People 4 minutes 26 November 2020

This One MICHELIN Starred Restaurant Is Thailand’s Most Iconic And Favourite Dining Room

Chef Jirawut Sapkiree of Methavalai Sorndaeng cooks up a repertoire of authentic Thai dishes that tell the legend of one of Thailand’s most beloved dining rooms.

Bangkok Thailand MICHELIN Guide Thailand

“Our history goes back to when ‘Sorndaeng’ first opened its doors in 1957. The restaurant soon became widely recognised among Bangkokians and people from other provinces who travelled to the capital for business. I would say most Thais in their forties, fifties or older have visited us or know our name.”

When thinking about MICHELIN-starred Thai restaurants in Bangkok that have long been in business, surely Methavalai Sorndaeng (One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2020) comes to mind. The restaurant is located on Ratchadamnoen Klang, a road in Bangkok known for its elegance and historical significance. For over six decades, Methavalai Sorndaeng has stood the test of time, becoming one of Bangkok’s most beloved Thai restaurants.

A warm sense of nostalgia permeates every aspect inside this cosy restaurant. Every dish exudes excellent flavour profiles and pays homage to stories of the past, speaking volumes about their decades-long national appeal. Jirawut Sapkiree, the chef-owner, shares with us the legacy of Methavalai Sorndaeng.

Chef Jirawut Sapkiree, managing director and owner of Methavalai Sorndaeng.  (© Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand)
Chef Jirawut Sapkiree, managing director and owner of Methavalai Sorndaeng. (© Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand)

The flavourful history

“Since opening, Sorndaeng became known not only among Thai people, but also among expats living in Thailand and tourists alike. Our authentic Thai taste was definitely the attraction. Sorndaeng has been through many ups and downs with the city, including facing political turmoil. After the 1992 Black May incident, the restaurant’s owner and founder, Kyle Chunhajan, wanting to enjoy his sunset years, decided to pass the torch to my mother, solely out of trust.”

As a result, the Sapkiree family, who were managing the Methavalai Hotel in Cha-Am, took over and added ‘Methavalai’ to the restaurant’s name. They also introduced a new hotel-style management system to the restaurant. The menu was revised; however, some popular dishes from the original Sorndaeng era remained. The same goes for some of the staff, who still work for Methavalai Sorndaeng today.

The entire restaurant also underwent a complete renovation, transforming into the Methavalai Sorndaeng, embellished with classic European décor and subtle hints of Thai charm. Nevertheless, it is a pity that photos of the restaurant before the renovation are all lost.

The then Methavalai Sorndaeng. (© Methavalai Sorndaeng)
The then Methavalai Sorndaeng. (© Methavalai Sorndaeng)

The passing of the torch

“I would always help out in the dining room and the kitchen. I did everything starting from the most basic tasks like picking and cutting vegetables. I observed how my parents cooked. I tasted finished dishes and learned how to adjust the flavour. Our family has always spent time together over dinner. That’s when I learned about our family business, through listening to my parents’ conversations. It never goes away.

“When our family took over, my mother and I, together with my siblings, shared our thoughts on what should stay and what shouldn’t. We also needed to add new things, as local food trends are highly dynamic. After becoming Methavalai Sorndaeng, we let quite a few dishes go. However, the mi krop ( seasoned crispy noodles) and tod man pla krai (fishcakes) have been highlights since the previous era. When we took over, we added many trendy dishes, such as krathong thong (crispy cups filled with stir-fried meat and vegetables), yam ta krai (spicy lemongrass salad), gaeng som pak tai (southern-style sour curry), gaeng kiew wan luk chin pla krai (green curry with fish balls), pad prik king pla duk foo (crispy catfish stir-fried with curry paste), and many more. These delicacies are still popular today.


Almost three decades passed yet the atmosphere remains the same. The only differences are the carpet, artificial trees, and upholstery, which have been changed several times. (© Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand)
Almost three decades passed yet the atmosphere remains the same. The only differences are the carpet, artificial trees, and upholstery, which have been changed several times. (© Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand)

We also have some newly created recipes that are fast becoming favourites, for example, yam som-o (spicy pomelo salad), tom yam nua pla gao horapa (hot and spicy soup with grouper and Thai basil), yam tua pu (spicy winged bean salad), kaeng kua cha-om pu (red curry with crabmeat and acacia), and a lot more. I would guess the number of most popular Methavalai Sorndaeng dishes is no less than thirty.”

Chef Sapkiree’s mother spotted lotus roots in a fresh market in front of the Phra Pathom Chedi, the famous stupa of Nakhon Pathom. To give the recipe of ‘Gaeng som pak tai’ (southern-style sour curry) a unique touch, she prepared southern-style sour curry using grouper and lotus stem. Methavalai Sorndaeng became the first to use lotus root in southern-style curry, now a common practice for most Thai restaurants. (© Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand)
Chef Sapkiree’s mother spotted lotus roots in a fresh market in front of the Phra Pathom Chedi, the famous stupa of Nakhon Pathom. To give the recipe of ‘Gaeng som pak tai’ (southern-style sour curry) a unique touch, she prepared southern-style sour curry using grouper and lotus stem. Methavalai Sorndaeng became the first to use lotus root in southern-style curry, now a common practice for most Thai restaurants. (© Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand)

Over six decades of glory

What makes a restaurant able to endure the test of time? Quality and flavour of their food definitely plays an important role. There are some other factors, however. Let’s hear about them from the chef.

“I regard cookery as an art form. The same goes with crafting the whole dining experience for your customers. You need it all. The décor. The place. The style of live music you can’t find anywhere else. I mean the relaxing, wonderfully nostalgic Soontaraporn music. People also need impeccable hospitality to make a meal complete. Methavalai Sorndaeng offers all that to our diners. This philosophy has never changed since Day 1.

The secret to Methavalai Sorndaeng’s spicy pomelo salad is the quality of the fruit. Only first-rate khao-nampueng type from Nakhon Chai Si, the most famous source for pomelo, is chosen. Nevertheless, good-quality pomelo is becoming more and more scarce these days. Chef Jirawut often must explore the orchards in rural Nakhon Chai Si to deal directly with the growers. (© Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand)
The secret to Methavalai Sorndaeng’s spicy pomelo salad is the quality of the fruit. Only first-rate khao-nampueng type from Nakhon Chai Si, the most famous source for pomelo, is chosen. Nevertheless, good-quality pomelo is becoming more and more scarce these days. Chef Jirawut often must explore the orchards in rural Nakhon Chai Si to deal directly with the growers. (© Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand)

The Star

“I used to have this feeling that running Methavalai Sorndaeng was no longer challenging. However, the MICHELIN Star changed me somewhat. I feel committed to the duty of being a good host. Receiving a MICHELIN Star means our restaurant would be a point of interest for foreign diners. As for local diners, our regulars were previously from the older generations. After being awarded a MICHELIN Star, however, young diners seem to be more interested. We have quite a lot of them coming these days.

Apart from the credibility from being featured in the MICHELIN Guide, our story is also appealing. We serve authentic, traditional Thai food. Many Thai diners who never visited us became curious and wanted to try. Therefore, I feel I have to act as a good host. I may have to spend more time in the kitchen and be even tougher with my staff, but it also makes me so happy and fired up as well.

“I always think the star belongs to my team, not me. I try to encourage each and every one of them to act as a good host. We’ve got to deliver the finest dining experience possible to our customers. The flavour of food and our service must be flawless. For me, it is not easy to run a 180-seat restaurant without dedication and passion. Thanks to the MICHELIN Star, my team and I are once again filled with energy and enthusiasm. I really feel great and humbled by receiving such an honourable award.”


Chef Sapkiree and his three children, who will carry on the Methavalai Sorndaeng legacy. (© Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand)
Chef Sapkiree and his three children, who will carry on the Methavalai Sorndaeng legacy. (© Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand)

From father to sons and daughter

As success and fame pour in, it is not surprising that the restaurant has received several proposals for business expansion. Chef Sapkiree, who appears to us a perfectionist, explained to them he wasn’t quite ready. However, after his three children have graduated and come to help run the business, Sapkiree is more than happy to hand over the work he’s been spending decades nurturing. His successors are planning to open “Baan Daeng by Methavalai Sorndaeng”, another establishment under the Methavalai name. As their new chapter is about to begin, we look forward to dining out and enjoying their luscious success.

(© Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand)
(© Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand)

Here’s What Our Inspectors Said About Methavalai Sorndaeng (One MICHELIN Star)
While live ’80s Thai music, classic décor and views of Democracy Monument are what give this restaurant its unique style, the food is what has kept loyal customers coming back for over 60 years. Presentation may look plain, but dishes deliver blasts of flavours and refined complexity. Highlights are crispy rice noodles in sweet and sour sauce, spicy lemongrass salad, and crab meat and acacia red curry. Small parties should book the private room.



CONTINUE READING: 7 New Thai Restaurants Get MICHELIN Stars In The MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2019

Hero photo: © Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand

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