Now it finally has a Michelin Guide of its own.
On December 6, 2017, the Bangkok culinary landscape became brighter overnight — 20 stars brighter to be exact — with Michelin accolades dished out to 17 establishments.
Among them is Jay Fai (named after the chef-owner of the street food shophouse restaurant who presides over her open kitchen wearing signature oversized goggles) who was awarded one Michelin star.
Already renowned as a street food destination, Bangkok — the seventh Asian territory to be rated by Michelin — has now risen up the culinary ranks to join the likes of Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong/Macau — even if the Tourism Authority of Thailand did have to dangle a reported 144 million Thai baht ($4.4 million) partnership to get them there.
“Michelin Guide elevates everything”
Le Normandie was one of only three establishments to be awarded two stars at Michelin Guide Bangkok 2018.
The winners of Michelin Guide Bangkok 2018 were announced in a gala dinner at Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok.
Following in the footsteps of Singapore, who was the first country globally to do so, the awards ceremony was complemented with a gala dinner open to the public.
Those who weren’t lucky enough to be invited to the Bangkok event had to shell out 20,000 Thai baht ($614) per ticket, which included a six-course gala dinner prepared in part by three chefs from overseas Michelin-starred restaurants.
The arrival of the Red Guide is considered a positive for the city by restaurateurs and chefs.
“The Michelin Guide elevates everything in one day,” said Gaggan’s chef Gaggan Anand, who earlier this year announced plans to close his restaurant in 2020 to focus on new projects.
“It changes Bangkok from the street food capital to the gourmet capital of the world.”
Melting pot of flavors
Chef David Thompson’s Nahm at Como Metropolitan Bangkok received one star.
A variety of cuisines were represented on the night, including Thai, French, Indian, European, Japanese, German and American.
“Locals are having street food for lunch and fine dining for dinner, and depending on the mood you have a wide choice of cuisines,” said chef Thomas Sühring, one half of the duo behind contemporary German restaurant Sühring. “It is with this culinary scene that Bangkok is becoming one that can compete with other great cities in Asia.”
Over 15 years ago, Nahm at the Halkin Hotel in London put Thai food on the Michelin map when it was awarded one star not long after it opened in 2001.
The original Nahm has since closed, but proving the star-worthiness of its food, chef David Thompson’s second — and now only — Nahm at Como Metropolitan Bangkok, was also awarded one Michelin star.
Considering the country’s tourism board partnership with the Michelin Guide, it’s perhaps not surprising that Thai food was well represented, with seven of the total 17 Michelin-starred restaurants serving Thai cuisine.
“I’m very pleased that Thai cuisine is represented in the guide, because if you talk about flavors, Thai food has flavors,” says chef Norbert Kostner, the former executive chef and later culinary director at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok where for nearly 40 years he helped shaped the fine dining scene of the Thai capital.
Perfectly timed with the arrival of the Michelin Guide, local food has been a core tourism product identified by the Thai tourist board for 2018.
Stars on the streets
Bangkok street food vendor Jay Fai was awarded one Michelin star.
If the Michelin stars are categorized as “very good in its category” (one star), “excellence worthy of a detour” (two stars), and “exceptionally worth a long journey” (three stars), then surely there are plenty of street vendors across the city worthy of a two star — just ask any of the hungry locals who drive across town for their favorite food cart or hole-in-the-wall joint.
A total of 28 street food stalls were included in the Michelin Guide 2018, but only one made it to the Michelin star list — the one-starred Jay Fai.
Taste of success
For the winners, the Michelin stars may be the start of a bittersweet journey.
Other winners take the accolade with a pinch of salt.
Any awards, culinary or not, are not without its naysayers, but in the end the diner always wins.
“There’s a lot of competition in Bangkok already, but the Michelin Guide will bring it up a bit more, which is good,” says Kostner.
So will Thailand follow in the footsteps of Japan and China, countries with Michelin Guides covering two different territories?
The tourism board has been dropping hints that “other major destinations” may be covered by the guide in following years, but some have their doubts whether other Thai cities are ready for the Red Guide.
“At the moment we believe that the dining scenes in other cities are not strong and developed enough, such as Chiang Mai and Phuket which are considered too much as tourist destinations,” says Mathias Sühring.
“However it’s just a question of time — Bangkok has changed so much in only 10 years that anything is possible for the other big cities in Thailand.”
Gaggan (progressive Indian)
Le Normandie (French)
Chim by Siam Wisdom (Thai)
Saneh Jaan (Thai)
Sra Bua by KiinKiin (Thai)
Jay Fai (Thai)
Ginza Sushi ichi (Japanese sushi)
Sühring (contemporary German)
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (contemporary French)
J’AIME by Jean Michel Lorrain (contemporary French)
Elements (contemporary French)
Savelberg (contemporary French)
Upstairs at Mikkeller (progressive American)
Born and bred in Taiwan, Tina is a proud Bangkokian who left the glitzy world of PR to explore her passions closer to the ground.