8 ซอย นานา
The resurgence of Chinatown as a hip place to imbibe has seen the opening of choice new bars and restaurants. What’s more, the unique architecture of the neighborhood’s traditional shophouses has imbued many of them with a cool, atmospheric vibe that takes major cues from the work of Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai. One such venue is Ba Hao, which fuses vintage chinoiserie decor with on-point cocktails and some seriously delicious snacks—try the duck wontons served with chili sesame oil and the jianbing, a Chinese crepe stuffed with ground pork, chilies, and hoisin sauce. As you might expect, Chinese influence is prevalent here. Signature drinks include the Opium, a classic Negroni spiked with ginseng and herbal liquor, and Five Rivers, where five-spice powder is combined with rum and Drambuie.
2 N Sathon Rd, Khwaeng Bang Rak, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Thailand
Bangkok’s impressive roster of rooftop venues is one of its major selling points when it comes to dining out and cocktail culture. Park Society, at the SO Sofitel Bangkok hotel, is a worthy addition to the sky-high club, benefiting from a prize perch high above Lumphini Park, one of the city’s few sizable patches of verdant greenery. While the views over the park to the chrome-and-glass towers that dominate the skyline are an undoubted highlight, there’s more than just vistas to appreciate. Inside, the restaurant fuses fine dining touches, such as tasting menus, with a pleasantly casual atmosphere and shared dishes that heighten the social feel. Meanwhile, the expansive outdoor Terrace Bar offers fine wines, classic cocktails, and an invigorating breeze.
Soi Charoen Krung 28
A clue to the appeal of the bar Tropic City is in its name: Here, sultry influences from Polynesia, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America fuse in a most refreshing way. The tropical theme informs everything from the decor—a tasteful mash-up of flower motifs and Portuguese tiles—to the sociable atmosphere on the outdoor terrace, which is packed nearly every night. It is most evident, though, in the carefully curated cocktail list, which dabbles in gin and mezcal while putting a heavy emphasis on rum-based drinks. Cocktails pack a punch, but light infusions such as vanilla, pineapple, and aromatic spices make it easy to put away a few—which perhaps explains why the venue has become a go-to for the city’s party set.
26 Ekkamai 10 Alley, Lane 2, Khwaeng Phra Khanong Nuea, Khet Watthana, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110, Thailand
Tucked away above Mikkeller, a craft beer bar on a leafy backstreet, Upstairs has quietly established itself as one of Bangkok’s most exciting restaurants. Recognition of Korean-American chef Dan Bark’s skill came when French fine-dining bible Michelin granted the restaurant a star. Although functional and pleasant, the minimalist dining room gives scant notice of the elevated gastronomic experience provided by Bark and his team. A ten-course tasting menu changes regularly depending on the whim of the chef, featuring creative, unfussy dishes that Bark labels “progressive American” cuisine. If you are feeling flush, the best way to enjoy the food is to go with the beer pairing, which involves specially selected craft brews, cider, and mead.
Bangkok’s culinary scene has recently been enlivened by an influx of talented U.S. chefs who are upping creativity levels at venues around the city. One such addition is Texan Riley Sanders, the head man at Canvas. Sanders cut his teeth at restaurants in Austin and Chicago, as well as on a luxury yacht, and his globe-trotting approach to cooking is evident here. The emphasis is on local ingredients in the six- and nine-course tasting menus, which showcase modern Bangkok cuisine in a freewheeling approach. Recent menu highlights have included shrimp noodles dressed in an intense seafood sauce, and mud crab prepared with lotus root, lotus stem, swamp algae, and rice paddy herbs.
327 Maha Chai Rd, Khwaeng Samran Rat, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand
A kitchen dynamo whose energy belies her age of 76, Supinya Junsuta, aka Jay Fai, is chef-owner of one of the Thai capital’s most renowned shophouse restaurants—the eponymous Jay Fai—and one of the city’s most recognizable foodie personalities. In her trademark heat-resistant goggles, essential protection from a searing inferno of hot oil, she cuts a distinctive figure. And her fame and the crowds have only grown since the Michelin Guide judges gave her eatery Thailand’s first and only Michelin star for street food in 2017 (so much so that she has expressed a wish to give the star back). Her lofty reputation is founded on the alchemy she produces from her scalding wok, with stir-fries such as pad kee mao talay (drunken noodles with seafood) and other dishes like fluffy khai jeaw poo (crab omelet) and a complex tom yum goong (hot and sour shrimp soup) more than justifying the (relatively) steep prices.
89 ถนน เยาวพานิช Khwaeng Chakkrawat, Khet Samphanthawong, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10100, Thailand
One of the longest-standing restaurants in Chinatown’s Yaowarat Road area, Tang Jai Yoo fits the template of many of the dining venues in this part of town. The decor is faded and the harsh lighting would cast a sickly glow on even the most glamorous diner. Unlike glitzy restaurants elsewhere in the city, people come here solely to eat. Superstar TV chef Anthony Bourdain is among those to have lauded its signature whole roast suckling pig. Other choice items on the Thai-Chinese menu include steamed crab with black olives and ground pork, and deep-fried mantis prawns with chili and salt.
Soi Phiphat 2, Khwaeng Silom, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Thailand
One of Thailand’s most loved dishes, som tam (green papaya salad) is ubiquitous in Bangkok, with vendors across the capital pounding together the essential components of shredded fruit, garlic, fish sauce, palm sugar, and lots and lots of chili. One of the best places to sample a truly delicious version is this friendly venue tucked away in the backstreets of Silom. Besides serving their versions of som tam, a gargantuan barbecue produces beautifully smoky grilled chicken wings. While these are the stars of the show, the restaurant also does a winning line in other classics from northeast Thailand such as kor moo yang (grilled pork neck).
68/3 ถนน หลังสวน Khwaeng Lumphini, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand
Gaa is located directly opposite Gaggan, Bangkok’s most famous eatery, which was named the best restaurant in Asia in 2017. The brains behind the venture is Garima Arora, former sous chef at Gaggan and chef de partie at Noma. A native of Mumbai, Arora doesn’t shy away from her Indian roots. They are balanced, however, by international influences, including prominent Thai flavors. As you would expect from someone with her pedigree, Arora gives full rein to her creativity throughout the tasting menus (10 or 14 courses), with dishes such as grilled pork ribs marinated with split-pea miso and served with chopped shallots, spring onions, and pomegranate seeds showcasing her talent.
999 Phloen Chit Rd, Khwaeng Lumphini, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand
Head chef Bee Satongun and co-owner Jason Bailey, a husband-and-wife team, are dedicated to bringing back lost recipes and techniques of heirloom Thai cooking. Paste is one of Bangkok’s most exciting Thai restaurants, and the Michelin judges have duly noted that fact by gracing it with a star. The cuisine is based on century-old family recipes served with innovative twists and an attention to detail that make it as aesthetically pleasing as it is delicious. Signature dishes include black cod poached in duck lard and larb salad with pheasant, hog plum leaves, and edible flowers, but really everything is good.
27/34 Soi Si Bamphen, Khwaeng Thung Maha Mek, Khet Sathon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10120, Thailand
The undisputed king of Bangkok dive bars, Wong’s Place has a character of its own. It’s hard to describe exactly why you should go to this hole-in-the-wall institution near Lumphini Park. The furniture has seen better days, the toilets are nobody’s idea of a treat, and the service ranges from eccentric to downright surly. The fact that it is now one of the few venues in the city that remains open until the wee hours might explain its popularity. But really, it’s the fact that—for all its faults—the bar retains an unpretentious “up-for-it” vibe that is largely missing from more refined places. On quiet nights, there’s not a lot to recommend it, but visit on weekends and there’s a good chance you’ll fall under its beguiling spell.
991/9 Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand
The kitchen at this elegant Thai restaurant, complete with lotus pond, at the Siam Kempinski Hotel makes everything fresh and by hand, including the fish sauce and prawn crackers. Interestingly, Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin was founded by Henrik Yde-Andersen, whose Thai eatery in Copenhagen, Kiin Kiin, has earned a Michelin star every year since 2008. And so did the Bangkok restaurant for its creative approach to modern Thai cuisine and ten-course tasting menus that use Thai flavors and modern gastronomic cooking techniques in tastes such as basil foam and frozen red curry.
92 ซอย นานา Khwaeng Pom Prap, Khet Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10100, Thailand
When 23 Bar, a legendary dive, closed, Bangkok’s late-night crowd lost one of the city’s best places for good times and solid music. Thankfully, the bar has re-emerged on the hip Soi Nana strip in the Old City. While the tiny shophouse doesn’t offer the same space for dancing to the indie music–centric playlist overseen by the owner, the overall ethos is in keeping with the long-term spirit of the place. Indeed, some might say that there’s something a bit Groundhog Day about the music, which tends to rely on tried-and-true crowd pleasers. Nevertheless, the friendly vibe and the generous drinks make it worth repeat visits.