We could have also named this article ‘how we got fat this 2019’, but something about ‘restaurants and bars we loved’ had a more sophisticated ring.
But how fat we got in 2019, though. It was a good year if you liked to eat — and if you liked to work out thereafter too — with many a restaurant, bar, and cafe opening across town. In fact, as we sit back and re-ponder the entire decade, the 2010s boasted a lot to love and spoon.
[Featured image credit: Quince at Siri House; Hero image credit: Funky Lam Kitchen]
Granted, there was many a ridiculous fad (salted egg coffee, bingsu-ing your heart out, and rainbow cronuts or whatever), but there’s no denying that the foodie revolution brought with it many benefits. We’re obsessed with Netflix food shows, and we’re learning more about where our food comes from, how it is made, and that it is made sustainably. Restaurants suddenly have to serve “grammable” meals, meaning that more attention is paid to presentation. Even in the greater scheme of things, some of us plan entire vacations based around what destinations boast the best restaurants (or bars) and most authentic street food experiences.
But let’s zoom back in on Bangkok. Ever cocky, ever proud, we know and acknowledge how lucky we are to live in a city that has such a wealth of culinary offerings. It is a city that loves to eat out, and knows just how to cook up a storm, too. Whether you’re someone who carries a notebook to tick off every Michelin-studded eatery you visit, or you’re someone who knows a Khao Tom boiled rice soup is the real MVP after a night out, there’s something for everyone to feast on in Bangkok. As your trusted insiders, here’s a sprinkling of spots we loved to eat, drink, and clink at this 2019 — on the job, off the job, and every slurping second in between.
Lisa Gries, Managing Editor
I think it’s no secret at all this year that I spent a significant amount of time on Chinatown’s Soi Nana, falling so in love with more than just the bars. Nevertheless, I also ventured out more this 2019, all the way to Charoenkrung, and have high praise for JUA (sake, an incredible pork belly gojuchang skewer, and a great playlist, what’s not to love?) and Tropic City, though I can hardly remember what went down every time I ended up there. Bless a seductively late closing time — I bump into members of our team here often, just in case that tells you anything.
I travelled a lot, and wasn’t as adventurous food-wise as I wished to be this 2019. I didn’t really leave my sweet sanctuary of Sathorn in my free time. Reading over Kankanit’s Chef’s Cheat Day series, I uncovered a liking for lamb gyoza over in that hidden but insanely delicious Chinese cuisine corner off of Silom Road. Holey Bakery on Suanplu still has my favourite sourdough for sandwiches, Palm at Vesper still makes my favourite Negroni, and both the balsamic and the vodka numbers at Gallery Pizza are still on late night speed dial. I also loved a mean soup dumpling for lunch over at Yong He Dou Jiang, though you probably know it best as “that soy milk place.” It’s the little neighbourhood things.
On the occasion that I did cross over the Sukhumvit border, I want to applaud Mia for an incredible dinner soundtrack (also a throwback to London’s Sketch in some way, #IfYouDontKnowDontWorry), outdoor brunches at Siri House and Toby’s, a killer natural wine and jaew bong combo at Funky Lam Kitchen, and both #FindTheLockerRoom and Rabbit Hole for massive cocktail menus that overwhelm me but also inspire and impress all my visiting friends. I feel like I’m supposed to give you a list of new restaurants and openings and push you into that direction, but maybe there’s no time like the present to give you an embarrassing end-of-year confession. I’ve only lived here for a year and a smidgen, and this 2019 I discovered Grab Food and Line Man. Now I don’t know how to go on.
Kankanit Wichiantanon, Dining & Interiors Writer
Thanks to all the cool-hip, drool-inducing new spots to wine and dine in the city, my relationship with Bangkok’s dining scene has totally deepened this year. And like parents, I do have my favourites.
If you’re talking about Italian classics that are FAR greater than any classic Italian restaurants dotted around the city, L’Oliva is my go-to. The restaurant serves up dishes traditional to the Abruzzo region which I adore, but what I love more is the ambience here. It’s so home-like and pretty darn cozy. As for an aperitif, my move would be at Burapa Eastern Thai Cuisine & Bar By Sri Trat. The vintage European train-themed restaurant and bar — we’re talking seats and a room that look exactly like train carriage — is my antidote to cocktail-hate since I’m not usually into concocted drinks. The venue doles out delicious cocktails that totally please my palate. But when it comes to real-deal comfort fare? Brassica and Little Donkey are downright my spots.
Karn Chatikavanij, Style Writer
Looking back on it, this has probably been one of the best years of good eating I’ve had in a while. Let’s start with brunch, my favourite meal (turns out I’m not one of the good 3-meals-a-day people). Nowhere else came as close to late-riser perfection as Sarnies did for me. Their hearty, flavourful, well-portioned dishes keep the chill conversations going for hours, and the surrounding Charoenkrung area makes for a wonderful Sunday stroll afterwards.
For lunch (when I manage to have it), I’m a true blue Thai. The new Co-Limited at Velaa Sirindhorn Village is fantastic for grilled meats and noodles, and the staff are lovely too. It’s right in the centre of the city so makes for a great work meeting option. On weekends, however, my lunches would often be at Le Cabanon — a classy yet unassuming French restaurant with a superb lunch menu. Here, I order the avocado and crab salad every time.
2019 has been an excellent year for new restaurants near where I live, in Yen Akat. Don Asado, the Argentinian steakhouse is one of my favourite new finds; the place is trendy without being try-hard and the steaks are refreshingly no-frills and unpretentious. For a whole lot of different reasons, I also managed to have dinner at Sorn three times this year and remained spellbound every time. It’s rare enough to find a Southern Thai fine dining restaurant, it’s even rarer to find one so passionate about everything they do.
Drinks? Admittedly, I’ve hardly moved on to anywhere new this year. Tropic City and the Soi Nana bars remain my usual haunts, although I’ve also found myself going back again and again to Lennon’s at the Rosewood. I am a sucker for vinyls and there’s something about that Jimi Hendrix cocktail that goes so well with the skyline view. Definitely my favourite opening of 2019.
Alisha Pawa, Culture Writer
The perfect way to treat myself on a Sunday afternoon is to indulge in some French toast at Roast. I am so glad Roast introduced a new brunch menu because I am big on breakfast. The soft challah bread from the french toast really struck a chord, and not to forget the Blueberry Ricotta pancakes that really took my heart away. These two are my go-to breakfast now.
Since I seriously do have a sweet tooth, the Parisian cafe — Brioche from Heaven — was the first thing on my radar when it opened. The caramel-decked pecan sticky bun was truly impressive and it’s my favourite kind of bread now. Call it my guilty pleasure. Thank you, 2019!