Charoenkrung’s new izakaya makes a case for upmarket, hip Japanese bar food.
The buzz: Chef Chet Adkins was among the team who made the old Ku De Ta’s Signature restaurant one of the most creative—and delicious—Japanese restaurants in Bangkok. His new Charoenkrung space deals in wallet-friendly but impeccably prepared izakaya-style skewers, served alongside an impressive sake collection. His business partner, photographer Jason Lang, knows his stuff when it comes to sake, too, having shot the images for author Hayato Hishinuma’s slate-blue bible on the stuff, Sake.
The decor: Up till a few years ago, this corner of a Charoenkrung back street ran as a widely-known illegal casino (the name, Jua, translates to something like “hit me” in Thai). While the downstairs terrazzo bar (so smooth and gorgeous you’ll spend dinner just stroking it) has a look of refined cool, the upstairs holds onto the space’s wayward past, with crumbly exposed walls and rickety passages. The imposing posters of wizened sake producers come from Lang’s book on the subject.
The food: Adkins’ Japanese-style bar grub is about two things: charcoal and produce. The concise menu charts just half a page, offering luscious banana prawns grilled to that medium sweet spot on aromatic longan wood and smeared with durian butter (B200). The house-cured bacon-wrapped asparagus (B100) earns an equally pleasant smokiness from tamarind wood, as do the tender chicken wings (B80) spiked with kampot pepper powder. The cured bacon reappears in the simple dish of corn tossed in butter and bacon cubes (B180).
The drinks: Suntory highballs garnished with lemon peel set you back standard izakaya money at B180. But if you’re looking for something fancy, go for the rising sun (B280), a concoction of shochu, dry vermouth, wasabi, Worcestershire sauce and tomato juice. The more refreshing Namba Sour (B250) features Jameson whiskey, lemon juice, yuzu and egg white. Sake by the 100ml glass starts at B140 for Ozeki Silver Label from Hyoho, and Masumi Type-1 from Nagano at B280.
Why we’d come back: By matching the prices of nearby izakaya heavyweights on Surawong-Silom, Jua makes a seriously strong proposition. The food’s exceptional, the space attracts an easygoing, fun-having crowd, and the buzzing nearby Talad Noi bars let you make a night of it. Wanvida Jiralertpaiboon