Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Indie Guide to Best Non-Tourist Restaurants in Bangkok

29 years of earth dwelling was cause for these crazy kids to fly in from Hong Kong, Singapore and Jakarta to celebrate. I was responsible for their culinary odyssey.
One of the greatest advantages of moving from Jakarta to Bangkok was that it was amazing to be in a city where people actually wanted to visit you. Jakarta, for all its high potential growth as Indonesia's capital, is still off the beaten track (and frankly a terrible polluted and infrastructurally crippled place). In sum, I rarely had friends come through town. Bangkok, on the other hand is a hub of fun and full of great places to eat that I took great pleasure in taking my homies to.

But hey, every Tom, Dick and Harry who he ever stepped a toe in Thailand will have their own restaurant recommendations. And honestly, the food here is an ambrosial a-bomb so you'll do okay almost anywhere you go. But of all the choices, here are a couple of the staples I've found that makes living away from Toronto (food court of the world?) acceptable.

For new expats in Bangkok needing to step back from spicy Thai food a bit I have listed key life staples, from the best sushi in Bangkok to bomb ass brunch spots with quality coffee and chic vibes.

What is this "best" I speak of?
If you have read my other guides you'll know what I look for—small, cozy spots ranging from stylish and sexy to hole in the wall mom and pop shops. What threads my list together is a nose-wrinkling disdain for overly commercial chain restaurants or mega mainstream tourist traps. I'm pretty obsessed with humble settings, authentic flavours, great taste not diluted for tourist palettes and at a good price. This is not a regurgitated list of Michelin Starry finds, but an attempt to be the homie that shows you their feeding grounds that have helped shaped my personal experience living in the city for the last 3 years!

1. Thai Food & Street Markets
2. Best Places Ever
3. Brunch & Coffee
4. World Foods
5. Vegan Pick

1. Thai Food & Best Street Markets

Supanniga Eating Room
, Thong Lor or Silom (Vegan friendly)

Four words: best crab curry ever. Certainly the best Thai curry I've had in Bangkok with succulent chunky chunks in a rich tasty, albeit spicy, sauce. The restaurant is small, cute and made for young hip Thai people. Expect Issan food not toned down for weak paletted westerners and for vegetarians in Bangkok there is an extensive menu of vegan friendly Thai food. Despite its micro-aggression kneejerk of a name, this is the first place I take everyone who visits. Side bar: maybe consider reserving in advance if you're a large group as it has limited seating.

My fav: Crab curry with rice

Location: 160/11 Sukumvit Soi 55 Thonglor

Lek & Rat, Street Seafood Market in Chinatown
I love Thai seafood more than anything in the world, not hyperbolic I swear. Go to this spot for the lime sauce steamed snapper and make sure to get the spicy sauces to dip the succulent white fish into. I usually order it with a crab fried rice and a side of calamari or prawns. But more than delicious food, this is the ultimate Bangkok experience- sitting on plastic stools on a narrow side walk as tuk tuks whir past in a frenzy. Street food in Bangkok is famous and I thank my old journalist homie for showing me (you may remember him as the guy who took me into the middle of an exploding volcano in Indonesia). Chinatown is also a must see, it has old buildings and a bustling charming vibe of what I imagine the 70s in Bangkok must have felt like. If you are in the area go check out the quiet street of hidden bars, here, especially Teens of Thailand.

My fav: Steamed white snapper in lime sauce with crab fried rice

Location: Intersection of Yaowarat Road & Thanon Phadung Dao Street

W District Outdoor Market
A bit out of the centre but worth it if you want a good open-air atmosphere with live Thai bands and a variety of food stalls to choose from. Lots of affordable and varied Thai and western choices. I like to get the grilled Salted fish. I know, I'm obsessed with seafood, but seriously it's so expensive in western countries and so wonderfully abundant and cheap here how can one not take a stroll down gluttony lane? The burritos and oysters are also a good call in this arty hipster Bangkok night market.

My fav: Grilled salted fish

Location: Corner of Sukumvit 71, behind the buildings, 5 minute walk from Phra Kanong BTS

Train Night Market (Rot Fai), Ratchadaphisek
Haven't been here yet but I hear this Bangkok night market is a great bazaar style market with food and vintage clothing with an arty vibe. It is also a smaller version of the original Rot Fai Night Market.

Location: Ratchadaphisek Road, close to Esplanade Shopping Mall.

Cafe Bangrak, Silom (Vegan Friendly)
Hipsterific, looking like an edgy startup office or Brooklyn cafe where you can enjoy an intensely good vegetarian menu and other Thai delights. Personal fav here is the red curry because it's spiceful and a glass noodle salad. Ate here constantly when I was a vegan in Bangkok.

My fav: Mushroom red curry (vegan)

Location: 4-6 Soi Saladaeng, off of Silom Road, Saladaeng BTS

Sala Rattanakosin Eatery & Bar, Chao Praya River
Apologies if this is a mainstream spot but it's riverside location and fancy Thai food make it the perfect place to take your parents, out of town colleagues or a date. The food is delicious, well prepared Thai food. Discovered there after my company's annual off-site dinner there with our out of town c-levels. I don't remember the price (too expensive) but it was great because of the sunset on the temples and wonderful Chao Praya River glittering as you ate!

My fav: everything

Location: Sala Rattanakosin Hotel, Maharaj Road

2. Best places ever

El Mercado, "The Chef's Market"
!!! Go here. Delectable quality cuisine at an affordable price in the cutest terrace garden patio. Done in an unassuming renovated house, El Mercado has a delicious fresh bakery, wide meat and cheese selections and most importantly deliciously fresh seafood. The ingredients are chosen with an artisanal care you can taste. Their wines are good and go for 100 baht per glass for house wine. Recommend this Bangkok gem for a light French style brunch or dinner and drinks. Beware, it is closed on Sunday!

My fav: Fish and couscous entree

Location: 490 Soi Phai Sing To (Between Sukumvit 16 and Rama IV area)

A photo posted by @elmercado_bangkok on 

Uncle John French Food, Sathorn
This place is a paradox. It's French cuisine done in ratty Thai street food setting. Uncle John was a top chef in a hotel, quit his job and opened this haute cuisine French place with a very Bangkok vibe. I was shocked when the CEO took all the visiting executives from out of town to this ratty place, but once we got the food, I totally got it. Recommend everything but especially the pan seared foie gras. There are 2 spots next to each other, make sure you do the French one, not European.

My fav: Pan seared foie gras and duck salad

Location: Suan Plu Soi 8, Sathorn

3. Brunch & Cafes

Nothing like waking up on a Sunday morning with old homies visiting to grab delicious brunch. Bangkok expat community is ripe with good selection. Surprisingly, can find decent coffee too!

A video posted by Lil'Fel Rocks the World (@lilfelrockstheworld) on

Casa Lapin, Sukumvit 26

There are multiple locations but this one is big and has the best food and ambiance. It has a beautiful garden and delightful wooden decor and cute design. This is a weekend haunt for me especially for brunch or when I want to lounge around for hours working because of the cozy and cuteness. More importantly, they actually do decent coffee! The coffee brings me memories of Melbourne's strong flat whites. I always go for the poke tuna salad or pumpkin quinoa salad when I'm trying to infuse health into a vice filled weekend. They have great eggs and juice too! The place is home to hi-so (high society) Thais and young professionals.

My fav: Flat white coffee, tuna poke salad and pumpkin quinoa

Location: 300 meters down Sukumvit 26, Phrom Pong BTS

Cafe Tartine, Soi Ruam Rudee
This is the Bangkok brunch spot because the legit French bakery that seduces with fresh croissants, delightful pain au chocolats, as well as charcuterie platters and an eggs florentine to kill for. They serve the always good, albeit expensive, Illy coffee to tap that Saturday morning caffeine into the veins. It's a cool and maybe sometimes award community feeling there. Expect to see everyone you saw at the big party the night before on their/with conquest from the night before. I don't care though, I am croissant and cappuccino obsessed and this place always delivers!

My fav: Shrimp eggs florentine, pain au chocolat for dessert.

Simple Natural Cafe, Sukumvit 31
So many quinoa options paired with super coffee and located in a small alley, how could this place not make it into my heart. Food is fresh, organic and tasty!

4. Other Eats from Around the World

Sri Ganesha, Sukumvit 13 (Indian, Vegetarian)
I've lived a while in Bangkok and I love Indian food, so I can say with sincerity that they have amazing dosas (thin pancake with curries inside). My fav is the Mysore masala dosa and I always get the special South Indian style samosas. Oh yea, it's also vegetarian! Don't let that scare the carnivorously inclined because the food is so tasty you won't notice.

My fav: Mysore masala dosa with South Indian style samosas

Location: Sukumvit Suites Building on Sukumvit 13, Nana BTS

ISAO, Sukumvit 31 (Sushi)
When you're craving Toronto / US style maki and sushi rolls, this is my #1 sushi spot. Not super cheap though.

Location: 5 Sukumvit 31

Bamboo Lebanese Food, Sukumvit 3 (Vegan friendly)
My go to for the least touristy and super sketchy but legit as Lebanese food. Of the many on Soi Arab this one stands out for its super tasty beef schwarma, home made baba ganoosh, falafel a for the vegans. They also serve Russian and Uzbec food. Great place to people watch the crazy sleazy fat dudes and smoke sketchy sheesha. It's seediness epitomises the Bangkok underbelly and I love it!

My fav: Falafel sandwich, beef shwarma with a side of baba ganoush

Location: Soi Nana, Nana BTS

Top Vegan Pick in Bangkok

May's Veggie Home, Sukumvit 16
BEST MASSUMAN CURRY ALERT! Vegan Thai and western food here. Personal favs are the massuman curry (my meat loving friends even come to may for this, it's that good), with brown rice or a May's veggie pattie is done so well. The fresh Vietnamese spring rolls are also winners. But to be honest, all the Thai curries are scrumptious!

My fav: Massuman Curry (if it wasn't clear) and May's Veggie Burger with homemade vegan mayonaise.

Location: Sukumvit 16, BTS Asok

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Indie Guide Bangkok: Wonderfruit Music Festival 2015 and

When people ask if I enjoyed Wonderfruit , I just heave a deep sigh and look at my half-polished nails in shame. It's not that I didn't enjoy the music art festival (Southeast Asia's fresh, less commercial answer to Burning Man) but more that, my possee and I were not prepared at all. And it's all my fault. Hence the burden of shame weighing my head low upon mention of this magical wonderland

Listen, using my free time, a resource with ever decreasing amounts of freeness, to plan for partying camping festival weekend is not the top of my priorities.  So when my friend asked me to join their shanty town of tents, I figured I didn't need to prepare much except awesomeness and some sweaters. That was a mistake.

No tent or booked accommodation meant we had to be super resourceful (luckily we were three Canadian champions). Besides being an eye sore, that orange garbage mound you see above also served as a tent when a chair is under to prop it up. The weekend was a bit rough for my old self, but whateves, still loved it.

Anyways, this post is mega late so I'll just wrap up quickly. Wonderfruit 2015 was a great out of the city experience. It was in no way as magical as what I hear Burning Man to be - lacking volume and probably the right crowd (very family friendly atmosphere) - but something I would do over and over again and probably travel from around Asia to go to. If you imagine it as a weekend camping trip with friends, music and some art and over priced, albeit delicious as, food you will have managed your expectations perfectly. Oh and for a tech plug: the cashless payment system worked very well and was stress free. THE FUTURE!!

Follow adventure travel and life stuff at Snapchat: lil.fel or tweet and abuse me @LilFel

Some of the photos were taken from Cynthia. Check her blog, here.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hiking Ontario: Hamilton Waterfalls & Spencer Gorge Toronto Day Trip

Orgasm for the eyes, yawn-worthy for the thighs


Day Trips from Toronto - Homeboy Steve & I's "Staycation"


After travelling Thailand's electricity free mountain villages with my old uni friend to erasing our brains on catamaran boat parties of Asia it was time to look homeward for some tantamount level thrills on my annual trip to the patria. It's weird, but I've seen so many of my childhood (and non-expatty) friends become paralyzed by the inertia of routine. You know, when one lives in a place for so long that they lose the sparkle for adventure and discovery simply because they are inured to its existence and availability i.e. death of FOMO for anywhere not typically "exotic"?! It's sad and disappointing for returning expats to see such a paucity of enthusiasm for adventure-- the very stuff that becomes the crack that keeps addict expats away from ever returning to normal. So it was nice to see that Steve (Toronto-based) was still up for Toronto waterfall hike in what he called his 2 days off from consulting a 'staycation'.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How to stop loathing Parisians: 7 songs to help you make French friends instantly

(Wrote this 5+ years ago, not sure why I never published it, but advance apologies for any anachronistic inaccuracies.)

You either love them or hate them. And justified or not, I know too many of the latter, mainly because they don't speak French but super mainly because French people can be a gelid crew to deeply befriend (and frankly, Parisians can be even worse). I love them (my best friend and roommate, ex amour and lots of friends being of the species), but ask any foreigner who has done a student exchange in France. How many of them had a solid French wolf pack to run with, more than the occasional drink or party invite? Not many, is my humble guess.

Somehow during my own time as a student in Paris, I was lucky to be a part of a super fusion wolf pack of French and Americans (and Canadians, Kiwis, Australians etc). En route to becoming best friends though, there were definitely a lot of awkward moments integrating with a new culture, some romantic faux pas, others between budding friends. But what was integral to every Parisian social

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Vintage Shopping in Jakarta and the New Wave of Indonesia's Hipsterpreneurs

After almost two years buried away in Bangkok (doing that whole young professional thing in tech startups), I am updating my pick for the best vintage shopping in Jakarta. I wrote about Pasar Senen before as a pulsing, sweaty second hand market for the people (ie perfect for a poor UN intern living in an alley with goats) where through hours of digging you could find purple leather loafers for $8 and even designer stuff for under $20.

Pasar Santa is different. To shave the prolixity, it will suffice to say that this Jakarta vintage market has, in the last year, turned from a traditional derelict