Kintsugi Bangkok Is Umami Gold
Kintsugi Bangkok by Jeff Ramsey at The Athenee Hotel, ranked one of the top 20 in the Tatler Thailand Best Restaurants 2020, introduces Japanese kaiseki cuisine via progressive new directions. Upon arriving at the restaurant, patrons are greeted in a modern Oriental setting illustrating minimal aesthetics dressed up with rustic elements. An expansive serving counter overlooks a preparation kitchen where diners can enjoy an interactive experience in which the chefs unfold gastronomic stories one dish at a time.
American-Japanese chef Jeff Ramsey trained with Masayoshi Kazato, the official sushi ambassador of Japan, earning the recognition of the first non-Japanese master sushi chef. Broadening his culinary perspectives, he later worked with talented names including chefs Jose Andres and Hide Yamamoto. Since its inception in 2015, his multi-award-winning restaurant Babe in Malaysia has been a popular destination for molecular gastronomy and modernist cuisine.
Kintsugi translates as connected with gold and is a reference to the Japanese art of restoring cracked ceramics with gold lacquer. The refurbished pottery is considered beautiful, regardless of being imperfect—a concept Ramsey interprets as a metaphor for his style of kaiseki cuisine.
The chef visits his Bangkok venture every few months and in his absence, sous chef Panu Viriyapongsukit, who trained with him in Malaysia, helms the kitchen. Up to 80 per cent of ingredients used are sourced from western Japan, where both the chef-owner and his wife have family roots. Dishes embrace traditional Japanese techniques while pushing creative boundaries, resulting in modern presentations that connect the old world with the new. At lunch diners are offered the options of four Teishoku sets (700-1,000 baht), while for dinner there is a choice of Ito (nine courses at 2,500 baht) or Kin (12 courses at 4,400 baht). A la carte items are also available.
Kaiseki cuisine is regarded as an artistic expression and this is elegantly presented in the dishes at Kintsugi. The smallest components are never neglected—bite-sized appetisers are beautifully executed and feature intricate details. Our top picks are surprisingly the most modest in appearance: a pillowy crab mochi of shio kombu (Japanese rice cake stuffed with crabmeat cooked in béchamel sauce), and dashimaki (Japanese egg roll) topped with a light truffle cream. The highlight, however, is Alaskan king crab and black truffle chawanmushi, an incredibly silky and umami gem from the dinner menu.
Kintsugi’s popular signatures range from the traditional to playful in appearance. To start try walnut soba inspired by Ramsey’s trips to Nagano. It comprises buckwheat soba tossed in a rich, house-made walnut paste then topped with pounded roasted walnuts and seven different vegetables, roots and seeds. The noodles are meant to be dipped in a savoury sauce and results in a nutty and herbaceous combination.
For mains, Alaskan king crab legs are grilled with shio kombu butter on charcoal. The crab’s natural sweetness and smoky aftertaste is well complemented by yuzukosho paste (shishito peppers with yuzu peel) and Kintsugi’s aromatic rice, which is cooked with dashi stock. For beef lovers, recommended is Australian wagyu perfectly cooked at medium rare. The juicy steak is topped with truffle butter and served with yuzukosho paste as well as arima shansho peppers.
End the feast with one (or all) of three delicious desserts. Velvety matcha pudding is presented with pastry cream and completed with crunchy brown sugar honey blossoms. An equally decadent alternative is black sesame cheesecake featuring kinu tofu and white miso served with chocolate crumbles. For a lighter finish try melon sorbet and honey foam with fresh melon bites, mint jelly and dehydrated honey-glazed lemon. Do revisit Kintsugi for its seasonally changing menu.
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