Will our experts agree on the best pad Thai and ultimate massaman curry?
The Chef: David Thompson, Australian expat and the man formerly Nahm restaurant in Bangkok and now of Aaharn in Hong Kong.
The Critic : Vanniya Sriangura, Bangkok local and restaurant reviewer for the Bangkok Post since 2001.
What’s your favourite restaurant in Bangkok?
DT At the moment, it’s Appia. It’s an Italian restaurant but I’m a Bangkokian; I love eating foreign food. The location isn’t convenient for me, as it’s in a different part of town, but it’s reliable and worth the travel. It has perfect Roman food. I like the tripe and the pastas and they have a wonderful zucchini salad and great porchetta. It’s a restaurant that’s frequented by people who live in Bangkok.
VS Gaggan – it’s the whole package. It has topped Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list for three years in a row and really shows how Bangkok has become a hub of international-cooking wizards. It’s beautiful modern-Indian cuisine, with 25 courses, and the menu changes every few weeks. But what I love is its humble character and homely, cheerful ambience. I don’t feel intimidated walking into the restaurant, even though it’s quite expensive.
Where do you go for the best street food?
DT Yaowarat Road in Chinatown is a fantastic spot for streetside eating. You can walk along there and be happy for days. Whether it be roast duck, noodle soup, oyster omelettes, stir-fried noodles, grilled fish, fried rice – even pizzas and grilled steak – you can find any sort of food there.
VS I’d recommend Yaowarat Road in Chinatown because of the wide variety. But my favourite stall is Elvis Suki (+66 2 223 4979). It’s located on Soi Yotse, off Bamrung Muang Road. They do beautiful suki haeng [stir-fried glass noodles] with this irresistible wok-burnt aroma. There’s no address but Soi Yotse is very short so you can easily find it.
And when you’re in the mood for fine dining?
DT L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is terribly French and terribly formal. I try to avoid fine-dining restaurants because I’m simply over them but I fall to my knees worshipping French desserts, pastries and chocolate. It’s a worthwhile treat on occasion.
VS Le Normandie at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok ticks all the boxes for me. It’s French but not snobbish. The service is flawless and the views of the Chao Phraya River are amazing.
What’s your go-to for traditional Thai food?
DT Krua Apsorn on Samsen Road in Dusit. It has no atmosphere whatsoever but it isn’t about the ambience here, it’s about the taste of the food. There are impeccable curries, great pork and a fantastic crab stir-fry. It’s outstanding.
VS Suan Bua in the Centara Grand hotel at Central Plaza Ladprao. Thai food is all about well-rounded flavours; the perfect balance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy. And you can taste those flavours in every bite of the salad of crabmeat and Thai samphire at this restaurant.
Who does a great breakfast?
DT Rocket Coffeebar does Western breakfasts and pastries – not dissimilar to a café in Sydney or Melbourne. My preference, though, is to just eat Thai tropical fruit, because you’re not going to eat better than that anywhere in the world.
VS Roast, which is owned by Varatt Vichit-Vadakan of Roots Coffee Roaster. They do excellent breakfasts. My favourite dish is the crab-cake Benedict.
And where do you head for a caffeine fix?
DT Kuppa is fantastic. I always go there for my double espresso.
VS Holey Artisan Bakery does several kinds of coffee but I only drink espresso with milk, which I believe Australians call a flat white.
Who makes the best pad Thai in Bangkok?
DT Jae Fai (327 Maha Chai Road, Phra Nakhon; +66 2 223 9384) in the Old Town is famous for its pad Thai – sweet, sour and salty, with lots of peanuts. The dish is cooked over charcoal and the noodles are good quality. It’s more expensive than most other pad Thais but it’s worth it.
VS Pad thai is not a southern Thai dish but I’m going to recommend Khua Kling Pak Sod – a restaurant specialising in southern cuisine – because it has an exceptional recipe. Normally, people make it too sweet, too mushy or with too much sauce. But at this place the pad Thai is perfect.
And the ultimate massaman beef curry?
DT Bo.lan. Massaman curry should be sweet, oily and rich with coconut cream. It’s got lots of cumin, coriander seeds and cassia. It’s got potatoes and onions that have been deep-fried, plus pieces of meat that are tender, gelatinous and toothsome. The curry at Bo.lan ticks all those boxes. Oh, and you can always try it at Nahm.
VS Saneh Jaan. The aroma of the spices and herbs, the subtlety of the taste, the combination of flavours, the very tender meat that’s been cooked for at least four hours… the massaman curry at this restaurant has it all.
What cocktail bar do you love to visit?
DT A den of iniquity called Smalls (186/3 Soi Suan Phlu 1, Sathon; +66 95 585 1398). It’s loose, the drinks are lethal and it’s open late. I always order Bijou – that’s gin and chartreuse. One Bijou makes you jewelled and the next one knocks you out.
VS The Penthouse Bar + Grill’s Cocktail Bar at the Park Hyatt. It’s like a piece of 1950s New York in Bangkok. The bar is on the 35th floor so it has a lovely view of the city. It is intimate, has a sophisticated ambience and attracts a good-looking, fashionable crowd of locals and expats.
How about a rooftop bar?
DT Vertigo and Moon Bar on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree hotel. You go here for the views, not for the drinks or food.
VS Red Sky is on the 55th floor of the Centara Grand at CentralWorld, in the centre of the city. On a clear day the skyline views are great.
Is there a restaurant with good views that you’re fond of?
VS I’m going to recommend a cruise. Most dinner cruises are touristy but Supanniga is different. It’s small – only 40 seats – and it’s run by the owners of a well-respected restaurant, Supanniga Eating Room, so the quality of the food is excellent. It’s only been around for about a year so tourists haven’t really discovered it yet. It’s a beautiful way to spend an evening, with good food and views of the passing temples and other historic attractions.
And who does the best mango sticky rice?
DT Any market, really. I go to the Or Tor Kor Market (Kamphaeng Phet Road).
VS Everyone – if mangoes are in season.