Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Indie Food Guide to Bangkok: Picks for Best Curry, Seafood and Brunch


Before I had ever visited Thailand, I asked my best friend Andrea what she thought of her experience. Normally a talkative sort, she had only one word for me this time: Delicious. 



Her laconic response was apt. Everything about Thailand is delicious. When it comes to food, the Thais know how to enjoy life. Instead of McDonalds or Tim Hortons on every street corner, in Bangkok you'll find a fresh faced Thai woman selling fresh coconuts or a mobile meat skewer man with sizzling chicken, pork and innards brochettes that he can roll away with at any time to find better corners. 

You'll have your neighbourhood fruit lady with glistening watermelons and mangoes cut for your convenience and a neighbourhood noodle soup guy with some spicy boiling liquids with ghostly white glass noodles. Less prevalent but still everywhere are bbq fish and seafood stalls. It still amazes me that nearly anywhere you go to eat Thai food in Bangkok you will be in ambrosial heaven. It almost seems impossible to have gross Thai food. 

That being said, a lot of people will have their "special spots" and personal recommendations. I have no doubt that they are delicious. Permit me a bit of arrogance by saying that I know the BEST of some things. Such as best crab curry in Bangkok, best seafood, best vegan, and best western restaurants! I'm joking of course, I have a penchant for hyperboles. Joking aside, I've been living in Bangkok for three years and have been on an infinite quest for bestness. Here is my best list. If I'm wrong, don't be shy to share your spots!

Defining "Best": My 3 Pillars of Awesome
My criteria consists of three pillars: taste, ambiance, price. To make it on my list a restaurant has to satisfy at least 2 of 3.


More specifically, I have an affinity for cozy small spots that don't make you feel like a headless belly to stuff food into. Point blank, I adore shitty hole in the wall spots run by old families that serve their ancient family recipes but as I've morphed into an adult I appreciate fine ingredients, good decor and original art too. What you won't find here are mainstream and tourists restaurants, but the regular local and western haunts of a Guyanese-Canadian living in Bangkok, tried and tested by the gaggles of friends who pass through here every winter!

Contents:
1. Thai Food & Street Markets
2. Fav European Dinners
3. Bangkok Brunch & Coffee
4. World Foods
5. Vegan Pick
6. Anti-Recommendation

1. Thai Food & 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 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




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

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



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. Favourite European Dinners

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. Bangkok Brunch & Cafe

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

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

Sunday morning wakeup when an old friend from Jurassic Paris visits. This is pre-coffee.

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
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

Where Not to Eat

Condoms and Cabbages, Sukumvit 12

This is a staple when it comes to tourist traps. The setting is nice, with a lush garden filled with twinkling white lights BUT it fails 2 of 3 of my criteria, such that the food is watered down and bland and it is overpriced. The party trick about the place is that all the decor is made of condoms and they do community work for sexual health. I recommend going for a drink or dessert but go somewhere more delicious for dinner. 


Enjoy! Please let me know how these places met expectations and share your discoveries as well!





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