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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
4. Front Room
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.
5. 100 Mahaseth
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.
6. Table 38
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.
Plus! Three cocktail bars in Bangkok that celebrate Thai ingredients
1. Tep Bar
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.
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.
3. Asia Today
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.