Unknown to most is that our capital city and Japan’s gateway to Kyushu, Fukuoka, have shared a friendship for 15 years. In honour of this special relationship, head chef Norihisa Maeda at Kinu By Takagi at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, is taking diners on a culinary journey to Fukuoka this month.
In partnership with the Fukuoka prefecture, the kaiseki restaurant has introduced new menus for lunch and dinner, available until Feb 28. Both menus feature speciality produce from Fukuoka, including Buzen Sea Hitotsubu oysters and Ariake seaweed, available for the first time in Thailand and only at Kinu. The ingredients used in these new lunch and dinner menus are handpicked and at their seasonal best.
Begin with a traditional celebration New Year’s dish, Kaki-namasu. Usually prepared with pickled daikon, carrot and the start of the salad, persimmon. Fukuoka prefecture is also known for its delicious varieties of persimmons; the best time to enjoy Fuyu persimmon is between November and February. At Kinu, chef Maeda prepares it with Fuyu persimmon, snow crab, scallop, turnip, red radish, Thai celery, pickled veggies and ryuhi-konbu served with a yuzu vinegar jelly. A good refreshing sweet-sour start to the meal. Chef Maeda will incorporate Fuyu persimmon into this traditional dish of pickled vegetables which are turnips, red radish, and local Thai celery, snow crab and scallops all served with yuzu vinegar jelly. The unique sweetness of the Fuyu persimmon balances perfectly the tart pickles and jelly to deliver a fresh start to the meal.
Chef Maeda’s love for Thai ingredients shines through in the next course with Thai river prawn, egg tofu, taro root mochi, radish and carrot served with in a Kyoto white miso soup. Another New Year’s dish that originated around 100 years ago, the mochi is what makes the soup “ozoni”, while the white miso gives the soup a sweet flavour. “The white miso at Kinu cannot be bought in retail outlets and is only acquired by professional chefs,” says chef Maeda. The dish also comes with a tab of Japanese mustard, which is quite potent and can clear the senses, so mix it thoroughly in the soup. Fun fact: There are many versions of this soup around Japan; in Tokyo, for example, ozoni is usually a clear broth.
Tsukuri is usually the chef's daily catch and is often a selection of sashimi like kinmedai or splendid alfonsino and yellow fin tuna, among others with freshly-grated wasabi. The Hassun has Squid sashimi with yuzu kosho pepper sauce topped with Hokkaido sea urchin and green tea soba noodles for crunch; Kazunoko or herring roe with cucumber, red carrot and wasabi-tofu cream (my favourite of the bites and fun fact: eaten during the New Year to symbolise fertility); Japanese sea bream and salmon sushi; Charcoal grilled Buri yellowtail marinated with Kyoto white miso and served with pickled lotus root with glutinous rice mochi powder.
The Buzen Sea is rich in plankton, essential nutrition for the oyster, resulting in large, firm and flavourful oysters. It is perhaps important to note that the Hitotsubu oyster does not shrink when cooked, remaining plump. Chef Maeda has incorporated this special ingredient into two dishes. One offers Hitotsubu oysters and Shirako cod fish roe wrapped in tofu paste and deep-fried, served with a chrysanthemum dashi sauce. The other dish features the Hitotsubu oysters poached and served with Sturia caviar. The gem of the Buzen Sea in two unique styles, but only in the dinner menu.
Hakata Wagyu, also from Fukuoka is from the Japanese black and brown Wagyu cattle. This Wagyu, the most popular in Japan, is famous for its melt-in-the-mouth texture. Fed on Fukuoka hay and multi-grains, the cattle are raised for more than 20 months in a stress-free environment surrounded by beautiful scenery and nature. The carefully-monitored nutrition translates into perfectly marbled and tender beef. At Kinu, the Wagyu is charcoal-grilled teriyaki-style, served with chives, egg yolk powder and black truffles. Chef Maeda spends two days preparing the beef before charcoal-grilling it a la minute, allowing the aroma of the grilled Wagyu to tantalise the senses of the diners in the 10-seat restaurant.
The Ariake seaweed is one of Japan's best-selling products, with more than 2 billion sheets produced yearly. Despite its extensive production, it cannot meet local demand, however, Kinu By Takagi has managed to source this prized seaweed and it is the star of the rice course. Japanese rice is served with mixed seafood and slow-cooked onsen egg, topped with the seaweed.
Another pride of Fukuoka is the Amaou strawberry. A most sought-after variety in Japan, it has been ranked No.1 in sales in Japan for more than 15 years. The Amaou strawberry is known for its captivating shape, vibrant red colour and irresistible juicy taste with a firm texture that will leave you wanting more. Elevating the lunch and dinner experiences to new heights is a delectable dessert featuring the Amaou strawberry. The strawberry is best enjoyed between January and March and it’s in its prime at Kinu. It is celebrated in five different ways in one bowl, from fresh to compote, jelly, ice cream and sauce, ending the Fukuoka journey on a high note.
Kinu By Takagi is open for lunch and dinner from Wednesday to Sunday. The five-course lunch is priced at B4,000++ per person and the 10-course dinner at B8,000++ per person. All the courses can be paired with sake from Fukuoka. Call 02-659-9000, email email@example.com, visit mandarinoriental.com/Bangkok.