Bangkok: 80/20 Eighty Twenty

While Andre and I were planning our Bangkok trip, he asked if I had any restaurant requests. Apart from Restaurant Sühring, there wasn’t really anything else because relishing the street food in Bangkok is quite the treat already. So I asked him to choose.

My qualifications were that it had to be laid-back with an inventive tasting menu. Nothing too gastronomic, please. Given we were in the city for a mere 3 days only, I just told him to “surprise me”.

And surprise me he did.

In the cab, he couldn’t contain his excitement, asking me numerous times if I had the faintest idea where was taking me. I said no, no, and no. We stepped out in what looked like a quiet Thai neighborhood. In front of us, the restaurant had a nice glow around it, and I spotted a fermentation lab (a good sign!). Acoustics could’ve been better, but the energy was great. Welcome to 80/20.

We dined at 80/20 last October, and it was truly one for the books. Early this November, we found out they won their first Michelin star.

Whenever I’m in a foreign country, I prefer eating local because it’s always interesting to experience a culture’s signature ingredients and cooking styles, as I feel they are very telling of its heritage and story. It reminded me a lot of Locavore in Bali, one of my favorite restaurants, because of how each dish was built on the foundations of the culture’s essence.

Local Tomato, Spicy Fish Gel || Rainbow Lobster Crudo, Crispy Crepe, Caramelized Pork Paste
Flavors of Local Flower, Caramelized Shrimp Paste Emulsion
Frog Relish & Local Greens || Miang Kham of River Prawn & Lotus

The Thai-husband-and-Japanese-wife duo who run 80/20’s kitchen combines a force of two of the most powerful food cultures. The result is translated into a menu that has hints of both. While there are some misses, most are hits, and one cannot deny the thought-provoking process lent to each dish.

Flavors of Local Flower with Caramelized Shrimp Paste Emulsion was a delightful pre-dinner snack, with loads of umami and each bite a shattering, pleasurable crisp. Frog Relish & Local Greens was a dish I dared not to overthink given my phobia for the living amphibian. Divided into a skin and a tartare—the skin, I didn’t mind so much since it looked like your regular sheet of deep-fried fish skin with the taste of chicken. However, the tartare, I was reluctant with. It brought me to dreaded memories in Biology class where hiding under the table was my only safe refuge from flying, half-sedated, half-skinned frogs. Of course, I mustered the guts to eat the tartare, and it was good.

Other snacks included Local Tomato with a Spicy Fish Gel, as well as a Rainbow Lobster Crudo, Crispy Crepe, and Caramalized Pork Paste. A Miang Kham (leaf-wrapped salad) of River Prawn & Lotus was good, as well as 80/20’s renditions of local street meat and Polamai Loy Kaew (seasonal Thai fruits in syrup).

Favorite Street Meat

Polamai Loy Kaew

Onto the mains. A Thai Wagyu Tartare with Pickled Garlic, Smoked Chili, and Kale originally came with oysters, but I am allergic to the succulent shellfish (sad), so I had to do without it. Safe to say it was one of the best tartare I’ve had (the other being Manfreds and Vin’s). The wagyu was so delicate yet tasty at the same time, prepared so excellently that the pungent yet tangy pickled garlic was noticeable but never overpowering; a nice tickle, if you will. Someone from another table asked for the tartare to be cooked, and I just hoped the tartare was licked by the flame for a damn good reason.

Thai Wagyu Tartare, Pickled Garlic, Smoked Chili, Kale || Slow-cooked Sea Snail & Cuttlefish, Squid Ink Curry, Tapioca Cake & Algae
Scallop, Jicama, Flavors of Local Galangal
Local Clams, Beans & Water Plants, Madan Fruit

Local Clams, Beans & Water Plants, and Madan Fruit was an ode to Thailand’s provinces, whereas the Slow Cooked Sea Snail & Cuttlefish, Squid Ink Curry, Tapioca Cake & Algae was a palatable representation of Thai culture. A Local Grouper cooked in House Miso, Ginger, Fish Crackling, and Jasmine Rice was served ochazuke-style with a pot of Oolong Jasmine Tea—telling of 80/20’s other cultural half. The final course was a 14-Day Dry-Aged Duck, Garcinia (similar to a tamarind) & Water Bug, Curry Rice, and Local Bamboo. I was already so full when this was served, but from what I remember, the duck was cooked exquisitely.

14-day Dry-aged Duck, Garcinia & Water Bug, Curry Rice, Local Bamboo
Local Grouper, In-house Miso, Ginger, Fish Crackling, Jasmine Rice, Oolong Jasmine Tea

Dessert was equally delightful—a sweeter version of Som Tum cleansed the palate, while a Tofu Nam Khing was something I unexpectedly enjoyed as I am usually averse to soups classified as “herbal”. Flavors of Coconut was a treat of Thailand’s iconic fruit (apart from mangoes and mangosteen) prepared several different ways. It was a lovely way to cap off a brilliant meal made with local Thai ingredients and executed in varying techniques.

“Som Tum” || “Tofu Nam Khing” || “Flavors of Coconut” 

I left this place feeling charmed and wowed by the experience. I highly recommend you give this place a visit if you visit Bangkok (budget is THB 3,000 per head), and let me know which dish you almost begged to have a second round of.

1052-1054, 26 Charoen Krung Rd, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
+66 99 118 2200

(Our meal was paid for ourselves .)

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