The big news out of Bangkok this week is, without question, the
kinda-sorta-expected military coup recent debut of Central Embassy, the latest multi-billion baht addition to the city’s growing suite of megamalls.
In development for years now, this still-unfinished 37-floor monolith arrives with a cool 18 billion baht price tag (roughly US$552 million) and, appropriately, anchor tenants squarely operating within the filthy-rich luxury sector. That means a 222-room Park Hyatt Hotel occupying the building’s topmost floors (opening in 2015), an eighth-floor movie theater where seats will reputedly cost upwards of 1,500 baht (US$45), and scads of upscale retailers peddling scads of products you wonder if anybody ever actually buys. Also, Starbucks.
Perhaps most notably, however, is a wholly impressive design defined by clean lines reminiscent of a sci-fi space cruiser and, in a nod to the elegant Thai-Buddhist wats, a curved facade that, according to the official website, has been “constructed from shimmering shingles that punctuate the continuous, rippled frontage.” You’ll now see two of Bangkok’s most striking contemporary buildings on kitty corners of the intersection at Ploenchit and Sukhumvit roads: this and The Okura Prestige Bangkok hotel, which mirrors the shape of a traditional Thai wai and features the city’s only cantilevered pool.
In a way, Central Embassy is the Central Group’s answer to the still-newish, travel-themed Terminal 21 shopping mall, located just down Sukhumvit Road at Asoke, with one key difference: Where Terminal 21 largely targets the trendy, youth-oriented crowd in Bangkok’s fast-expanding middle class, Embassy caters to the financial elite. There are, however, affordable concessions for the rest of us, particularly when it comes to the city’s top attraction — FOOD.
Somboon Seafood, Din Tai Fung, Water Library, and NYC export ChikaLicious Dessert Bar highlight the stand-alone dining options on the top floors, but the main lure is the sprawling basement food court slash supermarket Eathai. There’s thankfully nothing but Thai food here — no Japanese, no Cantonese, no Western, nothing — and I love how it’s logically laid out to spotlight regional specialties and types of food. For example, dishes from north and south Isan, respectively, are served at stalls one and two; classics from southern Thailand at stall four, street food-style snacks at stall 10, and so on.
(As an aside, despite what some foodie snobs might say, Bangkok’s malls are home to some excellent, fairly authentic street-food stands. These are particularly ideal for sampling meats, seafood, and some curries that, on the actual street, have a somewhat higher probability of sending you back to the hotel with a serious case of the shits. I eat as much proper street food as I can, but it is what it is.)
Eathai’s creative design, too, includes gorgeous murals and clever touches like a wall fashioned from stacks of mortars (the bowls in which som tams and other Thai dishes are often prepared). Having just stuffed myself silly with sushi at Isao I didn’t get a chance to try any of the food this time, but it all looked fantastic and I’m psyched for some taste-testing next time.
Bonus: Singha beers on tap, others in bottles, and a range of cocktails and liquors.
Central Embassy is located on the corner of Ploenchit and Sukhumvit roads, next to (and also connected to) Central Chidlom. +66 2119 7777. Open daily 10am – 10pm.