were blown out of the water by chef Napol Jantraget’s daring mix of Western cooking methods and minimal Thai produce. Despite a few early hiccups, I must have eaten here at least a dozen times for dinner and brunch throughout 2016, and it just keeps getting better. The menu is always evolving and since Canadian chef Andrew Martin joined the fold mid-year, there’s even more emphasis on Thai flavors—fusion isn’t a dirty word! The duck breast smoked with Number One brand tea is incredible, while on-point cocktails and desserts make 80/20 the full package. Above all, I love that the place feels like a labor of love between good friends.
Choltanutkun Tun-atiruj, Junior Writer
Brunch in the garden of Freebird
I’m a big fan of their back garden. As a nightlife writer I go out during the week a lot, so on the weekend I often want to be in a completely quiet place to read alone. Before Freebird I’d go to the park. Now, I’m regularly in their back garden for weekend brunch. Located deep in Sukhumvit Soi 47, it’s quiet enough that you can hear birds chirping, while the uncle who looks after the garden has pet chickens which he lets stroll around. Of course, the food (they call it modern Australian) is great, too—the ocean trout is my favorite. They also have really good coffee, plus quite a selection of smoothies. Most important of all though are the cocktails. I don’t drink at brunch but I’m not one to judge if you want to, just make sure you order my favorite: the Mexican Sunset, a combination of tequila, mezcal and homegrown dill (which you can see growing in front of the restaurant when you walk in) for B350. The staff are also extremely lovely. When you decide to sit inside, you can watch them making your food and bother them with questions (like I always do). They even let you try a bit here and there, just like eating at home.
Earn Saenmuk, Junior Writer
The meaty dinner at El Gaucho’s
I’m not trying to say Bonnie is wrong (see above), but I think this is the best steakhouse in town. El Gaucho isn’t exactly new to Bangkok, but the Thonglor location did just open. Pick your cut and how you want it cooked, and you’re good to go. You also get to munch on their amazing complimentary bread with olive oil, balsamic, butter and roasted garlic while you wait. The service here beats most places I’ve visited (and I’ve had my fair share of experience). I’m not a picky eater, but when a 350g USDA Prime fillet steak I ordered came slightly overcooked, the staff offered to switch it at no cost, and even brought out a new set of side dishes. The highlight of a meal here, however, is the complimentary, sweet, vodka-type shots served at the end of the meal. You really don’t need another dessert with this delicious drink to cleanse your palate. I still want to go back and buy the whole bottle of the liquor.
Anne Jansuttipan, Features Associate
The incredible seafood at Phuket's Esenzi
Rethink your impression of Phuket's restaurant scene with Esenzi, the new opening from Tim Butler (of Eat Me, Bangkok) at Iniala Beach House. Like at Eat Me, Butler takes influence from all over the world, but here it's all about seafood which the kitchen raises in a livestock seawater tank, meaning the eight-course menu features nothing but the freshest ingredients. It's also full of surprises, from Maine lobsters to Japanese akagai (surf clams), which they serve raw with a spicy nam jim jaew-inspired sauce. Not only is the food brilliant, but the wine pairing experience is also fun thanks to a conversational sommelier who talks you through each course.Their sea urchin risotto paired with the Vinho Tinto Redoma Niepoort 2013 from the Douro Valley in Portugal is a sublime experience.
Natcha Sanguankiattichai, Staff Writer
The set menu at Suhring
Suhring is just so well rounded. It’s set in a beautiful villa tucked away from Soi Yen Akart with an interior that really feels like it's somebody's home. But the food is the star. When I first went there, it was one of the first times I also had to take food photos for the magazine myself. So I got to really enjoy the dishes visually as well as for their flavor. Dinner starts with a small beer mug and goes on to other finger-food items—a whole new look at what German food meant in my culinary dictionary. I really like how they combine all the nation’s food cliches in a new, creative way without making any flavors hard to understand. Since that dinner, I can't stop talking about the best "bread time" I’ve ever had: the renowned brotzeit course which features truly amazing homemade sourdough and soft pretzel alongside dips, pickles and cured meat. Best opening this year, hands down.
Oliver Irvine, Managing Editor
The omakase at Sushi Masato
When I think of omakase, I think of awkward, drawn-out dinners under the penetrating gaze of the sushi chef. Of feeling like I’m doing the wrong thing. Of trying to stifle nervous laughter. Of burning my mouth thinking hot courses are cold. At the Bangkok debut from Masato Shimizu (whose NYC restaurant Jewel Bako won a Michelin star when he was just 29), you still get all the omakase essentials: a chef personally sculpting each dish before you; fish that flies in from Tokyo more regularly than a hi-so food blogger; a dining room so little they can only feed 20 people a night. But you also get a warmth and friendliness that makes you not afraid to do something so outrageous as, say, have a conversation. The food itself is also extraordinary—around 20 courses of sashimi, nigiri and other pretty little creations which defy the simplicity of their ingredients. Is it worth the B4,000 cost of entry? You bet. Good luck getting a reservation.
Theerada Moonsiri, Junior Writer
The homey French dishes at Outlaw
Honestly, I really didn't expect big things from this new Charoenkrung cafe—just another addition to the increasingly hipster neigborhood. But the food of Romain Guiot, who owns, runs and decorated the space himself, is really impressive. He prepares everything himself, from washing the veggies to plating to even service. And you can see it all happening thanks to a very open kitchen, with just a teeny wooden bar between it and the diners. Of the few dishes I've tried, my favorite is the truffle mashed potato with three chunks of tender steak, not to mention the local beer from Charun 13 Brewery and bread from Holey. This place is absolutely a hidden gem!