|Written by Ben Nakamura|
|Wednesday, 07 November 2007|
| Another deserving addition to our growing list of Japanese eateries in Chiang Mai would have to be the recently opened “Hatena Sake and Shoku Dining”. An affordable Japanese place to eat in the upscale Nimmanhemin Road vicinity is a real find, so when it was suggested that we pay a visit to the newcomer Hatena, we initially expected to find just another high-class and impersonal establishment.|
What we discovered was a warm, friendly, relaxed and very affordable restaurant, occupying a discreet 2 storey townhouse located deep inside the mostly residential end of Nimmanhemin Soi 11. The open front veranda offers some seating for the outdoorsy types, the smokers or those who want to watch football games or other features screened on a wall outside, weather permitting. Once inside, the atmosphere was of a typical, homely, casual but hospitable neighbourhood restaurant which could be found anywhere in Japan. Banners and lamps with Japanese letterings hang attractively from the ceiling. A bar prominently displays giant Sake bottles, and the subdued lighting reveals 26 intimate seats at tables with Japanese characters painted brightly on the black table tops. The entire left wall, painted in green, advertises in Thai, English and Japanese an elaborate menu, the day’s specials, and proverbs and words of wisdom in Thai.
Greeting us at the entrance was the owner, Silwataka Ramyananda. With a bandana used as a headband around his head, this outgoing and gregarious young man aptly projected his role of a Japanese restaurateur and immediately made us feel right at home. With his Thai father and Japanese mother still living in Japan, Silwataka is fluent in both languages and fluctuates his time between Japan and Thailand. Silwataka had attended an Art College in Bangkok and coincidently shared the same alma mater as our muantae photographer/art director. Further conversations revealed mutual acquaintances, professors and many fond memories. After many attempts to join the artistic community in Japan without any significant success, Silwataka worked at various restaurants with his last ones as a Chef at a Thai eatery in Osaka and at the Hatena1 Shinsaibashi also in Osaka. This current Chiang Mai-based Hatena has been opened only for a few months but has already developed into a meeting point for its own steady clientele composed largely of renowned artists, celebrity singers, veteran film directors, writers, musicians, Japanese ex-pats and tourists.
After a closer view of the interior, I started to notice many signs, stickers and poster boards relating to the arts tastefully positioned around. A spiral staircase in the back led to the second floor which was home to an art gallery called “FGallery 3”, another project by Silwataka, then showcasing “Childhood Museum” by Tatsuo Inagaki. “Pod”, the lead singer of the mega famous Thai rock band “Modern Dog” and a close friend of the owner, had written on one wall “Our pleasure….may you have lots of girlfriends….and money too”. When asked about a hanging picture of a gas station, Silwataka smiled and said it was a reminder to people that it was dangerous to smoke near inflammables.
Some of the items of the menu written in white chalk on the green wall were Gyoza Bt 70, Hatena salad Bt 80, Combo salad Bt 80, Wagame Udon Bt 70, Wagame Tempura Bt 75, Wagame Soba Bt 70, Yakisoba Bt 80, Onigiri Bt 50, Oden Bt 80, and Salmon No Nimono Bt 80. For drinks, Heineken and Singha beers cost Bt 80 and Bt 70 respectively, while a glass of red or white wine is available at Bt 100 per glass. Sake is one of the best sellers.
The owner told us that the most commonly ordered items on his menu included assorted sashimi of fresh tuna and salmon, pickled octopus marinated in its dark ink, house salad, braised eel over rice, Japanese tofu soup, and grilled teriyaki saba (mackerel).
Hovering over a table close-by, Silwataka was quietly suggesting some dishes to a pair of walk-in Japanese tourists in their native language. At another table, a very prominent Thai artist was entertaining his Khmer counterpart visiting from Kampuchea. We could not overhearing the Khmer gentleman who kept repeating that if such a fine Japanese restaurant existed in Phnom Penh, he certainly would patronize it every day. He was obviously impressed with the freshness, quality and authenticity of the food served.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Hatena Sake and Shoku Dining
Hatena Sake and Shoku Dining