Bangkok’s first Michelin guide was published today and is now finding its way into the hot little hands of foodies around the city.
At the press conference this afternoon, Michelin Guide’s International Director Michael Ellis opened the event by calling Bangkok’s food scene “varied, diverse, and intense.” He went on to praise the “spices and seasonings that created one of the world’s greatest cuisines” and named the national cookery style one of the few in the world that treats all parts of the palate: salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami.
Ellis said, “The release of the guide places Thai food on the same playing field as all great cuisines of the world.”
The event, ahead of tonight’s gala to honor the awardees, revealed the 98 food spots in the guide including: three restaurants with two stars; 13 restaurants with one star; and 35 food outlets labeled Bib Gourmands, the Michelin term for spots featuring dishes under THB1,000 or, as Ellis diplomatically called them, “great food at attractive prices.”
The rest were given Michelin Plate awards, a designation launched this year that simply notes “restaurants whre the inspectors have discovered quality food.” This catchall term covers restaurants with dishes over THB1,000 that are not quite ready to acquire a star. Think of them as “ones to watch.”
There were no three star awards given in Bangkok — but there rarely are. The three-star Michelin award is said to set a chef’s career for life.
Now, onto the winners:
The three two-starred restaurants are: Gaggan, Le Normandie, and Mezzaluna.
The 14 one-star restaurants are: Bolan, Chim by Siam Wisdom, Elements, Ginza Sushi Ichi, J’Aime by Jean-Michel Lorain, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Nahm, Paste, Saneh Jaan, Savelberg, Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin, Sühring, Upstairs at Mikkeller, and one single street food vendor, Jay Fai.
Jay Fai is a tiny, 70-year-old street vendor, renowned for making crab omelets, dry congees, and raad na talay (stir-fried seafood noodles in gravy) at her place in Old Town. She was helped up to the stage with a huge smile on her face and a chef jacket on her back — though she usually cooks in less formal garb. Of winning the award, she said, “I was so excited from the first moment I walked in this room.”
David Thompson, of Nahm, chose to play down his accomplishments and instead lay the praise on his staff, saying that the star was not for him but for everyone he works with and that he “just comes to collect the awards.”
Henk Savelberg, of Savelberg, said the secret to his success is “to treat every guest in your restaurant as if they are a Michelin inspector.”
Henrik Yde-Andersen, mastermind behind Sra Bua, noted that the hardest part is not getting the star — but keeping it.
One of the biggest surprises of the day to win a star was Upstairs at Mikkeller, a small dining room above Ekkamai’s Mikkeller craft beer garden. Chef Dan Bark said, “We’re just a humble restaurant but we give it all and will continue to do that for the city of Bangkok and all of our diners.”
Gaggan, which has also been named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world and whose chef, Gaggan Anand, was featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, was the most expected win of the day, though the founder sat nervously watching the proceedings until he was called, second from last. He said of making the book in Bangkok, “This proves you don’t have to be Thai to win. You can be a global citizen. You can cook what you want to cook. Anything is possible.”
Some of Bangkok’s 18 street food stalls to receive the Bib Gourmand awards were: Thipsamai Pad Thai, the Pad Thai joint on Mahachai Road that’s always got the lengthiest queue on the block; Thais’ favorite chicken and rice place, Go-Ang Kaomungai, also made the list; as did Jay Oh, the late-night eats place near Siam Square; and Guay Tiew Moo Rung Ruang, the pork noodle joint on Soi Sukhumvit 26 that’s always packed with office workers.
Not street food but still honored with Bib Gourmands were Soul Food Mahanakorn, and Baannai, among others.
Cheers to the winners. Now, onto the long queues!
The special Pad Thai with extra-large prawns at Thipsamai. Photo: Pang Ketumarn/ Coconuts Media