Hajime Robot Restaurant is an interesting new take on a traditional and popular way of dining in Asia. It is a bit like an MBK or BBQ Plaza with a twist. Instead of being served by living, breathing humans; guests are treated to the experience of ordering their food tableside by computer and being served by a delightful robot dressed up like a samurai. Hajime Robot is definitely off the beaten track and is located on Industrial Ring Road inside of the Monopoly Park shopping center near Rama 3. The easiest way to get there is to go to the Queen Sirikit MRT subway station and then take a taxi from there. It is also suggested that you call ahead and get directions at 02 683 1670 as most taxi drivers are not familiar with Monopoly Park. For additional information please visit the website at www.monopolypark/hajime.
The Venue is pretty nice as Monopoly Park has a very modern, space age design element to it. Similarly, Hajime has an interesting “Japanese industrial chic” approach. It combines some traditional Asian design elements with accents such as black and yellow striped “Caution“ tape and exposed metal ceiling beam work that can only be described as industrial. The tables are large and sturdy and can accommodate four to six people per booth with a large cooking area in the center of the tables that can be used for either Shabu Shabu or grilling over coals. The ventilation system is top notch as it is pretty near smokeless and it circulates the air so well that you are not made uncomfortable by the heat generated from the cooking area, even when you are sitting right next to it.
The Food and Dining Experience
Dining at Hajime is generally all you can eat buffet style, with a choice between Shabu Shabu for 499Baht++ per person or Grilled BBQ for 599Baht++ per person. The price of the buffet is the same for lunch or dinner which some may find a bit extravagant for lunch. There is also an ala carte menu, but most diners opt for the buffet as it includes a wide variety of choices and unlimited refills on non alcoholic beverages. There is a 1 hour and 45 minute time limit, so it is recommended that you scan the menu and know what you want to order before your time starts. The automated touch screen menu located tableside can be a bit confusing at first, but the staff is available to show you how to navigate it. The automated robot who actually brings the food from the kitchen to the table is the real star of the show and will delight children and adults alike. Feel free to bring your camera as customers are not prohibited from taking photos of the robot and the food like they are in some other Japanese buffet restaurants in Bangkok.
The Grilled BBQ buffet consists of a large variety of meats, seafood, vegetables, sushi, tempura, and a few limited desserts. The quality of the beef was surprisingly good and the meats all had great flavor. Favorites included Harami Beef Sirloin Tip, Chuck Roll Beef, Smoked Bacon, Lamb Chop and the Kurubuta Pork which is seasoned with a Korean BBQ sauce. The Salmon Fillets were of nice quality and the Prawns were very generous in size. There is a large variety of sushi, such as California Maki and Spicy Tuna Rolls, but the sushi was of average quality. There was an over use of imitation crab and raw fish was under represented in the sushi options available. The Shrimp Tempura was tasty, but could have been crispier. All the fresh fruit and vegetables were of good quality and overall the food was satisfying.
If you are a stickler for service, Hajime may not be the place for you. Although the practice of time limited dining is commonplace in Asia and 1 hour and 45 minutes is an ample amount of time, there is something that feels rude and ungracious about sitting down to dine and then having a clock counting down the amount of minutes you have to eat your food, especially when you have to order it individually and then cook it yourself. It is easy to find yourself constantly asking your dining companions”how much time do we have left?" and feeling quite rushed. Hajime also employees a full staff, but they seem to take a “hands off” approach to customer service. You constantly have to press the button on the tableside computer “request waiter” and then ask for them to answer a question, clear the dishes, bring additional napkins, etc. Another surprise was the lack and size of plates offered. There are a lot of different dishes that you cook and eat, and you are only given 1 small saucer sized plate. Of course you can always ask for more plates, but it can feel like a hassle to have to ask for every little thing. The self service beverage station was another minor annoyance as it is inconveniently located, and you may not be used to having to get up and tromp through the restaurant every time you want to refill your drink. After a while it all can get a bit tiresome that nothing is ever anticipated by the staff and you have to ask for every little thing.
The novelty of Hajime Robot Restaurant makes it worth visiting although its location and service deficits may not make it worth a 2nd or 3rd visit. The cuisine was very good, but it was not spectacular and it was on par with what you can find at several other chain restaurants in Bangkok. The robots are undoubtedly cool, and the concept is clever and most people who visit Hajime Robot Restaurant will experience an enjoyable meal in an entertaining environment.
See Hajime Robot Restaurant Page