This Charoenkrung izakaya makes a case for upmarket, hip Japanese bar food.
Places like Jua are the reason why Charoenkrung held the title as “Bangkok’s hippest street” for the better part of 2017. It’s upmarket but wallet-friendly; concise but creative; artsy and effortlessly cool. In other words, it hits a sweet spot that most restaurants miss.
Chef-owner Chet Adkins and his business partner, photographer Jason Lang, produce a blend of flawless grilled skewers and boozy creations that go toe-to-toe with the izakaya heavyweights on Surawong-Silom. Tucked in an old corner lot that used to be an illegal casino (the name, Jua, translates to something like “hit me” in Thai), the restaurant’s creaky metal door, large photo canvases and downstairs terrazzo bar have a look of refined cool, which explains the eclectic mass of expats and Thais who hang out here.
Adkins’ Japanese-style bar grub is a prime example why simplicity is king. Jua’s concise menu charts just half a page. The okra skewers (pillowy, pepper-like greens seasoned lightly with a togarashi spice mix, B70) are crunchy, juicy and not at all slimy. The succulent tiger prawn (smeared with your choice or durian or garlic butter, B240) practically melts out of its shell after sizzling under aromatic longan wood. In fact, you can sum up most of the izakaya menu, from the pork belly (B120) to pumpkin (B70), with the words “juicy” and “tender”—a phrase we repeated often on our last visit.
Even the bits that make Westerners squirm, like chicken heart (B80), are so succulent they might as well be wagyu beef. Straying from the grill still yields great, but less consistent results. The slithery fresh yellow fin poke (B280) is a hit; the slightly dry deviled eggs (B280) a miss.
But you could delete Jua’s entire food menu and it would still hold up as a respectable booze den. The smooth and tangy Namba Sour (Mars 3&7 blended whiskey, yuzu juice, lemon juice and egg white, B300) almost goes down too easy. As does the Old Fashioned (Rittenhouse rye, Angostura bitters, orange and cherry, B300), but steer clear of the overly sweet Shochu Negroni (B300). The by-the-glass shochu (from B250), umeshu (from B300) and sake (from B180) options deserve a nod too. Like the food menu, it’s a concise, quality list.
Venues with exceptional food, prices, drinks and atmosphere aren’t rare in these parts, but Jua is a standout even by Charoenkrung standards. Corkage B500
This review took place in February 2018 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.