A chilled out escape from the party scene
1/13 Soi Sukhumvit 11, Bangkok
T: (022) 535 9278
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Known as an earthy-crunchy backpacker institution off touristy Sukhumvit Soi 11 in Bangkok, Suk 11 Hostel boasts boasts a good Thai restaurant. The extensive menu looks pricey at first glance, but Suk 11’s relaxing atmosphere, large portions and tasty food make it worth a stop.
If you’re tired of the often utilitarian and/or tacky atmospheres of many a Bangkok restaurant, Suk 11’s rustic, open-air lounge-style restaurant set in an old Thai wooden house will likely raise your spirits. A wooden platform towards the front is outfitted with floor cushions and axe pillows for sitting cross-legged around tables covered in patterned tablecloths. Background music from the likes of Radiohead and Thievery Corporation help to set the mood. The antique steel fans are a thoughtful touch, both for adding to the ambiance and cooling customers.
Other decor touches include traditional Thai instruments, Vietnamese-style rice hats, Tibetan prayer flags, loads of potted plants, and a wooden foot bridge over a little “moat” that separates the sit-on-the-floor area up front from the more hidden dining room further back.
Adding to its allure, Suk 11’s location down a sub-alley off a larger side street that’s already a good distance from any serious Bangkok traffic makes for a relatively quiet experience, at least if arriving during daylight hours. By night, Suk 11 becomes a convenient escape from the raucous bars that line the soi, although with additional tables set up in the alley adjacent to the restaurant during the busy evening hours, the restaurant can be a lively affair in its own right. If hoping to meet other travellers, this is a good place to start before moving over to Cheap Charlie's next door.
Indeed, Suk 11 makes for a worthy spot to lounge around with a beer and the free WiFi, but the food is better than we expected as well. With full pages dedicated to Thai curries, stir-fries, noodle dishes, salads, and finger foods, as well as set menu options for two or more that offer solid value, the restaurant covers many mainstays of Thai cuisine along with some surprises.
Unlike so many other Thai restaurants in touristy areas, Suk 11’s menu is very well put together. Each item includes the Thai name, which is written both in Thai script and transliterated into Roman characters, and a brief description in English. If you know nothing about Thai cuisine, this is a good place to start, and if you’re a connoisseur but still can’t read Thai, you’ll have no problem navigating this menu.
We skipped the pricier curries and stir-fries in favour of finger foods and salads, starting with yam som-o or “pomelo salad with prawns and tamarind sauce”. While hardly a hint of spiciness was evident, the salad came in a well-crafted package that included a sprig of mint and flakes of roasted coconut, which performed nicely along with the sweetish tamarind dressing to balance the distinct sourness and acidity of the pomelo. With half a hard-boiled egg and several large, fresh prawns also included, it was an enjoyable and filling salad.
We also went for the sai oua and khaoniao (northern Thai sausage with sticky rice) and kai hor bai toey (deep fried chicken wrapped in pandan leaves). The northern Thai sausage came well-spiced with hints of kaffir lime leaf and chilli, and was accompanied by traditional fixings — fresh ginger, chilli, lime, onion and roasted peanut. While not the best Northern sausage that we've tasted up in Chiang Mai, it was a very solid version for a touristy restaurant.
The chicken wrapped in pandan leaves certainly looked exotic when it arrived at the table. The subtle saltiness, tenderness and crisp outer texture of the chicken made it another solid dish. A sweet and sour garlic-ginger sauce came on the side, and the pandan leaves added a hint of earthiness. There’s also just something special about eating anything out of a natural leaf wrapper.
Suk 11 opens daily for lunch and dinner, wrapping around 23:00. The restaurant offers a full bar, daily cooking lessons, and the hostel is right next door if you care to stick around. To get here, take exit #3 out of Nana BTS (sky train) station and head straight into Sukhumvit Soi 11. After a short walk, look for an alley on the left that’s fronted by an old Thai house. Turn here, and Suk 11 is immediately on the right.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 26th January, 2015.