New & Noted: Bangkok’s best new restaurants of 2011

The Aston Gastro Bar

Why we love it: This charming little bistro combines all the things we like when eating out: affordable, interesting and comforting food, lots of imported beers and a laidback atmosphere with sophisticated touches.
The menu: A combination of Asian flavors and a French sensibility, mostly in the ever-popular tapas form.
What to eat: The roasted bone marrow with salsa verde and crusty bread (B130), where the cartilaginous, fatty texture of the marrow is balanced with the garlicky salsa. Other dishes, too, feature high quality ingredients competently handled, such as the seared duck breast (with Asian pear and orange jelly, B280)—generous slices of fresh and fatty meat cooked to medium-rare perfection.
What to drink: Choose one of the myriad of imported beers. Try the St. Louis, a sweet Belgian lambic that comes in a few different fruit flavors (B150).
2/F, Crystal Design Center, 1420 Praditmanoontham Rd., 02-102-2323. Open Tue-Sun 5pm-midnight

Bangkok Burger Company

Why we love it: For a while it seemed like Iron Fairies was the only place doing just burgers. But with the opening of Bangkok Burger Company we have perhaps the first serious, American-style restaurant dedicated exclusively to everyone’s favorite food.
The menu: Classic, artery-clogging burger goodness with modern twists for those who want a little something extra.
What to eat: Unlike other burger menus the variations here are quite wide and interesting, from The Swiss (with Swiss cheese, garlic mushrooms and sautéed onions, B230/295) to The Italian (with Mozzarella cheese, olives, pesto oregano and marinara sauce on the side, B230/295).
What to drink: Apart from the nice, American touch of ice cream shakes (B95-110), they do what they call “grown-up shakes”: ice cream shakes with shots of liqueur, like the cookies and cream (Oreos, ice cream, butterscotch schnapps and chocolate liqueur, B195).
G/F, Opus Building, Thong Lor Soi 10, 02-715-9407. Open daily 11am-11pm

Gaggan

Why we love it: There’s a sense of playfulness within every aspect of Gaggan, from the enchanted white wood house staffed by flirtatious and well-informed staff, to the casual vibe, to the fine Indian dishes’ modern gastronomic twists. But all the liquid nitrogen and foam in the world is worth naught if the flavors don’t work, and this is where Gaggan really shines.
The menu: The signage here says “progres
sive Indian” but that’s an understatement. The food being offered up by chef Gaggan is much more than that.
What to eat: There are also plenty of surprises, especially if you go for the blind degustation menu (B1,600++ per person)—like the use of freshwater clams in the bowl-lickingly good Konkani curry or the palate-cleansing (and boozy) nitrogen-frozen pina colada.
What to drink: Big bottles of their house beer, Inedit (B600).
68/1 Soi Lang Suan, 02-652-1700. BTS Ratchadamri. Open daily 11:30am-2pm, 6-11pm.

Gastro 1/6 (RMA Institute)

Why we love it: This adorable garden café with loads of hanging greenery has become very popular, among Thais and expats alike, as one of the few places in the city with a non-buffet brunch.
The menu: Arguably some of the best egg breakfasts in the city, which often overshadow their few but stellar lunch choices.
What to eat: The tortilla with Spanish ham (a kind of egg and potato frittata, B180) and the full English breakfast (B380) which boasts, in addition to good eggs and proper toasted baguette, homemade Cumberland sausages, sautéed mushrooms and very garlicky spinach. The lunch menu is brief, but delicious and changes frequently.
What to drink: It’s hard to find a decent coffee in Bangkok, but they have frothy lattes (B125) and espressos (B65) that’ll satisfy most caffeine afficionados.
RMA Institute, Soi Sai Namthip 2, Sukumvit Soi 26, 080-603-6421. Open Tue-Sun 8:30am-3pm

Mellow

Why we love it: Mellow lives up to its name: warm, cozy, wood-heavy décor involving beams and brick walls, high (but not too high) ceilings and friendly staff. It’s the kind of place you might go to on a Friday night with friends, or with your beloved on a Sunday night after a long weekend of partying.
The menu: Pastas, salads, and a few fusion items. Typical but solidly executed.
What to eat: The buffalo wings appetizer (B150) comes with a crackling batter that holds up firmly against the sauce and moist, seasoned chicken inside. The rocket salad with Italian sausage (B260) packs generous amounts of seared sausage and a mountain of fresh rocket.
What to drink: Good cocktails you can enjoy at their happy hour (2 for 1, Sun-Thu from 5-7pm). Apple martinis are B250, Midori sours are B180.
1/F Penny’s Balcony, Thong Lor Soi 16, 02-382-0064. Open daily 11-1am

Oskar

Why we love it: Two houses down from Bed Supperclub, Oskar Bistro is a restaurant with a slightly clubby vibe. It certainly packs a lot of things under one roof: a hearty menu, a long list of cheap drinks and a live DJ spinning music that makes eating dinner feel like you’re swaying slowly on a dance floor.
The menu: The predominantly French ownership behind Oskar means that some southern French dishes make their way onto the menu, alongside hearty American dishes and comfort food.
What to eat: Their signature Oskar salad (B230) is composed of duck confit, ham, plums, eggs and truffle oil. They do a brief selection of wood-oven pizzas (B195-325)—including some more unusual ones like the Casablanca, with minced lamb chop and merguez sausage—as well as some cocottes (French casserole stews) like the duck parmentier (B250) and the ratatouille (B220).
What to drink: There is a pretty wide, exciting (and affordable) choice of booze, from the ten wines by the glass (B135-265) to the cocktails (B150-225); there’s even several Scotch whiskey options for under B300 a glass.
24 Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-255-3377. BTS Nana. Open daily 6-11pm

Roast

Why we love it: With its huge windows, marble tables and solid, comfy seating, Roast is definitely one of the most handsome places to open this year. The brunch was an instant hit, but it took them a while to figure out the dinnertime offering: affordable wines and tasty tapas.
The menu: Full on breakfast and brunch dishes in the day-time, and a tapas menu in the evening. The tapas are heavy on the lime and garlic and the flavors are refreshingly Mediterranean, despite the Thai ingredients. Many dishes follow the same winning formula: comforting, fried produce with tangy, lime-heavy sauces to cut through the fat. For details on the new tapas and wine sets (B990 per person)
What to eat: For dinner, try the fried crab cakes with tartar sauce and tomato salsa (B320), meatballs on guacamole (B180), and the calamari on a tangy, garlic aioli (B160).
What to drink: Some of the best coffees in town (French press B120-B140, espressos B80-B140). They also serve a good selection of wines all day (B790-B1,290)
2/F, Seenspace, Thong Lor Soi 13, 02-185-2866. Open daily 10am-10:30pm.

Seven Spoons

Why we love it: The folks behind Birds in a Row lunch delivery are serving up a little slice of inventive, modern dining on a dusty, old street on the periphery of Chinatown. The vibe on a busy day is like a smaller Soul Food Mahanakhon, even though it’s still pretty new.
The menu: Reminiscent of homey, hippie American restaurants in Brooklyn, this largely organic, contemporary North American menu has dishes previously unseen in our fair city.
What to eat: Get started with haloumi cheese and caramelized almonds (B160) and quinoa salad with grilled vegetables and feta (B180). For mains try out their hearty and tangy risotto ball on marinara sauce(B240) or the spaghetti with parma ham and thyme-mint cream sauce (B190).
What to drink: Strong and affordable versions of classic cocktails like caipirinhas and mojitos, ranging from B160-B220. Their signature cocktail, the Silver Spoon (B180) which combines Martini Bianco and spiced rum with local ingredients like galangal and lemongrass.
211 Chakkaphatdi Phong Rd., 02-628-4588. Open Mon-Sat 6pm-midnight

Snapper

Why we love it: The Cheap Charlie’s cul-de-sac on Sukhumvit Soi 11 has been seeing some new additions of late. The highlight among them, we think, is Snapper, a simple, very casual restaurant specializing in sustainably fished New Zealand seafood.
The menu: Calling itself Bangkok’s first NZ restaurant, Snapper is currently doing a pretty interesting fish and chips menu, with new dishes due to be added in the weeks to come.
What to eat: Choose from about five types of Southern Pacific fish and chips like the fleshy and strongly-flavored Tarakihi (B170) or the slightly milder Southern King Fish (B160). All varieties are accompanied by brief notes to help you choose.
What to drink: A short and sweet wine list comprised of stuff from NZ and Australia: whites and a light Pinot Noir that will go well with your seafood. Bottles range from B1,200-1,700, and they have two wines by the glass at B160.
1/22 Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-651-1098. BTS Nana. Open 5pm-midnight