It was my fourth time to travel to Bangkok, and restaurants were the only attractions I had on my itinerary. I’ve never visited a temple (at least from what I remember) or even seen the Grand Palace, and it’s all because of the food, and the aftermath of consuming loads of it (coma!).
This time we started our culinary sojourn with the city’s best. Sorn earned two Michelin stars and was named No. 9 best restaurant in Asia, so we had high expectations.
Housed in a restored two-story mansion, Sorn is helmed by chef Ice Supaksorn, whose take on southern Thai flavors using sustainably sourced local ingredients impresses.
He started our 22-course tasting menu by showing us our first dish, two live sea mantises wiggling inside a glass jar. Minutes later, he presented to us a fillet that was simply grilled, sans seasoning, so we could enjoy the natural sweetness of the crustacean.
That number alone earned him our respect, which was only strengthened by the dishes that followed—a crab stick smudged with yellow chili paste and fresh crab fat, beef curry with roti, pumpkin mash dotted with lobster and topped with fried egg. The spice was apparent and midway, we waved the white flag and asked for coconut sorbet to ease the heat.
Regardless, it was a memorable meal worthy of all the acclaim it has been getting.
We bookended our trip with another noteworthy fine dining experience, this time from months-old Villa Frantzén, which comes from the same group as Frantzén in Sweden and Zén in Singapore. Located in a 400-square meter villa in central Bangkok, the compound opens up to a beautiful garden, ample parking spaces and a cocktail bar that’s separate from the 60-seater dining area.
Unlike other tasting menus where the dishes have already been picked for you, here you are given a choice between two items for each modern Nordic course. Among the season’s options were veal tartare or cured Norwegian salmon, grilled scallops and fermented parsnips or cold poached lobster, and grilled duck or chicken and burnt cream.
For entertainment, we had the option to sit near the open kitchen and watch the chefs at work, or in the room with floor-to-ceiling glass walls, which lets you ogle the beautiful garden. We chose the latter, and were rewarded with a shadow play orchestrated by the afternoon sun and yellow-tinted lights.
Like Sorn, it won’t be long before Villa Frantzén earns its stripes.
Whenever I travel, I make sure to eat like the locals do. In this case, I woke up early every day to head to 20 Soi Pradit just off Si Lom Road to check out a wide assortment of food being sold along the bustling street. The options ran from freshly grilled prawns, pork barbecue and green curry chicken, to an array of fruits served with chili salt and rice cakes.
I went for my favorite traditional Thai fare, krapow and fried fish fillet in sweet chilli sauce. Both were good and satisfying, and only set me back P70 each. Such a steal!
There were no tables and chairs readily available at Soi Pradit. I had to enjoy mine back at the hotel, which was just a block away. If you prefer a proper sit-down casual meal, then you can head to Nong Rim Klong, a canal-side stall that has been recently reincarnated into a two-floor shop house on Ekkamai Soi. Seafood is their specialty, so be sure to indulge in an order of crab meat omelette, sea bass tom yum and fried mantis with garlic. All three guarantee gustatory satisfaction.
Ditto for Mae Khlong Hua Pla Mo Fai, a Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient. This humble eatery draws a crowd come lunch time even if it’s 30 minutes from the city center. And their main bait is the crabs. They’re famous for the milk-steamed variety, which we, of course, ordered, along with the crab sotanghon with fresh crab fat and raw crab legs dipped in nam jim.
You can find Thailand’s most popular dessert, mango sticky rice, everywhere in Bangkok. The best, though, is found at Kor Panich, and it’s because they use the best quality mangoes and rice—the Nam Dok Mai variety for the former, and the exceptional glutinous rice from Chiang Rai for the latter. Drenched in coconut cream and topped with crispy mung beans, it certainly was the best way to end any trip to this food paradise. INQ
Special thanks to Jaison Yang of Travel Warehouse Inc.
Follow the author at @foodddudeph in Instagram.