The corona virus has put a stop to a lot of things lately, but it can’t stop the number of restaurants continuing to open up in Bangkok. Yes, we’ll all dutifully wear face masks and carry hand sanitiser, but we can’t give up our national pastime of “dining out”.
New and notable places worth investigating this month include two projects involving internationally renowned chefs – one Indian and one Thai – as well as some smaller eateries catering to niche markets and refined tastes. As your guide to the good things in life we invite you to follow our lead and try these recently opened drink and dine spots this March.
Indian chef Hari Nayak is a native of Udupi and the author of several acclaimed cookbooks. He spent the first 20 years of his career as a chef working for restaurants in New York City, before branching out with a string of his own highly successful projects as restaurateur. His first ever restaurant opening in Thailand is JHOL, and it’s here that he brings to Bangkok his passion for the Southern coastal cuisine of his homeland. The restaurant welcomes diners with a contemporary brasserie-style setting, offering indoor and outdoor seating. The compact (and seasonally rotating) à la carte menu is a nicely composed selection of excellent vegetarian, seafood and meat dishes, all creatively prepared and presented with impeccable gourmet flair. Standouts include the very spicy prawn koliwada served over yoghurt rice, the bhelpuri puffed rice and vegetable salad, calicut chicken with pineapple chutney, and the addictively delicious ghee roast chicken with kundapur red masala and a crispy cone of dosa. However, the amuse bouche starters and the delectable desserts each deserve a round of applause as well. At the bar, the imaginative signature cocktails offer some truly Instagrammable concoctions, such as the banana-infused Mekhong whiskey and Benedictine, with pandan, coconut water, and vinegar, which comes served in a bird’s nest bowl with a charred banana on top. Less flashy but equally memorable is the admirable wine list, which includes a section entitled ‘Experimental Wines’ (ask for suggested pairings from restaurant GM Anirban Nandi).
Bangkok’s Mövenpick BDMS Wellness Resort, the elegant health-focused retreat at Nai Lert Park, recently opened Khum Hom (Thai for “fragrant bites”), a fine dining lunch and dinner spot promising “honest” Thai cuisine. Keeping that promise is celebrity chef Ian Kittichai – of Issaya Siamese Club fame – who has produced for the restaurant a fabulous gourmet menu dedicated to health and well-being; harnessing fresh regional produce and updating classic Thai recipes from all four regions of the Kingdom. The restaurant’s beautifully designed interior is a mix of wood tones and blue accents, offset by abundant greenery outside. Equally gorgeous are the elaborately prepared dishes, including a selection of five bite-sized amuse bouche starters that arrive in a delightful picnic basket, and a plate of colourful mini-desserts that finish the meal. In-between don’t miss trying the steamed grouper filet in a coconut, basil and chili lime broth, the incredibly tender beef shortribs in yellow curry with preserved hearts of palm, and the zesty poached lobster in turmeric coconut curry with betel leaves. There’s also four- and five-course tasting menus, a ‘Farmer’s Menu’ of plant-based and gluten-free options, and a drink menu with organic wines as well as amazing health-focused juice blends, kombuchas, and smoothies.
Thai silk magnate and occasional secret agent Jim Thompson may have disappeared mysteriously over 50 years ago, but his adventurous spirit lives on, reflected in the culinary diversity on display at Jaew (which occupies the space on Soi Somkid where Spirit Jim Thompson restaurant used to be). Now managed by Farando
le Hospitality – the team handling Quince, Luka and Funky Lam Kitchen – this beautifully designed 50-seat fine dining spot has Canadian chef Andrew Martin (of Nahm, Bo.lan, 80/20 and, more recently, Issaya Siamese Club) running things in the kitchen. Embracing the rich complexity of Thai cuisine, with access to organic produce from the Jim Thompson Farm in Nakhon Ratchasima, Andrew’s approach to creating dishes fuses traditional Thai recipes with contemporary twists, creating something modern yet familiar. Backing Andrew is a strong kitchen team including pastry chef Elle Cowan, who lends her talents to the dessert selections.
Literally translated as “the house of flavours” this relatively new riverside restaurant got a PR boost during Bangkok Design Week in February when a specially commissioned mural by Brooklyn-based street artist Rostarr was unveiled. However, even before that diners were seeking out the heartwarming Thai dishes made using recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation within the owner’s family. Add to that a heart-stopping view of the Chao Phraya River and Wat Arun, and a gorgeously designed and stylised interior, and it’s easy to see why there’s a lotta buzz lately about Rongros.
If you really want to experience some farm-to-table dining, make the trip to this environmentally conscious, out-of-the-way dining spot where the philosophy is pure sustainability, and the ingredients revive indigenous varieties of local vegetables and crops. The historic house – built in the 1980s – is part of the Baan Tepa Culinary Space experience, and is divided into three key sections: Tepa Kitchen; Tepa Garden; and the house itself. The kitchen is dominated by a cozy 12-seat communal table, setting the stage for guests to engage in conversations and discover new ingredients during the 10-course culinary adventure lovingly prepared by chef Tam Chudaree Debhakam. The menu changes seasonally, depending on local farmers’ offerings, with items as diverse as local red grouper done Ikijime style, cashew nut butter with sourdough flatbread, and a welcome drink made from organically grown garcinea (a flowering plant from Phuket). The restaurant is open Wednesday to Saturday only, from 5pm till late, and reservations are essential.
New to the greater Thong Lor neighbourhood is La Peche Steak & Seafood which, not surprisingly, specializes in surf’n’turf delights. On the exterior this spacious standalone building is surrounded by a green lawn and leafy trees, while the interior is somewhat spartan in design, filled with functional wooden tables and bench seating (outdoor seating is also available). But all design austerity aside, the menu promises the freshest seafood straight from the source – including fresh oysters from Ireland and France – as well as premium steaks and more. So, order up an Australian grain-fed premium ribeye with fresh prawns, or a New Zealand grass-fed tenderloin or striploin with half-lobster, and indulge your land-and-sea appetite.
The superhero-style identity of The Director is that it operates as a café by day, from 9am till 5pm, and a wine bar by night, from 5pm till midnight. By day expect excellent signature specialty coffees in a slick Art Deco inspired setting, which then morphs into a stylish place to tipple some reds, whites, and rosés during the evening (they also hold the occasional wine-related event such as dinners with wine pairings led by local experts). The food menu, meanwhile, is extensive, ranging from Thai favourites, salads, and sashimi, to pizza, pasta, burgers, and premium meat and seafood dishes.