Just a few steps away from the PM's residence lies a Japanese eatery small in size but big on quality
Regardless that a smart gentleman residing in a house behind a lush green garden in the middle of the soi is the man who's now getting the country's best safety protection, and wherever he'll be there's an army of security forces, Sukhumvit Soi 31 (aka Soi ban nayok, or the Prime Minister's house) is still a humble, trustworthy destination among restaurant-hunters. There you'll find more than a dozen gastro joints - Italian trattorias, sushi bars, seafood bistros, bakeries, local steakhouses and noodle joints.
Tucked in a small arcade around the corner from the PM's residence, Hana Hana opened in 2006. The narrow-spaced restaurant with 80-seat capacity in its first- and second-floor dining rooms has been cherished among Japanese and Western expats mainly for its teppanyaki cuisine.
Having driven past the restaurant almost every day going to and from from work, I wondered why I didn't check out the place sooner. Then the owner said: "Thai people usually aren't drawn to small restaurants whereas Japanese and farang really like to dine in a tiny place."
The first floor dining area was like that of many small sushi joints, with a long sushi counter and dining booths. But it's a different ambiance upstairs. All the tables are equipped with teppanyaki griddles so the tepan chef can demonstrate his grilling art in front of his customers.
Unlike the restaurant's limited space, the menu is extensive. You'll find a nice collection of sashimi fish including otoro (fatty tuna belly), yellowtail, salmon, tuna, aji and cured mackerel together with surf clam, scallop, octopus and sweet shrimp.
The sushi menu lists as many as 40 choices of sushi, rolls and temaki. From that, the tempura rolls (150 baht) that we sampled were delectable.
Basically, we were there for the restaurant's recently launched kaiseki (traditional multi-course meal) and teppanyaki (griddle-grilled meat) promotions. So we decided to pass the a la carte appetisers to save room for the real deal, although you might want to try its spicy beef salad (200 baht), which I once had at Hana Hana's sister joint, J-Pan yakiniku, and was really impressed.
Priced 999 baht per person, the kaiseki presented an eight-course meal including appetiser, sashimi, main course, salad, maki rolls, steamed egg custard and dessert.
The appetisers were served in sakizuke style, presenting the likes of seasoned tofu, grilled stuffed prawn and crispy karaage chicken. The platter of sashimi offered tuna, salmon and seabass. And there was a portion of nimono (simmered pork and onions in sweet soy sauce), which tasted really nice.
Customers can choose from two main courses, Australian striploin steak or grilled snow fish. Our party of three tried both and were more delighted by the beef steak, which was cooked in teppanyaki style with little seasoning. Coming in bite-sized cubes, the striploin beef was terrific in both taste and texture. The velvety snow fish fillet, on the other hand, had a slight fishy taste.
Served with the main course was the truly impressive Hana salad made with iceberg lettuce, avocado, onions and sour and salty dressing, and the dessert of the day was the mediocre green tea ice cream.
From the teppanyaki promotion, we had kawa awa ebi (900 baht) which featured griddle-grilled extra large river prawn served in a set with fried rice, salmon sashimi, tempura platter, salad and miso soup.
The sizeable prawn came cut open lengthwise with its orangish-yellow fat intact. I dipped the prawn meat, which was partly slit into squares and slightly seasoned with salt and pepper, into its cheesy fat. Accompanying the prawn were grilled mushrooms, which were also fantastic.
But if you'd like to sample what the restaurant really specialises in, go for the classic teppanyaki, which will be cooked at your table upstairs or delivered to your table downstairs ready to eat. Of that, the matsuzaka (3,500 baht) and Kobe (2,900 baht) beef were the best sellers. Both choices come with a premium set meal.
My best choice, however, is the Australian striploin (1,230 baht), just like that offered in the keiseki promotion, and Thai-French tenderloin (550 baht), which also sells well.
For lunch, the restaurant has an impressive variety of set lunches with as many as 20 choices. Prices range from 100 to 240 baht.
Review with pictures: http://www.bangkokpost.com/leisure/cuisine/211754/premier-dining-in-a-prime-location