Legions of Japanese restaurants crowd Soi Thaniya, along with ladies loitering in front of hostess bars and inebriated salarymen. Tucked down the nameless sub-soi behind the Yada Building, Hanamachi is a solid yakiniku (Japanese-style barbecue), which stands out for its kitschy décor: 18th century-style faux wood paneling, reproductions of Joseph Turners’ paintings of Venice (in gilded frames, of course), tufted pleather seats—even the barbecue is colored in gold.
To complete the picture, just add a soundtrack of J- and K-pop female singers, a small army of uniformed waitresses in tight-fitting dresses and chain-smoking Japanese guys. Each table is designed as a booth, though, and the barbecues’ powerful smoke extraction makes the cigarettes hardly noticeable. Moreover, Hanamachi is fairly intimate, if your date has a taste for Versailles-meets-Ginza insanity.
The menu is as classic as can be, though, with glossy pictures of every single dish. The huge set (B1,400) comes with tongue (B380 à la carte), kalbi rib eye (B380), flank steak (B370), pork rib eye (B300), four big prawns (B370), squid (B270) and vegetables (B200). The standouts would have to be the tongue, the flank steak and kalbi rib eye. Kalbi (or galbi) designates meat marinated in ganjang, a uniquely Korean soy sauce made from fermented soybeans—yum! Produce is impeccably fresh, sauces don’t feel MSG-loaded, and results are invariably tasty.
Overall, we still prefer Yakiniku Fuku Ryu En, around the corner, on Soi Thaniya proper. Hanamachi just doesn’t have as much variety, whether it comes to offal or seafood—nor is its meat quite as tender. Hanamachi is much more fun though, and we’d rather be knocking back high balls (B140) or pints of draught Asahi (B140) in this slightly bonkers setting than at Fuku Ryu En, which has all the charm of a dentist’s office. Order another round of delightfully chewy hatsu (heart, B280), some chilled sake (B420) and campai!