Complimentary cuisine

Although the menu at Ki Izakaya is meant to accompany its lengthy list of alcohol, the food fairs well on its own

A Japanese-style gastro bar was the last thing I expected to find at Sindhorn Kempinski, an avant-garde 5-star hotel renowned for its wellness-driven approach and genteel hospitality.

But here I was at Ki Izakaya, for the second time since it opened in February, enjoying its convivial atmosphere among a casual crowd of business execs with their loosened neckties and simply dressed culinary-obsessed barflies.

An amalgam of the Japanese words i (to sit) and sakaya (sake shop), izakaya is a type of Japanese drinking establishment that also serves a variety of dishes to accompany the alcohol.

Ki (Japanese for mood) is a homegrown brand developed to offer the neighbourly vibe of an alleyway izakaya commonly found in Osaka and Tokyo.

Located by an alfresco mezzanine courtyard and cantilevered swimming pool on the 9th floor of the hotel, the 80-seater occupies a lengthy cosy space equipped with extensive glass walls. The interior thus blends the snugness of a typical Japanese izakaya with a cheerful illumination and panoramic view of downtown Bangkok.

Culinary-wise, Ki is led by veteran Japanese chef Hiroyuki Yokoyama, whose career profile impressively includes a chef de partie position at Paris' three Michelin-starred L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

The confit salmon with fresh wasabi, ikura salmon roe and shiso.

His menu at Ki is a single-page selection of zenzai (hors d'oeuvres); sashimi and mini don (raw seafood and small rice dishes); agemeno (deep-fried items); kushiyaki and robata (skewered and charcoal grilled meat); and desserts.

Especially at this young stage, I'd say the 25-item repertoire, although small, serves its purpose very well as a communal pub grub. Except for the desserts, which come in individual servings, most of the dishes are designed for sharing.

Eihire aburi, or charcoal-grilled stingray fin jerky, served with shichimi togarashi red pepper mayonnaise (130 baht) is a perfect dish to kick off the meal.

Ki's rendition of the quintessential izakaya treat, featuring translucent, amber-hued morsels of flame-grilled stingray fin, proved pleasingly gummy and seriously addictive.

The burrata with heirloom tomatoes, scallions, bonito flakes and dashi dressing.

Another dish that I was instantly hooked on was Ki chicken salad (200 baht).

Despite its uninspiring title, the dish provided awesome taste and texture through a jumble of lettuce, shredded soft chicken meat, bacon, sakura ebi (Japanese sweet prawn), celery, broccolini, edamame green beans, orange, kiwi, assorted toasted nuts and fine morsels of boiled egg.

Should you wish for a sumptuous and creamy mouthfeel, go for burrata salad (250 baht). It presents the soft and pudgy Italian stretched-curd cheese in savoury dashi dressing with heirloom sweet tomatoes, scallions and bonito flakes.

Reba, or chicken liver pate with pink peppercorn and shokupan (280 baht), continued to satisfy our party of three with a comforting Western taste profile.

The pate, a brandy-cured mixture of chicken liver and duck foie gras, was smooth and creamy, almost with a dessert-like quality, complemented by flufflity soft Japanese bread and a pungent kick of the peppercorn.

While beef croquette with garlic mayonnaise and pickled cabbage (150 baht) was just right on for its airy-light consistency and flavourful beefy taste.

The chicken liver pate with pink peppercorn and shokupan.

Next two dishes were a bit more eye-catching.

The Kurobuta tonkatsu (230 baht) takes the deep-fried breadcrumb-crusted pork loin to another level with imported prime-grade black pork from Hokkaido inside a crispy charcoal-dust finish. The succulent tonkatsu was enhanced with house-made fermented fruit sauce and fresh lemon.

While the wasabi shake, a lustrous mass of confit salmon with fresh wasabi, ikura salmon roe and shiso (160 baht) was as much pleasant to the eyes as it was the taste buds.

The skewered meat menu lists classics such as chicken yakitori, chicken oysters, chicken hearts, pork belly, beef kushi and A5 Wagyu kushi.

The latter, which we didn't try, is the most pricey item on the menu. It showcases A5 Wagyu rib-eye from Hitachiwagyu, a high-end beef brand from Japan's Ibaraki prefecture, and costs 850 baht for a two-skewer serving.

What we had were the yakitori chicken thigh seasoned with yuzu salt and pepper (160 baht for two skewers) and the Australian beef rump with grated daikon turni, ponzu sauce (210 baht for two skewers). Both were served over red charcoal on a portable, miniature grill and offered top-notch quality.

Meanwhile the buri kama (480 baht) featured masterly-grilled yellowtail amberjack collar, of which the firm, fatty sweet supple meat and slightly charred skin was nicely enhanced with grated daikon turnip, ponzu sauce and shiso flowers.

For the rice bowl, we had Hotate kani negitoro don (430 baht). It featured a generous helping of scallops, snow crab, diced tuna and salmon roe over sushi rice.

There are only two desserts on offer.

The iced yuzu and chilli coconut snow with strawberry (100 baht) and matcha sponge soft chocolate with raspberry (100 baht) proved a sweet treat truly worth a detour.

A glass of umeshu with peach blossom tea and rose lemonade (380 baht) from a vast selection of sakes, highballs, whiskies, beers, wine and cocktails, provided a perfect complement to the food.

  • Ki Izakaya
  • Sindhorn Kempinski, 9th floor
  • 80 Ton Son, Lumphini
  • Call 02-095-9999
  • Open 5pm to midnight, Tuesday to Sunday
  • Park at the hotel’s car park
  • Most credit cards accepted
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