By Brian Spencer
Sometimes Bangkok’s fickle taxi drivers just don’t feel like driving to Rama III.
It’s not that far from the new city center — the area loosely comprised of Pratunam, Siam, and Ratchaprasong — but during the early evening hours on Fridays and Saturdays, especially, when traffic down Petchaburi Road and around Lumpini Park can be intense, be ready to cycle through three, five, sometimes up to 10 taxis before finding one who’ll agree to zip you to Rama III.
Many will suggest a flat fare — something silly, like 250 or 300 baht — though if you refuse to pay it (and you should), you will eventually find a driver who’ll use the meter; depending on traffic, the fare should work out to 100 baht or less.
You’re going to Rama III, of course, to make your 7:30pm reservation at Tawandang German Microbrewery, where a prolific kitchen consistently cranks out excellent Thai food; three tasty beers (lager, weizen, dunkel) are poured from a small onsite brewery; and over-the-top live entertainment kicks in at 9pm and lasts until 1am. It all adds up to one of my favorite nightspots in Bangkok, and one that’s always a major crowd-pleaser for out-of-town guests.
Tip: If you want to take a stab at faking like you speak Thai when telling the taxi driver where you’re going, say “lao – pie – tah – whan – DANG – lama – sam.” Good luck with that.
When friends and colleagues ask for Bangkok recommendations, I always insist on Tawandang — but that taxi conundrum has foiled well-meaning people (including our editor Tim Leffel) on more than one occasion. I promise the sustained effort sometimes required to get there is worth it, but there is a centrally located alternative where you can sample Tawandang’s food and beers if for whatever reason you can’t make it out to the real deal.
Related: An Ode to Tawandang
Red Sun by Tawandang, occupying a large corner space on the revamped seventh floor of Siam Discovery, debuted in late 2011. Here the menu features all three of Tawandang’s signature beers and many of its most-popular dishes, including the legendary fried pork knuckle. (I don’t eat pork, but my wife swoons at mere mention of these hunks of marinated meat.)
It’s a contemporary, somewhat sleek space with big windows along one wall, a far cry from the kitschy, cavernous, beer barrel-shaped space on Rama III. That personality shift is intentional, according to general manager (at least at time of launch) Pakamart Phongboonkumlarp, who described Red Sun as “a new business model offering modern Thai cuisine to young professionals in a prime shopping mall and in the very heart of Bangkok.”
Corporate hoohah aside, I like the Red Sun concept and convenience when I’m craving Tawandang’s rock-solid Thai cuisine and microbrews, but don’t necessarily need to spend (another) night out at the main branch. There’s nothing trendy about it, but who cares? Beers are well priced at 130 baht for a half liter — go for the weizen — and you can order anything that sounds good with confidence. Consider the fried pork knuckle (big enough for three), grilled squid (amazing dipping sauce), spring rolls with crab meat, and seafood laab, as well as the sauteed morning glory…
… and spicy fried squid with salted egg yolk…
… and the vegetarian fried rice, which has no business being as addiciting as it is.
That unique brand of Thai-style joie de vivre endemic to Tawandang on Rama III is missing at Red Sun by Tawandang, but this scaled-back outpost is a fine alternative if you’re just after a quick bite and a beer — or when taxi drivers aren’t cooperating.
Red Sun by Tawandang is located on the seventh floor of Siam Discovery on Siam Square Rd., Bangkok, Thailand. Open daily from 11:30am – midnight. +66 2 658 0821.