Japanese hot pot joints are all the rage, and here's one worth visiting for more than just fashion points, as it's also affordable, delicious and authentic
It's fresh, it's delicious and it's budget-friendly. These simply are the main reasons why I think dining at Hamaya is worth reporting at a time when urban diners have become more perceptive about what they're about to eat and spend. Well, even when such meals are perhaps prompted by a popular trend.
Hamaya is a two-month-old eatery tucked in a corner unit of a low-profile, three-storey building at the curve of Thong Lo strip. And while Japanese shabu shabu-cum-sukiyaki joints are mushrooming around town, Hamaya, which is owned by veteran Japanese restaurateurs, seemed like yet another business going with the flow.
With a glass facade that allows a view of the brisk soi, the 80-seat restaurant was very bright and clean with nice space between tables. Cuisine-wise, it offered the widely popular Japanese hot pot together with a decent variety of a la carte appetisers and sashimi at very affordable prices.
From the a la carte menu, we kicked off with spinach salad (99 baht), presenting nicely cut, fresh spinach sprinkled with crispy bacon bits and minced dry shrimp, and were impressed. The salad comes with four bowls of house-concocted dressings: the ordinary mayonnaise cream sauce (ideal for those who'd like the salty and creamy taste), mixed fruit sauce (very delectable with sweet fruity zest), sesame-oba sauce (sour and tangy with a touch of Japanese herbs) and sesame-ginger sauce (to add a more spicy flavour to your bite).
Also worth ordering is ika butter, or grilled squid with butter (89 baht). Arriving was teppanyaki-cooked calamari rings with lemon slices. The seafood offered a pleasingly gummy texture and squidy flavour that was enhanced with the aromatic butter sauce.
Though it seemed more like a kid's favourite than an inspiring treat for grown-ups, the cream korokke (160 baht) was another appetiser that delighted everyone's palate. The Japanese-style potato croquettes were plump and crispy with a creamy and hearty filling made with mashed potato, shrimp, pork and white sauce. Mixed deep-fried set (399 baht) is another crunchy delicacy you might want to order. The platter comprises battered and deep-fried pork, prawn and salmon served on skewers.
For main course, we went for the restaurant's speciality sukiyaki and shabu shabu, which are offered in a buffet style. Priced 399 baht per person, the DIY hot pot is to be enjoyed within a 90-minute timeframe, in which beef, pork, chicken, prawn, fish, squid, tofu, vegetables, noodles, rice (garlic fried-rice or Japanese steamed rice) and green tea are served at no limit. Special, top-grade beef and freshly cut salmon, however, can also be ordered at an extra charge from the a la carte menu.
Those who choose to go for the sukiyaki will be presented with a cast-iron pan filled with intensely flavoured soup over a portable gas stove.
The sukiyaki broth (choose from miso, curry and the most recommended sho-yu broths), more of a steaming dipping sauce than a sip-able soup, promises to give just enough touch of the aromatic fragrance and delectable taste to the meat.
To eat, you cook the vegetables (cabbage, spinach, leek, carrots and shiitake and enoki mushrooms) and noodle (udon, shirataki or glass noodle) and immerse them in the broth. When the soup boils, you flash-toss the meat in the soup until it's fairly cooked before dipping it in raw egg and eat while it's hot.
Our meat of choice, beef, came in nice slices and proved satisfying. Yet, it could hardly be compared with the special Sendai beef (499 baht), which was reddish-pink in colour and with intricate lines of permeating fat, was very tender and full of heavenly beefy savour.
Hamaya's shabu shabu was equally impressive. In fact, I can never tell which hot pot style I like most _ suki or shabu.
Of the shabu shabu, the soup was mild and clear. This style of hot pot is best with pork _ bacon, to be exact.
To add a naturally sweet taste and some crunchy texture to the soup, you simmer the leek, which comes in fine slices, in the pot and let it boil for five minutes. Then you flash-dip the bacon in the soup, snatch some soft leek and dip the pork and the leek into the sauce before eating.
There are two kinds of sauce. The white sesame seed was nutty and sweet, while ponsu soy sauce, my favourite, was sour and aromatic and complemented the bacon marvellously.
When it came to desserts, I had no choice but to go for the famous-brand gelato which was the only sweet available.
To our surprise, the Italian ice cream was presented in a form of Japanese sweet dumpling, mochi, and was extremely delightful.
More info: http://www.bangkokpost.com/leisure/cuisine/205989