It’s a robatayaki rebellion!
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
These days, you can barely turn the corner without coming across a Japanese izakaya or ramen shop – in fact, the Bangkok Post recently claimed that the number of Japanese F&B options in Bangkok has surged by over 20 percent in the last year alone, proof that the demand for good Japanese eateries in the city is at an all-time high.
Striding into the market at just the right time, Yankii Robatayaki & Bar nevertheless makes its own stamp on Bangkok’s teeming F&B scene; introducing diners to a unique concept that’s sure to keep even jaded Bangkokians coming back. The latest offering from Bangkok F&B veteran Soho Hospitality, its conceit is that of a traditional robatayaki (fireside cooking) restaurant that’s been passed down through generations and into the hands of rebellious youth – the yankii. Through these boundary pushers, the restaurant then evolved into one that honours its legacy while breaking social mores.
In pride of place on the ground floor of the Skyview Hotel Bangkok, the restaurant greets you with an artistically-lit outdoor façade, while windows on the floor above give visitors a peek into its vibrant interior. As you enter the downstairs cocktail bar, you’re immediately enveloped in a carefully-curated riot of patterns and colour drawing on various aspects of Japanese street pop culture; replete with vintage gachaponmachines full of candy and a shelf of backlit manga novels, which I eagerly scanned for recognisable titles. Moody and almost clandestine, the 50s-style haunt is lit by a cheeky neon devil and is completely papered over with old magazine clippings and prints; a reference to the generations of care and attention in its elaborate backstory.
When you make your way to the restaurant above, friendly staff cheerfully call out a welcome; a cacophony of sound and energy that lifts you up in its wake. Stretched across the room is a wooden counter that seats up to 30, which faces a robata grill where chefs prepare signature dishes in front of you. Warm colours, outsized paper lanterns, and boldly-painted walls add to the dynamism of the space while stillhonouring the traditional Japanese look and feel, and us 90s kids were delighted with the old-school hip hop tunes filtering through the air. Throughout the night, intrepid guests would ring a bell at the front of the room to buy their table a round of shots, which was preceded by a loud and interactive drinking chant; just another noteworthy element in a memorable night.
FOOD AND DRINK
True to its name, their food offerings focus on robata-grilled dishes and skewers, all served to you on a wooden paddle over an artfully-arranged cornucopia of fresh produce and seafood on ice. While they pride themselves on their authentic techniques and preparation methods, the dishes are marinated in flavour profiles or served with sauces from around the world, from Peru to Korea to Mexico, so each bite is elevated and no two are the same. We were also surprised to find that many of their dishes are vegetarian, including an array of robata vegetables hot off the grill.
Most of the dishes are served as individual skewers which you can order throughout the night; a fun way to eat, drink, and be merry in perpetuity. We started off with their Okura (THB 100), ladies’ fingers well-seasoned with Japanese chilli; and the Negima (THB 120), a tender preparation of chicken thigh with leeks and garlic onion salt, which was extremely moreish – make sure to dip it into the spicy green sauce on the side for a delightfully fiery mouthful. I have to admit, however, that my favourite skewer was the Tsukune (THB 120), comprised of grilled chicken patty served with a perfectly-prepared onsen egg. Mix it up with the teriyaki sauce and the chillis served tableside, and the dish is truly a feast for both your palette and your Instagram feed.
For a slightly larger dish to share, order the Ika sugata (THB 350), a whole squid made with ginger soy and kizami wasabi on the side – the ideal demonstration of how to prepare squid without making it too rubbery. Of course, no Japanese meal is complete without rolls, and we tried both the Salmon hand roll (THB 240) and the Hotate hand roll (THB 300); equally melt-in-your-mouth morsels. The former, made with fresh Aburi salmon, is served with avocado, kaiware daikon, and tobiko (Japanese fish roe) for an indulgent mouthful elevated by its toothsome spicy mayo. The latter was made with Aburi scallops and especially enjoyable because of the wasabi mayo, which packed exactly the right amount of heat into each bite.
Finally, we ended our meal with the Matcha tiramisu (THB 220), made in the Japanese style, which I would recommend even if you find matcha an acquired taste – the distinctive flavour of the sponge is counterbalanced by the silky-smooth cream. During your meal, don’t forget to order any of their innovative, Japanese-inspired cocktails – we started with the Akasha (THB 390), made with two types of whisky, Saint James bitters and a dark green chilli charred lightly to bring out even stronger flavours; a drink that packed a punch and channelled the illicit darkness of a fireside chat. If you prefer your drinks sweeter, go for the Apple six (THB 390), which has apples, hibiscus syrup, and lime to counter the bitterness of the whisky; a drink that goes down like a dream.
The Nasu-dengaku (THB 220) comprised of Japanese eggplant made two ways – with red miso, and white miso. Packed with flavour, the white miso dish, especially, was an epicurean treat that we couldn’t get enough of.
YANKII ROBATAYAKI & BAR
Ground Floor, Skyview Hotel Bangkok 12 Sukhumvit 24 Alley, Bangkok 10110
Open daily from 6pm to 2am
Tel: 02 821 6808