When we realized we were going to have another few days in Bangkok, we decided there was only one thing to do: eat our way through the city. Not very good for our waistlines or our wallets, but sometimes you just have to do what you just have to do. So….we checked out the list of Bib Gourmand restaurants in Bangkok and started making plans/reservations.
For those of you not familiar with Bib Gourmand, it is a designation given by Michelin for “good quality, good value restaurants.” The price point for a “good value” restaurant varies based on location — in Bangkok, you are supposed to be able to get a three course meal (excluding beverages) for 1000 Baht (about $31) per person (which is an insane amount of money because we regularly ate in Thailand for less than that amount of money for two people with drinks).
There are 58 Bib Gourmand restaurants in Bangkok so we obviously couldn’t try them all on this visit (but we intend to work our way through them over time….). But, we managed to try a nice selection of cheap and less cheap places with fast casual and fancy food. Below are the highlights from our food extravaganza. It wasn’t really fair to compare the restaurants, as it would be like comparing apples and oranges, so we have organized them from the cheapest to the most expensive.
Ongtong. Delicious and fast and cheap.
Ongtong is a small little place near the Ari BTS stop. They are known — and rightfully so — for their khao soi. You know how I love my khoi soi, and this stuff was right up there — you will get better in Chiang Mai, but I don’t think I’ve ever had better outside of Northern Thailand. The sauce was creamy and spicy and balanced and the crunchy noodles stayed crunchy. Ongtong also does a “dry” khoi soi. We had never tried this before and it was stellar with a nice smoky flavor from the wok. The only problem with Ongtong is we wanted more! Oh, and they serve the drinks at room temperature (nearly 100 F on the day we visited) and you have to order ice separately. Total price, including a water and a Coke Light: 213 Baht (about $7).
Soi Polo Fried Chicken. When nothing but fried chicken will do.
Soi Polo is a super casual place on a small street not too far from the American Embassy, an easy walk from the Phloen Chit BTS station or the Lumpini MRT station (well, unless it is 100 degrees out like it was when we walked it). The waitstaff didn’t speak much English when we were there, but they had a dual language menu and we just pointed at what we wanted. If you like fried chicken and sticky rice (and, let’s be real, who doesn’t, right?), you pretty much have to try it. But be forewarned — the chicken is covered in fried garlic. Personally, I think that makes it even better, but I’m sure we both reeked the rest of the day. Rumor has it this is the best fried chicken in Bangkok, but we have to say our friend Troy makes an even better friend chicken. We also tried the grilled pork. I thought it was too fatty, but Robert loved it. Total price, including a Sprite and a large Chang: 340 Baht (about $11). Yes, you read that correctly.
Thai Niyom. Pretty, but uninspiring and disappointing — the only place on this list we wouldn’t recommend.
Thai Niyom is right near the Phloen Chit BTS station and our initial impressions were favorable. The ground floor seems like a modern, hip restaurant. But, we were quickly ushered upstairs to the boring and too warm dining room. And, the bad ragtime music playing in the background did not improve the atmosphere. Nonetheless, the food sounded amazing. We ordered a Thai omelet with crab (pictured above) and, while the crab was good, the omelet was over-fried to the point where we could barely recognize any egg. We also ordered DIY pork spring rolls (pictured above). The pork was tasty but the springs rolls overall were just blah. We also ordered fried rice with pork cracklings. I was really looking forward to this one, but the cracklings were really weird with entirely the wrong texture (there was no crunch to them) and the fried rice had way too much spring onion in it. Finally, we got the chicken stir fried with Thai basil. Unfortunately, the overwhelming flavor of this dish was red chili. Desserts looked good, but after our uninspiring meal we passed. And, to top it all off, service was less than stellar — nobody checked on us, nobody cleared plates, nobody asked if we wanted another drink. Total price, including a glass of wine and a cocktail and a built-in service charge: 1653 Baht (about $52).
Soul Food Mahanakorn. Pure deliciousness.
Soul Food is a cute little place right near the Thong Lo BTS station. We were lucky enough to go on the weekend, when they serve a smoked chicken. We also ordered ribs in tamarind sauce — they were so well cooked that the meat fell right off the bones. And, some pad see ew (noodles stir fried in a wok) with pork jowl — smoky, charcoal flavor deliciousness. Total price, including a glass of wine and a cocktail: 2378 Baht (about $75).
The Local. A beautiful restaurant with high-quality traditional food.
The Local is set in an old colonial building jammed full of antiques and an easy walk from the Asok BTS station. We started with an appetizer sampler (pictured above). Starting from the 3 o’clock position, it included the little one bite tastes sometimes referred to as “taste of Thailand,” grilled chicken wrapped in pandan leaves, shrimp on rice cakes, fish cakes, and a little taste of khao soi. For mains, we had pork braised for 4 hours with duck and quail eggs and a penang curry with beef. We’ve both eaten quite a bit of penang curry, and the sauce was about the best we’ve ever had. In fact, there wasn’t a bad bite in our entire meal. Total price, including two craft beers, two glasses of wine, a bottle of sparkling water, and a built-in service charge: 2554 Baht (about $80).