The new wave of restaurants in Bangkok championing local flavours

An exciting culinary scene is brewing as local chefs look inwards to their home country for inspiration. Here’s a look at the new chapter in Thai food.

Duck egg custard and roasted pumpkin at 80/20 in Bangkok.
  • Cheong Kamei
  • November 2019

From a restaurant that focuses on hyper-local ingredients to a nose-to-tail restaurant celebrating Isaan flavours, this list is a small glimpse into the progressive dining scene in Bangkok. Expect familiar Thai flavours reimagined through the lens of creative and passionate chefs.

1. TAAN

Ree-Ree-Khao-San cocktail at TAAN.
TAAN also offers cocktails that incorporate local ingredients. Highlights include Ree-Ree-Khao-San, a mix of Isaan rum, roast rice syrup, Thai basil and lime juice.

Farm-to-table dining has become one of those terms that is thrown around casually. Not at TAAN opens in new window. Every ingredient is sourced from independent Thai farmers with each dish championing one seasonal ingredient. In the nine-course A Journey of Taan Experience meal, you get to sample the diversity of Thailand’s produce — spiny lobster from southern province Ranong is cured in fish sauce, pork belly from Khon Kaen in the northeast is grilled and served on stir-fried spicy bitter beans, and chicken from Nakhon Pathom in central Thailand is wrapped in banana leaves and charcoal-grilled.

Address: 865 Rama I Rd, Wang Mai, Pathum Wan District, Bangkok 10330
Tel: +66 65 328 7374
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2. Saawaan

Beef soup at Saawaan.
Beef soup served with beef hump wrapped in yanang leaves, an Isaan delicacy.

Chef-owner Sujira Pongmorn might have cut her teeth in fine dining restaurants but her heart lies with local street food. After all, it was the Thai omelette that inspired her to become a chef. At Saawaan opens in new window, she elevates everyday dishes through a well-composed tasting menu. For example, in her take on nam phrik (a typical Thai sauce), Pongmorn takes the fat from paddy field crabs — a humble ingredient commonly eaten by rice farmers — to add richness to the spicy dip.

Address: 39/19 Soi Suanplu, S Sathon Rd, Thung Maha Mek, Sathon, Bangkok 10120
Tel: +66 63 370 1991
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3. 80/20

Interior of 80/20.
About 80 percent of the ingredients used are locally produced, hence 80/20’s name.

Here opens in new window, Thai flavours are informed by husband-and-wife chef duo Napol Jantraget and Saki Hoshino’s travels to other parts of Asia. The main course in the nine-course Monsoon tasting menu embodies their borderless approach — 14-day aged and smoked duck breast is glazed with a citrusy water beetle sauce and served with a side of claypot organic brown rice perfumed with korma curry powder.

Address: 1052-1054, 26 Charoen Krung Rd, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500
Tel: +66 99 118 2200
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READ MORE: The tourist-free neighbourhoods to visit in Bangkok opens in new window

4. Front Room

Backyard chicken at Front Room.
Backyard Chicken served with morel, pumpkin and galangal sauce.

Chef Rungthiwa Chummongkhon has over 10 years of experience in Michelin-starred restaurants in Scandinavia including Noma. But at Front Room opens in new window, she is charting her own path with a menu that marries Nordic techniques such as pickling, curing and smoking with traditional Thai recipes. Milk skin is caramelised and served with lemongrass-smoked scallop; silkworm emulsion, mulberries, radish and caviar are served on flatbread … each dish is imaginative, bold and memorable.

Address: 151 Ratchadamri Rd, Lumphini, Pathum Wan District, Bangkok 10330
Tel: +66 2 846 8888
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5. 100 Mahaseth

Tasting menu at 100 Mahaseth.
The tasting menu includes fried beef tripe served with sticky rice and chilli relish, smoked pork shoulder, and roasted bone marrow with a bitter tartare of beef and curry leaves.

Chef Chalee Kader’s menu is not just a display of shock and awe even if dishes like braised beef entrails with drops of bile can be confronting. Instead, this nose-to-tail restaurant opens in new window is an uncompromising homage to Northern Thai and Isaan food. The creation of each dish starts with a deep understanding of the original, which includes culinary exploration trips to the source. It’s only when the kitchen staff feel they’ve mastered the original that they brainstorm and create meaningful riffs on the classics.

Address: 100 Maha Set Rd, Si Phraya, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500
Tel: +66 2 235 0023
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6. Table 38

Interior of Table 38.
The centrepiece of the 16-seater restaurant is a gleaming marble table flanked by an open kitchen and a window overlooking the street.

This reservations-only restaurant opens in new window aims to “use today’s knowledge to tell yesterday’s story”. To that end you get chef Andy Yang’s deeply personal and intellectual deconstruction of Thai street food staples, which he expresses through five dining experiences. Whichever culinary journey you decide to embark on, it’s never a dull moment thanks to the stories Yang generously shares throughout the dinner, and stunningly presented dishes like a grilled duck with red curry dish reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting.

Address: 8 Sukhumvit 38 Alley, Phra Khanong, Khlong Toei, Bangkok 10110
Tel: +66 83 399 9888
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Plus! Three cocktail bars in Bangkok that celebrate Thai ingredients

1. Tep Bar

Cocktail at TEP BAR.
The mojito-inspired Songkran is a refreshing mix of passion fruit juice and ya dong, a traditional herbal moonshine.

Tucked away in an alley in the historically-rich Charoenkrung area, Tep Bar opens in new window offers a selection of house-infused ya dong and a kitchen specialising in Thai tapas.

Address: 69, 71 Soi Yi Sip Song Karakadakhom 4, Pom Prap, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100
Tel: +66 98 467 2944
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2. Thaipioka

Cocktail at Thaipioka.
Thaipioka’s cocktails are made with unexpected ingredients including turmeric, chilli powder and even reduced cow fat.

Expect local twists to classic cocktails here opens in new window. A Manhattan is made more interesting with black sesame oil and a Negroni is spiced with black pepper and ginger.

Address: 44/7, Thonglor Soi 1, Sukhumvit 55, Sukhumvit Road, (Salil Hotel), Klongton Nua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110
Tel: +66 2 662 6787
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3. Asia Today

Cocktail at Asia Today bar.
Some of the cocktails come in coconut shell cups and mugs fashioned out of beeswax.

The menu at this rum bar opens in new window changes regularly but the use of unusual indigenous ingredients in your tipples is consistent. Think mountain herbs, pickled elephant garlic and 13 types of raw honey.

Address: 35 Maitri Chit Rd, Pom Prap, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100
Tel: +66 97 134 4704
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