With ‘Hot Rod,’ Ashley Sutton reenters race at pole position

COCONUTS HOT SPOT — Nightlife tycoon Ashley Sutton recently posted a picture of his latest venture on Instagram with the caption, “Chefs are burning rubber tonight at Hot Rod. Please come and judge for yourself if a one handed Falang can do a good job at Thai F&B.”

I accepted the challenge.

For those who don’t know, Ashley Sutton was the man behind the Thong Lor stalwarts Iron Fairies, Fat Gutz, Mr Jones’ Orphanage, Fat’r Gutz and Clouds. In short, he was king of a Thong Lor nightlife empire for the better part of the last few years. His tattoos and irreverence, along with his themed venues, won him a legion of loyal followers that followed his every opening, bar after bar. That was then.

Today, he’s started over from square one after an acrimonious dispute with his investors left him bereft of the portfolio of restaurants and bars he’d built up over the past few years.

But like the conflicts of the epics, our protagonist emerges poised to climb his way back to the top. And proof of Sutton’s persistence comes in the form of his latest venture, Hot Rod.

But does it live up to his reputation?

To start, Hot Rod is small. If it does get busy it gets cramped. It’s the sort of place where you need a seat – don’t expect to enjoy its signature cocktails standing up inside. There are an assortment of seats outside, but then it becomes hanging out next to a parking lot. The best bet is to go on quiet night with a small group, no more than three, and grab some seats at the bar inside.

Geckos are everywhere. Not the scaly kind you find either cute or terrifying, but in the motif. Geckos, some two-tailed, emerge from a massive Buddha image at the far end of the bar. Plants hang overhead, and patrons sit on seats straight out of a ‘60s Mustang, complete with machined seat belt buckles matching the zinc bar top.

The décor seems almost haphazard, but it works: it’s curious, and it can’t be pinned down to a certain era, a departure from Sutton’s previous themed venues in a good way.

The small plates is where Hot Rod revs up the foodies. When Sutton taunted diners to see if he could deliver a unique Thai fast-food experience I thought to the timeless debate: “Can a farang cook good Thai food?” Luckily that question need not be raised because, indeed, there are Thai chefs making these dishes right before diners’ eyes in the open kitchen. It’s akin to a Western model of flipping burgers on a grill while diners sit at the counter around a griddle, but the experience is also reminiscent of watching street food be prepared just meters away.

The kaeng pu kati (THB160) is loaded with succulent crab meat, devoid of any cartilage, and Hot Rod isn’t shy on the heat, either, it’s the real deal.  Perhaps the most interesting is the nua namkwan nam prik kha (THB160), smoked beef brisket unlike anything I’ve had in Bangkok; it tastes more like a slow-cooked, Texan-style brisket until you dip it in the accompanying nam prik paste – it then instantly reminds you of its Thai-ness. The plates here are well priced and won’t leave you hitting the 7-Eleven for a toasty before continuing on with the night.

Cocktails at Hot Rod are creative and again, play up the Thai-ness. The Nang Thani, named for the legendary banana tree nymph that lulls men into a doomed ecstasy with her exotic looks, pays homage to the spirit with gin, banana liqueur, kaffir lime and lemongrass, and just like the ghost, finishes with an expected burn. The drunken cha yen is equally as intriguing; by adding rum to traditional Thai tea, cha yen (complete with condensed milk), it becomes very drinkable.

Can a one-handed farang pull off Thai fast food? I have no point of reference for what Thai fast food is, but the Hot Rod experience is indeed enjoyable and delivers heaps of value.

Plates at THB160 and cocktails at 220THB mean anyone can splurge and play Hi-So for a night. You have to admire Sutton for getting back on the horse and diving headfirst into the scene with a new dining concept; it’s always worth supporting the little guys, even if it means sitting in a parking lot sometimes. Get to Hot Rod early.

Hot Rod
Park Lane Ekkamai
Soi Sukhumvit 63, across from Soi Ekkamai 2





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