Stories / Guides and Tips

8 Places You Need to Try in Bangkok

Plus grocery store recs for when you're not dining out

Mitchell Davis

October 08, 2019

Search
Recipes

Paste salad photo by Mitchell Davis
A signature salad at Paste, crunchy cured rice balls are tossed with sour sausage, lime leaf zest, red curry paste, river weed and rose pepper leaf (photo: Mitchell Davis).

If you’re anything like us, the first thing you do when planning a trip—perhaps even before booking a plane ticket—is figure out where you’re going to eat while you’re there. Museums, sightseeing, and shopping are all well and good, but food is often the main attraction. To make trip planning a little easier, we’ve compiled lists of our can’t-miss spots in some of our favorite places. Below, our chief strategy officer (and resident globe-trotting gourmand) Mitchell Davis shares his top eats in Bangkok.

--

You don’t have to look hard in Bangkok to see how food is central to Thai culture. Even after the city’s government tried to ban street food back in 2018 in an attempt to improve hygiene and reduce chaos, alleyways and arteries are lined with carts selling fried chicken, curries, salads, fresh fruit, sweets, and noodles of myriad varieties. Complementing—and sometimes even competing with—Bangok’s world-class street food are its world-class restaurants. Not only is the variety of Thai food available impressive and overwhelming, but as in any great culinary capital, the quality of other cuisines is also very high.

I’ve compiled this list of restaurant recommendations after a recent 10-day stay in the capital city, the climax of which was a blow-out dinner at the late, great Gaggan—the namesake of which was also the host for most of my stay. There are so many good restaurants to choose—haute and humble—that it’s hard to narrow the list down. But all of these stood out as places I would go back to the next time I’m in town.  

Sorn
56, Sukhumvit 26 Soi Ari, Klongton Khlong Toei, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

Despite its Michelin star, I hadn’t heard of Sorn before I arrived in Thailand. It was Thitid Tassanakajohn (known as “Chef Ton”) of Le Du who insisted I had to eat at his friend’s place, and Ton who made the reservation—no small feat I’d later learn, considering the demand for the restaurant. When chef-owner Supaksorn Jongsiri (known as “Khun Ice”) introduced himself, he asked what our spice tolerance was. We told him to cook it as he would eat it. Our meal was hot in every sense of the word and a revelation on many levels. Ice’s elegant and elaborate tasting menu showcases the ingredients and dishes of his native southern Thailand. Ice’s menu-making skills are masterful, as he builds the spice course after course to a searing crescendo, the pain of which he then alleviates with cooling dishes that cleanse the palate. And then he starts all over again.

Thai khao yam at Sorn photo Mitchell Davis
An elaborately presented and exquisite southern Thai khao yam or rice salad was mixed tableside at Sorn (photo: Mitchell Davis).

Paste
999 Phloen Chit Rd, Lumphini, Pathum Wan District, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

For several years Paste has been one of my favorite restaurants in Bangkok. Located in a nondescript shopping mall, Paste is a small, plush restaurant with an impressively long menu that makes choosing what to order a challenge. I always over-order and then eat it all anyway. Chef Bee Santongung’s dishes are complex, beautifully presented, and delicious—she calls it heirloom Thai cuisine and it has earned her a Michelin star. I can’t get enough.

Bo.Lan
24 Sukhumvit 53 Alley, Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

The unusual name of this restaurant is a combination of the husband-and-wife chef team behind this popular restaurant. Duangporn “Bo” Songvisava is Thai, Dylan “Lan” Jones is Australian. Bo is an outspoken champion of sustainability, unafraid to protest what she considers egregious environmental transgressions. Like her advocacy, the dishes at Bo.Lan are bold and bright, big on acid and spice. There’s a freshness to the food and an emphasis on local and traditional Thai ingredients, such as banana blossoms, bottleneck gourd, tropical fruits, and local fish, that makes a meal at Bo.lan unique.

Le Du
399/3 Silom 7 Alley, Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand

Thitid Tassanakajohn (known as “Chef Ton”) is a talented and ambitious chef who studied at the Culinary Institute of America and worked at several important New York restaurants before returning to Bangkok. His contemporary cooking is informed by global techniques but based heavily on tradition. Ton uses his unique approach to food as a calling card to travel the world, collaborating with great chefs wherever he goes. (He’s cooking at the James Beard House on October 18.) Although the references to traditional Thai cuisine aren’t always easy for foreigners to identify, we nevertheless appreciated the intense, complex flavors and delicious combinations.

Roe and potato canape at Surhing photo Mitchell Davis
Fresh trout roe and potato canapés at Sürhing (photo: Mitchell Davis)

Baan
139/5 Wireless Road, Lumphini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

Chef Ton’s family also operates this more casual, family restaurant with traditional Thai dishes made from family recipes. His younger brother Chaisiri runs this operation. During the course of my visit, I found myself returning to Baan to sample different classic dishes to see how they compared to those I found in other restaurants. The fragrant aroma and silky texture of the lamb in Baan’s massaman curry was unmatched. Even the mango sticky rice served for dessert was a step above, made with heirloom rice, elegantly presented, but no less satisfying and delicious than one you’d find on the street.

Nahm
27 Sathon Tai Rd, Thung Maha Mek, Sathon, Bangkok 10210, Thailand

Pim Techamuanvivit made her name first as a food blogger and then as chef-owner of the beloved Kin Khao in San Francisco. When she was selected to become chef of the celebrated Nahm—for years arguably the most famous restaurant in Bangkok, where Aussie expat David Thompson rose to the unlikely position of Thai food guru—people wondered how she would fill her predecessor’s shoes. The wondering is over, as Pim has brought her fresh, bright approach to the hallowed Thai kitchen. More elaborate than her menu at Kin Khao, the menu at Nahm follows a similar pattern to her predecessor’s, with an emphasis on the bold “relishes” built on fermented seafood, chiles, and other intense flavors that are traditionally used to condiment rice and other dishes.

Paste canape photo Mitchell Davis
Thai meals often begin with boldly flavored canapés, this one from Paste, was roasted duck, nutmeg, curry paste, and sawtooth coriander served on rice crackers (photo: Mitchell Davis).

Gaa
68/4 Soi Langsuan, Ploenchit Road, Pathum Wan District, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

Although his namesake #1 restaurant in Asia is now closed, Gaggan Anand’s legacy on the culinary landscape of Bangkok lives on in several fine restaurants he helped bring to life. Perhaps none is more deserving of his torch than this modern Indian restaurant in a beautifully restored private house located just across the street from the original Gaggan. Chef Garima Arora rose through the ranks there before setting out to create her personal version of contemporary Indian cuisine. Using traditional Indian ingredients and techniques, Arora constructs exciting new dishes and creative presentations, such as a whole-roasted jack fruit carved tableside.

Sühring
10 Soi Yen Akat 3, Chong Nonsi, Yan Nawa, Bangkok 10120, Thailand

German food in Bangkok? Yes, and at this sophisticated Michelin two-star restaurant it’s about as good as you will find anywhere. Although the swampy Bangkok climate might not prompt cravings of braised pork hocks and sauerkraut, the identical twin chefs who have partnered with Gaggan to create this temple of Teutonic tastes will change your desires. Thomas and Mathias Sühring clearly have a sense of humor—the meal starts with miniature pretzels and tiny beers—but the food is solid and satisfying, the cooking precise, the service impeccable, the wine list extensive, and the overall experience totally transporting, so much so you are surprised to be back on the chaotic Bangkok streets when you leave.

Between Meals

Still hungry? Another favorite of my Bangkok pastimes is wandering the aisles of Thai grocery stores, where the selection of fruits and vegetables, juices, spices, dried goods, prepared foods, curry pastes, and packaged goods is simply amazing. Two of my favorite stores located conveniently in the main shopping district are the Gourmet Market on the lower level of the Siam Paragon shopping mall (991 1 Rama I Rd, Pathum Wan, Pathum Wan District, Bangkok 10330), where you will also find an impressive Thai food court, and the Central Food Hall in the Central World shopping center (4/1-2 4 Ratchadamri Rd, Pathum Wan, Pathum Wan District, Bangkok 10330).

Get a taste of modern Thai cuisine at Chef Ton's Beard House dinner.

Want more travel inspiration? Check out more trip ideas.

-- 

Mitchell Davis is chief strategy officer at the James Beard Foundation. Find him on Twitter and Instagram.

See more

Bangkok Thailand