Kelly’s Teriyaki Bar: A little izakaya that delivers real Japanese taste

COCONUTS HOT SPOT — The other side of Kelly’s red door on Sukhumvit Soi 51 felt nothing like Sukhumvit. Everything about it screamed “Japan!”

The chatter in the air sounded foreign. Most guests and many of the staff, too, are Japanese nationals, speaking only their native tongue. From this initial observation alone, I instinctively jumped to the conclusion that Kelly’s isn’t just another Fuji, another Masa, or another one of those joints with a lackluster all-you-can-eat-salmon/sushi promotion on the menu.

At this cottage-like izakaya bar, I was overwhelmed by the exuberant vibe of what I can only describe as “Japanese hospitality”—the kind of service, geniality, and to a large degree, politeness that win this eaterie an extra golden star in addition to the many others it earns for being such a lovely place to hang in this hip soi.

After a few visits over a couple of weeks, I quickly came to realize that the main attraction at this drinking house is not the “drinking” itself, but rather the “eating” and the “hanging.”

The drinks? Nothing too special. I’d say just adequate for an everyday drinking session – no more, no less. The list includes the typical offerings at a decent bar—cocktails, beers, spirits, and if you are interested, a nice selection of Japanese items: sake and plum wine.

Cold tofu. Photo: Coconuts

The food list, on the other hand, is explosive. Kelly’s (rather tiny) kitchen is fully stocked with Japanese bar food of prime quality, especially the delicious grills, chicken karaage (THB100), cold tofu appetizer (THB78), nabe hot pot (THB300 per person), rice balls, hot soup, bite-sized snacks that go so well with booze — simple tastes of comfort.

From where I was seated, the glass-wall kitchen allowed me a great view of all my orders being processed on the grills. Anything that comes out from this section of the kitchen has a zero percent failure rate. No matter which part of the chicken you choose to put on those skewers, they are deemed to come out a perfect accompaniment to your beer.

Grilled chicken skin. Photo: Coconuts

The grilled chicken skin is served crispy and crunchy, at THB48 a skewer, and a bunch of these alone may be all you ever need for dinner at this place. But for variety’s sake, Kelly’s also has “house-blend” toriyaki variations you can try including shimofuri sasami (chicken meat on skewer, sauced with yuzu orange peel or wasabi: THB68), chicken with cheese and tabasco (THB70), sasami no umeshiso maki (chicken meat grilled with salted plum: THB75), chicken balls grilled with teriyaki sauce (THB65), and many more.

Chicken meat grilled with salted plum. Photo: Coconuts

With the grills being such successful openers, I was tempted to go omakase (up to the chef’s recommendation) with the kitchen team for the rest of my meal.

The results? Eye-opening.

Semi-cooked chicken topped with egg yolk. Photo: Coconuts

First, I was served a small portion of very minimally-cooked (i.e. almost completely raw by intention) chicken meat with a fresh egg yolk topping (THB195) and another dose of chicken sashimi (THB120). Somehow, the meat didn’t taste as raw as it looked. I ended up enjoying both dishes, despite the scary idea and the yucky look.

Chicken sashimi. Photo: Coconuts

Rice ball. Photo: Coconuts

When that was done, I was served a small bowl of fire-red miso soup of chicken intestine (THB110), which I paired with a serving of grilled Japanese rice balls (THB80). The chef didn’t recommend this combo, but I firmly do. Trust me, chicken intestine is not something you are allowed to say “ewww” about. It’s amazing!

Chicken intestine soup. Photo: Coconuts

To the real deal now – the creepy-looking dish of octopus tentacles pickled in wasabi (THB130), which I still can’t wrap my head around. The dish certainly opened a new horizon to my taste buds and left a distinct trace in my taste memory. For food discovery purposes, the tentacles are the dish you should seriously look into.

All in all, the izakaya was a huge pleasant surprise, and my otherwise mundane bar experience was turned into a small gastronomic journey. My verdict: Kelly’s is definitely a great choice for a relaxing night out with friends, a food discovery session, a day when you feel a bit down and need some smiles and heart-warming human interactions to pick you up. Trust me, for all these criteria, Kelly’s is your perfect pick.

Photo: Coconuts
Photo: Coconuts

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November of 2015. Since the information it contains is still relevant and useful, Coconuts editors have brought it back from the archives — rest assured, we’ve reviewed and updated it to make sure it will still serve you well, dear readers.

FIND IT:

Teriyaki Bar Kelly’s
Sukhumvit Soi 51
Open daily, 5pm – 12am
BTS Thong Lor

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