By Megan Leon
Aug 5, 2022
THE 2022 AWAKENING OF BANGKOK is vibing with a slew of fantastic new restaurants that both touch on the flavors of Thailand and also reach out to all corners of the world, bolstering what we already know: the city is a true foodie destination. With waiting lists starting to fill up fast, here’s a list of some of the top-notch spots you should start booking now.
The Standard Bangkok, the most buzzed hotel opening in town this year jump-started its intro to the Kingdom with the opening of glam sky-high Mexican restaurant, Ojo. Sitting 76 floors up, the glitzy digs are now setting the, er, standard for Mexican dining in Bangkok with a jaw-dropping space that was designed to evoke metals and gemstones from across Mexico and more of Latin America’s cultural landscape. Retro gold accents and macrame-lined walls converge with a rose quartz palette that plays along the sweeping views of Bangkok’s skyline—which you won’t find anywhere else, except one story above on the Mahanakhon SkyWalk.
The chef behind the menu is a big name, too, one of Mexico’s most prominent chefs, Francisco Ruano, of Restaurante Alcalde in Guadalaraja, which just took spot 51 on The World’s 50 Best restaurants list. Expect in-your-face bold dishes that are driven by unique, heirloom Mexican ingredients, like the corn that comes straight from Yucatan (incidentally, the same type used at Noma), and accented by local Thai produce. The menu is strong on plant-based options, giving vegans have plenty of great choices.
The colorful Chiang Mai tomato salad is made of paper-thin slices of tri-colored tomatoes, fresh herbs, fermented chili mayo and salted lemon. Classic Mexican staples like guacamole as well as their version of the famous street food, esquites, make appearances but we say go for the ever-so-tender birria short rib, slow-cooked in a Jalisco adobo and served with baby burnt onions and a tangy fermented hot sauce.
Drinks curated by Milk Thanaworachayakit focus on agave-based cocktails using labels like Cascahuin tequila and Aguas Mansas from Oaxaca, which, in Bangkok, are only found here. And the vino… well, sommelier Ottara Pyne, who’s in charge of wine for the whole building, proffers a diverse list that perfectly matches the vibrancy and innovation of the food.
standardhotels.com/bangkok/features/ojo-bkk; approximate price of dinner and drinks for two B4,500; open for lunch and dinner daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to midnight.
Santiaga, the higher-end sister of Bangkok institution La Monita next door, joins not only the growing list of Mexican eateries in town, but also best new restaurants overall in 2022 with a two-floor fine/casual spot including a private omakase-style dining room. Though decor is minimal, they have a showstopper in the traditional clay comal that traveled all the way from Oaxaca and now sits over a flame toasting homemade corn tortillas for the Tlayudas with guacamole. Here, the 10-course tasting menu is laced with traditional dishes that pay homage to various regions in Mexico ranging from Michoacan all the way to the Yucatan.
Imagine you’re in the heart of Mexico City with the tender beef tongue tacos served in freshly made corn tortillas, or get a taste of real home cooking with the sopa oferia, a soothing bowl of creamy fava bean soup served with locally grown cactus, chayote and chicken hearts. The duck enchilada is a spiced, braised duck enveloped in a soft corn tortilla that is covered in a rich and creamy red sauce.
The great thing about Santiaga is that if you’re not ready to commit to a tasting menu, they have a more casual alternative space on the top floor that serves most of the same dishes in an a la carte menu. The passion and love from charismatic chef-owners Billy Bautista and Kasama “Oh” Laopanich is clearly palpable, as they thrive on hospitality and camaraderie. Sit back, relax and order one of the potent margaritas.
facebook.com/santiagabkk; tasting menu Bt1,800; open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
The White House
The White House may make you think “America,” but as soon as you step inside you’ll discover that this restaurant is a Latvian playground full of sensory surprises paired with some serious cocktail wizardry.
Chef Aleksandrs “Alex” Nasikailovs of the now-defunct Baltic Blunos is whisking diners on a culinary journey that follows his 15-year international resume in this spacious, casual setting. The tasting menu highlights Japanese, French and Thai ingredients–all leaning heavily on Latvian flavors and traditions. The real show begins with the Gillardeau oyster complete with a yogurt pearl and bloody mary kombucha that arrives in an ice dome that is torched open tableside. What?? Right. The earthy duck liver tortellini is one of our favorites, as it is served with black trumpet mushrooms, pickled grape and birch ant syrup hidden beneath a web-shaped crispy wafer.
FROM LEFT: Chef Aleksandrs Nasikailovs; head mixologist, Kei Sawada. Courtesy of The White House (2)
Ever tried a blue cheese cocktail? In this pleasure palace where drinks are as important as the food, you can. Head mixologist, Kei Sawada, who most recently led the bar at Bangkok hotspot, Salon du Japonisant, had us not just captivated but at points audibly cheering for his clever infusions and extreme flavors–most of which he wheeled up to finish at our table on his rolling bar. These guys are seriously invested, as Sawada has a rotary evaporator to make his own infusions via vacuum distillation that can create deeply flavor-focused cocktails for all the wins. It can even manage the alcohol content. See for yourself in the Kombu-Cha Yuzu Sangria, and the Imitation Snow Crab Bloody Mary.
facebook.com/thewhitehousebkk; tasting menu Bt4,000; open for dinner Wednesday to Saturday from 6:00 p.m. to midnight.
Small Dinner Club
“Essentially Thai but not Thai” is our best pass at describing the elusive Small Dinner Club situated in the heart of Charoenkrung, Bangkok’s first built road. Sareen Rojanametin, an ex-photographer/director of advertising turned chef, takes his previous experiences and brings a fresh perspective to the Bangkok dining scene
Although self-taught, Sareen cut his teeth at Brae, Benu, Faviken and Inua–you know, just a few of the biggest names in the culinary world. After setting up in Melbourne where he ran his own restaurant, the chef returned to Bangkok, turning to monkhood for two years before starting Small Dinner Club. If that backstory isn’t enticing enough for you, the buzz around town has been growing as both the space and the cuisine take those preconceived notions of what Thai food and style should be and flip the script. The vibe is pan-Asian, the architecture brutalist, the flowers done through the art of ikebana, making this a rare melting-pot of collaborations that are imperative to the restaurant’s experimental identity.
With only 12 seats per day, the chef’s intimate counter seating showcases his multi-course tasting menu, which he says is fast, punchy and like a rollercoaster ride through Thai ingredients. Dishes with eclectic names like She Put de Lime in de Coconut play mind tricks on diners by disguising squid for coconut. Italy meets Thailand in Too Many Italians, Only One Asian; this course takes the idea of pasta and pesto to the extreme, swapping it for papaya with sataw (stink bean).
The wine list also plays an important role in the dining experience with a list that prides itself on low-intervention and biodynamic wines and other alcohols, such as our current favorite, Organic ‘Hazeldean’ Apple Cider by Momento Mori winery, in addition to hand-crafted juices and infusions.
smalldinnerclub.com; tasting menu Bt4,500; open for dinner Thursday to Sunday 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Ever since renowned Swedish chef, Bjorn Frantzén, opened an exclusive, uber-expensive fine-diner in Singapore, Bangkok has been waiting for its turn with bated breath. The chef, who holds three Michelin stars for Frantzén in Stockholm, has officially landed in the heart of Bangkok in a breathtaking pair of villas, housing, as he says, “the most Nordic restaurant in the entire Frantzén Group.”
There were no holds barred in the impressive design where a luminous pathway surrounded by lush greenery leads you to a two-story house fitted with an open kitchen that’s the envy of every other chef we’ve polled in Bangkok. There are three private dining rooms, and a glass house attached to the main space sitting within the lush outdoor patio. It’s all Nordic minimalist decor with soft, neutral tones tied in with organic and natural materials.
Executive chef Martin Enstrom and executive sous chef Nilas Corneliussen introduce a Scandinavia-meets-Asia-inspired tasting menu set up in a way we’d like to see lots more of in Thailand: for each course, diners are asked to select among up to four dishes, potentially making everyone at the table’s meal unique.
Take a deep dive into Nordic territory with the cold poached lobster paired with rhubarb, tomato and vanilla water, almond and lemon verbena, and then venture on to the cauliflower chawanmushi with morels, yeasted mushroom tea, lime and toasted hay oil. The duck with foie gras, raspberry hot sauce, sticky beetroots, grilled roses and pistachios is not to be missed.
Classic Frantzén bites like French toast a la Villa Frantzén with Vendace roe and västerbotten cheese are on hand if you’re feeling nostalgic, too.
Villa Frantzén Cocktail Bar (in the second villa) is a destination in its own right, and the first standalone bar of the group. The drinks here are also Nordic-Asian, and head bartender Gabriel Valdes incorporates the medicinal, the quirky and the fermented into his drinks. Try the Rhubarb and Meadowsweet, a savory cocktail based on Swedish whisky that is made with macerated rhubarb and meadowsweet. You can also get wines by the glass, homemade-juice pairings and excellent wine pairings that focus on unique producers from both old world and new.
villafrantzen.com; tasting menu Bt3,5000; open for dinner daily from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.