Tucked within the luxurious Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, Kinu by Takagi isn’t just a restaurant – it’s a transcendent experience. Opening its doors in November 2019, this 10-seat kaiseki gem has held up its promise of delivering unparalleled Japanese fine dining and woven a delicate tapestry between rich Japanese culture and an appreciative nod to Thai traditions.
The latest in its offerings, the ‘Moon Gazing 10-course Kyo-ryori’ menu,is a fitting tribute to the Japanese Moon Gazing festival, Tsukimi.Curated by Chef Norihisa Maeda and guided by the imaginative prowess and insights of Consultant Chef Takagi Kazuo, the menu elegantly dances between tradition and innovation, echoing tales of the moon and its fabled rabbit companion. Dive deeper, and one discovers the genesis of this genius in Ashiya, poised between Osaka and Kobe. It’s here that Chef Takagi’s establishment, Kyoto Cuisine Takagi, has for over a decade championed the nuances of ‘kyo-ryori’ or Kyoto cuisine, boasting two Michelin stars since 2010. One doesn’t merely eat here; one experiences a tapestry of narratives, woven deftly through every bite.
The menu is a lavish affair that intertwines tradition, luxury, and innovation, evoking the enchanting tales of the moon and its whimsical rabbit. Consultant Chef Takagi Kazuo added to the experience the evening I was there with his insights.
The journey begins with the Hokkaido sea urchin appetizer – Sakieuki; one is immediately transported to a moonlit night, the radiant moon represented by the glistening sea urchin. Accompanied by asparagus, maitake mushrooms, and a luscious potato purée with black truffle sauce, each bite is a celestial journey. The chinaware, with its traditional Japanese art outlining the rabbit, amplifies the story, weaving an ambience rich in history (of the chinaware) and myth.
The restaurant’s homage to its Thai location is unmistakably evident in the soup course (Wanmori) – a brilliant fusion of Thai black mud crab and the zest of kaffir lime. It’s an audacious choice, swapping the familiar yuzu for kaffir lime. Yet, the marriage is nothing short of serendipitous, with the crab cake’s unique shape echoing traditional Japanese art. The exquisite hand-painted bowl is a testament to the artistry permeating every aspect of a true kaiseki experience.
As we proceed to the Hassun course, it’s a festive celebration of Japan’s mid-autumnal essence. From the decadent tuna sushi graced by Sturia Oscietra caviar to the nostalgic Hagi No Sato – a mélange of egg yolk, minced shrimp, truffle salt brushed edamame, Squid and celery in a delightful vinegar jelly served in lime rind cup, deep fried rice puff coated Shimeji mushrooms and a tiny bonbon of foie gras, black truffle, and lily buds that packs a punch – every morsel is a tribute to Japan’s rich culinary history. The rarity of this course can’t be understated; its infrequent appearance on menus, even in Japan, is a testament to the intricate, time-intensive techniques required to craft such miniature masterpieces. I’m struck by the intricacy of this time-consuming creation.A dish created by Chef Takagi only for Bangkok’s Kinu by Takagai is next – Aziakana: Hokaido abalone, in abalone liver sauce and lotus root. The only danger here is that every abalone dish you eat after this will fall woefully short.
The tempura course (Agemono), showcasing the Hamo cutting technique, “Honokiri,” further elevates the experience – the fine bones of the eel are minced using a knife without cutting through the flesh. The conger eel tempura, with its sticky sauce and the tartness of Japanese plum, is an ode to perfection. And the mastery of the technique is such that the bones, once a potential intrusion, meld seamlessly into the tender flesh and imperceptible in the mouth.
However, the pièce de résistance undoubtedly remains the Tottori wagyu beef – Yakimono. Paired with rich teriyaki and the exotic notes of black truffle, it’s a symphony of flavours, textures, and sensations.Following this is a rice course – rice cooked in fish broth topped with seared red seabream and caviar and served with the dark umami of Nagoya red miso soup and house-made fresh pickles.
Concluding the ethereal journey is the season’s Shine Muscat. Hailing from Japan, this grape is a gastronomic revelation – aromatic bouquet, inherent sweetness, and delightfully crisp texture. This dessert isn’t just a course; it’s a culinary epilogue to an evening that defies description.
In Japanese dining, the harmony between dish and tableware is paramount, each enhancing the other’s aesthetic and narrative. The Moon Gazing menu serves as a testament to this philosophy. Right through the meal, this interplay keeps you engaged. The Hokkaido scallop appetiser, presented in a cup etched with a poetic rabbit image, becomes an immersive tale where the luminescent uni within symbolises the moon, bridging the gap between food and folklore. Similarly, the crab soup is not just a culinary delight but a narrative, with the bowl’s lid featuring gilded swans in mid-flight towards the moon. Even a seemingly straightforward sushi course turns into a theatrical experience, served on a rabbit-shaped platter; its face coyly revealed as one progresses through the meal. The dinner was a tableau where food and art converged in every detail, with Chefs Takagi and Maeda playing storytellers.
In the saturated world of fine dining, Kinu by Takagi stands out for its culinary prowess and its ability to tell a story – a tale of tradition, respect, and unparalleled artistry. The “Moon Gazing” menu is a journey every epicurean dreams of and an experience that stays with you long after the final bite.
Available from now – 30 September 2023. The 10-course dinner is at THB 8,000++ per person. Book your experience HERE.