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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Thailand’s Best Restaurants 2007

This book is an annual, and one that many restaurants await with bated breath. A good review will help bring diners. A poor review will not. Published by Blue Mango Publishing (ISBN 13:978-974-88245-5-0) it is compiled by Thailand Tatler.
Whilst it claims to have Thailand’s best restaurants between its covers, the preponderance is Bangkok, with 150 entries, whilst Phuket has 15 entries, Chiang Mai has 14, Hua Hin 11, and finally Pattaya and Koh Samui only 10 each.
The restaurants are judged in four categories - food, wine, service and price, with the first three on a 0 to 10 scale, whilst price is in four groups - Inexpensive less than B. 500 per person, Moderate B. 500-1,000, Expensive B. 1,000-1,500 and Very Expensive more than B. 1,500 per person. To make it such that the price factor reflects just the food, all prices are exclusive of wine.
As an introduction to the provincial sections, writers give a two or three page synopsis on the way the local restaurant business is heading, and as well as the reviews, there are some interesting articles at the front of the book, and at the back of the book is a list of restaurants offering discounts when the American Express card is used. In the provincial section this includes the reviewed venues Art Café, Manhattans and Mez in Pattaya and Le Coq d’Or, Le Crystal and The Restaurant in Chiang Mai. And if you are flipping through the Chiang Mai listings, be careful if eating in one establishment which is reported as having “Waiters provide courteous and charming service, yet remaining indiscreet.” Trouserless outfits perhaps?
There is an index towards the back of the book that lists the (Bangkok) restaurants by cuisine offered, and makes it very easy to compare restaurants in the four categories. This does highlight quickly those places which are value for money.
Some culinary terms are also included in a section on its own, so you never need feel embarrassed by not being sure of the difference between antipasto and antipasti. (Hint: they are the same, but the former is singular and the latter plural.) And you will never again confuse Khao suai with Khao soy (do try Khao Soi Lamduan mentioned in the Chiang Mai pre-amble.)
With the preponderance of restaurants in the nation’s capital, many of provincial Thailand’s ‘best’ restaurants are omitted, which is a great shame. Just Khai Soi is missing from Chiang Mai, and the multi-award winning Grill Room and Wine Cellar in Pattaya’s Royal Cliff Beach resort was another to fall victim to lack of space. In their place are some restaurants which really should not be classified as “Thailand’s best”, such as the one in Bangkok which scored 5 out of 10 for both food and service and 4 out of 10 for wine.
That criticism, however, should not stop you from buying this book. By far the vast majority are outstanding restaurants, and at B. 395 a cheap guide for the gourmet. Gault Millau Thailand may have gone, but this publication from Thailand Tatler looks as if it is here to stay.