Bambino (official Facebook page) is Bangkok’s newest “modern” izakaya to hit the food and drink scene. Unlike contemporary Japanese izakayas which focus on traditional Japanese bites that pair well with whiskey, sake, and cold beers, Bambino has pulled from Japanese, Thai, Korean, and Chinese culinary influences to create an inventive menu that pairs well with some serious signature cocktails. Of course you can still find the basics like edamame and chicken karaage to nosh on with Suntory highballs, sake, and beers. But the real heavy hitting dishes are the one’s found exclusively on Bambino’s menu.
As an example their most popular dish is the Wagyu Sando. I get its popularity, it is good. But for me this particular dish pales in comparison to some of the other offerings they have. Let me show you…
The Bambino menu is sectioned off into 3 areas: Bar Bites, Pasta, and Plates. The Bar Bites section contains small dishes that are great for snacking on whilst drinking. The Pasta section contains larger dishes that can easily be a meal (though one dish in particular is great if you’re doing some sloppy drinking). The Plates section is reserved for the grilled meats, fishes, and large dishes that are meant to be shared.
I figured it easiest to organize the article based on the menu sections, so let’s begin with some Bar Bites!
B.F.G. Chicken Skin
As a fan of the Doom video game (am I giving my age away?) my eyes were immediately drawn to this menu item. But in this case, the B.F.G. stands for how the chicken skin is prepared. First the skins are boiled until the fat is rendered from it, then fried until they are crispy, and finally grilled over charcoal until they are crunchy. A small bowl of lightly seasoned B.F.G. Chicken Skin (120 baht) is a must have snack to kick off an evening of imbibing.
If you like tofu, you’ll love this Tofu Karaage (160 baht) dish. The tofu is deep fried so that it has a slightly crispy outer skin that is mildly seasoned and a creamy, silky interior. A caution, don’t eat it as soon as it hits the table or you’ll be biting into molten tofu lava!
Eggplant Scallop Dengaku
For something completely different, try the Eggplant Scallop Dengaku (220 baht). Served in a hollowed out eggplant half, it’s chunks of eggplant that’s simmered with scallop frills, and red miso. It’s super savory, and a totally unique eggplant dish.
Chicken Cheese Katsu
One of the most simple Japanese dishes is Chicken Katsu. Pound out a chicken breast so that it’s thin, dip it in egg, dip it in Panko bread crumbs, and deep fry it. Voila! The Chicken Cheese Katsu (280 baht) on the menu at Bambino takes it to a new level by adding cheese. I’m a firm believer that just as bacon makes everything better, so does melty cheese. This is an excellent dish to share but I will not judge you if you don’t share.
Moving on from the Bar Bites section, here are a couple of stand out dishes from the menu’s Pasta section. These are heavier dishes that can be served as a dinner main, or shared (sloppily) if you’ve been enjoying the bar’s offerings.
Bow Ties Grilled Mushrooms Cashew Miso
For a very rich pasta dish, I recommend the Bow Ties Grilled Mushrooms Cashew Miso (330 baht). Cashews are blended with miso paste into a mildly sweet and savory sauce that is tossed with bow tie pasta and grilled maitake mushrooms. It’s a unique and very filling dish on its own.
Crispy Mapo Tofu
This is where I’d stomp my foot to make sure you, dear reader, are paying attention. This dish really impressed me and knocked my taste buds for a loop. I was told that the Crispy Mapo Tofu (400 baht) was inspired for “sloppy drunk drinking”. Just look at it. It looks like something I’d crave when I’ve given my liver a few rounds around the ring.
Here Mapo Tofu gets a Chinese makeover. This towering dish consists of crunchy noodles, sweet Chinese sausage, minced meat with a spicy sauce, and creamy cubes of tofu. It’s ridiculous how much flavor and texture this dish holds. I cannot recommend it highly enough especially if you’ve been up to some serious boozing!
Moving on from the Pasta section, here are a couple of stand out dishes from the menu’s Plates section. These are dishes that are a little more substantive than the Bar Bites, and are perfect for sharing.
If you’re a fan of the Japanese Okonomiyaki pancakes, then you’ll enjoy this Okonomiyaki Fries (240 baht) spin-off. The dish consists of French fries drizzled with savory Okonomiyaki sauce, sweet Japanese mayo, and slivers of nori seaweed. An excellent accompaniment to an ice cold Asahi beer!
Grilled Ox Tongue
Many are squeamish when it comes to eating meat deemed “adventurous”. This Grilled Ox Tongue (280 baht) is incredibly tender and flavorful. If you’re a proud meatatarian do not deny yourself the pleasure of experiencing this dish.
Hamachi Collar, Kani Miso Butter
This is a must order dish for fish lovers. Hamachi is also known as the the Japanese Yellowtail, and is well known for its mild flavor and firm texture. The Hamachi Collar, Kani Miso Butter (650 baht) dish grills the most delicious cut of the fish (the collar) and adds a decadent dipping sauce of crab roe and miso to enjoy it with. The best way to eat this is to squeeze the lemon over the fish, select a nice chunk of meat, slather some sauce on it, and then after eating it finish off with a caper!
As I mentioned earlier, Bambino is most famous for its popular Wagyu Sando (550 baht) dish. It’s made by deep frying a breaded cutlet of wagyu beef (though the meat is cooked so that there’s plenty of pink in the center). The wagyu katsu is then put between slices of toasted milk bread and cut into 6 easy bite sized pieces. If you’re a fan of wagyu give this a try!
If beef isn’t your thing, they also serve a Marinated Pork Sando (400 baht).
That covers some of the highlights from the current Bambino Menu. But there’s more! You must have been a little curious by the cover picture, right? Let me share with you a couple of serious dishes which will be added to the upcoming Bambino menu. Don’t worry, you can order these items now…they just are not on the current menu. ASK FOR THEM.
Beef Tongue Rice Bowl
This Japanese donburi gets a Korean makeover. Korean bulgogi flavors combine with typical Japanese presentation, the Beef Tongue Rice Bowl (250 baht) consists of grilled tender marinated beef tongue with a quail egg, scallions, sesame seeds, and rice. This flavor bomb is an easy main to enjoy.
Anchovy Yuzu Bone Marrow
This bone marrow dish is incredible! Mixed in with the buttery bone marrow is salty anchovy and yuzu juice that cuts through the richness with a fresh citrus bite. Spread on toasted slices of baguette bread, the Anchovy Yuzu Bone Marrow (480 baht) dish is one seriously decadent treat!
A bit about drinks…
In izakaya fashion Bambino focuses just as much importance on drinks as it does food. Of course you can get the typical beer, sake, and whisky drinks. But their signature cocktails all priced at 320 baht are absolutely worth exploring.
My personal recommendation is the General Farmer (320 baht). High octane yet refreshing! Mildly citrusy, the aromas from the sprig of rosemary and toasted orange add a little more depth to each sip.
A chat with the owner…
I first met Bye Wongchindawest when I interviewed him for an article I wrote about Fatboy Sushi. Bambino is his newest venture which opened in December, 2018. Similarly to Fatboy Sushi, he wanted to have a food and drink menu that was unique, and combined traditional dishes with modern twists. With help from Bunker’s former chef Arnie Marcella, the menu delivers just that.
At Bambino the goal is simple. Create a modern izakaya that has a menu with food that people will want to drink with, and drinks that people will want to eat with, all in a cozy atmosphere where guests can enjoy themselves with friends. Bye’s only rule when coming up with a dish is that it must be something he himself really enjoys…and enjoys with a drink. Pulling from culinary influences throughout Asia, especially when they overlap with the drinking culture, Bye and Chef Arnie Marcella have been able to assemble a unique food menu that keeps butts in seats and glasses getting refilled.
I’m hungry. Where is it?
Bambino is located an easy walking distance from the Phloen Chit BTS station exit #3. At the time of this writing there is no restaurant signage. This image is what the restaurant front looks like. There really isn’t much on the small side street so you can’t miss it now that you know what you’re looking for.
Bambino is a different kind of izakaya. Don’t come here expecting to feel transported to Japan. The art is modern, and the restaurant itself feels like a cozy bunker of sorts. What makes it an “izakaya” in a sense is that it’s a great place tucked away in the big city where you can lose yourself with friends enjoying some serious eats and drinks.
For its unique food and drink menu I highly recommend visiting Bambinos. If you visit I’d love to hear your comments in the section below, or feel free to contact me directly or via the Chow Traveller Facebook page!