As is the case with most metropolitans, Bangkok is boiling over, so to speak, with scrumptious offerings. More often than not, however, those that offer a taste of the divine are scattered throughout the city’s hubbub and confounded landscape; a happy reality only to those with a liking for difficult treasure hunts. Rarely can a city claim to host a single locale where all the gourmands hold court. Siam Square, the heart of Thailand, is one such spot that is positively overflowing with “best” rated restaurants.
The main building connected to BTS Siam (the central station of the sky-train system), and considered to house the entire culinary world in a nutshell, so to speak, is Siam Paragon; the grande dame of Thailand’s fortress-y department stores. Top on its list is Honmono Sushi; a Japanese joint lauded as the sushi bar to which all others are measured up against. The melt-on-your-tongue sashimi platter is orgasmic, and therefore, highly recommended by yours truly and everyone else. Unlike a handful of its contemporaries, whence the pieces of raw seafood evoke the scene of a fish market, the chunky slices served here are incredibly fresh, and the smell is virtually imperceptible. By the same token, all of the sushi sets are beautifully executed, and explode fabulously upon impact with mouth. In particular, the dragon roll (barbecued eel, imported avocado, and fatty cream cheese, among other sauces and munchies) is something to be worshipped.
Still in Paragon, Coffee Beans by Dao is an insanely popular eatery; there’s always a sinewy queue out in front, the participants affecting supreme patience, reflecting the etiquette of the Thai bourgeoisie. Although the restaurant attained its legendary status via the two dozen or so cakes perennially up for grabs – from the Toblerone cheesecake, to lemon meringue pie, to Durian cake – their Asian-Western fusion menu is equally considered a driving force to wait in line for. Signature dishes that look, feel, and taste well are: the invigorating, multi-coloured, and moreish soft crab salad Coffee Beans; the tried and tested sirloin beefsteak (served on a creamy bed of mashed potatoes); and the luxurious spaghetti carbonara with spinach and mushroom – so rich and yet so not affecting chances of dessert.
Next to the row of loitering customers at Coffee Beans by Dao, is another string of anticipants. These equally cultured neighbors are waiting to be admitted into the Chinese haute diner, Four Seasons Restaurant. The item that warrants the tallying is of course the classic roast duck. Generously stuffed with herbs and spices of the Oriental kind, it is then left to marinate in a vinegar and syrup solution, the specific elements of which are classified. Once the bird has “ripened” enough, it is taken to the roaster to spin slowly and sweat, until the skin is crackling, and the flesh is succulent beyond measure. Drenched in a thick sauce that is both sweet and complex, the dish is served with Shanghai panache.
On the other side of BTS Siam, is the newly opened shopping mall that is decked from top to bottom with dining options, Siam Square One. Despite having several branches, all of the shoots from the Americanized-Mexican restaurant, Sunrise Tacos, consistently manages to be jam-packed with ravenous patrons during lunch times. Not to be missed are the terrific tacos and classic burritos; rivaling the best joints in the US. The house’s specialty fare is the carnitas; whence the pork is cooked for hours in the traditional fashion. The chefs at this establishment take great pride in their hand-made corn tortillas, which is welcome news to the hordes of chilly eaters whom are all too weary of the pre-packaged varieties often “imported” and used at other Mexican-claiming locations in Bangkok. To balance the savoury of mains with sweets, try their carrot cake, it is to die for. Otherwise, the pecan pie is maple-syrup sweet and generously nutty; reminiscent of something an Alabamian grandmother might bake for her seasonal-visiting darlings.
Outside of the aforementioned complexes, and into the nooks and crannies of Siam Square, is a national gem, in the guise of an Issan kitchen called Som Tam Nua. The papaya salad here is critically acclaimed, and comes in various combinations, the most ordered of which is tam Thai (shredded green papaya, firm tomatoes, crunchy yard long beans, dried shrimp, roasted peanuts, and a blend of brain-shocking seasonings). Other flavoursome consumables that complement the pandan infused sticky rice are: fried chicken sprinkled with fun to bite on sesame seeds; sliced barbecued pork with a spicy and sour dip; and crispy fried fish with wisps of diaphanous crumbs. If you’re feeling a little pizzazzy, try the phad kanomjeen (stir-fried rice noodles), it is unusual and delicious!
Also nestled within a Siam Square soi, is the wildly successful vegetarian restaurant, Koko. Vegans won’t be the only ones to rejoice at the amazing tastes here, for even the steak-obsessed of them all will smack their lips at the delectable dishes on offer. The three courses that must grace your stomach cavity in bountiful amounts are: the Larb tao hoo (minced tofu salad mixed with ground toasted rice); kraprao hed (stir-fried mushrooms with redolent basil leaves); and the pad pak tamlung (quick-fried ivy gourd with a hearty dose of oyster sauce).
Good food is a luxury, but great location is a statement. More often than not, these two factors are mutually exclusive; the aged debate between convenience or taste.
The next time you descend into this hedonistic city of angels, with the aim of taking on the gastronomy scene, then be sure to spice up your list with the titles above. The dishes reported on are worth every baht, but more importantly, they are worth every calorie. Similarly, if you seek good value for money on accommodations, then stay at Mercure Bangkok Siam, or for a slightly more upscale alternative, Novotel Bangkok. Both are centrally located, and are great places to seek respite and quality sleep after that eye-popping, overloading meal.