Few city sois are as jam-packed with bacchanalian delights as Sukhumvit 31. Seemingly every house has been renovated into a high-end restaurant. And yet the neighbourhood feels more like a gated community than another hot spot for foodies and hipsters. Maybe this urban incongruity owes to the soi’s distance between the Phrom Pong and Asoke BTS stops, or that the road branches out like a series of veins (depending on the route you take, you can end up at one of a handful of international schools, the Saen Saeb canal, or a baseball batting cage). In all actuality, the chilled-out vibe is mostly due to its tenants: cafés, galleries, and a devastating lineup of top restaurants.
While the furthest reaches of Sukhumvit 31 reward deeper exploration, the front of the soi is the most densely packed with destinations. It starts just beyond S31 Hotel with a cluster of restaurants: the old Italian stand-by, Bella Napoli, one of the first proper pizzerias in town; excellent sushi joint Isao, whose classic minimalist design and bamboo panels belies its decidedly modern fare; and Cherubin Chocolate Café, with its abundance of cute chocolate cakes and diet-wrecking brownies.
Up the street, on the corner of the first alley on the left, is Antonio’s, as romantic a place as any to enjoy upscale Italian cuisine. For a more casual affair, look to the other side of the street and up about a block to the long-standing T Pochana. This Thai-Chinese seafood restaurant is beloved by locals for its succulent crab stir-fried with yellow curry powder.
Further along, the density of restaurants gets even greater, if that’s possible. Near where the soi converges with the adjacent Phrom Chit Alley stand no less than a dozen eateries of varying makes and models. Japanese, Korean, pizza, pasta, and more. The highly popular Appia, led by Chef Paolo Vitaletti, represents rustic Roman cuisine. Plus, it’s open for Sunday brunch. Next door, Harvest carries on the homey feel with heartlandish Mediterranean dishes served in a faux wooden cottage. And in quick succession around the corner are Peppina (wood-fired pizza par excellence), Bao & Buns (fusion Taiwanese bao sandwiches), and Chef Ton’s newly opened Baa Ga Din (see Hot Plates on p14-15 for our review).
But it’s not all high-end restaurants (well, okay, it’s mostly high-end restaurants). Wonderwall the Kaffebar at the Avora Residences makes a mean caramel macchiato, among other caffeinated variants, and is a cosy place to while away a late weekend morning with a magazine in hand. Use the pick-me-up to transition into an afternoon of surveying art, starting at La Lanta Fine Art and continuing on to nearby Koi Art Gallery. Across from Koi, Attic Studios offers hands-on classes and workshops (it even has a kiln for ceramics) for those who prefer to create rather than view art. And, naturally, the galleries neighbour another restaurant, Azzurro, a bright and airy space serving classic cuisine from every region of Italy, but particularly Tuscany.
Had enough of food, haute or humble? Surely not. Just a bit up the soi is the home of one of Thailand’s top young chefs, Zra Jirarath of Aston Dining Room & Bar. Here he plies his trade in an open, post-industrial kitchen, serving inspired international fare with an artist’s finishing touch (see In the Kitchen on p92).
Really, this is still just scratching the surface—there are dozens of other restaurants to try in the neighbourhood. After all this stuffing of the face (real or imagined), maybe regroup at the luxurious Oasis Spa. After a Thai herbal steam bath, you just might be ready to fill up again.