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Food is an inescapable part of everything in Bangkok, with every home, market and small alley continually throwing chopped ingredients into a hot wok. This has made nearly everyone both an expert chef and food connoisseur, having the curious effect of finding the very best meals made in the most unexpected locations.
While ambiance is often wanting, peeling walls and plastic chairs provide just enough bare bones restaurant amenities to serve the best food in the city. Portable food stalls line the busy streets, creating a continuous unofficial buffet. It is a mistake to be put off by such street vendors, as many tourists are, as they are Bangkok's great equaliser, bringing the very richest and poorest together at a table. If your stomach is wary however, try one of the food courts in the shopping malls and markets for equally cheap and tasty eats. These are also a great alternative on Mondays, when street vendors are banned from trading. Try the clusters of stalls in Surawong and Silom Roads, the Khao San Road Area, and the Suan Lum Night Bazaar.
Choosing between one restaurant and another is a difficult task, but in general, follow the local crowds. For a quieter meal or more luxurious settings many unique restaurants can be fun. Some truly unique places can be found in Chinatown, with trendy dining along Sukhumvit and cheap western food in Banglamphu. The most romantic restaurants are along the Chao Phraya River or on it, aboard one of the many dinner cruises.
Phranakorn Bar and Gallery
Thai / 58/2 Soi Damnoenklang Tai
Across the Ratchadamnoen Klang road from Banglamphu district is a popular but low key hangout for the local trend setters. Most come for the ambiance rather than the food as the first floor usually hosts a live band, the second an art gallery, the third a pool hall, and the fourth an open air terrace with beautiful views, all filled with cheerful diners and drinkers.
French / 59 Sukhumvit Soi 8
This upscale restaurant epitomises elegance with white clapboard walls adorned with Thai carvings, old photos, and prints of early Bangkok. The flagship dish is pressed duck with goose liver, shallots, wine and Armagnac to make the sauce. Other fine choices include a rack of lamb a la Provençal and salmon with lemongrass. Open daily for dinner from 6pm to midnight. Reservations advisable.
Vegetarian / 33 Samsen Road, Soi 2, Bang-lam-phu
A firm favourite in Bangkok's dining scene, May Kaidee is really informal, but serves some of the most mouth-watering vegetarian and vegan food the city has to offer. Known for serving the best massaman curry in Thailand and an array of dishes, from sweet green curry to good stir-fries and black sticky-rice with mango for dessert, this eatery is a must! May Kaidee is also a Thai cooking school, so if you love the cuisine you can come back and learn to make it yourself. Open daily from 7am to 11pm. Cash only.
The Mango Tree
Thai / 37 Soi Tantawan, Surawongse Road
This 80-year-old Siamese restaurant house features its very own tropical garden and offers a quiet retreat from Bangkok's chaotic Patpong area. The food may not be authentic, but it's delicious and the diverse menu with choices such as mild, green chicken curry and crispy spring rolls won't leave guests disappointed. Live traditional music and classic Thai decorative touches create a wonderfully charming atmosphere. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations advisable.
Seafood / 169/7-11 Surawongse Rd
This restaurant may not have the best, or indeed any, atmosphere for that matter, but the food is simply delicious and well worth it for those who are willing to make the sacrifice. A popular eatery, Somboon Seafood is regularly packed with friendly staff and with such a vast menu, guests will find themselves coming back time and again. The restaurant also features a large aquarium full of live seafood such as prawn, fish, lobster and crab. The house specialty, chilli crab curry, comes highly recommended. Open daily from 4pm to 11pm. Credit cards not accepted.
The Rain Tree Café
International / 61 Thanon Witthayu Wireless Road, Lumphini, Pathumwan
The Rain Tree Café offers a buffet of Thai and international food for breakfast, lunch and dinner ideal for family meals. Their Vodka Oyster Bar has four kinds of imported oysters, and special seafood buffets are offered on Fridays and Saturdays. Come on Sunday between 12 and 3pm for a Champagne Sunday Brunch.
Thai / 199/1 Rat Burana
This vibey Bangkok restaurant has live music and karaoke in addition to spicy Thai food at reasonable prices and a Japanese sushi corner. The large restaurant has good views from its position on the riverside, and the lavish décor of waterfalls and springs add to the festive atmosphere.
Indian / 153/7, Sukhumvit Rd, Soi -11/1
The very popular South Indian aromatic cuisine known as is a Punjabi dish traditionally eaten with the hands, consisting of a rice and lentil pancake, crepe or tortilla traditionally folded with a potato curry or other savoury filling, and served with a vegetable and lentil broth called . A purely vegetarian restaurant in Bangkok, Dosa King is ideal for a quick and healthy meal for those exploring Sukhumvit. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
/ 18 Th Phra Athit
Just around the corner from the bustling backpacker district the quiet coffee shop is a great stop for breakfast or early lunch. The dark wooden interior transports diners to old Siam although omelettes and baguettes are often welcome tastes of the west. Ricky's recently moved down the street, and the new location has added Mexican food to the menu. Open 8am to 11pm.
Local / 5/1 Sukhumvit Soi 24
Popular with Westerners and just a short walk from the skytrain, Lemongrass serves some of Bangkok's finest Nouvelle Thai cuisine. Favourites on the menu include pomelo salad and chicken satay. The (a spicy sweet-and-sour prawn soup with ginger shoots) is delicious and comes highly recommended. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Bookings are advisable.