Dining Out 6 minutes 30 May 2019

Best Restaurants in Bangkok and Phuket for Contemporary Thai Cuisine

A series of dining establishments in Thailand are breathing fresh air into the traditional Thai dining space, spinning off into their own contemporary interpretations of Thai food. Food should be adventurous, and these places are indeed paving their own pathway.

MICHELIN Guide Thailand contemporary Thai

Contemporary Thai is a tricky label. Some traditionalists are skeptical about a creative spin on much-loved traditional dishes they enjoyed at their parents’ house, and some people think anything that’s classic should remain so. But over the past few years, Thailand has seen a rise in more daring, creative and “outside-the-box” approach to cooking, gaining recognition for refreshing spins on simple Thai dishes.


Le Du (One MICHELIN Star)

Le Du is on most people’s bucket list. Apart from the à la carte menu where you select one dish from each section (cold dish, forest & sea, ranch and sin for dessert), Le Du also offers a 4 or 6-course tasting menu, while variations of the larger menu comes to life for those who want the complete experience.

Owner and Head Chef Thitid Tassanakajohn, or locally known as Chef Ton, is a veteran on the Thai food circuit, also seen on TV as a judge for Top Chef Thailand. Le Du is refreshing, perhaps somehow influenced by its namesake, the Thai word for seasons. The restaurant uses only local Thai ingredients to make Thai creations with a twist.

The ‘cold’ section currently has khao chae, a seasonal favourite on the menu, but it’s with a Le Du twist. Shrimp and pork are served alongside jasmine ice cream, a bold twist to the classic rice dish you normally have at your grandparents’ house. Wild seabass is also served cold, complemented with refreshing watermelon and smoked fish cream. The forest & sea section ranges from salted fish with enriching chu-chee curry to the river prawn, served with pork belly jam and shrimp paste. Finally, make your way to the ranch section, where the free range chicken with baby corn awaits, or the 30 days dry aged beef tenderloin. Dessert is sinful but well worth it. Go for the classic mango sticky rice with smoked coconut or the Chiang Mai chocolate.

Address: 399/3 Silom 7 Alley, Khwaeng Silom, Bangkok 10500
Tel: 092 919 9969

Le Du's Khao Chae. Photo source: Le Du's Facebook page.
Le Du's Khao Chae. Photo source: Le Du's Facebook page.

Saawaan (One MICHELIN Star)

Saawaan is one of the newest kids on the contemporary cuisine block but is fast becoming a household name. The restaurant is set in a converted shophouse right in the middle of the understated Suan Plu area, Bangkok’s up-and-coming foodies’ hub. The place is bathed in mood lighting and dark wooden floors to heighten your dining experience.

Owned and operated by Sujira Pongmorn, Saawaan serves a 10-course seasonal menu, each dish including a signature Thai cooking technique such as steaming, stir-frying and grilling. The restaurant remains true to its deeply-rooted Thai heritage, only sticking to locally-sourced ingredients and serving familiar menus with its own original twist. There is a true sense of craftsmanship to the presentation and cooking, and it feels like an authentic dining experience without being over the top. Each dish is artfully explained, and there is a story behind every dish that is served - a true culinary journey worth waiting for.

The dishes included in the 10-course experience are served in a variety of ways using local produce, including banana leaves and egg shells. Each dish is classified by its cooking method, such as dipped, fermented or boiled. Dishes range from rice paddy crab with sticky rice to aromatic, smoky beef soup with bai ya nang broth to fish panaeng curry served with steaming hot rice.

Wine and tea pairing is also available. The wine is a blend of Old and New World and hail from France to Australia. Complement some of the dishes with a Pinot Gris or Muscat and you’ll never want the journey to end. The tea collection is grown in northern Thailand, focusing mainly on wild estate teas.

Address: 39/19 Soi Suanplu, Sathorn Rd, Thung Maha Mek, Sathon, Bangkok 10120
Tel: 063 370 1991

Saawaan's boiled beef soup with <i>bai ya nang</i> broth. Photo source: Saawaan's website.
Saawaan's boiled beef soup with bai ya nang broth. Photo source: Saawaan's website.

Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin (One MICHELIN Star)

Tucked inside the Siam Kempinski Hotel, Sra Bua maintains a classic Thai menu with a modern, creative flair. The restaurant was conceptualised by world renowned chef Henrik Yde-Andersen, whose Copenhaegen-based Kiin Kiin restaurant received a rare one Michelin star for Thai cuisine.

Choose between a 4-course lunch menu, 8-course dinner menu or order from the à la carte selection. The set menu will take you on a full modern gastronomic experience, starting elegantly with the Tom Klong soup with grilled lobster head, infused with ginger and lime, to the Thai ceviche with halibut passionfruit. Move onto the sea bass with white five spices and finish with the unique ‘flowers of Thailand Vers Yves Klein’. The à la carte menu is suitable if you and your party prefer to pick and choose, design your own Sra Bua experience and sample more traditional dishes such as the butter-fried king crab, slow-cooked beef rib and the ballotine chicken with peanut and ginger. This place is perfect for special occasions or when you need to impress that special investor in town for the weekend.

Address: Siam Kempinski Hotel, 991/9 Rama I Rd, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
Tel: 02 162 9000

A beautiful creation by Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin.
A beautiful creation by Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin.

Issaya Siamese Club (Michelin Plate)

Issaya is the brainchild of award-winning chef, author and television personality, Chef Ian Kittichai. A household name in contemporary Thai cuisine, the restaurant is situated in a beautiful traditional colonial villa, with a dining room and a vast outdoor terrace. The menu is progressive and local, created and infused with local ingredients, along with seasonal specials. Issaya itself houses a fresh herb garden, and it’s no surprise that Chef Ian was one of the early pioneers of the farm-to-table concept in Bangkok.

Issaya is photogenic, inspired by a lounge bar theme throughout its floor and garden. From colourful fabric, creative cocktails and interior are all locally sourced and produced, the culinary journey derives from Chef Ian’s childhood experiences growing up in the area of Bangkok where he often visited wet markets and cooked with his mother. The menu has an emphasis on market-fresh produce and traditional flavours which diners can enjoy through the Issaya Set Menu, the Chef Ian Kittichai’s Tasting Menu or simply order from the vast à la carte selection.

The set menus include a series of starters from Sai Krok Talay (house made shellfish sausage) to tender spice-rubbed pork baby back ribs. The main course is heavier, with steamed whole fresh Maine Lobster Curry Custard and Chef Ian’s special, Kao Ob Moh Din - rice in claypot mixed with Chiang Mai mushrooms and garlic. There are also new additions to the main menu worth trying, from the enriching Gaeng Kua Nua (Veal Cheek stew) and Saengwa Pu (blue swimmer crab salad).

Address: 4 Soi Sri Aksorn, Chua Ploeng Road, Sathorn, Bangkok 10120
Tel: 062 787 8768

Issaya Siamese Club's <i>saengwa pu</i>. Photo courtesy of Issaya Siamese Club.
Issaya Siamese Club's saengwa pu. Photo courtesy of Issaya Siamese Club.

Namsaah Bottling Trust (Michelin Plate)

Namsaah is yet another brainchild of Chef Ian Kittichai, along with three other founders from the nightlife, creative arts and music industries. The eclectic fusion of influences put Namsaah, a self-proclaimed Asian gastro bar amongst one of the most interesting contemporary restaurants in the city.

The restaurant itself is eye-catching; a bold, pink 20th century grand villa in the middle of the bustling city, and its name is an English spelling for a Thai term which means soda water. It’s fresh, fun and energetic – just what a contemporary dining experience should be.

People can come here to drink seriously, as well as savour the food. Classic cocktails each have their own personal twists here such as the Roasted Tangerine Negroni with fresh tangerine juice for an added kick. Other cocktails are cheeky and playful, from Sex on The BTS to the Thai Massage Mojitos.

The food menu is really fun. For starters, try the Siracha popcorn shrimp. The shrimps are spicy and soda-battered, and they literally might fizz up in your mouth. The Todd-Munn Squid Salad is another unique dish, essentially fried minced squid and shrimp in a sweet chilli dressing. If you come with a group, order lots of starters to share, because there’s also the Momo, steamed Himalayan spiced Wagyu beef dumplings in black peppercorn sauce. For the main course, try the Tangerine Chicken, it’s crispy and cooked in a tangerine chilli palm sugar, or the Kee Mao (drunken) lobster feast, wok-fried with green peppercorn sauce. There’s also a Namsaah twist on the Indonesian fried rice, Seafood Nasi Goreng, indulge in the rice with shrimp, squid, omelette strips, salmon roe and chilli paste. Leave room for dessert, particularly the Banana roti and the Thai coffee Crème Brûlée.

A set menu is also available for those who feel overwhelmed by the large, bolstering menu. Dishes include the Namsaah Pad Thai and the Slow-Cooked Red Beef Curry, of course with the banana roti for dessert.

Address: 401 Silom 7 Khwaeng Silom, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500
Tel: 02 636 6622

Namsaah Bottling Trust's <i>Pad Thai</i> foie gras. Photo courtesy of Naamsah Bottling Trust.
Namsaah Bottling Trust's Pad Thai foie gras. Photo courtesy of Naamsah Bottling Trust.

OSHA (Michelin Plate)

Osha’s exterior is decadent and eye-catching in the most complimentary way. The standalone restaurant sits on Wireless Road right in front of Soi Ruamrudi and it’s hard to miss. Upon stepping in, it’s ultimately Instagram worthy, tables are large and the seating sofas are ultra-comfortable.

Osha offers an extensive and creative menu. The “Osha Floral” set menu serves 6 courses for THB2,200, and includes the Osha Ocean & Flora Salad, a dish with marinated Hokkaido scallops with mixed flowers salad, and steamed rock lobster with homemade style curry sauce.

The à la carte menu is also worth trying. Start with the appetisers, duck spring rolls or squid fritters and salted egg before moving on to heavier dishes like the grilled snow fish, perfectly glazed with red soya bean curd, or the aromatic Bangkok Roti served with the Australian beef striploin green curry. Definitely not the kind of Thai food you can easily whip up at home.

Address: 99 Royal Resident Park Khwaeng Lumphini, Bangkok 10330
Tel: 02 256 6555

Left: Squid with stuffed pork in clear soup<br>Right: Bangkok roti<br>Photo source: Osha's website
Left: Squid with stuffed pork in clear soup
Right: Bangkok roti
Photo source: Osha's website


Suay (Cherngtalay) (Michelin Plate)

A modern bistro setting in Cherngtalay, the newest member of the Suay brand stays elegant whilst remaining very relaxed in a bright and airy contemporary setting. If the weather permits, the restaurant also has an outdoor courtyard which is ideal for intimate gatherings or a private party. The menu here is a creative mix of contemporary cuisine, with inspiration drawn locally with a touch of the west.

For starters, there’s the signature laab tuna with miso-lime dressing and crispy fried-chicken spring rolls with a roasted chilli dip. For those with more of a western taste, order the Caesar salad with crispy coconut prawns and the watercress and green salad with grilled chicken. There’s a variety of signature Thai salad dishes such as the grilled Australian rib eye steak with green papaya salad; a classic with a meat twist. There’s also the charcoal-grilled marlin fish salad, cooked and tossed the Thai way, and a Thai-style salmon ceviche with crispy mushrooms.

Another signature fusion dish is the Suay Tacos, served in either crispy corn shells or roti bread, stacked with grilled Australian beef tenderloin, grilled tandoori chicken and cajun prawns. Move onto the signature dishes, with grilled river prawns and the Pad Thai with soft shell crab.

There’s also a new dessert on the menu - "Poppy seeds and yoghurt dumplings with Thai tea custard”.

The menu here is quite extensive and you won’t be able to cover even half upon your first visit. This is a good thing, because every visit to Suay Cherngtalay will mean a completely new experience, and possibly more tacos to share!

Address: 4, 177/99 Moo 6 Si Sunthon, Thalang District, Phuket 83110
Tel: 093 339 1890

Poppy seeds and yoghurt dumplings with Thai tea custard. Photo courtesy of Suay.
Poppy seeds and yoghurt dumplings with Thai tea custard. Photo courtesy of Suay.

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