The buzz: There’s only a handful of restaurants in Bangkok that take the ubiquitous Japanese dining experience and successfully turn it into something trendy. KOI, Isao and In the Mood for Love come to mind. But Iza manages to combine a contemporary atmosphere with elegant traditional elements, as well as the usual sushi bar with a yakitori dining option to match everyone’s price range. It’s therefore slightly surprising to learn that the place is actually a venture by Loxley, better known for their work in transport, telecommunications and energy. The decor: The space is divided into two floors, the bottom floor sporting a bar atmosphere and serving sake, shochu and sushi rolls with fusion twists. There’s a wooden plank-lined wall and shelves stacked with ceramic sake jars. Up an impressively large spiral staircase is the sit-down yakitori dining room with a choice between backless, lounge-like seating and more formal options. Overall, the atmosphere is a nice cross between casual and chic. The food: The sushi bar dishes out interesting rolls like the Twilight in Bangkok (B280), salmon hand rolls dressed with a yam-like dressing. You can order sushi up to the yakitori section, though the other way around is not recommended, presumably because the residual heat would overcook the delicate beef by the time it makes it downstairs. The yakitori menu offers several choices of beef platters, with increasing levels of marbling, categorized as Ninja, Samurai, Shogun and so on (B180-1,300). They also do salads like the wasabi maguro (mixed greens with tuna, B280) and other meat and seafood dishes like Mount Fuji (baked seafood, B280) and yukke (Japanese-style beef tartare, B180). Set lunch starts at B190. The drink: Asahi on tap (B150) and some bottles of Yebisu (B240). Of course there’s also sake and shochu (B110-240, by the glass), as well as wine bottles ranging from B950-B1,800. The crowd: Groups of Thai Thong Lorites.
Part sushi joint, part barbecue spot and part sake bar, Iza promises much. For starters the lush décor is more akin to a high end nightclub lounge than your normal spit and sawdust izakaya: sleek sofas, backlit walls filled with ceramic sake jars, lots of glass and metal and an impressive spiral staircase leading up to the second floor yakitori dining room. The comprehensive menu is supported by the options in the drinks department, from high end sakes to some less well-known Japanese beers like Yebisu Black. The highlight, however, has to be the tantalizing photo menu detailing their choice of fusion-focused sushi. Yet Iza also manages to disappoint, most notably with the service. It’s surprising considering the sheer number of staff on hand, but they all seem to be working independently of each other, asking the same questions or offering to get you another drink, two minutes after you’ve ordered. Still, the food shows a definite commitment to using fresh ingredients: the tenderloin beef in the gyu tataki (B180) is divine, even if the original dipping sauces that come with it tend to be a little too salty. The chef’s selection kushikatsu (B50-60 per piece) is also impressive—a crunchy batter covering moist chicken, fresh pumpkin and more. The real problem is the hit or miss fusion dishes. The drunken dragon (B380) while pricy is a decent combo of cool asparagus and avocado and spicy maguro, and the crazy tuna (B250) is inventive in its use of traditional Thai ingredients like lemongrass. But spicier options like the crispy maguro (B160) can be unbalanced. It has a nice crunch but the dollops of spicy mayonnaise on top overpower everything else, as they do with the baked seafood in the recommended Mount Fuji (B280). That slightly heavy hand and the service aside, Iza is certainly a pleasant addition to the growing army of contemporary Japanese options in this town.
|Address:||Iza, 1/F, Somerset, Thonglor Rd., Bangkok, Thailand|
|Price Range:||BBB - BBBB|
|Opening hours:||daily 10am-2pm, 5-11pm|
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