An izakaya done bright and airy, Ari style.
Forget dingy bar seating and spare lighting, Hanazen is an izakaya done bright and airy, Ari style. The whitewashed, faux crumbling walls, cutesy knickknacks and communal tables could be ripped straight from the “How to Open a Cafe in Ari 101” textbook. Unlike neighboring Japanese attempts like Marlin Cafe (recently closed) and Kaizen, though, Hanazen keeps things simple without overreaching into fancified fusion cuisine.
The thick menu spills with countless booze and food promo cards, much to the shrieking delight of the packed tables of Thai office workers on our last visit. Food competently skirts all the usual suspects: sashimi, shabu, rice bowls, gyoza, tempura, chicken wings, udon and soba. In short, the raw fish is fresh, the cooked food tastes homey and, most importantly, the prices are right.
While not top-of-the-line delicate, the salmon, buri (yellowtail) and maguro (tuna) of the assorted sashimi (B340-850) represent good bang for baht. A touch more creative is the maguro and avocado tartare (B310), where the slender strips of fish come topped with an onsen-style soft egg and drizzled with a balsamic dressing. Simple but effective.
We’re not so sure about the clashing flavors of the dashimaki mentaiko (B250), a Japanese-style rolled omelet that comes bursting with a gooey mentaiko (pollock roe) and cheese filling, though it sure looks impressive. The kitchen also goes a little overboard on the seasoning for the salt-grilled yellowtail (B310), but the flaky fish is deliciously moreish owing to a topping of finely chopped shibazuke (mixed pickle).
Hanazen isn’t doing anything remarkable food-wise, but there’s a genuine warmth to the place. Throw in some darn solid sake and umeshu tasting flights (from B210) and Japanese beers on tap, and it’s a fine neighborhood joint most would be happy to have at the top of their soi. Would we travel across town for it? Perhaps if we were organizing a larger group gathering. But there are certainly more exciting and authentic izakaya experiences to be had around Sukhumvit and Silom. Note: Parking is limited to two spaces only. Best call ahead.
This review took place in January 2017 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.