“80/20.” If you’re a foreigner, chances are you already know about this place, whereby walking in you’ll see a lot of foreigners like yourself and a few Thais who’re up for experiencing food like we are. Read on to see why this place will be worth your time..and our time writing about it!
We drove about one hour from our home to this charming little area, perfectly preserved its lifestyle and vibe of the good old days. The buildings and houses stacked vertically in unique older western style revoked our parents’ childhood storytelling along the way. After some time to find a parking space, which I must stress is quite a challenge for those who’re new to the traffic rule, we made our way down the down the pathway, heading towards the photogenic fancy doors of 80/20.
(Tips here: Strolling along this part of town called “Jaroenkrun” is quite romantic, despite traffic and occasional construction. Come with your partner?)
The restaurant is connected to its hostel, so the guests can easily cross over for food. Menu board and handout are all in English, handwritten, to give the same feeling with the modern industrial-styled interior decoration. I like the sincerity and the blend of the area’s housing elements in the restaurant, which are well translated into the essence of foods served here. Tables are quite limited so you might want to reserve before heading here.
Initially I intended to try a variety of famous menus they have to offer, but those weren’t served during the lunch time that we went. I would have to go back to write about more dishes later. However, the dishes we had during lunch were quite interesting as well as the service.
First dish, soup of the day plus small plate of salad: carrot soup with camembert cheese and…the best salad I’ve ever eaten. The salad is a mixed of little baby greens both Thai and foreign, dressed with – guess it – concentrated-coconut-milk-ish kinda dressing, and topped with crushed peanuts. There are elements of surprise in flavor combination that is hard to explain. One we knew for sure is the baby leaf of Tamarind, which gives out sweet and sour taste, boosted to perfection when eaten with the dressing. Think again, that combination is actually the base of our many Tomyam herbal soup in many famous Thai recipes. We can see the style of 80/20 very clearly via these ingredients.
The soup is mild, but full-flavored. You’re really eating carrot soup. Pure and smooth. A few drops of Camembert gave it a salty addition which could or could not be to one’s liking. Nothing too exceptional, but satisfying.
First main dish is Poached egg with steel cut oats and barley risotto (as I would describe), local luffa, shiitake, eringi, camembert and pork shoulder. The dish “looked” great and balanced. The flavor is also balanced, but that left us searching for the one key flavor that would define the dish. We were waiting for that one bold punch that would end our bite, but none came. Everything blended despite the attempt to mix in the salty cheese and pork, and some salt. The components were quite heavy, loaded on top of each other. The poached egg can be a bit bigger, or otherwise give us two eggs to help us continue til the end of dish. The pork left us wondering why it’s there. It should have been placed to add the saltiness but sadly sunk into the oatmeal and barley. We couldn’t finish it though; too heavy, too one-note, and not enough egg. To be fair, the dish is not too bad; it would make a great morning bowl for a big eater. We later told the waitress that the dish could have elevated to a lighter mode by adding crumbled crispy salmon skin. Just that, in our opinion, would give different texture in the mouth and add that last salty punch while giving you some fat to enjoy instead of the poor chewy pork.
Last main dish is duck confit and waffle with pickled purple cabbage and onion jam. This came a bit late, but it’s worth the wait. Good duck confit is difficult to come by, but this was one. The skin is crisp and flavorful. The meat is to the dry side, but probably is the intention of the dish. The waffle was mixed with chopped scallions, well toasted, tasted great. It was a clever play on the combination for our Thai dessert called Kanom Krok (Click for photos). The cabbage made sense when eaten with all components, especially when accented with the sweet onion jam. It was a satisfying dish.
It’s a shame we couldn’t taste the dinner menu, but we will. The dishes here made us appreciate the flavor and versatility of Thai local ingredients, which are brought to full potential of fine dining. Worth a try and give yourself a unique experience.