I haven't been back to Bangkok since December 2010 and was eager to check out the dining scene, try a few new places, and otherwise just go with the flow. Since I was already checked into the Siam Kempinski for work, it was easy just to extend a couple nights rather than switch hotels, especially given its central location, right next to the big malls Siam Paragon, and Siam Center and right by the BTS Siam station. The scorching heat nearing 40 degrees celsius and awful traffic meant that BTS was our best travel companion. Plus, the few bad hats of taxi drivers who still try to nail you for a flat fee fare that would exceed what you are expected to pay if they would just use the meter.
Bangkok has really evolved into a real metropolis and with that, the people seemed to have unfortunately taken the city abrasiveness prevalent in a lot of other cities. What used to be the land of smiles is now more appropriately the land of scowls, perhaps with the advent of stress and other negatives of being in a big bad city.
Fortunately, the food is still very good and very good value. This was probably the first time that I had not done any repeats and was glad for it since that meant an extra opportunity to try some new options.
Despite the youth of the concierge at the Kempinski, I wasn't too impressed by 2 recommendations to try Baan Khun Mae. Without having done research, I asked for something near the hotel which was akin to Bann Kanitha. Baan Khun Mae is not that kind of place. While it was extremely good value for what they had, it was pretty ordinary grub you can get back in Hong Kong (Kowloon City would give it a good run for its money). But the other recommendation of Taling Pling, which is right inside the Siam Paragon mall, was a better option. Slightly modernized (to be expected for a mid-range chain) it was surprisingly decent.
|Catfish and Mango Salad|
|Crab Meat Curry|
|Caramelised Bananas and Coconut Ice Cream|
With list after list making up the foodie universe these days, it was both apt and convenient to have dinner at Sra Bua, which is right inside the Kempinski. Sra Bua made No. 29 of Asia's 50 Best in 2013 and is set in a beautiful room with high ceilings, solid wood furniture and a water feature in the middle. Very tranquil in feel even if filled with diners and I loved the fact that there is a lot of space. A great place to entertain and offer up modern molecular Thai food prepared by non-Thais. Visually stunning and captures the essence of traditional Thai tastes although I did find the food just a tad salty (something I found on this trip in general but hadn't noticed before).
|Lobster with Frozen Red Curry|
|Quail in a Tom Kha Gai|
|Banana cake with Salted Ice Cream and Toasted Almonds|
Inspired by the experience at Sra Bua, and having had varying experiences of Thai food after that, I was craving something non-Thai but different from the usual Italian which Bangkok is famous for. Little Beast provided just that something homey but with an edge to leave you wanting more.
|Asparagus and Watercress salad|
|Raisin and Pistachio Pork Sausage|
|15-hour Lamb Shoulder|
|Fig bread pudding|
And so when it came to the last meal of the trip, we were determined to end on a high. It was back to Thai but not the kind we are used to and can easily get back home. Issan Thai, which is North East of the capital, is not a cuisine readily available outside of Thailand. Typically the spice factor is turned up and there is less use of coconut, and even the staple is not long grain Jasmine but sticky rice. It comes across as a little more Chinese in influence and has influenced cuisines of neighbors such as Laos and Cambodia.
Suppaniga boasts northeastern influence from the owner's grandmother's roots in Trad and Chantaburi provinces with hints of Issan. Everything is simple and has a homey feel to it. But the complexities are discernible and you can taste the hours of days gone by spent by gramma in the kitchen.
|Moo Cha Muang|
|Ka Lum Tod Nam Pla|
And from what I ate on this trip, Thailand does have a lot of answers. Now it just needs to fix the traffic and climate, and make its people learn to smile again.
G29, 991 Rama 1 Rd
Siam Paragon Shopping Center
Pathum Wan, Pathumwan,
Suppaniga Eating Room
160/11 Soi Sukhumvit 55 (Thonglor),
Between Thonglor Soi 6 & 8,
Klongton Nuea, Watthana