• Zuwei Kani

A true taste of Japan

tasty April 06, 2019 01:00

By Kupluthai Pungkanon
The Nation Weekend

7,759 Viewed

Open less than a year, Hinoki already has a reputation for offering some of the freshest fish in town



TUCKED AWAY in Naknivas Road Soi 45, premium Japanese restaurant Hinoki welcomes diners as if they were all close friends gathering at home for a meal. The menu is more varied than in a private home, though, featuring such dishes as sashimi and sushi sets, hamachi usuzukuri, unaki don, shirauo tempura and spicy sashimi salad, all served in very generous portions and at prices that won’t break the bank. 

Opened last year, Hinoki is the brainchild of young entrepreneur, Pisith Ua-tarnpisith and chef Rungarun Linkaew. Both have a passion for Japanese food and a wealth of experience in importing raw ingredients for many of Thailand’s Japanese restaurant chains, an advantage that makes Hinoki stand out from its peers. 

 Chef Rungarun Linkaew and Pisith Uatarnpisith

“I used to deal with many suppliers in Japan and that allows me to manage and control the costs of bringing in our raw ingredients. This is reflected in our prices and the size of our offerings. To me, the most important thing about Japanese food is the level of freshness. We believe in admitting that we have run out of a certain fish rather than serving one that it is not as fresh as it should be. That’s why Hinoki operates on a first-come first served basis.” Pisith explains. 

Unagi Don

He became enamoured with Japanese food as a young child when his mother ordered Unagi don – grilled eel on rice – for him. It cost about Bt500 at a time when gold was selling for Bt4,000 per ounce. “I now realise that the ridiculously high price had much to do with the cost of leftover food that most Japanese restaurants had to throw away when the fish passed its freshest point. At Hanoki, we emphasise freshness and hygiene. The kitchen is very well organised, the sashimi cabinet is washed every day, the chopping wood is cleaned with hot water, and the knives sharpened every morning. I admire the Japanese ways and they have also changed how I look at things,” he says. 

Hinoki is decorated in a cosy and homely Japanese style with genuine pine trees – the name means auspicious pine – and furnished with oak tables and chairs. Its logo bears infinite graphic lines and fish to represent abundance. There is also a Zen-style garden with a small pond and carp where young children can play while their parents enjoy the food. 

Take Sashimi Set

Chef Rungarun recommends us to try the Take Sashimi Set (Bt698), which features various types of fresh fish such as maguro (tuna), salmon, hamachi (yellowtail), octopus, prawn, and hotate (seashell). The thinly sliced Hamachi Usuzukuri (Bt488) is particularly fresh and sweet.

Sushi sets are deliciously well balanced. We try the Aburi Sushi Set (Bt498) and happily nibble on Hamachi, Hotate, Salmon, Foiegras, Engawa (fin of flatfish), Anago (salt-water eel), Unagi (fresh water eel), and Ebi (shrimp) sushi. 

Hamachi Usuzukuri

Pisith says the salmon eggs have been fermented in Sake (Japanese rice alcohol) or shoyu (soy sauce) for a sweet and aromatic flavour. The foie gras sushi is imported from France while the eel comes from a farm in Japan, which Pisith has personally visited. His Unagi Don (Bt268) melts in the mouth and come with dried Hoba leaf. 

Shirauo Tempura

One of the best-selling dishes is tempura, with the Shirauo (Bt168) and Mixed Prawn (Bt198) versions favourites with both adults and kids. A recently added item is Hotate Tempura (Bt328), where the shirauo or icefish is stretched then deep-fried. All are served with two different sauces, typical tempura sauce and Rungarun’s creative mix of matcha powder and lime. 

Spicy Sashimi Salad

The Thai palate gets its kicks with Spicy Sashimi Salad (Bt238) served with Thai-style sweet, sour, and spicy dressing that’s not as strong as the original seafood sauce. 

Meltique Beef Steak (Bt498) is cooked with high quality wagyu and served on a hot plate. Choices of traditional Sake are also available. 

Meltique Beef Steak

After placing their orders, diners are served three appetisers including a free bowl of Miso soup and a plate of sweet Japanese melon is given to everyone after dinner in lieu of dessert.

SENSATIONAL SASHIMI

Hinoki Restaurant is at 355,Naknivas Soi 45 Road, Lat Phrao District. 

It’s open Monday to Friday from 11.30am to 2pm and from 5-10.30pm, while on weekend and national holiday, meals are served from 11.30am to 10.30pm.

Book a table at (02) 297 0251 or follow it on Facebook/Hinoki.sushi and Line @hinoki.sushi.