One year ago two gentlemen, “Ham” and “Thep”, transformed a small cafe on Soi Si Bamphen into something new for Bangkok–an Umeshu Bar and Bistro. Umeshu (or plum wine) is a Japanese liqueur made by steeping fresh Japanese plum (ume) in shochu (a distilled white liquor) with sugar. They named their new establishment PrumPlum Umeshu Bar & Bistro (official Facebook page), a tongue and cheek wordplay as “Prum” is loosely translated from Thai to English as a drizzly day, which is also the perfect time for sipping on sweet plum wine. Today PrumPlum offers arguably the most extensive umeshu drinking menu in Bangkok with excellent pub fare to pair it with.
For 6 years of my life I’ve lived in Japan and I would consider myself pretty well familiar with their whiskies and various sakis. But I never learned about their plum wine. I went to PrumPlum hungry to learn about both their drink and food offerings.
Let’s start with a beer….
I started off with an ice-cold Asahi draft beer and a small bowl of pickled Burmese tea leaves with dried salted yellow beans (on the menu as ASEAN Ruam Jai). I know, I know, you’re thinking “What the heck! What about the umeshu? That appetizer isn’t even Japanese!” Sorry, I just couldn’t pass up Asahi on draft for 80 baht, and pickled Burmese tea leaves was too intriguing to not try. Both are excellent together, the earthy and slightly spicy tea leaves with the salty beans is perfect to wash down with a crisp dry Asahi beer, and from this pairing I launched directly into my umeshu education!
Now lets get educated!
I began with the PrumPlum Starter Set which featured 3 different umeshu samples. The first glass (left to right in the below picture) was the Komasa No Umeshu from Kagoshima, Japan. This yellowish liquor is made with shochu, ume, and rock sugar. It is the sweeter of the 3, with a light maple syrup like note. The second glass, much darker than the first, is Hi Zou Umeshu also from Kagoshima, Japan. It is darker because it is made with brown sugar, which gives it a slightly smoky caramel flavor. The third offering, slightly pink in color, is Nanbu Bijin Umeshu from Iwate, Japan. Personally this was my favorite as it was just barely sweet (I enjoy drinks that are less sweet and offer a more boozy burn).
Hungry for more!
Next I had the Tori Kara-age, or fried marinated chicken thighs with a wedge of lemon and tartar sauce. This was accompanied with a glass of PrumPlum’s House Blend of umeshu on the rocks (a generous 60 ml pour). There is so much flavor in this combo. The tender seasoned chicken, with light citrus from the lemon, and creamy sauce (with a hint of dill from the pickles), combine perfectly with smooth, caramel sweet notes of refreshingly cold sips of plum wine.
Also paired with the house blend umeshu, I had a PrumPlum Skewer Set which featured 3 meat skewers and 3 veggie skewers: teriyaki chicken, chicken with sweet miso dressing, thick slices of Japanese bacon, wedges of Eryngii (oyster mushrooms), grilled shiitake bulbs, and baby okra.
As a main, I enjoyed a delicious plate of Yakisoba with bacon cooked Kansai style. With Kansai style the sauce is much thicker and intensely flavorful. They were also quite generous with the Katsuobushi (dried Japanese bonito flakes).
A photo finish…
After the meal I relaxed with a Yuzu Highball, a cocktail made with Suntory whiskey, soda, fresh yuzu juice, and a sprig of rosemary for garnish. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that can’t make up its mind–is it a lemon or an orange? It looks like a wrinkly version of both. But its flavor is incredibly refreshing and sweet with just a hint of sour. Yuzu is more akin to grapefruit or pomelo sour than the sour of lemon. Most bars pour one shot of liquor into their cocktail drinks. However, PrumPlum pours one and a half shots as the size of their glasses necessitate the extra kick!
A chat with the co-owner…
I had the good fortune to be able to speak with one of the co-owners, “Ham”. He explained to me that during his time as an exchange student in Tokyo he was exposed to the joys of umeshu drinking. He immediately realized that this was something that Thais (and anyone for that matter) would really enjoy. His goal is to expand PrumPlum’s umeshu and Japanese liquors menu so that they can offer something that suits and satisfies every taste and occasion, as well as keeping costs affordable so that folks are not intimidated to try something new. Currently with over 60 bottles in their library, they have an excellent range of offerings for any budget!
PrumPlum is an excellent place to learn about umeshu, or to drink high end Japanese cocktails at very reasonable prices and in a very cozy atmosphere. Don’t limit yourself to their drink menu, though! Their cuisine is top-notch, affordable, and pairs so well with their drinks.
PrumPlum is open from 1800 to midnight. Closed on Monday’s, PrumPlum offers an excellent rotating happy hour menu Tuesday through Sunday (with the exception of Friday). It’s a fantastic deal as they have various food and drink items for only 80 baht. Take advantage of it!
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