The buzz: Yaowarat isn’t all just street food. It’s becoming a bit of a hotspot for trendy cafes and bars. Phukej stands out with its southern Thai fusion cuisine—written with a “J” and not the “T” as a nod to the southern port city’s retro recipes. The spot is helmed by partners in work and life high-end hotel pastry chef from Pemika “Tong” Ungsongsup and chef Thapakorn “Korn” Lertviriyavit, who previously worked at Michelin star restaurants Nahm, Aksorn, and acclaimed venues in Singapore such as Long Chim and Celavi.
The vibe: Although the food takes a departure from the local scene, Phukej’s exterior is a chameleon, blending its mint green walls with the surrounding shop houses. Inside, what was previously an old warehouse was architecturally preserved to maintain the vintage flair while ceramic tiled floors, dark wood fixtures, and Chinese tea sets add a cozy, elegant feel.
The food: At Phukej, it’s all about the family-style dining. The menu takes you through multiple categories, covering your salads, grills, stir fries, curry, and other essentials. To open up your palate, go for the photogenic Charcoal Cup Hokkaido Scallop (B350) inspired by the classic Malay and Singaporean snack kueh pie, a thin crispy pastry shell filled with sweet and spicy shredded veggies and shrimp. At Phukej there’s an added southern twist with seafood dip and notes of pomelo, coconut cream, and cucumber. The finishing bite is a complex bundle of flavors: refreshing, nutty, and has a little kick at the end. If you’re feeling adventurous, go for the Strawberry Tiger Prawn Salad (B320), a rendition of north-eastern papaya salad featuring two pungent ingredients native to the south: bitter beans and salty shrimp paste. The deep fried shrimp legs bring a crispy element of surprise. For heavy hitter sides to go with freshly steamed rice, the Stir Fried Squid in Black Ink (B350) is an instant winner for seafood lovers. Tender pieces of squid are ladled with a rich inky herb broth, topped with sprinkles of salted egg and stir fried garlic balanced out with a squeeze of lime. The Phukej Style Pork Belly (B330) is another signature to look out for. The meat is stewed, soaked in batter, and fried, making it crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. The star of the curry selection is definitely the Southern Style Crab Curry and Betel Leaf (B420). The multi-textured crab is covered in a special broth made from in-house curry paste and aromatic coconut milk smoked with longan and coconut pulp. The texture is not too thick, a drizzle over some thin rice noodles and fresh veggies seals the deal. 
The drinks: The venue has a selection of wine, craft beer, and highball cocktails made from Thailand-produced liquor. Apart from their alcoholic bevs, Phukej serves tourists and local faves such as Thai tea and kopi (a southern style coffee).
Why we’d come back: As the new kid on the block, Phukej is still a hidden gem waiting for foodies to discover. The generous portion sizes are perfect if you’re looking to impress a crowd of friends.
730, Mangkon Rd., 081-983-6650. Open Mon 11:30am-3pm and 4:30-10pm, Thu-Sun 11:30am-3pm and 4:30-10pm.

Charcoal Cup Hokkaido Scallop
Strawberry Tiger Prawn Salad
Stir Fried Squid in Black Ink
Phukej Style Pork Belly
Crab Curry and Betel Leaf