A trio of informal yet seriously good Sukhumvit-area eateries is turning heads in the Thai capital
By Ron Gluckman
Mother’s home cooking may seem cliché, but not in the hands of chef Paolo Vitaletti, whose first solo venture is a Roman-style trattoria that serves the rich dishes of his boyhood (he even brought his mother to Bangkok to ensure everything was perfecto). Vitaletti makes his own pasta and sources meat from small producers, while half the wine comes from organic vineyards, notes partner Jarrett Wrisley, who also created popular Thai haunt Soul Food Mahanakorn. Appia exudes informality: chickens spin on spits behind the bar, where daily specials are written in chalk. Vitaletti strolls the 65-seat restaurant offering suggestions, often from a tray displaying fresh fish or meat. Standards include porchetta and a ragù of stewed spare ribs, sausage, and polenta. Even starters like zucchini slivers with Parmesan shine thanks to the specially aged cheese (20/4 Sukhumvit Soi 31; 66-2/261-2056).
Australian chef Jason Bailey offers no apologies for his unconventional twist on modern Thai food. “I’m on a quest for deliciousness, not authenticity,” he says. His organic pork neck (served with red grapefruit and toasted sticky rice) acquires its zest from a Chinese master stock, while the meat in his duck salad is soaked in a mixture of Chinese spices and Shaoxing rice wine, then dressed with a tart blend of lime juice, chili, and tamarind. Even Paste’s location, in Bangkok’s trendy Thonglor neighborhood, bucks convention: it occupies an unassuming shophouse opposite Samitivej Hospital, with woven mats on the walls and red diner seats arranged around black tables. To judge by the crowds of regular customers, the formula seems to be working (120/6 Sukhumvit Soi 49; 66-2/ 392-4313).
Opposite Mess Hall
After opening WTF, a beloved hole-in-the-wall bar and gallery on a sleepy side street in Thonglor, Vermont-born photographer Christopher Wise and his Thai wife Somrak Sila would occasionally stage parties in the shophouse across the way. That space is now an official offshoot called Opposite Mess Hall, where chef Jess Barnes (formerly of nearby farm-to-table eatery Quince) has brought his fondness for rustic, Asian-inflected treats like smoked meats in Chinese steamed buns and exotic drinks (passion-fruit julep, pineapple bourbon sour), served at the bar or on wooden tables. Just don’t expect lush decor and full platters of food. “This is more of a bar with food,” Wise says, meaning snacks and sharing plates—a daily terrine, waffles topped with shredded duck and chicken-liver pâté, bone-marrow dumplings—are the order of the day (27/1 Sukhumvit Soi 51; 66-2/662-6330).
This article originally appeared in the December 2013/January 2014 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Three Bites in Bangkok”)