One of Bangkok's best
976/17 Soi Rong Phayaban Rama 9 (in front of Rama IX Hospital), Bangkok
T: (02) 641 5366
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Fifteen year-old Anothai Restaurant stands at the pinnacle of Bangkok’s vegetarian food scene. Named after its Cordon-Bleu schooled chef, it offers a mix of tasty Thai vegetarian dishes with flourishes of Japanese and Italian to go with a great bakery, huge tea selection and soothing atmosphere. Set in an out-of-the-way east Bangkok locale, Anothai is worth every shred of the effort it takes to get there.
A modest selection of vegetarian (mostly vegan) dishes features organic vegetables sourced from Anothai’s own farm. Unlike some Thai restaurants that sell “vegetarian food” alongside meat, you don’t have to worry about a splash of fish sauce or chicken sneaking into your food. Apart from the Japanese tofu that’s a favourite of Anothai, all meat substitutes are comprised of TVP (texturized vegetable protein). If you ever wondered what fake salted fish would taste like, here’s your chance.
We started with the pak wan salad with spicy sauce, which spotlighted both the quality of ingredients and adeptness of the chef by way of pak wan, a green leafy vegetable otherwise known as sayur manis. With tiny leaves attached to stringy stems, pak wan is difficult to prepare. In this case, the vegetable was tender enough to comfortably chew while remaining crisp and fresh. Complimented by mini pink hunks of some sort of meat substitute, bits of soft tofu, a hint of peanut, crispy seaweed, roasted red chillies and an excellent lime-based dressing, the salad burst with flavour.
Subtler than the pak wan but still very good, our stir-fried coconut sprouts with chilli and kaffir lime leaves was similarly well balanced. Strips of crunchy coconut sprout mingled with the same meat substitute along with carrot, holy basil and two different types of mushroom. The quality of the vegetables was evident with every bite. Portions of both dishes were huge, and along with a plate of brown rice, this was one hearty meal.
Next time, we’ll sample some of Anothai’s veggie takes on traditional Thai dishes, including a spicy roasted eggplant dip prepared in the spirit of Thai chilli pastes and served with a mix of greens and edible flowers, and a tofu and herb salad we’ve heard is similar to Isan style laap. Creative dishes like stir-fried fiddle fern with fresh chilli and nori wrapped tofu with wasabi mayo sound equally enticing, and several Italian-style pasta selections are also available. While the rocket lasagna is priced at 250 baht, most of Anothai’s dishes fall between 120 and 170 baht.
Anothai’s casual cafe-style space is also well suited to a leisurely snack. Dark hardwoods, dim lighting, wide tables, cushioned chairs and tasteful jazz set the mood. One of Bangkok’s most extensive herbal tea selections includes more than 30 healthy varieties. Care has been taken on the menu to highlight health benefits of each tea; order lavender to sooth the nervous system, butterfly pea to strengthen the heart, or gingko if you’re keen to circulate more blood to the brain. If those don’t sound like your cup of tea, go for a fresh coffee or passionfruit juice instead.
Although the organic cuisine and herbal teas are probably a good idea if you’ve just been discharged from nearby Rama IX hospital, Anothai’s in-house bakery also churns out not-so-healthy goodies like pumpkin muffins and chocolate cake with sherry sauce. Want to get in on the sweets action without giving up your health kick? Opt for a dish of sorbet in flavours like gooseberry, lychee and santol.
The restaurant also hosts yoga and Japanese flower-arrangement courses, though as far as we could gather these are only held in Thai. No matter what language you speak, you can pick up locally produced health products and herbs along with Anothai’s own salad dressings, blue pea and hibiscus ciders and jarred sesame seeds at a little shop in the back of the restaurant.
Anothai wouldn’t be out of place in the trendiest quarters of San Francisco or Berlin, but in fact, it’s surrounded by bland shophouses in non-touristy Huay Khwang, about one kilometre from Phra Ram 9 MRT station and a few kilometres east of Victory Monument. Though the restaurant requires effort to reach no matter where you’re coming from, it’s not terribly difficult to find, especially if you follow the directions below.
Take the MRT subway to Phra Ram 9 and leave the station through exit 3, then hang a U-turn at the top of the escalator so as to walk south down Ratchadaphisek Road. Hang a left at the first intersection onto Rama IX Road, cross the street at the crosswalk and continue east. Immediately after you cross Phet Uthai Road, take a right into Soi Rong Phayaban Rama 9, after which you’ll see Rama IX Hospital straight ahead. As you approach the hospital, take a right into the nondescript entrance to a parking area, immediately after the Consulate of Ghana. Once in the parking area, walk to the left and you’ll see Anothai on the right.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 31st October, 2014.