I spent a month in Spain at the beginning of the year and, when I came back to Bangkok, I was desperate to still be able to eat Spanish food. Imagine my surprise to find out, other than a couple of tapas bars, there’s only one authentic Spanish restaurant in the whole country and that’s Rioja. Located in downtown Bangkok on Ploenchit Road, thank heavens it’s easy to get to as I now eat there several times a month.
Location – You’ll find Rioja at 1025 Ploenchit Rd, Bangkok. Tel: 0-2251-5761-2
The Restaurant – The first thing you notice when you walk into Rioja is how ‘typically Spanish’ it is. Bullfighting posters, two huge whole suits of armour, and a replica of the World Cup and, yes, you’re obviously in a Spanish restaurant owned by a Spaniard.
Rioja, itself, is huge. Designed with exposed brick, lots of arches, and a traditional Spanish ‘bodega’ style, it apparently seats around 150 people inside, plus a few others outside on a lovely patio.
The Menu – Of course, the main reason to eat at Rioja is the food, particularly if, like me, you’re favorite food in the world is Spanish. Rioja, fortunately, does not disappoint.
The menu at Rioja is enormous. The owner has gone to great lengths to not only hire the perfect chef, who is of course Spanish, but also to offer a menu that includes favorite dishes from various regions of Spain.
My favorites already are the Carpaccio de Gambas Frescas con Aceite de Oliva y Salsa de Caviar de Samón – shrimp carpaccio with salmon caviar sauce and olive oil, and the Calamares a la Romana – calamari, cooked Roman style.
The best deal at Rioja though is their set menu. With a choice of either appetizer, main course, and coffee or tea, or appetizer, main course, dessert and coffee or tea, at only 380 baht and 420 baht ($12.75 and $14), there’s no better deal in the city — if you love Spanish food, that is. Plus, if you eat the set menu at lunch time, it’s even cheaper.
In the set menu, you have a choice of dishes like grilled mozarella cheese wrapped with bacon, shitake mushrooms and shrimp in chestnut sauce, and stewed beef Rioja in a red wine sauce. Desserts include ice cream, flan and cheesecake plus, if you eat there often, there’s always a ‘dessert of the day’ too, so you get to try something different every day.
At Rioja, the food is not only authentic Spanish, it’s also superbly delicious. The staff is lovely, the atmosphere chic but relaxed (you’re never rushed, but allowed to sit and relax in true Spanish style) and price-wise, it’s reasonable.
If you don’t choose one of the set menus, expect to spend between 800-1,000 baht per person ($26-33) plus drinks at Rioja. For a more upscale Bangkok restaurant, that’s extremely inexpensive.
Rioja in Bangkok, Thailand