A dedicated sky train stop, an enviable position both in the action and far enough from the brasher parts of town to feel laid back and sophisticated, we think it’s safe to say that Ari is central Bangkok’s hippest ‘hood. Unusually for the megacity, the neighbourhood feels gently paced, spacious and, whisper it, green and clean. It’s perfectly suited for strolling, with the pavements here lined with trees and a certain type of cute cafe that the Thais do so well.
What’s more, the high density of offices in the area means the street-level food options are high quality; when workers spill out at noon and late afternoon, they want to be fed properly. There’s no tourist toning down of spice and raising of price here; just amazing, accurately cooked grub. If you want a table and a sit down with your meal, here are our favourites; our 5 IDEAL Thai restaurants in Ari neighbourhood, Bangkok.
When speaking of the perfect, quick Thai lunch, the ‘holy trinity’ is often mentioned; sticky rice, grilled chicken, and of course, som tam (pounded papaya salad). Lay Lao, just a two minute walk from Ari skytrain, does all three perfectly. That Ari lunchtime crowd certainly agree.
Being a restaurant with links to the seafood mecca of Hua Hin, many of the som tam salads have a pleasing shellfish bent; there’s a black crab, dried clam and squid version which notches high on both the saline and satisfying levels. Should the intriguing Southeast Asian fruit santol be in season, be sure to order a salad (som kratorn) using it; their signature dish and one which sells out quickly. Their grilled pork neck (mu yang) and squid stuffed with squid roe (pla muek yang) are both excellent, too.
ONG TONG KHAO SOI
There’s not many places in Bangkok whose khao soi stands up to a Chiang Mai version. But Ong Tong Khao Soi established their name first in Thailand’s second city before bringing their superb Lanna food to the capital. Regardless of location, they do the famous coconut and curry broth, with egg noodles, braised meat and all the fixings, as good as anywhere in the country.
Though Lanna food in Bangkok is perhaps unrepresented compared to the country’s other regional cuisines, this place is humming every day of the week. Open from 10:30am to 8:30pm, and serving several other northern classics like the herbal sausage sai ua, and northern laap salad, this is a must visit for those wanting to try the food of Thailand’s north without leaving Bangers.
As a general rule, food from Thailand’s North East has a different soul to the rest; uncompromisingly spicy, super funky, no coconut milk and barely a hint of sugar. Perhaps most importantly, it’s insanely delicious.
Phed Phed, meaning ‘spicy spicy’ (as in, very), makes no sacrifices on how Isaan food should be. Bangkokians can’t get enough of it; the city has taken to the restaurant with open arms, it’s always full and two more outposts have recently been added to the roster. The som tam salad here, in the original restaurant, comes in more than twenty iterations, most using the fermented fish sauce ‘pla ra’ so beloved of the region. The result is something funkier and certainly spicier than you might be used to, but it’s amazing. Also fantastic is their country style herbal soup (gaeng om) and pork fermented with sticky rice and garlic (the famous naem sausage) done rustic and coarse, rather than the smoother iterations you often find.
Though the food is self assured in its seasoning, the decor is a perfect match for ari; light, airy and with loads of foliage. If this sounds like your vibe, then make sure you book in advance via their Facebook page; enough English is spoken there to get by, and the menu has pictures and translations.
KHUA KLING & PAK SOD
Lovers of spicy Southern soul food in Bangkok have been raving about this hugely popular Southern Thai restaurant group for some time. The food of the region has been enjoying massive popularity in the city in recent years, and Khua Kling Pak Sod has certainly played a part in that acclaim. It all started in one beloved family run joint in downtown Sukhumvit, using family recipes and a faithful connection to the producers of the south, and the formula worked superbly; it has led to several more in the city.
The Ari rendition of Khua Kling Pak Sod keeps things consistent; classic Southern Thai dishes are unapologetically spicy, and fresh seafood is sourced from down south daily. The restaurant’s namesake dish khua kling – a minced pork curry, stir fried with red curry paste and served dry – throbs with local prik kee noo chillis to an almost nuclear level, and is all the better for it. Their yellow coconut milk curry of crab meat, served with thin kanom jeen fermented rice noodles is another belter; offering less respite from the heat than the name suggests and, though we may be repeating ourselves, is all the better for it.
Perhaps steer clear if spice isn’t your thing. But if it is, Khua Kling Pak Sod is one of the best restaurants in the city.
The connoisseur’s choice, this. Soei, after a recent upping of sticks from its original position next to railway tracks down the road, is housed around 20 minutes from Ari BTS, and is a bit of a meander through the district’s alleyways; in other winds, bring sat nav! Make the dimly lit journey, though, and you’ll be rewarded with a Bangkok institution full of lively drinkers, crashing woks and noisy chatter.
The food here is defined by flavour rather than anything strictly regional, and there’s a fair amount of recipe riffing by the chef (a former sportsman whose medals and trophies are as close to ‘decor’ as you’ll get here). The fried mackerel faces – kaem pla too tod – are seasoned simply with garlic and salt, served with a chilli sauce, and are something of a signature. As such, it’s wise to ring ahead if you fancy a plateful. The fried egg salad – yam khai dao – is another must order. It’s oh so simple, but when done right, like it is here, it’s amazing.
One word of warning though; come prepared to wait. Service is slow, the chefs run to their own rhythm and it gets super busy later in the evening. Settle in with a beer, though, be prepared to take your time, and there’s no better place to get fed.
Address: Phibun Watthana 6 Alley, Khwaeng Samsen Nai, Khet Phaya Thai, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10400