This long street with perpetual traffic plays host to a variety of spots to eat, drink, shop, and wander about.by Dave Stamboulis
Charoenkrung, also known as New Road (despite the fact that it is one of the oldest streets in the city), often gets overlooked in terms of being a fashionable Bangkok neighborhood, staying well in the shadow of the trendier Thonglor, Ekkamai, and its nearby competition, Silom. However–this long street with perpetual traffic plays host to a variety of spots to eat, drink, shop, and wander about–is an area that many visitors often neglect. While the properties just off Charoenkrung, directly on the riverfront, get most of the press, there are some off-the-beaten-path gems as well. Here is a list of some of the top spots.
(●1415 Charoenkrung, Tel. 02 234 3755): This hole-in-the-wall has been packing in customers for over a century now, and it’s all about one thing: duck. Prachak’s roast duck is legendary, so much so that customers often line up outside (and have been doing so since Prachak opened in 1897!). The duck meat is served on rice, with egg noodles, or just plain, and there are also other items to choose from on the menu, such as a delicious won ton soup and fried egg noodles. The restaurant closes by 8 p.m., and they usually sell out well before then. Prachak is a real Charoenkrung institution.
(●Asiatique, Tel. 02 108 4704, www.checkmatebarbistro.com): This suave eating-and-drinking nightspot is tucked away in a corner of the Asiatique Night Bazaar and is well worth a visit. Using chess as a motif (and why not unwind with a game after work?), the black and white eatery will seduce you with some excellent fusion fare, and outstanding cocktails. The neon-lit bar is well-stocked, and the menu has plenty of signature drinks that are whipped up by a well-trained mixologist. The menu features salmon sashimi salad with wasabi dressing, along with other well-crafted nibbles, and different live bands play throughout the week to the mixed foreign and Thai crowd.
Home Cuisine Islamic Restaurant
(●186 Charoen Krung Soi 36, Tel. 02 234 7911): If you are a fan of biryani (rice that is mixed with a combo of meat and vegetables that have been cooked in a hearty assortment of spices including cardamom, bay leaves, coriander, mint, cinnamon, saffron, ginger, garlic, and onions), known in Thai as khao mok, head to this spot immediately. The owner used to be a goat butcher, and he knows his meat cuts very well. The mutton biryani here is simply the best you’ll come across in Thailand, and the homey cafe also does great homemade desserts.
Viva Aviv The River
(●River City Shopping Complex, Tel. 02 639 6305, www.vivaaviv.com): While it isn’t right on Charoenkrung, it is close enough that it has to be included on this list. Viva Aviv is nestled right next to the river just off of Charoenkrung Soi 30. Created by the folks behind the stylish Hyde & Seek Bar, the atmosphere here is rustic, the food innovative (think Isan Carbonara pasta or Spanish chorizo hot dogs), and the expert mixologist makes concoctions like the Cuban Smuggler (cigar smoke infused rum, lime, vanilla, and cola) that are as enjoyable as the fresh river breezes.
Tang Siang Thai
(●253-255 Charoenkrung, between Soi 9 and 11, Tel. 02 221 1749): It’s like the turntable never went out of style at this decades-old wonderful bastion of preserved vinyl. Stocked with vintage LP’s from the 70s and 80s, this humble record shop almost bit the dust when video and then digital technologies arrived, but now it is a thriving mecca, as retro and antique have become highly desirable again. You’ll find the Beatles, Tony Orlando, Thai pop, and mor lam, along with plenty of nostalgia here.
(●Soi Nana 221, Charoenkrung, Tel. 086 340 4791, www.facebook.com/elchiringuitobangkok): This cute old shop house located in Chinatown has been turned into a retro Spanish tapas bar. The owner lived in Spain for six years, and the stylish kitchen churns out some mean Spanish omelets, to accompany the knockout Xoriguer Manorcan gin.
(●The Chatrium, 28 Charoenkrung, www.chatrium.com): Located on the 36th floor of the elegant Chatrium Riverside Hotel, this refined spot has to be the most panoramic destination for a Chinese meal in town. The restaurant towers above the Chao Phraya River, and diners get a bird’s eye view of the river and skyline to go with their bird’s nest soup. Menu standouts include the Peking duck infused with Oolong tea, served with handmade pancakes and Hoisin sauce, and the moist and tender steamed snowfish, which is served with a black bean sauce. The only thing better than the food is the stunning river-and-city view, seen from high above the crowds.
Asiatique the Riverfront
(●Charoenkrung Soi 74-76, www.thaiasiatique.com): Asiatique the Riverfront has really come into its own in the past year, and with a free shuttle boat from the Saphan Taksin Pier (avoiding all the traffic on this section of Charoenkrung), there is no reason to stop you from making a beeline for this colorful night bazaar and shopping mall. There are dozens of trendy restaurants and bars to choose from, endless shopping opportunities (housed in old port hangars), the Calypso ladyboy cabaret, the Joe Louis Thai puppet theatre, as well as Thailand’s largest Ferris wheel, among other attractions.