15 January, 2010

Take me out tonight -- Bangkok

One evening I was having dinner with colleagues from all over the world in a small Thai restaurant in Bangkok when Angela Lentisco asked me what was my favourite restaurant in town. I replied that I had no one favourite restaurant in town. It depended on the type of food and atmosphere I wanted.

So here I'd like to compile my favourite eating places in Bangkok where there is both good food and good live music. This actually follows up on a request from Lalitha Houtman for new places in town where one can enjoy both food and live music.

Vino di Zanotti
Sala Daeng Road
Into a small lane across from Zanotti restaurant, which is on Sala Daeng Road. Italian wine bar with a live jazz band most evenings. I go there for the thin-crusted Roman style pizzas. Huge antipasti platters are also very good for large groups. I usually sit outside under the rotating fans and look at the open kitchen where the cooks flip the pizza dough in the air and tend to the oven. Introduced there on my first week in town by my colleague Tetsuji Nakata. Been my pizza joint ever since.

Sheraton Grande Living Room
Another Italian, another jazz place. I usually go there if I have a Sunday brunch appointment. Loads of antipasti; fresh pasta; drink-all-you-can detox fresh fruit juices; 10 metres of display of cakes, mousses, chocolate, pancakes, gelati if you have a sweet tooth like me. International artists playing jazz. Interesting to note that the local crowd usually goes there for the food and not so much for the music, so the seats closest to the artists are usually free. But best to book in advance. Other food styles available too.

Mango Tree
OP Garden, Soi 36, Charoen Krung Road
Thai food haute cuisine, served Western style. The menu changes every month according to products in season. Quiet trio playing bossa nova. Beautiful setting in an old house next to the French Embassy; choice of air-con seats inside or outside in the courtyard. Great for fine dining. Introduced there by my colleague Pawadee C.

Senor Pico
Rembrandt Hotel, Sukhumvit Soi 18
Thirst-quenching cocktails, big portions of Mexican food, live band playing latin music (Cuban salsa and chacha last night) every night except Mondays, even a dance floor to make justice to the music. Senor Pico had been recommended to me by Lalitha Houtman (for the music and dancing opportunity) and Michael Riggs (for the food). I went there with a Spanish colleague who wanted to dance salsa; Angela and I had a great time dancing.

Vientiane Kitchen
Sukhumvit Soi 36.
Fiery Northeastern Thai and Lao food. Enormous nipa hut setting; choice of table or straw mat sitting. There's a live show most evenings of Isaan folk music. With some numbers of traditional music and dancing.

The Brewery
Corner of Narathiwat and Rama III roads.
A completely different experience from the others. Cabaret show in the early evening followed by raucous Thai pop until late. Locally brewed German-style draught beer: lager, white or dark. A place to go to with lots of friends to let loose. International food, the Thai food is good and the deep fried pig trotters are delicious.

The one black spot in all this food and music scene in Bangkok is the vicinity of the Thailand Cultural Centre (TCC). It is the national centre for cultural activities with the biggest concert hall in town putting up operas, concerts, musicals, traditional music and theatre. But there is absolutely no decent restaurant inside or around it; don't even think of finding Champagne at the interval. There are Thai street food joints nearby. Respectable and convenient for a quick eat before the show. But definitely not your idea of fine dining before or after a great concert, as is usually possible in more enlightened cities.

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
Steven Morrissey, Live at Earls Court, Sanctuary

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