[Editor’s Note: A special thanks to ROFL for his comment in Issue 1 about Thong Lo/Ekkamai. You can read the comment here]
This week’s volume of Sukhumvit Spotlight focuses on getting your teeth into some delicious barbeque. Along with pizza and breakfast, barbeque is a food that divides opinions when it comes to deciding what makes a good barbeque, a bad barbeque or a great barbeque. Rather than engage in the debate, the Spotlight will simply try to feature a half dozen or so places around Bangkok that offer something special in the way of barbeque, then invite you to try them all and decide for yourself which one is the best.
The Roadhouse Barbeque Smokehouse and Grill
Located in a large and prominent free standing location at the intersection of Surawong Road and Rama 4 Road not far from the Patpong nightlife district, the Roadhouse has been dishing up barbequed meat and cold beer for many years. Open from mid-morning until past midnight, the restaurant features ribs, chicken and pulled pork served with North Carolina cole slaw along with steak, seafood, pasta and a wide selection of cold draft beer and an extensive wine list. There’s live entertainment almost every night downstairs and on the third floor is Roadhouse’s version of a sports bar with plenty of TV screens and lots of games to play including foosball, video golf & soccer and pool. The Roadhouse tends to be a meeting place for expat businessmen, but, whoever you are with, it is one of the best places in Bangkok to enjoy great American barbeque.
The Great American Rib Company
For more great American barbeque, try the Great American Rib Company on Sukhumvit Soi 36. This is primarily an outdoor restaurant with large wooden tables and benches that is very comfortable for several hours of eating and drinking with friends on a balmy Bangkok evening. There’s an all-you-can-eat buffet every Wednesday from 6 to 9 pm priced at 450 baht, but anytime you come you can enjoy a wide ranging menu. Our favorite menu item is the Great American Feast, which serves 4 to 5 people, and includes a full rack of ribs, a whole Chicken, a mound of pulled pork, pepper coated pastramied pork tenderloin, BBQ beans, coleslaw, curly fries, potato salad, corn on the cob, and jalapeno corn bread for 1,195 baht. (Note: while it is accurate to say 4 to 5 people, I have, at times, seen a couple of large Americans destroy a feast by themselves in a single sitting). With its casual outdoor atmosphere and relaxed pace, the Great American Rib Company is a good place to go on a date, with a group of friends or even with your wife and kids.
Korea Town in Sukhumvit
Well, Americans may have one idea of what constitutes barbeque, but Koreans have a different and somewhat unique idea about grilling meat. Koreans takes small slices of meat, add a bit of garlic, chili, kim chee and some spicy and salty sauce and wrap it all in a green lettuce leaf which can then be eaten delicately or sloppily, depending on your personal habits. There are hundreds of places around Bangkok to enjoy Korean barbeque, but we figure that you probably won’t do any better than Korea town, located next to Sukhumvit Soi 12. Built in a shape similar to Nana Entertainment Plaza, Koreatown is a 3 storey complex in an open U-shape, and, while it contains travel agents, a spa and several other shops, it features a half dozen or so good quality Korean restaurants, with most of them specializing in Korean Barbeque. A load of blazing hot coals are set into the middle of your specially designed table, topped with a metal grilling surface, and your order of meat and vegetables is brought to you. You can do all the work yourself, or, if it’s your first time, one of the staff will assist you in grilling your meat, and even show you the right way to eat it. Thai girls tend to love the Korean barbeques, and it is also a suitable place for a party or a business meeting.
Thai Barbeque (Moo Kataa)
The Thai version of Korean Barbeque is called Moo Kataa, and in Bangkok it is available for a much lower price and in a much more casual environment than its Korean counterpart. If you get in the center of the business districts of Bangkok, Moo Kataa can be hard (impossible) to find. But if you travel outside those areas, especially by car, you will see hundreds of moo kataa restaurants, always easy to spot because they advertise prices that end in -9 (89, 99, 109) and usually have a picture of a pig or a some kind of shellfish next to the price. Head out towards Sri Nakharina Road and prices will generally be below 100 baht. For a combination of convenience and quality, we recommend Ratchadapisek Road, near the Huay Kwang MRT station, where you can find three Thai Barbeque Restaurants. They are all priced at more than 100 baht, but these are all-you-can-eat buffets with a wide selection of meat, seafood and other items. For the small difference in price, it’s probably not worth making the trip to the suburbs unless that’s where you live. The price covers as much food as you can eat, but you pay for your drinks separately. Moo Kataa restaurants usually open around 5 pm and stay open till midnight or later. You eat at stone or wooden tables with hard benches, and the setup is designed to accommodate large groups in relative comfort, but with no air conditioning and hundreds of buckets of red-hot coals under a pavilion roof, be prepared to sweat and drink lots of water, whiskey or beer. If you keep the drinks flowing the final bill may not be quite the bargain you expected at the beginning of the night, but if you go with a group of friends and you’re not in a hurry, you’re almost certain to have a great time.
Rama III Road in Bang Phongphang
Gyu Gyu Tei Japanese Barbeque
Yakiniku restaurants, the Japanese-style DIY barbecue targeting hardcore beef lovers, are spreading all over the city. Gyu Gyu Tei has three outlets: two in Huay Kwang area (near the Thai Moo Kataa restaurants) and one on Rama III Road in Bang Phongphang. The Rama III branch opened just over a year ago and boasts a distinctive setting. From the parking lot it looks as if it’s in a small unit of a building in an unassuming office park, but in fact it offers a pleasant view of the Chao Phraya River, and isn’t at all small. The ground floor of this 170-seat restaurant has a contemporary urban look and the highlight is its lovely, riverside al fresco terrace that allows diners to chill and grill amidst the river breeze. Gyu Gyu Tei’s menu is small and simple but comprehensive. It features approximately 20 choices of local and imported beef, pork, chicken, seafood and vegetables for the tabletop BBQ. There’s also a decent selection of salad and soup items as well as other items such as kim chi and rice. Located in the JSP office estate on Rama III Soi 33, the restaurant is open from 5pm to midnight Monday to Friday and from 11 am to midnight on weekends. With prices for main dishes ranging from 300 baht to 1,500 baht per dish, this restaurant isn’t for the budget-conscious and is suitable for business dinners, special dates or family get-togethers.
Barbeque ribs for the budget-conscious in Sukhumvit
One of the better-known and very successful Irish pubs in Bangkok is the Dubliner Pub, located at the entrance to Washington Square on Sukhumvit Road, across from the Londoner Pub and Soi 33. While it is known for its excellent food menu, the Dubliner is moderately priced, and not generally regarded as a place for budget conscious diners to eat. One item, though, stands out on the large food menu. Among the appetizers you will find a plate of barbeque pork ribs priced at 195 baht. Order it, and when it arrives at your table you will get what amounts to a half-rack of delicious ribs smothered in a salty-sweet barbeque sauce. The portion, in spite of being listed as an appetizer, will serve as a full meal for almost anyone. Combine it with a happy hour drink and even if you leave a generous tip you are likely to go home with a full stomach and change from your 500 baht note.
Garlic, Chili and Sesame Short Ribs
If you like pork ribs and garlic, Thailand has a great dish that you will certainly enjoy; a plate of ribs cut into 1-inch lengths, then seared in a wok with garlic, Thai chili and sesame seeds. This dish is available at a wide variety of Thai restaurants all around the country, usually priced between 100 and 200 baht, and it’s difficult to recommend a single restaurant in Bangkok that stands above the rest. The best plate of Thai short ribs we ever sampled was in a small outdoor beer garden in Chaing Rai. In Bangkok we have eaten them at dozens of restaurants and pubs with generally good results. They’re a great snack with a cold beer, or can be ordered as the appetizer -or even a main course – if you’re eating dinner. Perfect for sharing with friends, you can order plateful after plateful in most good sports bars as you sit and watch the football. Delicious!