Cheap Eats 2008: Bangkok 54

Why go: Beyond the trendy loungelike look is a serious kitchen that prizes big flavors and loves to play with textures.

What to get: Poh tak, seafood soup that gets its jolt from roasted chilies; tangy beef salad with fresh mint; crispy pork belly with chili and basil—a similar dish with tofu is also good; whole fish steamed with chilies and lemongrass; spicy red coconut curry with duck; five-spice stewed pork; chili-stoked fried rice with shrimp, chicken, and egg; Bangkok-style catfish curry; luscious young-coconut and Thai-tea ice creams.

Best for: Dates, celebrations, cocktails, and groups of singles out on the town.

Insider tip: During happy hour (5 to 7), draft beers and the lounge menu are half price.

See all 2008 Cheap Eats restaurants

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