Opposite Mess Hall
The restaurant offers Mediterranean and Asian influenced dishes with a focus on local produce.
Australian chef Jess Barnes's food draws on both Mediterranean and Asian influences while focusing on local produce. The fuss-free nature of the place means dishes like the gua bao (steamed Chinese bun) are often best eaten with your fingers or shared with friends (there's a big emphasis on large cuts). The décor is almost entirely bare except for tactile wooden furniture and a long bar in front of the narrow kitchen. The flavor-packed veggie dishes also have to be tried.
Opposite is a confusing place. They state that first and foremost they’re a bar, not an out-and-out restaurant, yet they have one of the most talented chefs in Bangkok working in their tiny open kitchen. And clearly, the crowds making a beeline to their petite second-floor shophouse space are coming for the food first, with the equally-impressive cocktails an added bonus. That makes Opposite something pretty unique to this town; and maybe it even heralds a new style for Bangkok’s restaurants, one that stresses informality, inventiveness and sharing.
Cacophonous and busy, this simple cement wedge of a space, with its wooden stools and intimate vibe, can only be faulted for being a bit dim. Make sure you squint at the blackboard, though, to see what the chef has managed to rustle up that day. Opposite must have the highest rotation of dishes in town; and the whole menu is wonderfully inventive.
Where else can you sample the delicious depth of flavor from some bone marrow dumplings served up in a surprisingly light ox tail broth (B240)? And who else has the balls to serve a simple plate of roast carrots and shallots (B180)? The result is nothing short of spectacular; with an impeccable balance of textures at play as the soft, sweetness of the carrots find a harmonious match with the crunchy hazelnut and creamy feta.
Much of the menu is equally bold. Rustic treats like the pork terrine with pistachio (B220) and the Spanish-style tortilla with trout and potato (B200) certainly don’t pander to local tastes—even if they can taste a little under-seasoned for our battered palates. Nor do we really understand why the pork bun (B140 for one), while a real taste experience thanks to its combination of sticky rice bun, gooey pulled pork and spicy prawn mayo, has reached a near legendary status among Bangkok’s foodies. Nitpicking aside, food clearly isn’t an issue here.
But there is the simple matter of price. While we understand that the ingredients here are excellent, the space’s laidback aspirations are betrayed by the hefty bill concluding your meal, especially when you consider that portion sizes are not the biggest. We’d just like to experience what Barnes’ inventive palate dreams up next—and that decadent chocolate cake (B290)—more often. The overall experience at this “mess hall” packs plenty of fun and flavors, just don’t expect canteen prices.