I found one of the best hidden restaurants of Bangkok purely by chance as I was exploring the surroundings of the Thewet area, north of the Grand Palace. Steve Cafe & Cuisine is tucked away on the riverside, far from busy streets, with no easy access and with no big signage. It's almost as if you have to be worthy to find it. Of course it's not an unknown restaurant, since it opened in 2012 word of mouth spread the good news that Steve Cafe has got everything just right, guaranteeing its sucess. It is now recommended that you call in advance if you come for dinner - People love discovering little secret places like this.
Steve Café combines several successful key ingredients: A great riverside location with no tall buildings blocking the view, thousands of silver fish swimming around as locals feed them, and a permanent ballet of old-fashioned wooden boats passing by almost silently. The second most important thing is of course the food, very Thai, using quality ingredients and cooked with passion. The menu even says that no dishes are cooked in advance, therefore some dishes can take time to prepare and when the restaurant is full, which is every night, it can be a bit slow. Actually in the three times I visited, it was never slow. If you think about it, it's is all psychological: If you know that you might have to wait to enjoy a good dish, time seems to slow down and it doesn't matter anymore, you just relax and enjoy the moment. And for that, Steve Café provides a relaxed atmosphere with a cool river breeze and friendly staff to complete the whole easy going experience.
Then you have Steve and his wife. Both are Thai so of course Steve is in fact his nickname. His English is perfect and he will happily suggest dishes for you depending on your taste, and usually recommends the special of the month. Some say 'Steve Café & Cuisine' it's a strange name for a Thai restaurant, but the name did trigger my curiousity a lot more than if the place was called 'Baan Chao Phraya' or some other predictible touristy name. The final thing that really pulled me inside is the sign outside saying 'Please take off your shoes so you can relax better'! When was the last time you removed your shoes to step into a restaurant?
I tried the Specials of the Month: 'Som Tam Laibua Koong' (180 baht) a spicy salad with lotus stems with shrimps which is similar to good old 'som tam' but using lotus stems instead of green papaya, followed by 'Panang Nua', a dry curry beef with steamed rice. Staff will check how spicy you like your dishes, but even if you ask for a normal amount of spice (ped pokati) it is not very hot. So if you do like it fierce like a Thai Southerner, you will have to emphasize on the 'Ped mak mak!'. I ended with a real local specialty: 'Mamuang Nam Pla Wang', a green mango with a sticky spicy sauce. All dishes were delicious and I ended up spending two hours instead of one I had planned - it is so easy to get caught in river contemplation!
Believe it or not, I was exploring the northern part of Bangkok, including a visit to the Wat Benchamabophit (the temple of the five baht coins) and before I knew it, my feet took me straight back to Steve Cafe. This time I had a great wing bean spicy salad (120 baht) with sun-dried beef (180 baht); and here I was again, staring at the river with a beautiful blue sky... I really had to force myself to get up and leave.
Of course Steve Cafe and Cuisine is off the beaten track and most people come by river bus which is quite convenient once you work out how to walk from the pier to the restaurant. But the best way is still to spend a half day around the area, there is plenty to explore!
1) The small wet market on one side of the klong (canal) is surprisingly nice while a flower market occupies the entire other side.
2) Don't miss Wat Thewarat Kunchorn Worawiharn, the temple next to the restaurant, it has been very nicely renovated and appears almost new even though it is 300 years old.
3) Take a moment to walk around the Golden Teak Museum, an amazing house entirely made of beautiful varnished teak wood. It's an estimated 479 years old and was transported from another province... the house is so huge it's a wonder they could move it. Around the Golden Teak Museum amazing houses have also been renovated and donated to the monks by a generous and influencial Thai personality, Professor Ukrit Mongkolnavin.
Around the Restaurant
Steve Cafe and Cuisine
- Opening Hours: 11:00 - 22:30
- Address: 68 Sri Ayuthaya road, Soi Sri Ayuthaya 21 (Devet), Vachiraphayabaan, Dusit, Bangkok 10300
- Tel: +66 (0)81 868 0744, +66 (0)2 281 0915, +66 (0)2 280 2989
- How to get there: by boat disembark at Dhevet pier and walk to main road but only 100 meter from pier cross a small bridge on your left and follows walk to small walkway along the canal until you reach the Thevarakunchong temple and you have to walk to temple pier.