Zra Jirarath, chef de cuisine and owner of Aston Dining Room & Bar on Sukhumvit 31 enjoys letting his food speak for itself.by Percy Roxas
That he was among LuxurySocietyAsia.com’s “Top 5 Emerging Thai Celebrity Chefs” and Thailand Restaurant Magazine’s “Top 20 Best Chefs in Bangkok 2013-14” was really no surprise. For, Zra Jirarath-chef de cuisine and owner of Aston Dining Room and Bar—is indeed one of the new wunderkids in the Thai culinary scene. It takes only a visit to Aston to prove this.
“The best ingredients, the most fantastic way of preparing, by a chef that cares,” was how one gourmet fan described his cooking. And indeed, that’s how he operates. In his “lab,” as he calls his kitchen, Chef Zra is like a real artist in action.
With his delicate frame and small stature, it’s easy to lose sight of him in an open kitchen full of chefs in their signature white uniforms and caps. But take a closer look and you will quickly see he stands out. He moves with an intensity of an artist lost in concentration — in search of new flavors, attempting new approaches and techniques, finding an outlet for his sole passion: cooking.
No, he didn’t plan to be a chef, Zra says. His culinary journey was in fact born more out of a personal preference, from a man whose tastes were honed and sustained by eating fine food since a young age. However, it’s worth pointing out that he did in fact attend none other than Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to specialize in French cooking, and that undoubtedly has made a dramatic difference to his skillset and his craft.
Returning to Thailand after a long stay overseas, he found himself looking for the same food he used to enjoy. While he prefers not to talk much about himself, it’s obvious he came from a privileged background. Having found the local scene a bit lacking in what he was looking for, he says he decided to open the Aston Dining Room and Bar (68 Sukhumvit 31, Tel: 02 102 2323; www.astonbkk.com), which is now over a year-and-a half old.
Here, he recreates the food that he himself would enjoy eating, and relishes in serving it to like-minded people. If you have seen his food presentation, if you have tasted his food, you will be amazed to learn that this 31-year-old chef has only been cooking professionally for five years.
What makes him different? “I do not limit myself to traditional ways,” Zra says. “And I pay attention to all of the processes: from selecting the best ingredients I can find; combining the best high-end produce, local and imported, to redefine the marriage of arts and science in cooking.”
The result is an endless delivery of creative dishes from his “lab”. His special dishes have such unique appearances and preparations that they demand your attention as much as they beg for total consumption. In fact your anticipation heightens after each dish is served, and you begin to expect more.
In his hands, a dish becomes part of a culinary symphony that gets better and better in preparation for the grand finale. Zra is the conductor, leading a team of chefs to entice diners with a consummate feast.
It is no wonder then, that the atmospheric Aston resembles a theater in many ways. And when Zra presents his seven-course “Gastronomic Journey”, he takes you on an amazing voyage that is sure to satisfy all of your senses.
Try Zra’s “chef’s table” style Degustation Dinner–created exclusively with prime quality ingredients such as oysters from Ireland, Iberico ham from Spain, Ootoro capellini, wagyu beef ribeye cap and cheek, foei gras pineapple, Hiramasa green curry, and an artisanal cheese selection from Jean Vyes Bodier–and you will find yourself wondering what else this young chef will deliver in the coming years.
“The aim is the perfect marriage of cutting-edge science and international flair,” Chef Zra’s PR man told us. “Each day sees a different menu created from fresh seasonal ingredients. The result is a tantalizing surprise for all of our guests!”
We wanted to know more about his personal take on what makes a meal or a dining experience perfect, but Chef Zra would rather let his food speak for itself. And mind you, just like art, his food paints a thousand words, tastes and feelings!