By : JOHN GRANVILLE
21 August 2019
When 80/20 opened about three years ago it very quickly became a hipster hangout on the fringe of Chinatown, at Talat Noi, a neighbourhood that itself has become Hipster Central with the entirely spontaneous emergence of the Bangrak Creative District.
Husband-and-wife team of chef-patron “Joe” Napol Jantraget and pastry chef Saki Hoshino built a menu that uses Thai ingredients to create adventurous tastes and textures that are familiar and yet unfamiliar, which somehow seems appropriate for this venerable old market neighbourhood.
80/20 has now undergone a significant change that the two owners refer to as Episode 2.
The heavy plank door next to the Old Town hostel now opens onto a space that is twice the size of the original, and which can comfortably accommodate both intimate diners and large groups.
At the same time the kitchen has been greatly enlarged, and guests can sit at the counter watching the chefs in action as they explain the ideas behind the creation of each dish.
The design overall retains its art house decor 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.
The other significant change of Episode 2 sees Joe and Saki fully incorporating 100 percent local ingredients into the dishes, bringing out the authentic taste of each ingredient, and offering a choice of two tasting menus, one at 3,000 baht per person, with the option of a five-glass wine pairing at an extra 1,500 baht, and a seven-glass pairing at 1,900 baht; and the other, smaller set menu at 2,400 baht for five courses.
We opted for the larger menu, which started off with plates of fermented duck sausage matched interestingly with a spicy fruit jam, and a traditional miang kham that instead of shrimp was stuffed with pickled fish.
There was a pungent mixing of morning glory, lotus stem, green mango and fermented fish, followed by grilled river prawn that was coated with what has become a house special, a prawn head emulsion, which added a lovely glutinous texture.
Seasonal mushrooms in ant’s egg sauce with a dash of black lime was followed by a fermented Bai Liang curry with a confit of river fish, with a contrasting snake-skin fruit and a rice dumpling. The last of the savoury courses was a local beef red curry, served with bamboo, before we were into three dessert courses of honey, tofu and caramelised lactic milk. As always, the presentation of each dish is a joy.
Along with the decor and the food, 80/20 has entered into an agreement with the Foodie Collection Group, who are responsible for very popular ventures including Il Fumo and Vesper, to create an entirely new drinks list.
Barman “Palm” Supawit Muttarattana, one of the best-known cocktail slingers in town, has developed a cocktail menu based on childhood memory and exotic, indigenous ingredients. In addition, group sommelier Thanakorn Mankit has designed a wine list, predominantly with natural, organic and biodynamic leanings, which is very much in line with emerging tastes and of course with the entire 80/20 ethos.
This is still one of the hippest joints in Bangkok.