You’ve never quite sure what you’re eating at the newly opened dessert sanctuary Kyo Bar but that’s part of the fun
I’VE NEVER had a particularly sweet tooth but when I heard that the Kewkacha brothers were again bringing their considerable talents to Bangkok’s F&B scene with the opening of dessert sanctuary Kyo Bar, I couldn’t resist checking it out. And what a pleasant surprise it was!
Self-taught patissier Dej Kewkacha doesn’t treat the last course of a meal as an afterthought, but instead offers a range of unique and sometimes outlandish desserts that go way beyond the usual chocolate, green tea and strawberry.
Dej Kewkacha, far right, prepares his creative sweet treats at his new dessert sanctuary Kyo Bar.
Open just two weeks, the 40-square-metre bar is run on the chef’s table principle with just 14 seats available at the counter bar. Here before the customer’s eye, flour and eggs are turned into unexpected shapes by Dej and his staff to mimic, for example, the serene landscape of a Zen garden, an Onsen (hot spring) bathtub, a humid Cacao tree in a forest and hot charcoals ready for the grill.
“This is my creative lab,” says Dej, 32. “It’s a high-end, dessert-only venue that caters to sweet lovers reluctant to pay several thousand baht for a full meal in a posh restaurant just to enjoy a top class dessert.”
The menu comes with the name of the dish and its main ingredients but no photos. You can tell the chefs your preferred flavours and they will customise the treats to suit your taste. The dessert list is constantly changing so you are guaranteed a different experience on next visit.
And almost every plate leaves diners stumped. “What is this?” “What is it made from?” and “Which one is edible?” are among questions inevitably asked when an order arrives at the table.
Take the artful appetiser named BBQ. Served on a stone plate, it boasts a mini Japanese tabletop charcoal grill bearing two king crab legs. The crab legs are false but you can eat the charcoals – they’re actually meringues mixed with take-sumi (bamboo charcoal powder).
Dej, an heir to Safari World – Bangkok’s zoological park – prefers to keep a low profile. He and his elder brother Litti expanded the family business to include F&B a decade ago, opening the healthy dessert and parfait cafes Sfree and Parferio through their company Kacha Brothers. Four years ago, they launched the lifestyle cafe Kyo Roll En, which specialises in Kyoto-style, hand-rolled cakes. While Litti oversees the business, Dej is behind the desserts offered by all the brands.
The Kewkacha brothers; Litti, left, and Dej
“We want to bring sweet treats to the high-end level. Japan and Singapore have fine-dining dessert bars and Thai pastry chefs are so creative that the potential is definitely there,” Litti says.
“We’ve borrowed the sushi bar and chef’s table concept. The chef is the star here and he interacts with the customers. We don’t expect it to be a profitable business, but hope this place will become a platform where pastry chefs and diners come to have fun and interact.”
Kyo Bar offers three sets. The Matsu set (Bt400) offers your choice of appetiser from four options, one main dish from the eight on the menu and one drink (coffee, tea, mocktail or fizz). The Take set (Bt350) features just appetiser and main while the Ume set (Bt300) is main and drink.
Taking inspiration from the Japanese summer dessert called kuzukiri, appetiser Soba offers a bowl of clear soba noodle-like stripes served on a bed of ice in a wooden box.
The noodles are made from kudzu starch (arrowroot) and are submerged in sweet foam made from kuromitsu (syrup made from unrefined Okinawa black sugar). The dish is dressed with kinako (roasted soybean powder) to give it a crunchy texture.
The appetiser simply called Egg is egg custard vanilla pudding topped with blueberries and served inside the egg shells in an artful presentation that uses an egg carton on a bed of straw.
“Dessert is normally based on flour and egg but really the ingredients are unlimited. It’s easy to make tasty treats, but it’s challenging to combine taste, concept and atmosphere for a full experience,” says Dej, a graduate in mathematics from University College London and in tourism from Oxford Brookes University.
Mimicking the hot spring bath known as the Onsen, a main dessert dish – also called Onsen – offers a bowl of anmitsu (Japanese mixed dessert) – served in a wooden box with a fog of dry ice imitating the hot spring bathtub. The top of the bowl is concealed with a circular white chocolate sheet in waves and covered with sakura blossoms. Inside the bowl are small cubes of agar and strawberry jelly, strawberry ice cream, azuki bean paste, and sake granita, all of them topped with black sugar syrup.
The serenity of a Japanese rock garden is illustrated in another main dish called Zen Garden for which the ingredients are beautifully composed atop a stone plate. The presentation is entirely edible from the main rock that is modelled from black sesame cheesecake, the bushes (white sweet bean paste mixed with matcha), dry leaves (cookie mixed with miso or fermented soybean), to the gravel (a separate bowl of black sesame granita), and sand (bamboo charcoal sauce) raked to represent ripples in water.
“I didn’t create the menu based on the particular kinds of desserts I wanted to do. I look at the framework and draw on inspirations as diverse as travelling, culinary experiences or reading. Then I work out what ingredients can be used to best visualise my conceptual ideas. To me, aesthetic appreciation is as important as taste,” says Dej.
The siblings are food connoisseurs, often travelling around the world to enjoy gustatory treats. But while Litti shares his experiences on Instagram at @litsfree, Dej stays away from both Instagram and Facebook.
“I don’t want to get obsessed with social media. I don’t want to see any food trends because I’m afraid I will be influenced by what I see unconsciously. My dad taught me that in business we should be the pioneers and if we’re not the initiator then at least we should be the best,” he explains.
“When we went into the confectionery business 10 years ago, it was a lot less competitive than it is today. Originality is vital.”
Dej’s study of the origins of chocolate is translated into Cacao Story. The cacao tree is modelled from cookies mixed with miso and its shadow is made from chocolate sauce. The soil is formed from chocolate cake and praline awhile in the shade is meringue that looks just like mushroom. Just like the real thing, the cacao pod is created from chocolate cake mixed with hazelnut praline.
Drawing on the multi-course kaiseki – an haute-cuisine tradition in which a sequence of dishes are exquisitely prepared and served, is Hassun. It has eight small appetisers, namely Hokkaido milk roll cake, soymilk pudding, yuzu granite, warabi mochi (jelly-like confection topped with roasted soybean powder), nama chocolate with strawberry filling, kuromame (sweet simmered black soy bean) and dango (sweet dumpling made from rice flour).
For his Mont Blanc, a popular dessert of pureed, sweetened chestnuts topped with whipped cream to resemble the snow-capped mountain, Dej substitutes the chestnut with premium Satsuma-imo sweet potato from Shizuoka. Freshly baked sweet potato and blackcurrant sorbet are served on the side.
For a playful kick, there’s Oops! presented in a glass of yoghurt and strawberry parfait that’s fallen onto its plate.
And in a silent toast to colour institute Pantone, who announced a tone called greenery as the colour of the year, Dej offers a Pantone dessert made of melon cake, melon and mojito granita, and pandanus sago in a zesty yellow-green shade.
Kyo Bar is on the ground floor of Siam Paragon and is open daily from 10 to 10.
Call (02) 610 7583 or visit www.KyoRollEn.com.