SUMMARY – The newly-opened Ocken Restaurant on South Sathorn of Bangkok is the latest venture by the folks who founded The Commons, Roast and Roots. Small menu, inspired by memories and journeys of the founder and head chef whose affection and attachment to the US Pacific Northwest reflect in the looks and tastes of all the dishes. Also, their green philosophies, and back-of-the-house environmental endeavours that they are doing make them one of the truest-to-the-bones avant-garde restaurants in Thailand.
THE IDEAS – If you are familiar with the drives behind the aforementioned businesses (The Commons, Roast and Roots), you will know that this place cannot be something way out of line from their primary axis. Crafty, tasty and bearing no boundaries. Foods created by Johnny Liu, the executive chef and his team. Something that would appeal to those who want to trot the globe through tastes. Dishes recreated from fond memories. And after tasting their dishes, my own memories schooling in the US Pacific Northwest came right forward. Juxtapositions of freshness in different textures, creaminess and crunchiness, spices from the East and some from the West. Fine dining without white tablecloth linen and formality fuss.
Above: The finger-fitting Mini Cubano – Cuban-style ham and cheese sandwich (Bt220++).
Above: Ocken Salad with creamy Burrata colliding with the crunchy and sour veggie collection (Bt420++).
THE SAVOURIES – Ocken premiered on June First. And we were there in time to try their June menu – small, divided into series of drama acts from one to five with a one to two vegetarian choices in each section. We had the finger-fitting Mini Cubano – the Cuban-style ham-and-cheese nicely laced for sharpness with pickled jalapeño. We also totally liked their Ocken Salad for its wildly refreshing combination: creamy base of burrata, fruits+herbs+leaves collection and the nutty crunchiness of the toasted garlic and almond. Fantastic.
Above: Octopus – brined, grilled and ladled with toasted bacon (Bt650++).
Above: Charred Corn Ravioli with tomato salsa and basil oil (Bt340++).
Ocken the name is derived from Octopus and Chicken (two favourite ingredients of the founder), hence Octopus dish as one of their signatures. Brined to soften and grilled on stove top and served drizzled with smoky toasted bacon fat. A real flavoursome dish, tastily oily in a satisfying way.
Their flavoursome Charred Corn Ravioli is worth a big salute. The chef gives all the veggies the full respect they deserve. Sweet corn from Thailand is charred for a nice smoky aroma, tossed with loads of cheeses and stuffed to make a creamy bites into the ravioli. The bed of creamy tomato salsa and basil oil make for an awesome contrasting flavours.
Above: Poached salmon with cous-cous skin and vegetable stew (Bt650++).
Poached Salmon – the look of this dish is so Pacific Northwest and so is the taste. Rich salmon, tender, juicy and naturally oily goes perfectly well with green goodness of the veggie stew. The surprise was cubed young jackfruit that might be mistaken for the more familiar in Western food scene ingredient of artichoke.
Above: Dessert of Chocolate Budino with flourless chocolate cake, blackberry compote, blackberry basil sorbet (Bt280++).
THE DESSERTS – Above and below are the two desserts we had. The Chocolate Budino – although all chocolaty and flourlessly dense – is not too heavy nor too rich. Just about perfect. Sweet bitterness of the cake contrasts so well with the deep fruity + sourness of the berry compote.
The Roasted Soy Bean Panna Cotta below has a distinct aroma from genmai – the Japanese green tea with toasted rice. However, I got stronger note of cow cream than the soy milk. But still this is a light and awesome dessert.
Above: Dessert of Roasted soy bean panna cotta, genmai and strawberry (Bt240++).
SOURDOUGH + BUTTERMILK ROLLS AND CULTURED BUTTER – Their house-baked Sourdough Bread that has an awesome texture and taste – soft, chewy with a welcoming whiff of the particular sourdough aroma. Turned out that these wonderful loaves are made fresh daily from their own sourdough starter, too. Their meaty and sweet Buttermilk Rolls provide a little pleasant in life. You definitely need more than bread and butter to feel fulfilled and delighted.
The big little twist lies in their Cultured Butter. Cream and yoghurt are mixed and, yes, cultured overnight, before whipped into a glossy and smooth form. This white globes taste like rich rich bodied cream. It reminds me of a light version of clotted cream. Love love.
Above: Ocken’s housemade cultured butter, sourdough loaves and buttermilk rolls. Me and Khun Varatt Vichit-Vadakan – Ocken’s founder.
GREEN OPERATION – If you follow The Commons, you might have already been familiar with their leaning-towards-green policies. A lot of workshops there focuses on home-based DIY activities. For example, making soaps from used oil, food-waste management and others that instill the idea of ‘you-can-help’ and ‘please-care.’ But here at Ocken, a fresh start allowed the team to follow through many operations they wish they had done better in the past.
- Reusable bamboo straws for drinks. These bamboo straws are not only costlier than normal plastic straws, they also require higher costs of cleaning and maintenance. At Ocken, the reusable straws are machine-rinsed and steamed to ensure a high hygienic standard.
- House-made sparkling and still waters. Ocken’s specially designed back-of-the-house now allows them to make their own filtered waters. The water is twice filtered and treated with UV, not only for a complete safe and good drinking standard, but also for a light and smooth body that goes well, or even enhances, the food they serve. At Bt60 per person, you get a free flow water without adding to the already humongous piles of plastic wastes. Love their sparkling. It totally enhances their richly flavoured dishes.
BRAVO for their neat ideas and efforts. A real spruce you guys are.
LOCATION + MAP + OPENING HOURS – OCKEN, Bhiraj tower, south sathorn road. bts surasak (exit 4), Daily (closed Mondays) 18.00 – midnight. Google Map. Parking: available on site.