Sala Rim Naam at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok combines all the elements needed to be one of the best romantic Thai dining experiences in Bangkok. This is not easy to achieve with so many great restaurants all around town, and Sala Rim Naam succeeds by blending an amazing location by the riverside, not just near to the water but right next to it! Add to this the legendary Mandarin Oriental service, and of course all these would be meaningless without the key ingredient of a truly great place: the food!
Prepared by Executive Chef Vichit Mukura, the cuisine at Sala Rim Naam is elaborate but absolutely Thai. The menu is well designed for both beginners and those who are already familiar with Thai food but still want to be surprised.
Surprisingly, while owned and operated by the Mandarin Oriental, the restaurant is situated on the opposite side of the Chao Phraya river offering far better city views. A classic wood shuttle boat gives you a free ride from the hotel to the restaurant adding a fun touch to the romantic mood before dinner. The restaurant itself is divided in two areas: the Pavilion, a room serving set menus, and the terrace by the river serving both set menus or a la carte which we recommend.
The Pavilion is superbly decorated with magnificent varnished floors and of course elegant Thai decoration. The room is very large as to accommodate two stages, one of a traditional orchestra and one for highly skilled Thai dancers performing excerpts of the Khon Dance. If you have been to dinners featuring a Thai show before you might be a bit worried as it often feels touristy or too loud but the level of music is just right, more like background entertainment than an invasive show. The dancer's costumes are superbly crafted and dances are beautifully executed, a fascinating performance especially if this is your first time in Thailand.
However we chose to eat al fresco as dining by the riverside is irresistible and a better choice for couples. Even on a very hot day, the breeze from the river keeps the place cool. With the many small wooden boats permanently crossing the river and the historical buildings still standing on the other bank, it is easy to imagine how Bangkok was a century ago. As the heart of Bangkok is on the other side, not many people get the chance to enjoy this view of the four incredible heritage buildings. Three of them used to be trading headquarters, one is still the Portugal Embassy and the most surprising is the Bangrak Fire Station, still in use inside a dilapidated building which originally was the old customs department and is also known to be now the favourite spot of wedding photographers! Try to come before sunset to enjoy this spectacle!
Sipping down a cocktail as the sun goes down on such glorious backdrop is a rare pleasure in Bangkok and even if prices appear a bit high, this is a dinner to remember for a long time. The set menus at 1,700 or 2,100 baht are a great way to discover the many flavours of Thai food, but a la carte also offer the option to select mini sets of four appetisers (Yam Rua - 680 baht), or four curries of your choice (Gaang Si-Yang - 680 baht) from a selection of no less than 11 curries, each coasting individually around 300 baht, making this option a good value. This is a great way to sample different variations, but remember that dishes are well served and as we discovered quickly, curries served with rice are very stuffing! Some dishes can be spicy as indicated by the little chilies next to each dish but you can always ask to tone it down if you are really sensitive.
We always like to taste a mix of novelties and some of our favourite dishes in order to compare. We had a perfect Yum Hua Plee Goog Gub Gai (Banana blossom salad with shrimp and chicken - 360 baht), Tom Kha Hed Hua Plee (coconut mik soup witn mushrooms and banana blossom - 300 baht) - and a Mee Krob Cha Muang (a Crispy deep-fried rice noodles coated with a sweet-and-sour sauce accompanied by pork and peanuts in blue rice balls) and a set of four curries as mentioned earlier. Dinner was great and the service and atmosphere are really special, we ended up eating a lot more and leaving a lot later than we planned to.
With such perfect setting by the river and excellent Thai food, Sala Rim Naam is a perfect place to end the day on a romantic note, just remember to book in advance!
Sala Rim Naam
- Opening Hours: Lunch 12:00 – 14:30; Dinner 19:00 - 22:30, Performance 20:15 – 21:30
- Address: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, 48 Oriental Avenue, Bangkok 10500
- Tel: +66 (0)2 659 9000 ext 7330
- Cuisine: Traditional Thai