Chef Zra Jiraratana reveals the basics of the unconventional dining experience offered by his latest restaurant, Aston 31.
By Laurence Civil.
Aston 31 (66 Sukhumvit 31, Bangkok, 084 551 5559, www.astonbkk.com) is the second restaurant of the culinary rebel Zra Jiraratana, aka Chef Ton. Chef Ton was educated in the U.K., with a degree in computer science from Assumption University, and his family thought he would go into trade—but he had a very different and focused idea of his destiny.
Driven by his passion for food, Chef Ton completed the diploma course at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School. Having gained the theory, he honed his craft by working in the kitchen at Bonjour French restaurant. In 2010 he opened his own restaurant: The Aston Gastro Bar at Crystal Design Centre, the first step of defining his own style of cooking. And in September 2013 he opened Aston 31, the definition of the work of a flamboyant culinary artist who produces a unique style in his studio.
The food is French style with a blend of Asia. “Simple flavors, honest, good produce,” says Chef Ton. “I don’t want to set expectations, it’s my style: reinventing and modernizing the classics.” It’s a hand-crafted limited edition dining experience for a maximum of 32 diners a night, 28 seated around his studio kitchen and four on the deck outside.
A typical degustation menu would start with fresh salmon and caviar, moving onto wild caught tiger prawns, roast quail and foie gras, and roast loin of Yarra Valley Lamb, finishing with a passion fruit dessert.
Chef Ton wanted his restaurant to be on the second floor, to make the experience a journey that starts with Spanish-themed tapas on the ground floor. Guests then proceed upstairs—where the restaurant is dimmed like a theater—and sit round three sides of the open kitchen. Chef Ton in the middle, exposed, is the conductor of his own orchestra. It’s the ultimate interconnect between chef and diners: he has nowhere to hide, and neither do they, so both sides are interlocked as the food takes shape. “I want to interact with the customers. Cooking is emotional to me… I want to connect” Chef Ton explains.
“People need to be immersed; I want to create an unconventional experience,” he adds. He will provoke for sure—although maybe Aston 31 is not the place for everyone. But Chef Ton is uncompromising; he’s quite clear that if you just want a plate of food, whatever the quality, then there are many other places in Bangkok to choose from. Aston is more “theatre or show.”
The building’s concept also fuses with the chef’s dreams. “There is beauty in the building, it’s inspirational,” he says. “The food processes synchronize with the building. But it’s more than just an experience; we create a happy work environment. It’s future architecture, we experiment with the food and the building.”
This is the chance to taste the next generation of Thai culinary talent.
Hours: Monday to Saturday from 6:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.