Eating/Drinking  •  Beyond the Buzz

Beyond the Buzz: Ba Hao

In "Beyond the Buzz" we revisit bars months or years after their ballyhooed openings to discover whether they remain relevant. First up: Ba Hao

July 14, 2017
“Chinese culture was never cool,” says co-owner Phom Somboonkulavudi of the all-so-popular Soi Nana: Ba Hao. As the lounge/staycation inn/dining and bar space is located on the corner of a vibrant-yet-slightly-sketchy street amidst a bevy of Chinese-themed bars, restaurants, and cafés, all of which appear aimed at reclaim the distinctly Chinese heritage of Bangkok’s Chinatown, it is clear that such a statement no longer applies.

Entering the lounge, which featuring an effortlessly small bar counter along with a minimal “open” kitchen that you hardly notice, one is greeted by classic Shanghainese string music.  Despite its size, this local gem offers an eery, speakeasy feeling that is perfectly suited for the trendy scene-setters of Bangkok. The modern Chinese theme takes center stage of your Ba Hao experience without ever being overdone or invasive. You simply feel 新潮.

Cleverly named for its fortunate address, Ba Hao retains references to the lucky number eight throughout its decor and menu. Everything from the dining rooms strongly lit red neon “8” sign to its unique eight dishes to its prices ending in eight. That said, the new place-to-be only offers a concise selection of three cocktails from their friends at The Never Ending Summer and Junker and Bar creating concoctions exploring the various Chinese herbal elixirs made in the neighborhood.

Forbidden Gold swirls a salted plum, plum liqueur, and lime together with Tsingtao beer, resulting in a replenishing and refreshing cocktail that is sweet, in all the right ways. The Five Rivers is presented by the bar staff as a feminine choice, though the ingredients reads like a rap sheet for a night out: drambuie, rum, fernet branca, and five different spices in a delicious mix. Opium is exactly what it says to be: a Chinese negroni. Ginseng and a special, local, herbal liqueur elevate the classic without threatening its bitter trademark. This will sure be a favorite for many.

The small menu with bites blends classic Chinese snacks with local ingredients and regionality, with every base from bar snack to sharing plates. The moorish, spicy jiao patongko (小油条) is the best twist on Chinese breadsticks to be found in Bangkok, which is also why we don’t have a picture of it either… sorry! Thanks to the partnership between a man who was raised in the area, an architect, a Mandarin Oriental-trained chef, and a collective of like-minded newcomers to the restaurant biz, Ba Hao has the backing and the conceptual strength to sustain itself beyond the “newly opened” hype.

Oh, and if you are looking for a cosy staycation option too, or just simply got hit with a crippling food coma either downstairs or elsewhere in Yaowarat, the 1970s-inspired third and fourth floor accommodations, spread across two whole-floor double rooms, helps to cement the position of this ambitious, small-scale Chinatown opening as a community within a community.

Beyond the Buzz verdict: As Charoenkrung's Soi Na Na continues to grow in popularity, Ba Hao is more relevant than ever and we're looking forward to their new cocktails, which are rumored to appear soon.