Discovering Ari Soi, the Forgotten Hipster Enclave in Bangkok

Fellow blog readers would have known that I had written a series of blog posts where I explored the hipster cafes found in Bangkok – though they were mostly found in shopping malls near BTS stations. Despite the entire Bangkok core as being a huge pot of shopping malls, there is still a limit to what I could explore.

One fine day, while surfing Youtube, I saw a video introducing Ari Soi. Ari Soi first burst into the scene in the earlier 2010s when the first of the few new condos were built and hipster cafes moved in to serve the needs of the yuppies who lived there.

Ari Soi Food Hunt - strolling in the ari soi neighbourhood. Seen here is a typical 2 storey dwelling set against sunset. Typical Bangkok cityscape.

Like all trendy places in Bangkok, Ari Soi, which was just off the BTS station of Ari, “lost favour” and went off the radar until recently, where it saw a revival in the crowd. The video was about the revival.

As such, I began to do research on the place.

It turned out that “Ari Soi” was more of a district rather than a street, so the places that I decided to go were rather spaced out, so there was time for some digestion while walking in between the eateries.

Ari Soi Food Hunt - Thanee Khao Moo Daeng serves roast meat noodles and rice. Seen here is the shop front along the main road facing the BTS.

Thanee Khao Moo Daeng

In Singaporean terms, this is a Char Siew shop. After exiting the station and walking past the London’s Pencil Building lookalike, this shop that was super nostalgic (I can only assume that was a 1970s decor, very much reminded me of Kay Lee Roast Meat) that had a narrow entrance to a large dining space.

Ari Soi Food Hunt - Thanee Khao Moo Daeng serves roast meat noodles and rice. Seen here is its wall menu and interior.
Ari Soi Food Hunt - Thanee Khao Moo Daeng serves roast meat noodles and rice. Seen here is the interior of the shop. Metal table tops, wooden chairs, glass walls.

To be frank, I was a bit put off by the display of meat at the entrance, which looked like they could give me a tummy ache if I ate them. However, I still took the plunge and ordered a bowl of Noodle with Fish Ball, Marinated Pork Chop and Shrimp Ball, i.e. Bak Chor Mee (Dry), while N ordered a plate of Char Siew Rice.

Ari Soi Food Hunt - Thanee Khao Moo Daeng serves roast meat noodles and rice. Seen here is the Noodle with Fish Ball, Marinated Pork Chop and Shrimp Ball. The roast meat rice is seen in the background.

I had to dig my noodles out of a layer of parsley and spring onions, but it was an archaeological dig worth the while. Both the fish balls and fish cakes were rich in fish paste (the taste of those fish crackers that had grey-ish tones) while the meat balls were very old-school salty (eh… it wasn’t until then I realised how unsalty Singaporean food had become, but the meat balls brought back memories of childhood eating unhealthy food…). There was also a generous serving of beansprouts, which sort of made me feel better at gorging unhealthy fried food for the past few days lol

Ari Soi Food Hunt - Thanee Khao Moo Daeng serves roast meat noodles and rice. Seen here is the roast meat with rice, drenched in red sweet and spicy gravy, served with cucumber and onsen egg.

The Char Siew Rice came with an orangey sauce (quite unlike those found in Singapore) that were sweet rather than salty. It also came with an onsen egg wannabe, though who needs an egg when there are good old char siew?

Ari Soi Food Hunt - Onedee Cafe serve Thai style dessert. Seen here is the shop facade.

Onedee Cafe : วันดี คาเฟ่

Our next stop was Onedee Cafe, which had us back track to the station and entered the Ari Soi district proper.

To be frank, the whole street was lined with interesting looking cafes, so one need not do “research” before coming. For example, after crossing the station, there was a dim sum shop that according to Tripadvisor was a very popular eating place!

Ari Soi Food Hunt - Onedee Cafe serve Thai style dessert. Seen here is the serving counter and open kitchen, which continued its interior decoration theme of using brass for its shelves,

Onedee Cafe was a place totally for desserts. The interior of the shop consisted of a bar counter and seats lined up on the other side of the wall – seats are very limited and so was the English of the cashier.

With neither of us understanding each other, we just pointed at the menu and hoped that we didn’t order something that would break the bank.

We could see the army of staff working fervently behind the counter, creating individual pieces of dessert art. The “teacher” was patiently teaching his younger, newer staff how to mix the sauces and pour the milk.

Ari Soi Food Hunt - Onedee Cafe serve Thai style dessert. Seen here is Xiong Xiong Teddy Bear with the mini cup served by the cafe for its water.

In other words, it took a long time for our dessert to arrive.

Meanwhile, we noticed how the floor of the cafe was lined with the tiles that were ubiquitous of Bangkok’s streets and the mugs came in small kid-size versions that even Xiong Xiong could drink from!

Ari Soi Food Hunt - Onedee Cafe serve Thai style dessert. Seen here is dessert, black glutinous rice (Pulut Hitam) topped with coconut ice cream, served in metal bowl. A cup of black coffee can be seen in the background.

Our desserts (finally) came in brass bowl/plates, but the food presentation was worth the wait!

One was Pulut Hitam (Back Glutinous Rice) topped with a scoop of coconut ice cream (very safe choice) (I later found out it’s called “Black Glutinous Rice with Taro and Coconut Ice Cream”) while the other was more… of a mystery.

The foundation was laid with a bed of Mee Tai Bak (or rather, white, thick chendols). Half of it was covered in savoury coconut sauce, while the other in sweet (unknown) sauce. A scoop of mango ice cream sits atop, crowned with the marshmallow goo I last saw in After You.

Ari Soi Food Hunt - Onedee Cafe serve Thai style dessert. Seen here is dessert, short noodle like jelly with coconut sauce and topped with mango ice cream, served in metal bowl. A cup of black coffee can be seen in the background.

Despite their hipster-ish presentation, they were very standard taste-wise. I mean, as long as desserts are sweet, they couldn’t go wrong, though half the time, we were wondering what the sweet sauce was and what those mee tai baks were made of!

Ari Soi Food Hunt - Ong Tong Khao Soi serve Chiagmai style noodle. Seen here is its shop front with poster showing its signature dry noodles.

Ong Tong Khao Soi

Just a few stores down in Ari Soi was Ong Tong Khao Soi, specialising in Chiangmai style noodles.

The yellow flat noodles were a slimmer version of mee pok, mixed with an almost equal portion of fried wanton skin (also cut into shreds, blending visually with the noodles). Scooping the noodles and fried wanton skins (yep, the noodles were also cut short) was like childhood once again! Back to the days when I ate noodles while hoping that there was more of the crispy wanton!

Ari Soi Food Hunt - Ong Tong Khao Soi serve Chiagmai style noodle. Seen here is signature noodle with soup. The soup tastes like sweet curry, noodles came with a huge drumstick. Xiong Xiong teddy bear were posing with the noodles.

For the “soup” noodles, the soup was actually something like a milder version of red curry (Chiangmai is after all nearer to the Indian subcontinent than Bangkok). The red oil looked fiery, but the overall taste was palatable (at least compared to the spiciness I had when I was at B-Story Cafe!).

In fact, there was a sweetness to it which was very reminiscent of Thai food, thus making the whole dish very tasty and umami!

The “dried” version was like Pad Thai / Mee Goreng, which was very much like the soup noodles sans gravy (I actually think they fried the noodles before pouring in the soup).

Ari Soi Food Hunt - Ong Tong Khao Soi serve Chiagmai style noodle. Seen here is signature noodle, stir fried and served with deep fried wanton skins and a huge drumstick.

Both are signatures of Ong Tong Khao Soi and were served with a huge drumstick each! By the time we reached Ong Tong Khao Soi, we were very full from our previous meals – but the noodles were so yummy I managed to finish 80% of it! I had to forego the remaining 20% in order to not let the drumstick go to waste >.<

To be frank, by the time we left Ong Tong Khao Soi, were were still at the entrance of Ari Soi. Our plan was to walk the district (and to walk our food off) and see what else we could try.

Ari Soi Food Hunt - strolling in the ari soi neighbourhood. Seen here is a construction site, with Bangkok skyline in the background.

There was a famous Salt cafe, which occupied a big space off an intersection and had its own landscaped garden for alfresco dining (though it begs the question which crazy fella would dine in the Bangkok heat?). The menu was very Westernised and the price was not very Bangkok-ish lol

Ari Soi Food Hunt - strolling in the ari soi neighbourhood. Seen here is a typical alley turning from the main road. Typical Bangkok cityscape.

We wandered north from Salt cafe into a little street – this area was less developed and had empty lands despite all the construction dotting the sides of the road. It was mind boggling to see empty space in a congested metropolis like Bangkok! But well, it was also the closest we could get to rural-ish Bangkok as we could lol

In the end, we finished our little stroll around the Ari Soi neighbourhood without eating anything else – TOO FULL!

We decided to head back to Siam area, not before we had a second look at the Victory Monument as the BTS curved around it!

Karmakamet Diner - an exclusive Bangkok restaurant in Phrom Phong area, beside Benjasiri Park. Seen here is the interior set up.

Bonus! Karmakamet Diner

Well, before we reached Siam, we decided to have a massage at Phrom Phong BTS, which was where I did another round of cafe hopping at, inside the shopping mall EmQuartier just beside the BTS station. The massage place was a franchise under the name Nuch Massage. It was dusk by the time we reached and we were lucky to get serviced despite the crowd!

After the massage, we decided to go to Karmakamet, which was literally around the corner… on the map.

Karmakamet Diner - an exclusive Bangkok restaurant in Phrom Phong area, beside Benjasiri Park. Seen here is a Christmas tree decoration made up of cutlery at its entrance.

It looked like it was just behind Compass SkyView Hotel Sukhumvit 24 which was just across the road from Nuch Massage, but the other side of the block was actually on a “slope” that seemed insurmountable in the dark. So we had to detour around Emporium and walked along the side road of Benjasiri Park, where there seemed to be an event where many working aged folks were sweating it out by running around the perimeter of the park.

Alas! We saw Karmakamet, but it was on the other side of the park’s fence! After surveying the area and concluded we could not climb over the high fence, we walked back out to the entrance of the park, walked down the road that split to the car park of Emporium and to a small road leading further into the block.

Karmakamet Diner - an exclusive Bangkok restaurant in Phrom Phong area, beside Benjasiri Park. Seen here is the basket of bread and crackers.

Finally, FINALLY, we reached Karmakamet, which was tucked well into the nooks of Bangkok (p/s: we saw a massage place that occupied a building that was a few storeys tall, like a small version of Health Land Spa & Massage Asoke; note to self to go pay a visit some time).

It was difficult to see how the building of Karmakamet looked like from the outside, and the interior also adopted a low-light snoozy atmosphere. However, it does give one the sanctuary within the city kind of vibes.

Karmakamet Diner - an exclusive Bangkok restaurant in Phrom Phong area, beside Benjasiri Park. Seen here is chicken breast atop couscous. Xiong xiong teddy bear are posing with the dish.

From the entrance to the dining area, the whole place was decked out like a garden, albeit in an airconditioned place (thank goodness!). Throughout our stay there, there were few other customers and hence our whole dinner maintained a quiet mood.

The food, though, didn’t make me feel like it was worth all the trouble to get to. The price was horrendously high, and the portion was so-so. Again, it was a place you bring people to just for the ambience and not for the food.

Karmakamet Diner - an exclusive Bangkok restaurant in Phrom Phong area, beside Benjasiri Park. Seen here is the pasta ravioli.

In fact, it looked darn nice a place for Instagram – I knew about this place because I saw a friend post a picture of their dinner here and I thought it looked nice, such that I made a note on Google Maps for future visits!

Well… I won’t put up a danger warning for my readers to avoid this place, because the ambience was really good. Just don’t come here expecting to eat your fill (without breaking a hole in your wallet) and you would leave a happy soul 🙂

Mokuola Hawaii - a doughnut dessert cafe in EmQuartier in Phrom Phong area, opposit Benjasiri Park. Seen here is Xiong xiong teddy bear posing with 2 cups of drinks.

Bonus! Mokuola Hawaii

We were so ungratified that after our dinner, we popped over to EmQuartier across the road and had dessert at a place called Mokuola Hawaii. They had doughnut-ish pancakes topped with various kinds of sweet sin (think whipped cream, chocolate sauce, sugar coated strawberries and cookies…) and we ordered their “signature”, which happened to be the most expensive… lol

Mokuola Hawaii - a doughnut dessert cafe in EmQuartier in Phrom Phong area, opposit Benjasiri Park. Seen here is Xiong xiong teddy bear posing with the most expensive doughnut of the cafe. It has mago ice cream, strawberry, oreo cookies and whipped cream, with chocolate sauce.

We also ordered funny looking drinks each – N ordered a soda while I ordered something related to pineapple and coconut, but ended up tasting like Yakult. Not that Yakult is bad, just that I was getting very thirsty by then and the drink didn’t help in quenching my thirst! lol

Let’s just say Mokuola Hawaii is a great place to take insta-worthy pictures of the spiraling green walls and their fanciful calorific (blend of calorie and horrific) pancakes. Great for a group of girls night out, I would say!

Mokuola Hawaii - a doughnut dessert cafe in EmQuartier in Phrom Phong area, opposit Benjasiri Park. Seen here is Xiong xiong teddy bear posing with the hanging ivy of the shopping mall as background.

If you enjoyed this post, do give a thumbs up and subscribe to my blog for more travelogues!

Or, if you can’t wait to read my new travelogues on Bangkok, you can read up on some inspiration on how I found hipster cafes in Bangkok that were near the BTS stations. Check out my reviews of various hotels in Bangkok, like Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok or Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 for ideas on where to stay in Bangkok.

Till then, stay wanderlust and eat happy!

Thanee Khao Moo Daeng

ถนนพหลโยธิน, แขวงสามเสนใน เขตพญาไท กรุงเทพมหานคร, 10400 Khwaeng Samsen Nai, Khet Phaya Thai, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10400, Thailand
+66 2 278 3987

Onedee Cafe : วันดี คาเฟ่

Samsen Nai, Phaya Thai, Bangkok 10400, Thailand
https://www.facebook.com/onedeecafe/
+66 94 146 4049

Ong Tong Khao Soi

17 Phahonyothin Soi 7, Khwaeng Samsen Nai, Khet Phaya Thai, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10400, Thailand
https://www.facebook.com/ongtongkhaosoi/
+66 2 003 5254

Karmakamet Diner

30/1 Sukhumvit Rd Soi Methi Niwet, Khlong Tan Khlong Toei Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110, Thailand
karmakamet.co.th
+66 2 262 0700

Mokuola Hawaii – โมกุโอล่า @EmQuartier

651 ซอย พร้อมมิตร Khwaeng Khlong Tan Nuea, Khet Watthana, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110, Thailand
+66 2 003 6202


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