Among Bangkok's best
160/11 Thong Lor Rd (Sukhumvit Soi 55), Bangkok
T: (02) 714 7508
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Widely lauded as one of Bangkok’s best midrange Thai restaurants, Supanniga Eating Room does what it calls “Eastern versus Isaan cuisine” in the trendy Thong Lor area. With culinary roots both in East Thailand’s Trat province and Khon Kaen of Northeast Thailand (aka Isaan), the hotspot delivers a mix of flavours that you won’t typically find under one roof. But is it as good as they say?
The redone shophouse boasts three air-conditioned floors combining sunflower-yellow booths, dark-wood furnishings, recessed lighting, terracotta tiles and framed Thai silks for a slick, urban ambiance with nods to old-school Thailand. A cosy ground-floor bar conjures cocktails from unexpected ingredients like roselle and Earl Grey tea. A team of black-clad, English-speaking staff provide prompt and polite service.
Every dish in the hefty hardcover menu is pictured alongside the Thai names transliterated into Roman script, with brief descriptions in English and Thai. It will make those accustomed to Westernised Thai feel like they’re new to Thai food. You won’t find spring rolls or pad Thai, and even familiar dishes like green curry come with perhaps unlikely ingredients like house-made fishballs. Offering mushroom chilli paste and crispy tofu choo chi, the separate vegetarian menu is far from an afterthought.
Light selections include handmade ma hor, or peanut-pork-chilli paste dolloped onto tangerine slices, and yum cha phlu, wild pepper leaves tossed with fried sardines, chillies and a lime-fish sauce dressing. You’ll also find a few classic finger foods like fried chicken wings and tangy Isaan sausages. We tried the pu jah, fresh crab meat, ground pork and spices stuffed into crab shells and served with sriracha. It was a rich and comforting start to the meal, even if the flavours didn’t jump off the Chinawear.
Served with Asian eggplants, slices of turmeric and other raw veggies, Supanniga’s chilli pastes capture the flavours of East Thailand. In the nam prik khai pu, the sour, sweet and spicy tones married hunks of crab in a bright yellow-orange package that was as visually pleasing as it was flavourful. Next time we’ll go for the nam prik pao kak moo, a bold offering of crackling pork skin with a dense paste of pounded sun-dried prawns infused with chilli oil.
While the appetisers, soups, salads and pastes are excellent, Supanniga shines brightest on the curry front. You’ll find massaman and panang with melt-in-the-mouth beef brisket, but also less predictable options like gaeng pa, a rustic and fiery fish-and-veggie stew otherwise known as “jungle curry”, and gaeng kua, a slightly sweet curry that blends pineapple and fresh mussels.
This is also the only place we know of in Bangkok that serves moo cha muang, a distinctively Eastern Thai mild curry of tender pork shoulder in a rich, savoury broth flavoured by guttiferae (cha muang) leaves. Its earthy, tangy and slightly sweet tones have made it one of our all-time favourite Thai dishes. While not quite as good as the version we tried at a 50-year-old Chanthaburi restaurant, it was the highlight of an all-round fantastic meal.
Located in one of Bangkok’s priciest areas, Supanniga is quite possibly the best restaurant in Bangkok (at least, if you’re paying). Appetisers start at just 80 baht while nearly all of the mains fall below 200, making it possible for a couple to enjoy three or four dishes plus soft drinks for under 1,000 baht. This is phenomenal value given the quality of food, upscale atmosphere and high-end location where even street-stall bananas fetch twice what you’ll pay in most elsewhere of the city.
With a knack for implanting authentic regional flavours into stylish urban settings, owner Thanaruek “Eh” Laoraowirodge also co-owns the acclaimed Somtum Der and most recently launched EAT at Central World and EATHAI in Central Embassy, both of which elaborate on Supanniga’s distinctive menu. Both the original Supanniga Home restaurant up in Khon Kaen and its Bangkok sister were founded on recipes passed down from Eh’s grandmother.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 3rd September, 2015.