Sample the delicious offerings at these four restaurants in Bangkok’s Rattanakosin neighborhood
It sounds rather romantic that a district at the heart of Bangkok could be an island, but when King Rama I chose to locate his new capital here in the late 18th century he needed a location that could be defended. With the Chao Phraya river on one side, all the settlement needed were canals dug on the remaining sides and a wall to surround it. Once complete, the royal city’s physical and spiritual “separateness” gave it its name — Rattanakosin Island.
Rattanakosin’s attractions echo the Thai personality: from quiet devotion at the Grand Palace and great temples of Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho, to the easy-going carnival around backpacker-haven Khaosan Road.
This varied cityscape can be surveyed from the Temple of the Golden Mount at the eastern edge of the district. From the top of the 77m-high temple the view reaches across the vast modern city, so it’s easy to overlook Sao Chingcha just below. But the Rattanakosin subdistrict located between Khaosan and the “Inner Island” quarter of the historical palace and temples has some treasures of its own.
Take a seat in its swishest restaurant, Methavalai Sorndaeng, and you may feel you’re on an ocean liner straight out of an elegant, long-gone era. The golden cutlery, the waiters dressed as ship stewards and the occasional four-piece band are unusual for Bangkok, to say the least! But the food it serves, prepared royal Thai style, is unbeatable.
A short walk along Dinsor Road (but a long way in terms of style), Sor Nah Wang’s menu is enticing in its simplicity. The cooking is equally focused: its pad mee krached ruam (seafood flash-fried with rice vermicelli and water mimosa) is a lesson in how to cook the best ingredients the right way. Spiked with chili, it hums with a light “breath of the wok” smokiness.
Dinsor leads to Wat Suthat, with its must-see 19th-century murals adorning the vihaan or main hall. There are a couple of decent indie coffee shops in its vicinity — Budhtri Coffee on the square in front, and 3rd Café along Mahannop Road. But to see what Mont Nomsod (a successful tea-and-toast shop on Dinsor) could have looked like when it started in 1964, try Chicacha Coffee, where Upeeraj is the third generation of her family to run the quaint shophouse.
If it’s really hot, you’ll find Nuttaporn Coconut Ice Cream just two minutes around the corner — they hand-make coconut ice cream the old-fashioned way. Other flavors include chocolate, mango and even durian; they can all be topped off with corn, taro or lotus seed, among others.
78/2 Ratchadamnoen Ave; open 10.30am–10pm
Sor Na Wang
156/2 Dinsor Rd; open 10am–11:30pm
550 Tanao Rd; open 8.30am–3.30pm (closed weekends)
Nuttaporn Coconut Ice Cream
Phraeng Phuthon Rd; open 9am–3pm (closed Sundays)
This story first appeared in the November 2017 issue of Smile magazine.