Bangkok. It’s a constantly evolving mystery to all who visit, and even to those who call it home. After the economic boom of the 90’s things seemed to be settling down, but still buildings are popping up everywhere, hotels are unveiled and countless bars and restaurants open and close on a regular basis.
For people new to the city, or just popping by on their way to Island utopias elsewhere in SE Asia, the instant confusion felt can be overwhelming, especially when finding somewhere to dine. Bangkok literally has thousands of fantastic eating establishments, but Bangkok also suffers greatly from that dreaded word: fusion.
Here are 5 non-fusion, ‘they are what they say they are’ eateries around Bangkok, and for added international flavour, I’ve picked 5 different cuisines too, so if the Thai spice is too much for you, have a look at this list.
Beccofino (Italian), Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thong Lor)
Beccofino’s Executive Chef and co-owner Mr. Angelo Rotolli is reassuringly Italian, which comes as a bigger relief than you can fathom in Bangkok. All their food is produced fresh and from scratch and there’s not a single hint of any spices that shouldn’t be there. If you order risotto, it doesn’t somehow arrive spicy and the sauces are not tomato ketchup. It’s Mr. Rotolli’s pledge that nothing is made from any ingredients that can’t be found in Italy, which in no short measure helps their authenticity. They have a wood fired pizza oven which adds a delicious variety of pizza to the a la carte menu, and there’s an excellent compliment of wines available. If you’re in Bangkok and crave some Italian fare, avoid Thai-talian and head to Beccofino.
Saffron (Thai), Banyan Tree Bangkok, Sathorn
Gourmet Thai is a unique thing. If you’ve eaten Thai in top class restaurants outside Bangkok, you’ll have an idea what’s on offer here. It’s not traditional Thai, nor is it everyday fodder that your average local will eat, but by gosh it’s sublime. The gourmet style essentially means that the dishes are creamier, and less fiery than standard, authentic Thai food. This comes as a blessing to most visitors to Thailand whose palate isn’t prepared for the inferno levels of heat that go along with Thai food. The meat is all a-grade cuts and you’re even blessed with the choice of 5 different rice types. But simply put, the food here is exquisite and has a view to match. I wont lie, it’s quite pricey, but come here once and you’ll be ready to mortgage your house to come back. This is Thai dining refinery.
Spanish on 4 (Spanish), Silom Soi 4
A sister restaurant to the original and first Tapas restaurant in Bangkok
(Tapas Café), Spanish on 4 has actually progressed to outshine its older relative. It’s more of an intimate dining experience than Tapas Café and feels more rustic and ‘Spanish’. With actual Spaniard overseeing the kitchen, you’re ensured the flavours come to you accurately without being lost in translation. There’s the deliciously clichéd Sangria on offer, as well as a bountiful selection of Spanish wines. It’s located on Bangkok’s pinkest Soi, but don’t let that deter you – the place is always packed by an eclectic mix or everyone and anyone who is anyone. Typically, with it being Tapas, it’s hard to put an average price on a meal, but however much you eat, the taste means it’s good value.
Kongju (Korean), Pathumwan Princess Hotel, Phaya Thai Rd
I tend to judge Korean restaurants by their Kin-Chi offerings and on that score Kongju boasts a staggering 50 varieties. Of course, the rest of the food is important, and at Kongju you can opt for the a la carte menu, some of the traditional Korean specialties (like PaJeon) or take on the traditional Korean style BBQ and cook at your table. Although, especially if you’re unused to dining this way, it can be fairly daunting, fear not as the waiting staff can help as much or as little as you require. If you do opt for BBQ option, you can choose from menu sets like prime rib-eye steak, Norwegian salmon, pork spare ribs and seafood. As you’re cooking yourself, you might wonder why bother with going out, but the beauty here is in the cuts and quality of the meats. You can fry them to your idea of perfection and it’s all complimented by delicious sides and Korean ambiance.
Paris Bangkok (French), Silom Soi Sala Daeng 1
This is where the French eat. There can be no more of a proclamation on its authenticity than when you can only detect wafts of Francophile language in the air. In fact, the only thing that’s missing here to make you feel absolutely like you’re in Paris is the lack of bad attitude from the waiting staff! They are far too nice! The decoration, the language, the ambience are all secondary to the food though – simply window dressing if they can’t get the food right. Thankfully, they have. The food is tres magnifique, the oysters and lobster are delicious and typically the beef is cooked to perfection. The wine selection is also a joy, and pleasantly priced. Possibly the best French experience you can get east of the Alps.
Adam O’Keefe is the Editor of Calendar Thailand.