By : JOHN GRANVILLE
19 January 2019
The name is a portmanteau of octopus and chicken, two ingredients you will find in abundance on the Ocken menu. It is difficult to place the restaurant in a category: essentially, it is a neighbourhood diner that sources humble ingredients from around the world, and prepares them in a “no boundaries” fashion that evokes memories of travel and overseas cultures.
For that kind of approach of course you need good management, and this is a venture by the team at Think Beyond, who are enjoying success with other outlets like Roots, and Roast. A good chef is also needed, and here Johnny Liu, who has explored new directions so effectively at Roast, has helmed the menu.
On the ground floor of the Bhiraj Tower, a funny stumpy little building that must date back a generation but which has recently been handsomely refurbished, Ocken is so close to the steps of the BTS Skytrain Surasak station that you practically walk down the stairs and into the restaurant. The decor is clean and unfussy, with big windows, burnt-orange tiling on the floor, blue tiling on the walls around the open kitchen, burgundy lamps, and bare wooden tables. The small bar has aquamarine padding, and a satisfying array of bottles.
We had gone to sample the brunch menu, which seemed a pleasant way to idle away a Saturday morning, and we had arrived extra early, at 10.30am, as we knew the restaurant tends to fill up very quickly.
There is a glass straw for the fresh juice, a nice touch that everyone can appreciate. We began with a plate of crispy garlic naan (340 baht), served with colourful dips of chickpea hummus, eggplant, and tzatziki. Smoked tomatoes added a barbecue undertow to our tomato salad (320 baht), which swam in tomato vinaigrette and was topped with basil and mint; a lovely eye-popping freshness. We had by now switched from the juice to a glass of Aphros Aether, a Sauvignon Blanc from Portugal (340 baht).
A light omelette (380 baht) was stuffed with melted brie and served with egg, Mornay sauce and kale, and sprinkled with black pepper. The dish named cheeky pho-rice (580 baht) turned out to be soft and succulent beef cheeks that had been marinated for six hours before cooking, served in a beef broth with Japanese rice that had been soaked in genmai green tea. The chocolate mascarpone crepe cake topped with yoghurt whipped cream (340 baht) was a light and pleasant dessert.
Ocken could describe itself as hip, as it certainly has caught the current food trend, but looking around at the clientele, the restaurant appeals to everyone, including families with very well behaved children. The location, so close to the Skytrain, makes this a very easy rendezvous point. Staff are young and exceptionally charming. Prices offer good value. And we were right to go early, because by lunchtime the restaurant was packed.