Asia’s “City of Angels” remains a feast for the senses, with head-turning architecture, watering holes of all kinds, and a profusion of new arrivals to its high-flying restaurant scene.
With the opening of the Park Hyatt Bangkok and a 170-room Waldorf Astoria delayed until early 2017, it’s been a quiet year for luxe hotel openings in the Thai capital. But visitors looking for a new place to bed down might want to consider checking in to the Avani Bangkok Riverside Hotel, where sweeping views of the Chao Phraya beckon from the lobby all the way to the rooftop terrace, lounge, and infinity pool. Bathtubs inside the Junior suites offer another place to soak it all in.
Renowned Thai chef Vichit Mukura, formerly of the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, has created Chef’s Table by Khao, which seats up to 12 diners in a private room in the same premises as Japanese restaurant Yuutaro on Sukhumvit Soi 51. The cuisine is modern Thai, made with freshly imported ingredients from Japan and Europe combined with premium local produce, such as red jasmine rice grown and harvested from the chef’s own paddy field in Chonburi. Patrons can choose from sumptuous feasts of six, eight, or 10 courses, and there is no fixed menu so every meal is guaranteed to be a singular culinary experience. A full-scale restaurant is set to open next year.
Opened in August, the hottest fine dining venue of the moment is Morimoto Bangkok, the first Southeast Asian outlet by celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto. Here, imaginative Japanese fusion food is served in a sleek, timber-rich setting at the city’s most stylish dining address, the MahaNakhon Cube, part of a larger complex designed by former OMA partner Ole Scheeren.
Also located in the Cube is the fine contemporary Chinese restaurant M Krub by Hong Kong–born chef Man Wai Yin, already known for the finest lava buns and dim sum at his other restaurants in Bangkok. For his latest venture, he has teamed up with French pastry chef Marc Razurel, who trained in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris. Here, the presentation takes its cues from French nouvelle cuisine, with exquisite creations such as the egg-white aumônière with fresh crab meat and fish maw, and a silken tofu in almond syrup, painstakingly carved to resemble a chrysanthemum. There’s even an artist on hand to decorate each plate with calligraphy before being served.
After three years of careful restoration, the fabulous but crumbling 127-year-old colonial mansion that formerly housed the Russian embassy reopened last year as The House on Sathorn. Managed by the adjacent W Bangkok, the building boasts a range of venues from a fusion restaurant to a courtyard bistro with nightly live performances. Dark leather sofas and silk cushions add extra warmth to the opulent bar, where a light menu of Asian-inspired bites complements the selection of champagnes, wines, sakes, and seasonal craft cocktails made with Thai herbs and spices. These include the Diva, an enticing blend in which coconut water, rose, and jasmine syrup balance out the bold flavors of Belvedere vodka and Patrón Citrónge tequila.
For a taste of local craft beers, head to Sugar House Café in Ladprao, a cozy café and bar that made its debut in June. Reclaimed wood planking, exposed brickwork, and decorative rice sacks make for a rustic-chic interior, and the abundance of potted plants almost lend it a garden feel. Four of the café’s six taps feature offerings from Jo+ Beer, a brewer based in north-eastern Thailand, while the menu provides an array of desserts and a Thai spin on pasta and steaks.
The 18-year-old shopping mall Siam Discovery reopened in May with an edgy design by Japanese firm Nendo, bringing a dash of Tokyo chic to the streets of central Bangkok. Unlike conventional shopping centers, much of the retail space is not rented to individual brands or chains; instead, merchandise is grouped together according to product categories. Some old favorites like furniture brand Habitat and multi-label store Loft are back with greater selections than before; the latter even boasts a dedicated zone for coffee enthusiasts. Another standout is Object of Design Store, which showcases lifestyle products from 160 established and emerging Thai designers. The mall also hosts a pop-up farmers’ market for organic produce, while mini flea markets offer both handmade wares and food.
Opened early this year, Dinosaur Planet suits visitors of all ages. Located at EmSphere on Sukhumvit Road, this theme park is the newest section of the retail EM District that includes nearby luxury malls Emporium and EmQuartier. Eight zones feature over 200 life-size dinosaurs, with highlights such as the Raptor X-treme maze where giant raptors chase and scare, an educational Dinosaur District with dino skeletons and a dinosaur hatching science lab à la Jurassic Park, not to mention a 4D Deep World where you’ll come face-to-face with underwater monsters.
Cindy Sirinya Bishop, supermodel, actress, and Asia’s Next Top Model host and judge
Bangkok is one of the most fashion-forward cities in Asia and likewise grooming and beauty are important to its residents; you can find all the latest beauty trends and services here. Uber-chic and trendy The Lounge Hair Salon is where I get the best haircut in town, because it’s owned and run by some of Thailand’s top celebrity hair stylists who are always on the leading edge of fashion. For the best mani-pedis, I recommend 20 Nail Studio. Think luxurious nail spas, massage chairs, custom nail paint, acrylic, gel, and the latest trends in nail color and styles.
Nooror Somany Steppe, master chef and owner of Blue Elephant Cooking School & Restaurant
My number one place to eat is Lord Jim’s at the Mandarin Oriental overlooking the Chao Phraya River. I love the entire buffet lunch, especially the delicious dessert spread with traditional Thai sweets, western cakes and tarts, and French macarons. For Thai food I love the home-style classic dishes at Kalpapruek belonging to my friend M.R. Dacharapimol Rajani Tongkanart, who uses family recipes handed down through generations of her aristocratic family. My favorite is the traditional green beef curry with roti.
This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“City Guides: Bangkok”).