A hip crowd of 20-something Thais gathers regularly at the end of Soi 31 to sample the food of chef-owner Zra Jiranath, who relocated his Aston Dining Room here four months ago. The three-storey concrete structure is prominent on the street as a tangle of plants climbing a giant net attached to the outside, like a jungle adventure playground. Zra says it’s an apocalyptic vision of the end of urban civilisation, when nature returns to reclaim the concrete waste.
The interior has the pipes, wires and scuffed concrete requisite of modern Bangkok dining. Downstairs is a small bar with a few outside tables; there’s a space for private parties on the top floor and the dining area is sandwiched in the middle, dominated by a large central open kitchen.
Chefs finish dishes at a generous presentation counter and serve directly to diners, who watch the action from bar seating along two sides. Each night has just a single five-course degustation menu (B2800) but Zra tries to accommodate if you would like to change an item. There are also a few tables to sit at; high windows surround the room and there’s a balcony for smokers.
The Tuesday night we went, the place was buzzing – the quiet but up-tempo electro soundtrack matching the production line of whirring spoons and squeezy bottles splurting sauce and blobs of cream.
Among the high points, a big meaty tiger prawn cooked in prawn oil comes on a slab of black slate alongside a bowl of well-flavoured capellini with mantaiko (pollock roe), tiny deep-fried shrimp and wakame (seaweed). As a little intermezzo, foie gras parfait on brioche (above left) is a good contrast against hot, clear quail soup. It comes with the instruction to save a little soup for the next course, which – being foie gras, quail and morel – is rich, rich, rich. The half quail – breast lightly pan-fried and the leg confited in its own fat – perches on a bed of barley made with morel and a little stock.
For alcohol there are 12 wines by the glass from B300 and a range of bottles from B1000, including some punchy reds, which may appear in future wine pairing menus. Away from plonk, the Dutch La Trappe Tripel and Wychcraft, from England, are among several imported beers (from B300).
There is some tough competition for this type of menu at this sort of price. But this is lively and fun dining. There were 25 on the night we visited and the kitchen looked at full stretch, so it might be wise to ask how many covers they have if you book. BY Howard Richardson
68 Sukhumvit Soi 31 | 02-102-2323
astonbkk.com | Mon-Sat 6pm-1am