By : KEN BARRETT
20 July 2017
About: Just before Charoen Krung Road crosses the canal to enter Chinatown there is a long row of beautifully maintained shophouses, and on the corner of Soi 28 is 80/20. The three chefs here are Napol Jantraget, Saki Hoshino and Andrew Martin, a multinational team that is using Thai ingredients to create adventurous tastes and textures that are familiar and yet unfamiliar, and which certainly leap over all the usual assumptions that one usually has about dining in this venerable old market neighbourhood.
Décor: The heavy plank door next to the Old Town hostel opens onto an art house décor with an industrial ceiling and walls of grey-green lit by spotlights, the floor of stone and the tables of plain wood, a number of the chairs daringly of completely transparent plastic, and a subdued techno beat from the sound system. An open kitchen is in one corner, a boxed-in preparation kitchen in another, and a mixologist occupies a cubbyhole of a bar somewhere in between. Talat Noi is becoming hip, and 80/20 is one of the hippest.
Menu: We started with a big fat vodka martini (320 baht) in which a slice of pickled santol was wallowing most deliciously, and it helped set the mood for the powerfully flavoured meal. Warm luffa bread (220 baht) was served with a stone bowl of creamy egg yolk emulsion dip and crispy flakes of egg white. Mango mango (260 baht) carried through on the emulsion texture, with a slice of green mango grilled and topped with a curry mousse enriched with chicken liver and fried pork skin. Slices of raw scallop (380 baht) evoked a miniature ocean, frozen into a sauce of iced coconut juice and basil that changed flavour as it melted on the tongue. Peeled tiger prawns (460 baht) were slow poached and served with a pungent fermented prawn sauce, a puree made from white turmeric, and smoked beans from the south. We switched to a meaty South African cabernet sauvignon. A lovely fragrance of gently burned coconut husk arose from the dish of travelling curry (630 baht), which was created from roasted young coconut filled with pickled heart of palm and cashew sauce, and accompanied by a pinkly marinated lamb loin. Thai Wagyu striploin (840 baht) was crunchy black on the outside and red-soft on the inside, served with tiny rice dumplings and bone marrow jus. We ended with a spiced crunchy honeycomb (250 baht) with tamarind cream.
Evaluation: Zesty, piquant flavours with each of the dishes seeming to connect with the others in terms of taste and style to form an 80/20 identity. Locally sourced produce helps keep the prices low. It is all totally unpretentious, and exhilarating. A nice touch on the menu is that in that in addition to listing the leading suppliers, the staff members are named right down to the kitchen crew.