The resilience of Bangkok’s gastronomy scene continues to amaze, as a slew of new restaurants throw open their doors. Here are some of the best new openings to check out this September.
The month of August has drawn to a close, and as we flip our desk calendar page to September, it’s amazing to look back on what’s been going on in Bangkok’s fine dining scene lately. Avid gourmands are certainly not starved for choice when it comes to new restaurants appearing on the local stage, and over the past couple of months this city’s seen new entrants offering Italian, Mediterranean, Spanish, Thai, contemporary American, and even Filipino cuisines. It seems that even though we can’t travel the world, the world is somehow coming to us!
Chef Clément Hernandez – whose career has included stints at multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, including Bangkok’s own J’Aime by Jean Michel Lorain – now helms the kitchen at Workshop, a place where food and wine meets art and music. This intimate new dining spot on Soi Yen Akart – where Infusion used to be – offers diners indoor seating by the main bar, as well as outdoor seating in the enclosed, leafy terrace out back. The chef describes his cuisine is as “sincere dining”, with French culinary influences evident but not overpowering. By day, stop in for coffee and light lunches, such as their killer Croque Monsieur. By night, try the delicious four-course tasting menu or order à la carte standouts such as: Barbary duck breast with spätzle, and the stuffed squid with ratatouille; Hokkaido scallops with sunchoke, chorizo, snap pea, sunflower seeds and jus; Braised beef cheek with red wine, crispy polenta, confit onion and spring onion; and Fjord trout with pickled shallots, green apple, sour cream and dill. The space itself also doubles as art gallery, currently exhibiting the works of Dutch photographer Albert Leeflang.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock lately you’ll know that Vaso, the new Spanish tapas restaurant in the Sindhorn Village complex, is the hottest hangout in town (which is why it’s near impossible for some folk to get a reservation). Under the guidance of the heavily-tattooed head chef Alvaro Ramos, the menu here draws its inspiration from the chef’s years hospitality experience, adding a dash of Spanish heritage to culinary influences picked up from his extensive international travels. The result is a contemporary style eatery that is both intimate and eclectic. Return visits mean a chance to experience over and over the ever-changing menu of traditional and modern tapas and shared plates, alongside the delectable seafood paellas and meaty main dishes. As for the restaurant’s name, it means “glass” in Spanish, so place your order and then raise a glass of Estrella Galicia beer (on tap), housemade Sangria (by the glass or jar), or one of the half dozen Spanish red and white wines (available by the glass or bottle), and get the party started.
Loukjaan by Saneh Jaan
Following in the tradition of the original, one Michelin-starred Saneh Jaan restaurant, the primary focus at Loukjaan by Saneh Jaan, located in the newly opened Sindhorn Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, is on authentic Thai dishes made with traditional recipes passed down from generation to generation. Heading the kitchen is chef Pilaipon Kamnag, a native of Chiang Mai, who brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience, creating a deliciously diverse menu that makes use of high-quality ingredients sourced from sustainable farmers and suppliers all over Thailand. The scrumptious southern style yellow curry with seabass, which uses house-made paste, is a highly recommendable dish, as is the superb five-spice pork in herbal brown broth, and the wonderful Mon red curry with grilled pork or prawn (a rare recipe that the chef revived). And for dessert, don’t miss the mixed fruits citron granita.
It was sad news when the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok hotel announced it would be closing Tables Grill, but in its place a new restaurant has sprung to life and its name is Salvia (“sage” in Italian). This mezzanine level dining spot officially opened its doors on August 12th, and helming the kitchen is chef Roberto Parentela. His original recipes, each with a vibrant story behind them, reflect his Piedmont and Sardinian roots. The diverse menu he’s created includes wood-fired Napolitana pizzas, and housemade pastas such as the wonderful lamb ragout fusilli and the pumpkin ravioli with pine nuts. Other standouts include the creamy buratta cheese and tomato salad, the hearty Australian Angus ribeye grilled over an aromatic wood fire made from grapevines, and the to-die-for apple tart with pistachio ice cream dessert. To accompany the meals there’s a range of natural Italian wines and refreshing Italian sodas, as well as craft beers and cocktails (hint: try the “bubbly” Limoncello Martini, which is prepared tableside and makes a great IG post).
Chef Dan Bark has been busier than ever since the Covid-19 lockdown was lifted. His fine dining restaurant Cadence opened at the beginning of July, and now the same building welcomes sister venue Caper, which officially launches on September 1st. The interior design, courtesy of Paradigm Shift, welcomes guests with a sleek, red- and blue-hued space that exudes the spirit of prohibition-era, jazz age glamour. At a pre-opening tasting event chef Dan previewed a few of his mouth-watering masterpieces, including the divine beef tartare with gochujang (a nod to his Korean heritage), and the exemplary – and veg friendly – roasted carrots, with Jerusalem artichoke curry purée, pomelo, and tomato chutney. For mains we loved the succulent seared duck breast with pumpkin purée, smoked cranberry and braised red cabbage, but the Hokkaido scallops with barley “risotto”, roasted cauliflower, and caper sauce was equally memorable. As for the drinks, creative cocktails are a big focus at the bar, while an in-house sommelier is on-hand to help with meal pairing suggestions.
Serving the best the Mediterranean Sea has to offer – and that includes a whole lot of sardines – Mediterra Restaurant is a welcome new addition to the Sukhumvit Soi 23 dining scene. Inside, cool white stucco walls, arched passageways, and tiled floors evoke the look and feel of a Southern Italian seaside home in Apulia, as does the sunny outdoor seating area decorated with prickly pear cacti. Not surprisingly, the menu reflects the Italian heritage of chef Walter D’Ambrosio, former head chef at Il Fumo, with fresh, handmade, delicious dishes like the hamachi carpaccio, raw tuna loin tartare, and a tomato and buratta salad topped with fresh sardines. There’s also a truly tempting selection of gourmet pizzas, as well as a diverse range of seafood pasta entrées (be daring and try the chitarra spaghetti with fresh sardines). Meanwhile, the mains include specialties like the grilled octopus with baby broccoli, grilled Wagyu ribeye, and grilled lamb rack with pistachio crust.
For a touch of fine dining Filipino style, head up to the 4th floor of the Akara Bangkok hotel, and visit Viva Filipinas, where the luxe interior consists of elegant booth and table seating, wood panelled walls, an open kitchen, and some colourful murals. If you’re unfamiliar with the cuisine of The Philippines, it’s much less spicy than Thai food but it can still deliver wonderful bursts of flavour. Take for instance the Lumpiang Sariwa, a large spring roll-type appetizer filled with coconut shoot and mixed vegetables, topped with sweet brown sauce and crushed peanuts, or the Rellenong Bangus, which sees minced milkfish paired with carrots, potatoes, raisins, bell pepper, pickles and spices. There’s also lots of stick-to-your-ribs classic comfort food items on the menu, such as Lechon Sisig (fatty pork finely chopped and seasoned with ginger, onions, and spices), Escabeche Lapu-Lapu (a sweet and sour fish dish), as well as roasted rolled pork belly with pickled papaya, and chicken à la Viva. For desserts, try the colourful Bibingka, or the creamy, coconutty Buko Pie. To taste a bit of everything, try their very affordable Jeepney All Day Sunday Buffet.
If you find yourself in the area of Naknivas Road, not far from the Crystal Design Centre, make a slight detour and seek out Nivas Cafe & Bistro. This somewhat casual restaurant, café, and bar is the brainchild of a group of chefs, from various restaurants across the city, who are doing their best not to let the time-tested Thai culinary knowledge and recipes be forgotten. Probably the most well-known personage in the kitchen is chef Thaninthorn “Noom” Chantrawan of the Michelin-starred Chim by Siam Wisdom. Along with head chef Pitchakorn “Pop” Rambut, they’ve created inexpensive but star-worthy Thai food that comes served in an intimate setting with a homey vibe. If old-school dishes like Wagyu Pad Ka Prao fried rice, Pad Thai Chai Ya (a staple noodle dish from Surat Thani), Thai coconut curry with steamed mackerels and lotus stems, and stir-fried stink beans and prawn with shrimp paste sets your mouth to watering, then it’s time to indulge in a feast of traditional tastes.