There’s a new-ish izakaya in town, and a good one at that. Occupying a ground floor space at the Legacy Suites serviced apartments, Hama-Ichi lacks the gritty, 1950s-street-in-Tokyo atmospherics and peeling movie posters of our all time favourite, Imoya, but makes up for it with a big sake and sho-chu list and even bigger food menu.
If you’re ok with dining side by side with the salarymen, grab a stool at the long bar, behind which the staff prep the food while dressed in bandanas and loud t-shirts emblazoned with the restaurant’s manga-style fish logo. Or, for more intimacy, ask to be seated at one of the tables sectioned off from each other by bamboo screens.
While clearly aimed at – and mostly catering to – a Japanese clientele, the menu is easily deciphered by English readers, with a short description and small but salivating pictures accompanying the names of each of the almost 300 dishes.
Dive straight in – we did, and didn’t regret any of it. The mixed tempura was done just right, not overly battered. Our pick of the sushi, the aburi-zushi gokan (seared salmon, mackerel, yellow-tail; B460++), was devoured in minutes. And our bowl of kaisendon (sashimi on rice) with accompanying blob of wasabi, a sumptuous table-pleaser.
Two dishes stood out above all the others. The first was the ishikara nabe, or salmon hotpot. Thick with vegetables and tofu as well as chunks of fish, this miso-based soup had a complex, almost creamy flavour that we just couldn’t say no to. At B250++ for a big bowlful, we’d say it’s a must. The other was a otsumami (snack) recommended to us by the waitress: p-tori miso yaki (B90++), which is a long tray of chargrilled pork neck arranged on a bed of very lightly sautéed onions and doused in miso sauce. A fatty melding of textures, we’re getting goose pimples just thinking about it.
Finish up with a sake carafe or six. The selection here is extensive, with the owner, who apparently owns Ten Sui, one of the city’s best upmarket joints, importing bottles of the stuff every month. There’s also sho-chu (distilled liquor; glasses from B130++,bottles from B1,300++) and for those who don’t dig the taste of alcohol, fruity alternatives such as chu-hai (fruity sho-chu cocktails) and choya (plum wine).
The slightly sterile setting means we probably won’t be coming here when we crave izakaya coziness as well as food, but in every other respect Hama-Ichi has nailed it.
12 Sukhumvit Soi 29, Klongtoey-Nua | 02-662-3376 | facebook.com/hamaichibangkok | Mon-Sat 5pm-midnight (last order 11:30pm), Sun 4pm-11pm (last order 10:30pm)