A grand return

Mandarin Oriental restarts dine-in services with a private 16th-floor dinner suite

The sashimi selection of the chef’s daily catch.

Two Thursdays ago was my first “dining out” in almost five months. It felt like autumn in Japan, adorned with golden gingko foliage and different shades of red maple leaves.

OK, I might be exaggerating, when I was in fact in a 16th-floor suite of Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, looking over the rain-drizzled Chao Phraya River.

But my statement is legitimate considering that the gastronomic experience was comparable to a fine journey in a faraway land.

It was an in-suite dining offered by Kinu by Tagaki, the hotel’s Japanese kaiseki restaurant.

The signature steamed Okushima abalone with mushrooms, pumpkin and creamy abalone liver sauce.

Since last July, the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok has been the city’s pioneer in featuring a new dining concept that answers to the new normal lifestyle.

Meals, at that time catered by its two Michelin-starred restaurant Le Normandie, were served in the luxurious privacy of a suite for the ultimate social distancing and hygiene of the guests.

Following the latest Covid mandate for restaurants, effective from Sept 1, the hotel welcomes back its epicurean guests with a super refined Japanese degustation menu that celebrates the beauty of the Kyoto autumn. Japanophile travellers enduring this current year-long travel restrictions will find it a nice remedial.

Crafted by the restaurant’s star-studded head chef Norihisa Maeda, the Kyo-ryori (esthetic Kyoto cuisine) menu was co-operatively designed by him and Kinu’s founding chef Takagi Kazuo, who’s now in Japan.

The menu is offered for both lunch and dinner — a four-course lunch costs 3,200 baht per person and an eight-course dinner costs 6,800 baht per person, yet only to checked-in guests.

The delicate and revitalising sesame-soya milk tofu with dashi jelly, Hokkaido sea urchin roe and caviar.

Despite these rules, enjoying the Kyo-ryori in the comfort of a private dining room is not at all unattainable.

For that the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok is now offering the best-ever staycation deal in its history.

Prices for the package start from 9,999 baht per room per night including breakfast for two people, early check-in from 8am, late check-out until 8pm, and special credit that can be used for food and beverage during the stay.

Five suites, each themed after a legendary ship, on the hotel’s top floor are purposely assigned for Kinu by Tagaki’s in-suite dining experience.

Dinner is served from 5.30pm onwards.

My dining companion and I were received by a team of well-versed and cordial staffers upon arrival at the 16th floor.

Inside the suite waited a gracious attendant, who presented the meal in a pretty kimono uniform.

From left: The seasonal platter of slow-cooked scallop, potato cake, otoro sushi, grilled golden eye snapper and grilled Tottori Wagyu beef with teriyaki glaze; The tempura lotus root in dashi sauce with aromatic petals and sweet crunchy stems of edible chrysanthemum.

The dinner began with an appetiser of sesame-soya milk tofu — made according to chef Takagi’s signature recipe — with dashi jelly, tomatoes, asparagus, cucumber, Hokkaido sea urchin roe, caviar and shiso flower.

It’s a multi-layered culinary creation that’s guaranteed to delight your eyes while caress your taste buds with a revitalising taste and delicate mouthfeel.

Second course featured simmered conger eel fillet and onion cake with a crunchy slice of wild matsutake mushroom in a soothing dashi soup fragrant with yuzu zest. Of this soup dish, the temperature as well as the combination of tastes were precise and spot on. 

A selection of the chef’s daily catch was on that day represented by sashimi of shima aji (Japanese striped jack), chutoro (tuna belly) and otoro (fattiest tuna belly). All were impeccably fresh and naturally sweet.

Hassun, or seasonal platter, came next.

It was a showcase of slow-cooked scallop and broccoli with tosazu vinegar jelly and sancho pepper leaves; a mildly sweet mini potato cake; a very scrumptious ball-shaped otoro sushi; a pleasantly soft-textured and sweet fillet of grilled kinmedai (golden eye snapper); and a grilled slice of Tottori Wagyu beef with teriyaki glaze and creamy egg yolk sauce.

Every single element on the platter, including a garnish of deep-fried young ginkgo nuts and sweet potato chips created to be a reminiscent of autumn leaves, was memorably tasty.

The grilled Wagyu, from the highest-grade cattle brand a recent champion of the prestigious “Wagyu Olympics”, in particular, burst-released its sweet fatty juice as you bite into its supple highly-marbled meat.

A meal at Kinu by Takagi would not be complete without its signature aizakana.

Aizakana is a dish that combines preparation processes of boiling, frying and steaming. Here, heavenly springy slices of steamed Okushima abalone was served with mushrooms, pumpkin and creamy abalone liver sauce, with fragrant shiso florets to give the dish a very aromatic anise-like complement.

The chirachi sushi bowl with marinated autumn salmon.

Maeda’s delicious rendering of deep-fried dish represented the sixth course, which turned out to be my most favourite.

There were tempura delicacies of lotus root stuffed with minced shrimp and eggplant, which came bathed in a divine dashi sauce seethed with petals and sweet crunchy stems of kikuna (edible chrysanthemum).

For the main rice dish, the chef opted for chirachi sushi bowl accompanied by a piping hot bowl of Nagoya red miso soup.

Of it, neatly-diced morsels of seasonal salmon, marinated with sweet mirin and shoyu, were served with salmon roe and shiso microgreen atop perfectly cooked sushi rice.

Our dinner ended in high grace with a refreshing grape panna cotta with sake jelly and white miso ice cream.

The frosty dessert was followed by a frothy serving of hot ceremonial matcha green tea and petit fours.

Kinu by Takagi’s in-suite dining is available Wednesday to Sunday for a group of two to six diners per suite. For reservations and more information, call Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, at 02-659-9000 or email mobkk-reservations@mohg.com.

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