Tradition meets Invention

European haute cuisine and Japanese sumibiyaki at Shun By Yanagiya

Matsusaka beef tenderloin. (Photos courtesy of Shun By Yanagiya)

There cannot be a better year to reinvent oneself than 2021 and Shun By Yanagiya has been "relaunched" with a new menu and a new direction.

"When we first launched, we wanted to introduce Bangkok to Yanagiya as traditional style. But now that people are familiar with our food, Masashi Yamada wants to change how everything is done," says co-owner Nicholas Lam. In Japan, the parent restaurant Yanagiya in Mizunami is a traditional restaurant. "There everything is seasonal and trying to re-create that experience is difficult in these times," says Lam.

The new menu, under the helm of Head Chef Naoki Kaibe showcases a different style -- more of an East meets West. Kaibe's menu is a bit more innovative and draws on the chef's experience in European kitchens, with his Japanese heritage. Chef Kaibe uses Japanese techniques to cook non-Japanese ingredients, but what is the focus is the flavour combinations.

Left: Sea urchin flan.

The choice is between two omakase courses of B3,500++ or B4,800++, each consisting of around 15 courses. The contents of the courses may vary daily as the menu is dependent on ingredient availability.

Is there a better way to begin a Japanese-European omakase dinner than with Crab and caviar? The tian of zuwaigani (snow crab) and tarabagani (red king crab) is served with Oscietra caviar and a shiromi dashi gelée. This is a typical winter dish in Japan when the crabs are in season and in abundance. The crab is roasted over charcoal before the meat is picked to give it that smokey flavour.

The next course is a Yanagiya winter signature -- Yanagiya's kamo nabe. In Japan, the restaurant uses wild duck but Shun uses free-range Barbary duck. Soup is made from the duck bones and seasonal vegetables. This particular time of the year, garland chrysanthemum, which is in season from November to February, is used. In Japan, nabe and spring onions have to go together so negi that grows organically in Japan is used. These take six months to grow to a particular size, so Shun plans this dish well ahead.

The Karasumi gohan is yumepirika rice from Hokkaido, served with Sardinian bottarga. Because of the drying process used for the bottarga, it is very similar to the karasumi in Japan. "The reason we use the Sardinian one is because the Japanese karasumi tends to be a bit bitter," says Lam.

From left: Karasumi gohan; Unagi kabayaki.

I love scallops and the Smoked scallops course uses Hokkaido ones that are smoked in oak wood. Served with Mazuma wasabi dressing, which is a tad spicier than normal wasabi, and sujiko (salmon roe sac). The Sea urchin flan is made of Bafun uni (from salt water), a Hokkaiko milk pudding and a consommé gelée. One of my favourites from the older menu makes a comeback -- Uzura or quail's egg. The eggs are oak-smoked and marinated ajitsuke style and served with ariake nori powder.

The Tebasaki course is chicken middle wing. The chicken comes from an organic farm in Khao Yai, which only breeds for and supplies to Shun. The Kamo negima is aged Barbary duck breast, ishikura negi and Yanagiya's signature tare sauce or the "master sauce". Another favourite making a reappearance is the Tomato ohitashi, but this tomato is served in a red wine dashi. The Carabinero or Spanish red prawn is next. No cutlery required as I dive into the juicy prawn, hands first. Served in the most popular way to cook fish in Japan -- shioyaki-style. Don't forget to suck the prawn head. You will not be judged.

The Unagi kabayaki is Anguilla Japonica eel roasted with Yanagiya's 80-year-old unagi sauce and Mazuma wasabi. In the previous menu, this was served on rice, but this time it is served bare and so you're not distracted by other flavours except for the caramelised eel. My favourite way to eat eel is the Japanese way! Game is not often found on restaurant menus in Bangkok and I wish they would make more appearances. Here the Shika is a tenderloin of New Zealand venison, served with satsuma-imo (Japanese sweet potato) and one of my favourite chilli pastes, yuzu kosho.

From left: Carabinero; Shika.

The Matsusaka-ushi or the grade A4 Matsusaka tenderloin is cooked using my favourite butter in the whole wide world, Yves Bordier shoyu-dare. A lot of faves, I know! It is served with a May Queen potato and carrot glaces. The Salad is garden greens with shiokimbu dressing and a virgin sesame oil. Last but not the least, main course is a Kinoko morisoba or wild forest mushrooms in an ichiban dashi and tagliolini. The ichiban dashi is made with dried fish and kombu. The course is a play on the traditional Japanese mori soba, which has been updated a bit for Shun.

End your meal with a taste of nama chocolate, which is the Japanese form of ganache and tastes like chocolate cheese to me, made popular by Royce. Though the Berry sorbet with mixed berries and Hokkaido milk is perfect to cleanse the palate of the chocolate goodness!


Shun By Yanagiya, 3rd floor, Donki Mall, 107 Sukhumvit 63 / Opening hours Tue until Sun, 6-9pm / Call 097-854-2222, email info@shunbyyanagiya.com, bookings@shunbyyanagiya.com, visit fb.com/shunbyyanagiya / Reservations accepted by phone, Facebook and Instagram and a mandatory deposit is required upon reservation.

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