The past 18 months have seen Talad Noi blossom into an unpretentious art hub. But for all the ramshackle bars and galleries, there’s still not that much to eat apart from guay tiew. One place changing that is 80/20, situated in the busy Old Town hostel. The setting channels old-school shop-house charm through retro signage, heavy wooden doors and iron grilles, but the food is far more forward-thinking.
As the name alludes, 80 percent of the ingredients are locally sourced, whether produced in-house (jams, pickles, ice cream), from trusted artisanal names (Heaven on Cheese, Chalongbay Rum) or from the markets down the road. Though the dishes are not typically Thai, there is an emphasis on the big and bold flavors loved by locals. If 80/20 has a kindred spirit, it might be fellow Old Town resident Seven Spoons, with whom it shares a produce-driven approach. The results are similarly impressive.
Take the warm mixed mushroom salad (B240), which is a finely balanced combination of creamy camembert mornay, baby spinach and sweet onion jam. Similarly delicious is the sharing-size pork belly porchetta (B400), with its great, big stick of crackling. Coated in tangy pickled garlic gastrique, the meat is juicy and flavorful. On our last visit, it was paired with a bowl of risotto-like rice and seasonal vegetables for a nice al dente crunch. The roasted seabass (B320), served in a well-rounded dashi broth, is not as memorable but does highlight the kitchen’s adventurous nature.
Desserts and drinks incorporate lots of Thai flavors, too, whether it’s the fiery chili ice cream with the warm molten chocolate (B180), the sangkaya fak thong-evoking pumpkin creme brulee (B130) or the refreshing Tid Koh cocktail (Chalongbay rum, sugarcane juice, coconut juice foam, kaffir lime leaves, B220). We love that the cocktail list is short and notso- sweet—for something different, try the pennywort colada (B240).
Friendly and packed with character, 80/20 is far more creative than any restaurant residing in a hostel has a right to be. Throw in a few more openings half as cool (plus a relocated TCDC) and this great part of town will become even more of a destination.
This review took place in November 2015 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.