Global foodies are set to descend on Bangkok after the French publishing company Michelin launched a guide to what it considers are the best restaurants in the city.
Some 98 restaurants are listed, 82 of which serve Asian cuisine, while 13 are French and 8 Italian. The guide reflects the rapid development of the city's culinary scene in the past decade, which has seen the restaurant Gaggan scoop the number one spot in the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants List and others such as Nahm earn a reputation as "the ultimate temple to Thai gastronomy."
Gaggan, an Indian restaurant run by chef-owner Gaggan Anand, has been awarded two Michelin stars, along with Le Normandie, a French restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel that was opened in 1958, and Mezzaluna, a European restaurant located on the 65th floor of the Lebua Hotel.
14 restaurants have been awarded one Michelin star, including Nahm, Chim by Siam Wisdom, Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin and Jay Fai, a traditional street food vendor selling dishes such as crab curry and dry congee. Lovers of sushi will also find themselves satisfied, with Ginza Sushi ichi also earning one star.
While the starred restaurants are mostly made up of ultra-modern or fine dining eateries which are relatively expensive, budget travellers can head for the 35 restaurants which have been awarded a 'Bib Gourmand', which offer good value quality food, serving meals for a maximum of 1,000 Thai baht (Dh112).
The book comes after a period of uncertainty for the city's street food scene, which has been targeted in a government clean-up campaign. John Brunton, a specialist in food and travel and a contributor to The National's travel pages, said: "The decision of Michelin to launch a Bangkok Guide is a great boost for the city, especially as it comes at a time when the iconic street food scene here is being threatened by government regulations that want to sanitise and eliminate what is some of Asia's greatest street food. Recognition of street food by Michelin in Bangkok gives a credibility and legitimacy to heritage cuisine in the same way their guides to Hong Kong and Singapore have. It is also a delight to see Anand Gaggan being awarded a coveted two star award alongside his position at top of the Asia Top 50 Restaurants listing."
Bangkok is now the seventh Asian country to have a Michelin Guide, following titles on destinations such as Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong. It will be followed by guides to other popular areas of Thailand, including Chiang Mai, Phuket and Hua Hin.
Yuthasak Supasorn, the governor of the Tourism Authority Thailand (TAT), said: “The inaugural Michelin guidebook will elevate Thailand’s food scene to a new level of excellence and significantly enhance the country’s reputation as a world-class dining destination.
“The Michelin Guide is a measure of gastronomic quality for many people around the world. It sets a high benchmark, and we are confident that the launch of Michelin Bangkok will attract more food connoisseurs to Thailand, which will in turn increase revenue for restaurants and substantially contribute to Thailand’s overall tourism and leisure market.”
According to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), food tourism can generate US$150 billion (Dh16.9bn) in revenue anually. For Thailand, in 2016, over 32 million tourists visited the country, spending a total of 326 billion baht on food, representing 20 per cent of the tourism revenue.