Eating our way through 2019

Over the last 12 months, Life reviewed more than 80 restaurants. Here, we list the 10 that we think most deserve a return visit in 2020

The Athenee Bangkok

The Allium

The Athenee Bangkok, 3rd floor Witthayu Road Call 02-650-8800

The Athenee Bangkok's new haute cuisine restaurant is led by Dutch chef de cuisine Roxanne Lange (previously of Savelberg Bangkok and Crème Crue in Rijswijk, the Netherlands).

Resembling an upscale Parisian living room, the fine dining establishment serves up contemporary European fare prepared with utmost respect; fresh seasonal produce is sourced from the finest origins, including their own botanical garden.

The selection of dishes -- newly created and eclectic -- changes seasonally, and are offered both à la carte and as part of multi-course degustation meals.

For an all-out experience, we recommend the 11-course meal (3,280 baht per person). Currently, this features dishes such as La Speciale Jolie Mauger oyster with Oscietra caviar, sour cream, apple and dill; a cold platter of mud crab with cucumber salad; Hokkaido scallops with pumpkin gel and confit pumpkin; red snapper with a frothy beurre blanc white wine sauce, specks of spicy Spanish sausage, bell pepper purée and paper-thin sunchoke chips; and seared foie gras with caramelised apple, biscuit crumbs and brittle sea salt.

The Spanish Pyrenees Iberico lamb with green asparagus and potato purée is impeccable. The extra-cold platter of milk, organic honey and hazelnut caps off the evening wonderfully.

Seven-course and nine-course dinners are also available at 2,480 baht and 2,980 baht per person, respectively. À la carte dishes and vegetarian options are also available.

The venue is high-ceilinged and brightly-lit with very little accessorising. Relaxing slow-beat music plays in the background. It is warm yet breezy, cosmopolitan yet casual.

Service is definitely of five-star quality, blending world-class efficiency and attentiveness with cordiality.

Open daily, 6-10.30pm. Closed on Mondays. Park at the hotel's car park. Most credit cards accepted.

The Athenee Bangkok

VARUTH HIRUNYATHEB

Baltic Blunos

Thong Lor 9 Call 02-117-1255 or 095-879-9075

The work of two aesthetes -- Latvian-born British celebrity chef Martin Blunos and his Latvian executive chef Aleksandrs Nasikailov -- this one-of-a-kind restaurant serves up crossover cuisine inspired by the traditional cooking, ingredients and picturesque landscapes of the Baltic states: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

While the food is undoubtedly fine dining, the whole gastronomic experience is designed to encourage hearty conversations.

Intriguing to the eyes and palate while provoking the mind and imagination, the meals here come with no advance description of the dishes unless requested, and are offered in set menus. A six-course dinner costs 2,900 baht, an eight-course 3,400 baht. Kombucha pairing costs an extra 1,000 baht per person.

Dishes are prepared with fresh seasonal produce and showcase the curing and fermenting techniques that are common in the region.

Expect to find the likes of coconut-cultured yeast sourdough and hempseed butter; sea urchin with bergamone and sapane tree; moon flower with creamy almond purée and tom kha sauce; mackerel with beetroot and horseradish cream; and seared Hokkaido scallops with Mottra caviar and Hollandaise sauce.

A main course such as the platter of black chicken with stuffed neck, baked leg and breast roll accompanied by puréed Jerusalem artichoke and curry sauce may look like a scene from a horror movie, but the taste is sensational.

Whether savoury or sweet, every dish at Baltic Blunos comes with well-calculated, aesthetically arresting details and clever combinations of inspired ideas.

The selection of kombucha pairings (each course comes with a different pairing) is among the best in town. It is recommended that you finish your meal with a heavenly glass of fermented espresso, available at the bar for 280 baht per glass.

Service staff are efficient, knowledgeable and friendly.

Open daily for dinner, 6-10pm. Park on the premises. Most credit cards accepted.

Carne

32/2 Sukhumvit 23 Call 02-163-4971 and 066-069-2288

Tucked behind an expansive red-brick wall halfway down Soi Prasanmit, Carne may at first look like any other new player on Bangkok's saturated restaurant scene.

But the meat-centric eatery -- a venture by the restaurateur family behind the Local by Oam Thong, Crab and Claw, and Kinkao -- has proved its staying power and is a true rising star in this food-mad city.

The restaurant was built up from a humble idea to promote local produce and help sustain low-key cattle farmers. Its large show kitchen is equipped with josper oven, open-fire grill and smoker, and is led by Texas-native head chef-cum-grill specialist Mateo Roberson.

Highly recommended dishes for starters include the ember-roasted, salt-crusted beetroot salad with fresh watercress, quinoa, spiced caramelised pecan and green goddess dressing (260 baht); sweetcorn succotash with chorizo and smoked aioli sauce (150 baht); sea bass ceviche with roseapple-avocado salsa and fresh chillies (320 baht); salad of radicchio, spinach and grilled orange pulp with Gorgonzola DOP and bee pollen-sherry dressing (240 baht); and super aromatic, moist and tasty pan de cassava cheese bread (150 baht for five pieces).

The chargrilled braised wagyu beef tongue with warm salsa molcajete (380 baht); wood-fired Australian wagyu rib-eye with roasted chilli jus and hasselback sweet potatoes (620 baht per 100g); and kurobuta pork tomahawk steak with sweet potato puree, grilled pineapple salsa and roasted onions (590 baht) are not to be missed.

Tres leches (280 baht), a three-milk cake with fresh cheese semifreddo, grilled caramelised pineapple, lime gel and pineapple-fostered local white rum, is one of the city's best.

The drinks list is extensive, almost triple the length of the food menu. The service is excellent.

Open daily 5.30-10.30pm. Park on the premises. Most credit cards accepted.

Chef's Table at Lebua

State Tower, 61st floor Silom Road Call 02-624-9555

Product of a 175 million baht investment, this 46-seater with an unrivalled setting and flamboyance is the first and only dining establishment in Thailand to permanently feature a hands-on three Michelin-starred chef.

The newest addition to Tower Club, a vertical complex of restaurants and bars at Lebua Bangkok hotel, Chef's Table has already been awarded a star in the 2020 Michelin Guide Bangkok, despite only opening in March of this year.

Directing the open kitchen is Vincent Thierry, the globally celebrated French chef who, from 2005-11, opened and led Caprice at Four Seasons Hong Kong to its three-star glory. He has been working with Lebua's team to develop the concept and menu since Chef's Table was just a sketched idea on paper.

Thierry's highly rated contemporary French cuisine is presented through a multi-course degustation menu, which costs 7,900 baht per person. Dishes are prepared with world-class ingredients imported from France or locally sourced in Thailand.

Among them, you'll find his signature dishes, including king crab tiramisu with marinated tandoori fruit and mascarpone cream; crayfish and sweetbread with Provencal ravioli in shellfish emulsion; foie gras with citrus mosaic and fondant carrot; Normandy sole with black olive, artichoke, cockles and marjoram sauce; and French Challan duck in a duo-styled platter of roasted duck breast with beetroot, celery and ginger sauce, and a warm bowl of leg parmentier on the side.

The price includes a glass of Champagne. Those who don't wish to partake in alcohol may opt for a mocktail instead.

Wine pairing packages are available at 3,900 baht per person, or 6,500 baht per person for a premium selection.

Guests are attended to by a passionate team of international chefs, managers, sommeliers, mixologists and front-of-house staff, together providing a standard of service that you're unlikely to forget.

Open from Tuesdays until Sundays for dinner. Park at Lebua's car park. Most credit cards accepted.

Lebua at State Tower

Gaggan Anand

Sukhumvit 31 Call 098-883-1022

The new chapter of chef Gaggan Anand's culinary adventure proves that real cooking artists do not try to please the crowd or hold too rigidly to their stellar fame. They continue to grow, explore and move toward their true identity.

The new restaurant, which only opened in November, brings us a better-than-ever iteration of its celebrity chef-owner. Gaggan Anand has a nonchalant vibe with a fun kind of rock 'n' roll feel. The cuisine, meanwhile, is more intimate, more experimental and more profoundly Indian when compared to that of the original venue on Soi Lang Suan.

Dinner here is offered in two modes: one at the G Spot, a glass-facade 14-seat chef's table chamber on the ground floor, and the other at G Arena, the 38-seat main dining room upstairs.

The meal comes in the form of a 25-course tasting menu which urges diners to wonder, examine, suck, lick and guzzle. There's no written menu, only a giddy sheet of emoji stickers.

The line-up of dishes changes regularly according to the best produce available, but is always based around classic Indian recipes. While the taste profile may be reminiscent of yoghurt chaat, kachori bread, dosa crepe, biryani rice and tikka masala sauce, the ingredients come from all over the globe.

Gaggan's favourite ingredients include fresh truffles from Italy; saltwater eel, sea urchin roe and scallops from Japan; Iberico pork from Spain; and foie gras from France.

At Gaggan Anand, they intentionally forgo "prim and proper" service, but staff remain careful to ensured that guests are treated to the most attentive, almost personalised service. During operating hours, there are 65 folksy and affable staff members attending to a full house of 52 diners. Very well-thought out, and it never feels forced or contrived.

Seating at the chef's table is priced at 12,000 baht per person, while the next available table in the main dining room costs 8,000 baht per person.

Open daily for dinner upon reservation. Park at A-list building or use valet service. Most credit cards accepted.

Kinu by Takagi

Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok 48 Oriental Avenue,  off Charoen Krung Road

Chef Kazuo Takagi's original restaurant, Kyoto Cuisine Takagi, in Ashiya, Japan, has held two Michelin stars since 2010. For his Bangkok venture, Takagi brought with him his star-studded culinary perfection that blends cultural references with seasonal variations.

The 10-seat establishment, gracefully decked out in bronze, teak and tie-dye indigo silk, features a wooden dining counter encircling an open kitchen equipped with traditional charcoal-fire copper pit.

The food on offer here is kaiseki, Japan's answer to haute cuisine; a fine-dining experience steeped in tradition and gentility. Kinu's menu, priced at 7,500 baht per person, is represented by a 10-course repertoire of seasonal appetisers, light soup, assorted sashimi, sushi, a deep-fried dish, a steamed dish, a flame-grilled dish, a vegetable and meat dish takiawase style, a rice bowl with seasonal toppings and dessert.

Featured items may include a platter of bite-sized wagyu beef roll, foie gras terrine in lily bulb, smoked salmon sushi bonbon and dashi-poached eggplant with sea urchin roe; or steamed amadai fish with snow-grated turnip and Sturia caviar in a supreme broth masterfully prepared with fresh shavings of artisan red tuna bonito and yuzu zest. This soothing soup dish is chef Takagi's much-celebrated signature.

The seasonal sushi, represented by top-grade blue fin toro, is among the most exceptional I've ever eaten.

There is also a lightly poached oyster with ponzu vinegar jelly; deep-fried tofu simmered with snow crabmeat and salt-cured mullet roe; highly prized Okushima abalone with liver sauce; flame-cooked pomfret fillet; charcoal-grilled wagyu top rump in tomato sukiyaki sauce; and grilled Miyazaki eel over organic rice.

A fresh shine muscat and grapefruit sorbet on a bed of peach compote satisfies the high expectations raised for dessert. It is followed by a matcha-pairing platter of petit fours.

There are two nightly seating rounds, the first at 6.30pm and the second at 9pm.

Open daily for dinner upon reservations. Park at the hotel's car park. Most credit cards accepted.

Nan Bei

Rosewood Bangkok, 19th floor Phloenchit Road Call 02-080-0088

Nan Bei, meaning "North South" in Chinese, is a flagship dining establishment of the Rosewood Hotel Bangkok and serves cuisines from these two broad regions of China. Every single detail, from decor to lighting to tableware and menu, has been originally designed and meticulously executed.

The dining room -- one of the most stylish you're likely to come across -- takes its inspiration from Chinese folktales. It cleverly blends art deco flair with celestial Asian details and cosmopolitan vibes, while providing a mystic air at its exotic cocktail bar. Elegant and sensual without being snobbish.

Two open kitchens, set across from each other in the main dining hall, showcase Chinese regional specialities prepared from authentic recipes and with time-honoured techniques.

The restaurant's executive chef Matthew Geng leads a dynamic team of a wok-fry specialist, dim sum artist, Peking duck virtuoso and noodle artisan, to name a few. All are natives of Beijing.

The best-selling items are the Peking duck (1,900 baht), carved before diners at tableside and served in two courses; and xiao long bao steamed dumplings (620 baht).

From a selection of seasonal specialities, highly recommended are the "squirrel fish", a deep-fried whole sea bass with sweet & sour sauce; snow fish fillets with chilli sauce, ginger and leek; and tiger prawn sautéed with salted egg yolk and green asparagus.

Complementing the great food was a superb collection of inventive cocktails and mocktails by an Italian mixologist.

Two luxuriously decked-out VIP dining rooms are available for private gatherings. Service is 5-star quality.

Open daily for lunch and dinner. Park at the hotel's car park. Most credit cards accepted.

Pagoda

Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen's Park, 4th floor Sukhumvit 22 Call 02-059-5999

This 180-seater offers a quintessential collection of gourmet Cantonese dishes prepared by Hong Kong native Oscar Pun, whose 20-year career includes stints at a number of Michelin-starred establishments.

Since the restaurant launched in 2017, it has offered up some of the best dishes anywhere in Bangkok. The 15-page menu lists delicacies such as top-quality fish maw, abalone, sea cucumber, bird's nest, goose web and live seafood.

Don't miss the Hong Kong-style Peking duck (1,600 baht), which is among the best tasting and most value-for-money fine dining the city has to offer. This is a whole roasted duck, wheeled and presented to your table, where it is carved and served as a three-course entrée: brittle fat-free skin with steamed pancake, succulent roasted meat from the legs, and stir-fried duck meat, ginger and spring onions.

Equally-treasured is the steamed sticky rice with crabmeat and crab roe in bamboo basket (2,000 baht). For a taste of bliss, try the crystal-clear consommé of Pun's double-boiled fresh fish maw soup with morel mushrooms (680 baht per person).

Should you be there at lunchtime, sample some of the restaurant's 30-item dim sum selection. Pagoda's siu mai (steamed pork dumplings, 120 baht); ha gao (steamed prawn dumplings, 180 baht); and steamed pork and prawn dumplings topped with whole abalone (180 baht) are first class in terms of taste, texture and presentation.

The dessert, too, is praiseworthy. Try the panna cotta-like chilled mango pudding with soft morsels of sweet mango flesh (150 baht) and warm and crispy Chinese date pancake (120 baht).

There are seven private rooms, with the biggest accommodating up to 20 diners, each decorated to offer a distinctive dining atmosphere from formal to intimate to homey.

Open daily, 11.30am-2.30pm and 6-10pm. Park at the hotel's car park. Most credit cards accepted.

Terrace Rim Naam

Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok Oriental Avenue Call 02-659-9000

This Thai restaurant on an alfresco riverside patio had never previously been the hotel's dining highlight. Then, recently, when it appointed the talented youngster Phatchara "Pom" Pirapak as its new chef de cuisine, that changed.

Phatchara, who in 2017 helped bring Michelin-starred fame to Saneh Jaan, is a native of Yasothon. Growing up, she developed a profound passion for cooking, and a desire to bring rustic Thai culinary traditions to a wider audience. Still just 29, Phatchara humbly flourishes amid today's ocean of egocentric new-wave chefs.

Since joining Terrace Rim Naam earlier this year, she has already added many exciting, original features to the table. Her menu might be small, but it is comprehensive and cleverly put together.

A little amuse-bouche in the shape of kraton pad (sautéed santol) makes for a deliciously powerful introduction to her cooking, which deserves a permanent place on the menu.

From the selection of appetisers, well worth trying are the kratong tong med bua, or herbal minced chicken with lotus seeds in crispy pastry shells (320 baht); saku na tang, or sago crisp topped with minced pork and prawn with coconut cream and cashew nuts (380 baht); and pomelo salad, made with Nakhon Pathom's famous white honey pomelo, hand-squashed dressing and pan-seared Hokkaido scallops (640 baht).

Her pièce de résistance, however, must be the nam prik goong jone, or grilled river prawn in sour, salty and spicy shrimp paste dip, seethed with fine strands of green mango and accompanied by an assortment of local vegetables (400 baht).

Also not to be missed are the tom kati pla salid yang, or coconut soup with flame-broiled Suphan Buri gourami fish (630 baht), and gaeng kua puu bai cha-plu, or blue swimming crab curry with wild betel leaves (1,240 baht).

The restaurant is accessible either via the hotel's main lobby or from Charoen Nakhon Road on the Thon Buri side of the river.

Open daily, 5-10.30pm. Park at the hotel's car park. Most credit cards accepted.

Wander BKK

64 Pan Road Call 02-235-6848

A reincarnation of the much-loved Amontre Playroom, which closed down a little over a year ago due to the sudden termination of its lease, Wander BKK offers consistent excellence from both the kitchen and the bar.

The establishment occupies the large front space of a low-rise office building and has both indoor and alfresco sections. The street-side lounging terrace seats up to 30 guests, while the glass facade air-conditioned dining room can accommodate up to 90 diners. It also boasts as its centrepiece a cocktail bar as well as a corner stage where live acoustic bands take turns performing nightly.

The kitchen, directed by a veteran executive chef and manned by a crew of 14, cooks up some of the city's best all-day dining options. The current 100-item menu is made up of a number of Amontre best-sellers, together with many new creations.

Highly recommended starters include the pan-fried mochi dumplings with minced duck filling seasoned with fish sauce, shallot, chillies and roasted rice powder (155 baht), and Australian sirloin steak gratinated with a thick, gooey chilli, mayonnaise and Parmesan sauce (260 baht).

For entrées with rice, worth having are the goong pad prik kee nu sod (190 baht), or prawn meat wok-tossed with fresh bird's eye chillies; stir-fried lump crabmeat with chilli and lime (460 baht); and cubed Australian strip loin sautéed with holy basil sauce (320 baht).

For individual serving main dishes, I highly recommend the pad mee see men, or stir-fried rice noodles with four stinky ingredients (160 baht), and Australian lamb rack with lemon-parsley crust (480 baht).

Complementing the great food is Wander BKK's creative coffee mocktails, each of which is heavenly and distinctive. Among them are the Yoghurt de Wander coffee smoothie (my favourite; 145 baht); coffee brûlée martini with honey-lemon (145 baht); coffee latte with matcha and salted caramel (125 baht); and Earl Grey-infused Americano (125 baht).

The quality of the service is the best you could ask for from a casual restaurant.

Open daily 6pm to midnight. Park on the premises. Most credit cards accepted.