Over the past 12 months Life has reviewed 80 restaurants, 62 of which are out-of-hotel establishments. From those 62, we are now presenting the most impressive dozen that are more than worth a repeat
Baan Silom Arcade
Taling Pling's cuisine is heartfelt, focusing on traditional Thai dishes and Western-style home-cooked comforts, which makes this 30-year-old family-run restaurant a profound gastronomic destination among local gourmands and food enthusiastic tourists alike.
One of the reasons it is highlighted specially this year is that it's now under the fresh direction of Praethip Chanyavongse, the restaurant's second-generation, Cordon Bleu-graduate owner who has slightly modified Taling Pling's culinary approach to be more systematic and modern yet still maintaining its authenticity and homeliness.
The menu is extensive with more than 100 items. Highlighted starters include fish cake roll (140 baht), crispy fried fish salad with fresh bilimbi (145 baht) and spicy grilled pork salad with fried egg (145 baht).
For entrees to be enjoyed with rice, the all-time best-selling green curry with slow-cooked beef (145 baht) leaves a great impression. Also try stir-fried cowslip creeper flowerets with egg (145 baht) and a platter of nam prik khai poo, or spicy dip made with shrimp paste, crab roe and crabmeat (145 baht).
And you should never leave the restaurant without sampling some of its desserts which range from home-made baked goods to traditional Thai sweet treats.
- Open daily 11am to 10pm. Park within the arcade. Visa and MasterCard accepted.
Khua Kling Pak Sod
Thong Lor 5, Sukhumvit Soi 55
Call 02-185-3977 or 086-053-7779
Ever since it opened three years ago, this neat, family-run restaurant specialising in the cuisines of the southern and central regions has been much loved by Bangkok's discerning gastronomes.
You can't afford to miss kaeng lueang (180 baht), or southern-style sour and spicy yellow curry prepared with a choice of prawns or snapper and seasoned with fresh lime juice; nam phrik goong siab, or southern-styled chilli dip with sun-dried shrimps (180 baht) served with an assortment of vegetables; stir-fried crabmeat with bird's-eye chilli, garlic and basil leaves (350 baht); and deep-fried pla bai khanoon (spinefoot fish) with turmeric flavour (580-680 baht, depending on the size).
From the central cuisine, which is less peppery and ideal for sensitive tongues, recommended dishes are khai phalo, or stewed pork leg and eggs in savoury brown gravy (180 baht); phrik khing moo krob, or wok-fried string beans with crispy three-layered pork and sweet red curry paste (140 baht); and phad Thai noodle with large prawn (280 baht), the last of which is available only on Mondays.
- Open daily, 11am to 2.30pm and 6pm to 9.30pm. Parking available in front of the restaurant and along the soi. No credit cards accepted.
Thong Lor 13, off Sukhumvit Soi 55
This 65-seat restaurant that occupies a corner unit shophouse looks more like a bar than an eatery. Yet, its menu offers a cosmopolitan selection of gourmet bistro dishes prepared by highly talented chefs who trained under Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Thomas Keller.
Not-to-be-missed starters include tuna tartare with creamy ginger mayonnaise and soy caviar (180 baht), miniature chicken-liver mousse puff (180 baht) and foie gras terrine of the day (280 baht).
The chef's signature sugar-snap peas and chicken skin salad with ginger vinaigrette (200 baht) also proves a fascinating creation that cleverly embodies the modern trend towards using lots of fresh ingredients.
Recommended for a more substantial meal is the pork cheek penne with black truffles, mushrooms and red wine cream sauce (350 baht) and the slow-cooked lamb shoulder with ginger carrot coulis, warm barley and mushroom salad (1,150 baht).
There's a very limited choice of desserts, but every single one of them is worth trying. My personal favourite is home-made snickerdoodle cookies with salted caramel ice cream filling.
Service was efficient and enjoyable, complementing the bistro's culinary excellence.
- Open daily except Monday, 5.30pm to 10pm. Park at a parking lot behind the restaurant. Visa and MasterCard accepted.
Water Library Thonglor
The Grass Thonglor
Sukhumvit Soi 55
This new outlet of the four-year-old Water Library restaurant brand highlights the "chef's table" affair by the award-winning, talented chef Haikal Johari, who will take his guests into the world of innovative culinary prepared with fresh seasonal ingredients from the world's best sources.
The four-hour-long dining affair is set in a small dining room on the second floor, which opens only to those with reservations. Diners may wish to come alone, with a loved one, or in a group to join other keen food-zealous guests at the 12-seat dining counter. It's where the multi-course "modern cuisine" menu (about 6,000 baht per person, or 8,000 baht with wine pairing and 17,000 baht with Champagne and grand cru pairing), designed according to seasons, is prepared by the chef and his team in front of the guests.
Water Library Thonglor, which occupies a commodious space on the ground floor of the stylish complex, also doubles as a cocktail and wine bar with breezy lounging terrace. It stocks a nice collection of wine and about 100 house-concocted gourmet cocktails. There are also an impressive variety of cocktail-pairing menus to provide bar flies with a smartly designed meal.
- Open daily except Sunday, 6pm to 1am. Park at the Grass Thong Lor's car park (with fee applied). Most credit cards accepted.
Henri Dunant Road
Though it doesn't sound like a promising combination, refined Thai cuisine can absolutely be enjoyed in Siam Square.
Owned and run by a food-loving family, Baanying Signature, which opened in 2012, differentiates itself from the decade-old Baanying Cafe by offering higher-end dishes prepared with premium ingredients. The restaurant has a sophisticated contemporary setting with warm, home-like service which has long been treasured as the brand's hallmark.
Recommendations dishes includes a half-cooked beef salad called "55 beef, torched then spiced" (350 baht). Of it, a nice portion of slightly pink, thin slices of wagyu beef dressed with sour and spicy garlic-chilli sauce is displayed on a bed of butterhead lettuce.
Other items really worth ordering are herb-roasted chicken with crispy lemongrass (290 baht), phad Thai with crispy soft shell crab (290 baht) and fried sea bass with garlic and pepper (420 baht).
For dessert, don't miss home-made Thai tea ice cream with black jelly (80 baht).
The second storey is an evening bar where Thai food can be savoured with vast varieties of innovative cocktails amidst a casual ambience.
- Open 11am to 2.30pm (Mon-Fri) and 11am to 10.30pm (Sat and Sun). Park at Siam Kitti's parking tower. Visa, MasterCard and Amex accepted.
La Bottega di Luca
Terrace 49 plaza, 2nd floor
Sukhumvit Soi 49
The brainchild of the Piedmontese chef-owner, Luca Appino, who, after several years conducting the kitchen at some of the city's finest Italian ristorantes, decided to open his own restaurant in 2009.
The 65-seater is stylishly set to evoke a warm feeling of a modern home. It also boasts beautiful private rooms and breezy al fresco section to offer a cosmopolitan-bar feel.
La Bottega's cuisine blends traditional Mediterranean-Italian classics with creative twists. Dishes are prepared with seasonal ingredients flown in from Italy several times a week.
Don't miss the seafood soup (240 baht) featuring clams, mussels, prawns, squid and sea bass fillets immersed in a subtle tasting broth infused with zucchini, cherry tomatoes, garlic and Italian herbs.
Also try the amazingly tender Tasmanian tenderloin steak with Castelmagno cheese sauce (890 baht) accompanied by chef Luca's long-treasured sauce made with the nutty-tasted Piedmontese cheese, sauteed spinach and mashed potato.
The restaurant also has a special menu, featuring a selection of seasonal dishes that are updated bimonthly.
- Open daily except Monday, 11.30am to 3pm and 6pm to midnight. Park at Terrace 49. Most credit cards accepted.
Siam Swana Hotel
Soi Phaya Nak, off Phaya Thai Road
Call 02-215-9289 or 02-611-0191
This small, nondescript, locally owned restaurant in a rather shoddy soi is apparently one of the most popular sushi joints in Bangkok. Ever since it opened two years ago, the glass-wrapped eatery with capacity to seat only about 30 diners at the bar and a few tables has continually enjoyed an extra long waiting queue especially at peak hours.
The restaurant specialises in sushi delicacies prepared with top-of-the-line imported materials, including fatty bluefin tuna belly, black cod, giant scallop, sea urchin roe, freshwater eel, sea eel, Matsusaka beef and foie gras.
Highly recommended items include engkawa sushi made with partially grilled halibut fin (120 baht per piece), foie gras sushi (260 baht per piece), mixed sashimi set with otoro and chutoro (1,500 baht), salmon roll (250 baht) and sour and spicy yum salmon (220 baht).
Should you look for an entree that is more stomach-filling, go for salmon don (350 baht). The sushi rice bowl comes with lots of fresh salmon fillets drenched with salmon roe and proves tasty.
Service is humble with two service staff also acting as cashiers.
- Open daily 10.30am to 10pm (Mon-Thur) and 10.30am to 11pm (Fri-Sun). Park at the hotel's parking. Visa and MasterCard accepted.
K Village, 2nd floor
Sukhumvit Soi 26
This very bright and inviting eatery decked out in lovely American country style with cream and pastel blue hues, plaid upholstery and rustic furniture offers wonderful cuisine under the culinary direction of the globe-trotting Roberto Petza, chef-owner of the Michelin-starred S'Apposentu al Teatro Lirico in Sardinia, Italy.
Don't miss the best-selling The Liit Salad (320 baht), a deliciously innovative concoction of nine local ingredients including crunchy fruit, vegetables, pan-seared scallops, smoked raw fish and herbal leaves to create a world-class taste.
Equally impressive are onion ice cream with home-made smoked mackerel and crispy Parma ham (220 baht) and risotto with quail and black truffle sauce (400 baht).
For main meat courses, go for chicken leg confit with sauteed spring onions and pancetta (350 baht), which is prepared according to a European culinary technique yet with classical Thai marination; and French suckling pork with caramelised onion and apple (580 baht), which is sous-vided until the meat became melt-in-the-mouth tender before being grilled to add a crispy finish to the skin.
While the ambiance was ideal for either a fun-filled get-together, casual business meal or even romantic dining out. Service was cordial and brisk.
- Open daily 11am to 10pm. Park at K Village's car park. Visa and MasterCard accepted.
All Six to Twelve
Fraser Place Urbana Lang Suan
Lang Suan Road, off Phloenchit Road
Though the place is set fashionably in New York-loft style with every corner designed as if for an ''Instagram moment'' and flocked by fashionably clad crowd, this 70-seater social bar-cum-restaurant is absolutely a haven for palatable comfort.
All Six to Twelve's cuisine is basically home-style Thai with a creative twist plus some international dishes. Most recommended appetisers include baked nachos with melted mozzarella and fresh tomato-jalapeno salsa (140 baht) and tuna mango salad (120 baht) made with sushi-grade fish, sweet mango cubes, fresh shallots, tomatoes, lettuce and mint.
For main entree, the herbed chicken steak (180 baht), featuring a double-cooked (steamed with Chinese herbs before being deep-fried) whole chicken leg accompanied by mixed green salad and blueberry gravy.
If beef is your preferred choice of meat, you won't regret ordering tournedos Rossini steak (420 baht) served on a bed of sauteed spinach and topped with pan-seared duck liver.
Also delightful are sauteed flat rice noodles with brown squid, egg, shrimp-paste oil and ebiko shrimp roe (95 baht).
- Open daily 6am to midnight. Park at Fraser Place's parking. Visa, MasterCard and Amex accepted.
Seenspace, 2nd floor
Thong Lor 13, Sukhumvit Soi 55
Owned and run by a passionate young barista-turned-restaurateur, the restaurant which occupies a spacious glass-wrapped space on the second floor of the cutting-edge plaza, serves up bistro-style comfort food suitable for any time of the day.
The menu features more than 100 items in categories of breakfast, brunch, snack, soup, sandwich, pasta, entree, desserts, coffee and cocktail.
Since the restaurant is famous for its all-day brunch, you can't afford to miss some of its late morning delights. The crab cake benedict (350 baht), a cultivated version of an ordinary eggs benedict but with a slab of crabmeat-filled crispy potato cake as a substitute to the conventional English muffin, is among the most popular.
While pan-fried crispy and chubby duck confit with poached egg (320 baht), rib-eye wagyu steak with herb butter and steak-cut fries (550 baht) and buttermilk-fried chicken with truffle mashed potato and cranberry sauce (390 baht) prove excellent as main entrees.
For a restaurant that does so great on savoury dishes, it's surprising that they are also excellent when it comes to sweet treats. Try strawberry waffle (200 baht) and apple turnover with sour cream ice cream (200 baht). Also don't miss the iced espresso latte (120 baht) and coffee milkshake (160 baht).
- Open daily 10am to 11pm (Mon-Thur), 9am to midnight (Fri-Sat) and 9am to 11pm (Sun). Parking at Seenspace's car park. Visa, MasterCard and Amex are accepted.
Bangkok Plaza, 4th floor
Soi Soonvijai 5, off New Phetchaburi Road
Al Saray serves up genuine gourmet-style Lebanese cuisine prepared by celebrated Lebanese chefs, plus a large selection of Indian delicacies amid the elegant setting of a fine-dining restaurant. The food is 100% halal and most of the cooking equipment and ingredients are imported from the Middle East.
The menu features a wide variety of Lebanese mezza starters, including the best-selling hummus made with mashed chickpeas, sesame seed paste, lemon juice and olive oil (130 baht), the baba ghanoush made with mashed grilled aubergine, chopped tomatoes and onions seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil (120 baht) and the walnut muhammara, or grilled red capsicum paste with crushed walnut (140 baht).
For main entrees, the Lebanese extra mixed grill platter (500 baht) accompanied by two kinds of yoghurt sauce and grilled vegetables (can be substituted with rice) is recommended.
While prawn curry (280 baht), lamb rogan josh (290 baht), butter chicken (180 baht) and chicken tikka (220 baht) enjoyed with naan bread are superb.
- Open 10am to 10pm. Park at the plaza's car park. Most credit cards accepted.
No.88 community mall
Thong Lor Soi 5, Sukhumvit Soi 55
Ten years ago, Christian Johann Kostner, the son of Mandarin Oriental Bangkok's executive chef Norbert Kostner, decided to give up his well-paid engineering career to be trained as a chef.
After nine years of apprenticeship at a number of Michelin-star restaurants in England and Italy, he came back home and opened a small bistro. And his 50-seater brainchild is where creatively and meticulously executed food can be enjoyed amidst a casual contemporary setting.
From the bistro's 25-item menu, highly recommended appetisers include the Caesar salad (250 baht) and Australian blue mussels with white wine, garlic and onion (420 baht).
For main course, don't miss the chef's signature seafood risotto with squid ink drops (350 baht), pan-fried white sea bass with market mushrooms (500 baht), deep-fried red mullet with ratatouille and red wine sauce (400 baht) and char-grilled Australian wagyu tenderloin steak (1,500 baht).
From the dessert list, basil panna cotta with strawberry compote (180 baht) and chocolate fondant with coffee ice cream (220 baht) are popular.
A large space at a front corner of the restaurant is also dedicated to selling imported gourmet products. From a state-of-the-art meat display fridge, customers can grab prime-grade beef, lamb, poultry, foie gras, Parma ham, sausages and seafood (they are in vacuum-sealed bags). Other ingredients such as pasta, olive oil, vinegar, dried mushrooms and truffle products are also available.
To complement the humble but ''haute'' cuisine, service is cordial, yet highly efficient.
- Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm and 6pm to 10pm. Park at the plaza's car park. Most credit cards accepted.
About the author
- Writer: Vanniya Sriangura
Position: News Reporter