Bangkok’s dining scene had been hard hit in the past two years, but thankfully, some of the most legendary restaurants in the industry have survived Covid. If you’re looking to avoid tourist traps in favor of truly authentic flavors and original atmosphere, here are some long-time, renowned names well-loved by Thai locals across different areas of the city. Our picks of both fancy fare and casual eateries have been around for no less than 30 years and still thrive as quaint, stand-alone establishments that have not expanded into cookie-cutter chains. We also asked their management to share tips on how they made it through the pandemic.
1. Vises Kaiyang Restaurant
This old name in the Bangsue district serves over 200 dishes of both Thai and Chinese variety. Sixty-eight years ago, the restaurant started out selling a few made-to-order dishes in a shophouse, but today, a dizzying amount of Chinese delicacies and Thai spicy salads and curries can be found on the menu. However, its not-to-be-missed menu item is clearly their grilled chicken — which makes part of the restaurant’s name ‘kaiyang’. There are two types of grilled chicken on offer. The first option is made up of soft chunks of meat and crisp chicken skin. The second, a free-range grilled chicken, features chewier chicken with less meat and gummy texture to nibble on.
Founded in 1954, Vises Kaiyang is popularly frequented by bureaucrats, members of the parliament, army men, and SCG (Siam Cement Group) office workers, due to its proximity to those offices within the area. Its pocket-friendly prices also make it a favorite go-to spot for large family gatherings and graduation celebrations. Although they’ve been hit hard during Covid just like every other restaurant, second-generation owner Saprangporn Chullasukhum is proud to share that not a single worker was laid off. “Our staff have been with us for a long time and we didn’t want to let anyone go,” she says. “It also takes a long time to train such personnel, before they can learn to cook the dishes to perfection.” Don’t get confused by the array of restaurants with ‘kaiyang’ in their name—there is only one legendary branch that is Vises Kaiyang.
Getting there: The restaurant is right on the steps of Bang Pho Station on the MRT. For reservations, call 02-585-0233.
2. Baan Khanitha Sathorn
This grand dame of authentic Thai food is impossible to miss on South Sathorn Road. Set in an elegant and charming Thai-style house, the sophisticated restaurant is one of the places in the CBD with a tuff of spacious green gardens, serving its three main offerings of authentic Thai cuisine, royal cuisine and ancient Thai cuisine. Literally translating to ‘Khanitha’s home’, the service is professional, but warm. Using only high-quality ingredients sourced from their own farms in Khao Yai and the iron rule of no MSG, the flavors in their dishes burst of impressive richness.
Don’t miss highlights such as chili paste dip with crispy catfish. During its 30 years in business, Baan Khanitha was largely known as a place to take your foreign visitors or corporate bigwigs to for a fancy meal. Following the onset of Covid, the original branch in Sukhumvit 23 is now closed permanently, as the land lease has coincidentally ended too. However, there’s good news within the bad news. “We have adjusted our pricing to be more affordable and now offer single dishes too,” reveals Vinth Soonthararak, the general manager. “We don’t want Thai customers to feel intimidated that this is an expensive restaurant that caters only to foreign expats.”
Getting there: Walking distance from Lumpini Station on MRT Blue Line or Chong Nonsri Station on BTS. For reservations, call 02-675-4200.