Bangkok

Bangkok has always been an excellent eating city. Thai food, in all its super-spiced, equatorial flair and Asian complexity is the obvious draw, especially when made so available on every street corner, and particularly when amplified with astoundingly fresh seafood, the world’s most lip-smacking tropical fruits and the Thais’ legendary love for late-night snacking and partying. Long evident as well is the culture’s ability to breed special sensitivity to food preparation, with locals exhibiting an understanding of foreign flavor profiles, a subtlety of style and innate aesthetics of presentation, even when creating banana-choco cakes and corn flake cookies in their cutesy cafes. Proud of never having been conquered by Western powers, the Thais have shown that their approach to Western food is equally transcendent of obedient imitation.

In the past few years, however, economic development and the rising affluence of a young middle class has reached critical mass, pushing new levels of lifestyle sophistication that are quickly turning Bangkok from a top Asian city, rightfully taking its place amidst the other fast-rising regional “miracles,” to a genuinely global city in the making. And that has meant an explosion in fine dining choices. Where French and Italian fare were until recently represented by stodgy hotel outlets, there are now dozens of stand-alones representing arcane regional styles, from open-fire grilling to refined patisserie touches, driven by the highest level of design, professionalism and personal passion. Anyone who travels here would be foolish not to concentrate on the most authentic and amazing local cuisine; bowls of curry or skewers of satay, there but for the pointing. But these days there are exciting options opening every night in Bangkok, new answers to the universal urbanite question, “Where shall we eat tonight?” And for every foreign chef lured by this hungrily expanding market, every mall outlet flying in Maine Lobsters, Brittany oysters or Italian porcini, there’s a new generation of hip Thai restaurateurs determined to stimulate a fresh bounty of specialized suppliers and re-invigorate their never-colonized home cooking.

12forward by White Guide lists 12 eateries in each chosen city that represent the very forefront of gastronomy.