Travel around the world without leaving town at these restaurants in Bangkok
Nightlife king Sanya Souvanna Phouma props up his Lao roots with his usual brand of quirky cool at Funky Lam—the city’s best introduction to Lao cuisine. Australian-born chef Andrew Cole, who has had a decade’s worth of experience preparing Thai and Lao cuisine, rolls out uncompromising recipes indigenous to Northern Laos. Compared to its Lanna and Isaan counterparts, Lao cuisine focuses on citrusy and herb-filled flavors, and these are seen in dishes like the kaipen (crispy dried seaweed) served with three types of jaew relish, and the heavily spiced larb ped with minced grilled duck and toasted rice. Worth a try is Sanya’s very own hoy sai oua, a thick, punchy soup with clams and pork balls. Pair your boldly flavored meal with a refreshing cocktail like Queen of the South, which relies on the strong zesty notes of salted plum.
Apart from gigs performed by popular artists, authentic Singaporean fare is the reason why gastrophiles flock to Chuan Kitchen in far-flung Muang Thong Thani. Now operated by Thai entrepreneur, Pheraphol “Peter” Ahunai, Chuan Kitchen serves Chinese-Singaporean fare that has garnered the approval of respected Singaporean food critics. Singaporean chicken rice is its signature, here served with flavor-intense chicken that’sbraised before it’s fried. Another must-try is the laksa, which comes with a slightly sour and salty curry broth. As for the bak kut teh, Chuan Kitchen churns out the Malay version, which features a murky soup cooked with more than 15 kinds of Chinese herbs.
A dinner at Pyongyang Okryu is perhaps the closest experience to visiting the secretive hermit kingdom ruled by Kim Jong Un. Supported by the North Korean government, this chain restaurant is closely monitored by keen-eyed North Korean staffers, and is plastered with signs declaring “No Photos and Videos” (although they were generous enough to let us take pictures of the food). Most of what’s in the menu doesn’t stray far from South Korean fare in the apperance. Try the blood sausage, North Korea’s version of black pudding, and the ready-grilled barbequed beef. Catch nightly performances by multi-tasking servers-turned-performers that promote the culture and beauty of North Korea and, surprisingly, touch on a desire for reunification with the South.
Himalaya serves what’s probably the most authentic Nepalese cuisine you can find in Bangkok. Start your exotic culinary adventure with chicken momos (Nepalese steamed dumplings) before delving into more flavorful fare like fragrant chicken curry with roti. End your meal with lassi (yogurt smoothie) to cool you down after a full-bodied meal. The restaurant also offers tour services in Nepal and around the Himalayas, as well as Nepalese souvenirs, traditional clothing and home accessories.
Aesop’s introduces an unconventional Greek eatery that injects an edge to traditional Athenian fare. Start off your meal with the mezze platter, which includes pita bread and sesame bagel slices paired with chunky dips like melitzanosalata (smoked eggplant dip). Other recommended dishes would be the beef and lamb skewers, and puffy cheese and spinach-filled spanakopita. To boost the fun, toast your meal with Greek-inspired cocktails like the tsipouro-based Acropolis, a platesmashing dance and cries of “Opa!”
The restaurant spin-off of Shop Luso, a local importer of Portuguese products, La Portugalia is a fuss-free eatery that’s partitioned into a Portuguese product showroom and a dining area. Expect nothing fancy—La Portugalia is patterned after eateries that line the streets of Lisbon that, though unassuming, serve some of the most delicious homemade fare in the southern European country. To start, pair the caldo verde, a rich veggie-based soup, with a couple of rissóis (Portuguese croquettes with shrimp, pork or chicken filling). Also worth a try are the mildly spiced piri piri chicken and bitoque steak (which uses Thai beef). Don’t forget to make room for dessert—the restaurant claims that it makes the most authentic pastel de nata (Portuguese egg tart) in town.
While Scandinavian shops and businesses are widely common in resort towns like Pattaya and Phuket, this Swedish-run eatery is probably the only place in Bangkok where you can experience authentic dishes from the Viking nation. Tucked in Soi Sukhumvit 18, Cajutan features a simple, non-descript setting that resembles the majority of expat-targeted eateries in the area. But it’s the menu that draws in diners, offering Swedish favorites like Skagen salad (shrimp salad on an open toast), meatballs laden with flavorful gravy and lingonberry, and beef Rydberg (a classic meaty dish that’s known to cure hangovers).
A gamut of Middle Eastern eateries dot the Silom stretch, but the relatively new branch of Lebanese institution Al Saray is quickly proving that the restaurant is still one of the best in its category. Lebanese-born chef Mahdi Zehri is tasked with keeping things authentic. Compared to other Middle Eastern cuisines, Lebanese indulges the heavy use of lime juice and herbs, as sampled in the baba ganouj (smoked eggplant dip) and zesty hummus. The grilled meats are the highlights at Al Saray, here served smoky and decadently tender. End your meal with their take on mohalabieh, the Lebanese version of panna cotta with strong hints of rose water. Unlike in the Al Saray headquarters at Soi Soonwijai, alcohol is served in the Silom branch.
Its antiquated, dimly lit interiors, combined with a television running African pop and folk music videos on loop, fool you into thinking that you’re having a meal in a restaurant in Addis Ababa. (But in fact, you are in Addis A-Nana.) Taye gives you a hands-on (literally) experience of traditional Ethiopian fare. You are encouraged to eat with your hands, a ritual that enhances the enjoyment of eating staples like injera (fermented sourdough flatbread), doro wat (chicken stew), tips (meat sautéed with veggies) and gomen (collard greens). We particularly love the crispy sambussa stuffed with fillings like meat and egg. Finish your meal with traditional Ethiopian coffee, which is served in a jebena pot and with aromatic incense.
While Above Eleven’s rooftop is ideal for either pre-game or nightcap sessions, the restaurant one floor below is perfect for savoring the flavors of Peruvian fare along with the glitzy views of Bangkok skyscrapers. Lima-born chef Omar Frank Maruy whips up traditional Peruvian items as well as Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian cuisine) plates. Try the tuna rolls with ceviche dipping sauce, the seabass ceviche soaked in citrusy leche de tigre marinade or the anticucho (charcoal-grilled beef heart or pork neck skewers) with sweet miso.
Ecuador is one of those South American destinations that’s still left unexplored by savvy globetrotters. Similarly, its national cuisine remains mysterious even for the most intrepid foodies. The best way to get a taste of Ecuador in Bangkok is to head to Cali’s Grill on Soi Sukhumvit 23. Run by Ecuadorian proprietor Mauricio Zurita, Cali’s Grill whips up dishes like llapingachos (mozzarella-stuffed fried potato cake) and empanadas, those curry puff-like nibbles filled with spiced meats and peppery achiote. Fill up your belly with hearty mains like cielo mare y terra, a surf ‘n’ turf number with chicken and seafood that’s been slow-cooked in white wine, or the juicy sudado de pollo (chicken stew).