Bangkok's hidden gem

Thiptara remains the place to be for Thai cuisine connoisseurs

Pomelo salad with grilled river prawn.

When Thiptara first opened its door in 2003, the Thai restaurant at The Peninsula Hotel Bangkok quickly became one of the city's hottest spots for authentic local fare prepared to a 5-star standard.

Sixteen years have past and the al fresco restaurant was said to remain much loved among regulars. However, for the newer generation of Thai cuisine connoisseurs, it seems to have lately flown under the radar.

Last week marked my first-ever visit to Thiptara. And just like many of the restaurant's first-time visitors, I had no clue of the existence of its lovely location, almost hidden in the hotel's riverfront garden. That is, despite the fact that I've been to the Peninsula dozens of times during my 19-year career.

Thiptara's breathtaking ambience instantly cast a spell on me. The setting resembles a countryside northern Thai house with illuminated paper lanterns hanging from a big tropical rain tree in its courtyard.

As an al fresco establishment, most dining tables and chairs are set out in the open next to the river. Still, there are five open-sided teak pavilions, each provided with a dining table for up to six guests, appointed around the courtyard.

This is a brilliant idea for it allows guests a measure of privacy while also ensuring a sheltered meal especially during this rainy season.

Thiptara's all-time best-sellers include tom yum goong with tiger prawn; stir-fried crispy pork belly with prik khing red curry; chicken satay with peanut sauce; deep-fried softshell crab with chilli and holy basil; chicken cashew nuts; and red curry with roasted duck, which can be had from the à la carte menu.

To offer diners a more interactive dining experience, the restaurant has recently launched a new tableside cooking concept, dubbed "Thiptara Tid Lor", loosely meaning Thiptara on wheels.

Thiptara's breathtaking ambience resembles a northern Thai house compound.

Of it, a selection of best-selling dishes are to be cooked and presented tableside from trolleys. The concept enables guests to closely observe the chef in action while stimulating conversation.

Among the dishes to come on wheels is yum som-o goong sod, or pomelo salad with prawn (620 baht).

This globally favourite dish was prepared here with organically grown fruit from Nakhon Chaisi in Nakhon Pathom province, famous for its native pomelo that yields sweet white flesh.

The pleasingly dry pomelo flesh was seasoned before our eyes with lime juice, fish sauce, fresh chillies and palm sugar with roasted peanuts and coconut flakes to add to the sweet and sour dish a nutty crunch. Capping off the refreshing salad was a grilled firm-meat river prawn.

If you are in for a flame-grill excitement, order yum nuea yang, or grilled beef salad.

The dish features a sizeable fillet of Australian Wagyu striploin, chosen from a range of beef marbling scores, from M5 (880 baht), M7 (1,250 baht) to M9 (1,700 baht), to be flame-broiled at the barbecue grill trolley.

After the beef is cooked to your preference -- although medium-rare is best recommended -- it is then sliced and dressed with sour and spicy yum sauce and served with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, mint leaves and cucumber gel.

Tom kha gai, or chicken in galangal-infused coconut cream soup (500 baht per person), another popular dish is presented with an extra gimmick using a siphon technique. The restaurant opts for the Royal Project black chicken, which is sous-vide with coconut milk and fresh galanga for six hours until the meat is super tender.

The stock, made with coconut water, comes separately in a siphon glass pot, which allows the stock a constant boil while it sends out an ambrosial steam of herbs.

Complementing the pungently flavoured soup is crispy dehydrated pitch-black chicken skin and coconut espuma, which adds a delicate milky froth.

Chu chee red curry with grilled Boston lobster (1,920 baht) provides diners an opportunity to hear a chu chee sound of the sizzling red curry in a hot pan. Because the dish is very flavourful and sweet, it is ideal to enjoy with rice.

My dinner finished off with mango and sticky rice with coconut cream and brown sugar caramel (380 baht), also prepared at our tableside.

To go with the nice Thai food was a selection of Thai-inspired cocktails and mocktails by an award-winning mixologist, which are also presented from the trolley. Recommended are Tipple Thai (390 baht) and Flower Power (390 baht).

Boston lobster with chu chee red curry.

The new table-side cooking concept to creates excitement.

The grilled Australian Wagyu beef salad.

Tom kha gai with black chicken served from a siphon glass.

  • Thiptara
  • The Peninsula Bangkok
  • Charoen Nakorn Road
  • Call 02-861-2888
  • Open daily, 6-11pm
  • Park at the hotel's car park
  • Most credit cards accepted