Kaiseki for the soul
Japanese haute cuisine has finally arrived in the City of Angels. You'll find it at Yamazato in the newly opened Okura Prestige Bangkok
Like an intricate fold of origami that transforms an ordinary sheet of paper into an artwork, the traditional Japanese foods served at Yamazato restaurant are created with such attention to detail that every morsel has exactly the right balance of ingredients, flavours, textures and colours before it's even arranged on the rustic earthenware and lacaquerware dishes. The result is a culinary experience that pleasing to both the tongue and the eyes.
Perched on the 24th floor of the new Japanese hotel, the Okura Prestige Bangkok, the restaurant has an elegant and interior minimalist decor. The ceiling and the walls mimic the folds of origami and are finished in warm wood. The main dining area can seat about 100 diners and four private rooms are available for more intimate dining.
The glass-wrapped Yamazato with a panoramic backdrop of the cityscape is ideal for a first-class gastronomic voyage and the multi-course Kaiseki, comprising a dramatic sequence of small but exquisitely prepared dishes that normally comes with an expensive price, takes pride of place.
Four sets of haute cuisine Kaiseki are available with prices starting at Bt4,500 for the six-course sushi or Yamazato and set up to Bt6,000 for the eight-course prime wagyu beef sirloin. I'd tried the signature Yamazato set and started with three small appetiser dishes arranged sophisticatedly on a platter.
Octopus, shrimp, seaweed are served with wakegi green onion in mustard miso vinegar sauce and the clear soup comes with clam dumpling, shitake mushroom with a hint of yuzu. Also on the platter is selected sashimi of tuna belly, amberjack and squid with a dab of wasabi.
The food is served artistically in earthenware and lacquerware hand-picked by the master chef Shigeru Hagiwara from different sources across Japan. It's not only the food preparation that's cause for excitement here, but also the presentation and the choice of dinnerware.
Served on a square blue-and-white ceramic dish is grilled swordfish lightly topped with lotus root and teriyaki sauce while to its side is bite-size baby corn wrapped in bacon and lotus root and sprinkled with balsamic sauce. The fresh and firm fish is usually sold in steaks and can be cooked in ways that more fragile types of fish do not survive, such as cannot over a grill on skewers.
"Our restaurant focuses on authentic, traditional Japanese foods - absolutely no fusion," says the restaurant manage Satoko Shiozaki. "French dishes may be enjoyed with the right sauces, but Japanese cuisine leans toward fresh seasonal ingredients and natural tastes. Sometimes we grill fish with just a bit of salt. For our Bangkok outlet, we use local coriander and fish sauce - just for some flavour.
"We use different kinds of fish and vegetables according to the season to offer different tastes. In summer, we have hamo or sea king eel while yellowtail and fugu are best enjoyed during the winter."
Presented in an organic-shaped bowl, the next dish is a fillet of seabass on a bed of grilled sesame tofu topped up with crispy fried tiny shrimps with creamy soy sauce and wasabi. The crispy shrimp adds more textures to creamy tofu and firm fish, making the dish even more delectable.
Next is a Thai favourite, says Shiozaki: tempura of shrimp and sea eel with eggplant and green pepper. The main dish is bara-chirashi sushi or assorted dice cut sashimi over sushi rice, accompanied by a bowl of miso soup. Don't let the small size of bowl overwhelms your senses: the rice portion is large and more than enough to satisfy the stomach.
The tempting dessert is sweet red beans with shiratama rice cakes, Japanese citrus jelly and seasonal fruits like strawberry, berry, kiwi and melon, accompanied by hot green tea.
Nibblers may prefer to gravitate to the raw sushi bar, which seats nine, and admire the tantalising parade of premium and fresh quality of seafood, flown in regularly from the biggest fish market Tsukiji in Tokyo. The menu offers a wide range of choices such as uni (sea urchin) at Bt750 per piece, hon-maguro chu-toro (tuna belly) for Bt600, madai (sea bream) for Bt280 and tamago (Japanese sweet omelette) for Bt150.
Another attractive station is teppanyaki with two large griddle-grill tables - each seating six - where guest can watch their meal being prepared by the chefs and sample the dishes right from the sizzling hot griddle. The highlight is premium sirloin from Kumamoto - a city on Kyushu's west coast - that is famous for the extreme marbling, sweet flavour, fine texture and rich juiciness of its beef. The 200-gram Kumamoto beef with marbling score of seven is priced at Bt4,500 while the special Japanese prime beef sirloin with marbling score of three costs Bt4,300. Other choices are Canadian lobster (Bt2,500), scallops (Bt750), Scottish salmon (Bt530) and stir-fried garlic rice (Bt300).
SUSHI AND SPICE
Yamazato is on the 24th floor of the Okura Prestige Bangkok on Wireless Road. It's open 6.30 to 10.30am for breakfast, 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch and 6 to 10.30pm for dinner.
Call (02) 687 9000 or visit www.OkuraBangkok.com.