Bangkok Post reviews
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: April 26, 2013 at 8:12 am
A new out-of-the-way sushi bar set up by three friends proves worth the journey
Set in a one-storey structure, the newly opened joint is the brainchild of young restaurateurs who used to run a sushi bar in Chicago.
The west side of Soi Soonvijai is best known for three things: Bangkok Hospital, a serene residential quarter and a detour route. So when I noticed that a fine restaurant was going to open in the location never considered "marketable" for sublime gastronomy, I, as a lifelong resident of the neighbourhood, was somewhat concerned for its future.
However, despite its off-the-radar location, a snappy name and a back-alley entrance, this week's subject of review seems to have done amazingly amid all doubts. Over the past four weeks since it first opened, the 70-seater venue set in a one-storey structure with a high truss roof behind a black wall has constantly drawn in customers _ new and repeating.
High Hat Sushi Bar is the brainchild of a group of three US-educated Thai friends who used to own and run a sushi bar in Chicago. Continuing to present what they know best, their Bangkok restaurant features a variety of contemporary American-style sushi famous for its elaborate display as well as sensational taste and textures.
Our party of three booked a table for Friday evening. Fellow clients that night ranged from local residents and staff from the hospital to avid and hungry restaurant-hunters from other areas. From the cocktail bar set across the dining hall from the extensive sushi counter, a lychee mojito (180 baht), refreshing and highly recommended _ especially during the summer _ wonderfully kicked off my appetite.
Then we went straight for the sushi bar's popular items. Beginning the parade of delightful delicacies was High Hat's signature hamachi sashimi (520 baht). In seven bite-size portions, fresh slices of yellowtail were served on fine strands of fresh turnip with jalapeno peppers and ponzu sauce. While the raw fish offered a naturally sweet taste and supple texture, the turnip lent a refreshingly crisp complement, the sauce provided a tangy, salty touch, and the pepper added a pleasant sharp finish.
Half roll of Red Samurai maki sushi.
Next up, Ocean 14 (450 baht for an eight-piece platter, or 225 baht for half), is the restaurant's number one best-seller. This mouth-watering maki sushi features chopped octopus, shrimp, crabmeat and fish roe rolled with sushi rice and nori seaweed before being garnished with seared scallops and spicy mayonnaise, which together offered a flavourful and addictive soft and crunchy texture.
Also frequently ordered by regulars is Red Samurai (180 baht for a half roll). It's a sushi roll of spicy tuna and avocado topped with seared salmon and a pearl of spicy homemade sauce with a creamy texture and subtle fiery zest.
The nigiri sushi (960 baht for a eight-piece platter) is worth enjoying as well. Presented on sushi rice were fresh fillets of maguro (tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), hirame (flounder), salmon, eel, saba (cooked mackerel), Hokkaido giant scallops and cold-smoked salmon.
I asked a staff member to suggest an a la carte dish, among options such as stewed duck wings, filet mignon and seared giant scallops in browned butter sauce, from the hot kichen. When her recommendation, the gindara en papillote (480 baht), arrived at our table 10 minutes later, I knew we'd put our trust in the right person. On a large plate and inside a cooking-grade paper bag, which was torn open before our eyes, was a piping hot and aromatic baked (looked more steamed) fillet of snowfish topped with mushrooms and spring onions. The fish's silky white meat was naturally sweet and fascinatingly fatty, and intermingled admirably with the greenery and mushrooms.
High Hat has a different menu for lunch. The selection, from sushi to noodles and rice bowls, was designed to cater more to limited-time customers and offered in a set with miso soup, a salad and a drink _ including wine and sake.
The baked snow fish with mushrooms and spring onions.
If you're there during the day, I recommend you try my favourite _ yaki udon (240 baht) _ or stir-fried chewy wheat flour noodles with special sauce, mushroom and vegetables. The not-at-all sugary dish (at most places, yaki noodles are usually overwhelmed with very sweet sauce) was served with a deep-fried breaded pork cutlet.
Only a very limited options of desserts (ice-cream and cookies _ duh!) are on offer here. Yet, I happened to really fall in love with the restaurant's half-baked chocolate chip cookie served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream from Haagen Dazs (210 baht).
You have to try it for yourself.
The restaurant is approximately 300m down the soi from the main Phetchaburi Tat Mai Road. Reservations are highly recommended.
The restaurant’s number one best-seller, Ocean 14.
The eight-piece platter of nigiri sushi.