reviewed by : Ken Barrett
17 January 2019
About: Here’s the story: a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar has fled a post-apocalypse world, loaded with animals like a latter-day Noah’s Ark, and also happily a thoroughly good chef. It has landed in the middle of Chang Chui Night Market, where its tailfin towers over the arts and crafts stalls and the little eateries. Here the crew minister to the needs of the survivors i.e. the diners with food that combines survival nutrition with bold futuristic culinary design. Chang Chui and Na-Oh are the inspiration of fashion designer Somchai Songwattana, who had bought the land with the original idea of building an office here for his successful Flynow brand, but then thought that the area was big enough to open a market that was more like an artists’ colony. Na-Oh opened only in December.
Decor: The TriStar is a genuine one, having flown for Thai Sky Airlines, rescued from Don Mueang where it was waiting to be scrapped, and trucked in twelve pieces down to Chang Chui when the new night market was being laid out. Under its huge fuselage and tucked in between the landing gear is a bar with a large seating area, some of the tables being fashioned from old aircraft tyres. A lift takes the survivors up to the aircraft door. The interior has been completely stripped out, leaving a bare-metal ambience, with the (stuffed) animals that Somchai has collected from auctions and specialist suppliers parading down the centre. At the entrance is an island bar, and the dining tables are formed from old steamer trunks. Staff members wear a black toga. The music has an ethereal quality. The entire concept is eccentric (Chang Chui translates as “sloppy artisan”), but a youthful team of consultants from Australia, named Bondi Belly and led by Natee Laorungrueangdet, operate it very professionally and with a great deal of Ozzie can-do brio.
Menu: Chef in charge is Mo-na Teeratada, a young self-taught chef who makes an occasional appearance in the fuselage disguised by a red mask, has created two set menus: one of five courses at 1,500 baht and one of eight, at 2,500 baht. We began with a deer jerky, served on a leaf along with a glass of what is described as Hot Beer, and which is a foam-topped hot consommé. Beef marrow was served inside a big hunk of bone with salsa. A serving of raw kingfish arrived with a tiny egg yolk pickled in soy. A broth was made from blue mussels and had a tang of brine. A tiger prawn was neatly stretched out and served with bright red beetroot. A cut of Australian Wagyu came with a couple of abalone slivers. Our dessert was yoghurt crumble.
Evaluation: We can’t decide if Na-Oh somehow avoids being kitsch, or if it is oh-so-kitsch that it is cool. But it is probably going to become one of those must-do Bangkok thingies, and we absolutely loved it.