Bal­anc­ing Act

There is noth­ing so-so about Sushi Zo. The restau­rant’s omakase din­ing—in which a meal con­sists of nu­mer­ous bite-sized dishes se­lected by the chef—is gas­tro­nomic the­atre as well as a de­lec­ta­ble culi­nary ed­u­ca­tion, says Matt Wilde

Thailand Tatler - - LIFE FOOD - See din­ing.thai­land­tatler.com

Hav­ing been called “the dust­bin” by my chil­dren—be­cause I’ll eat just about any­thing put in front of me and in­vari­ably en­joy it to the last mouth­ful—it oc­curred to me re­cently that one of the few in­ter­na­tional cuisines to have passed me by, in its true form at any rate, is Ja­panese food…and sushi in par­tic­u­lar. I have tried it or im­i­ta­tions of it of course, but never ex­pe­ri­enced the real deal. So when of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to dine at Sushi Zo, the omakase-style restau­rant es­tab­lished by renowned “sushi ar­chi­tect” Keizo Seki, I ac­cepted with alacrity.

A na­tive of Osaka, Seki has be­come some­thing of a leg­end in the sushi world with his out­lets in Los An­ge­les and New York earn­ing Miche­lin stars. His lat­est restau­rant at Athe­nee Plaza Tower on Wire­less Road

has an in­ti­mate feel with min­i­mal­ist dé­cor and seat­ing for just 12 pa­trons at each of the two daily serv­ings (5pm and 8:30pm, hence ad­vance book­ing are rec­om­mended).

Omakase trans­lates as “I’ll leave it up to you” so there is no menu—you get what­ever the chef is serv­ing on the day—and for a sushi novice it is com­fort­ing to be placed in the dex­trous hands of the ge­nial Toshi Onishi, Sushi Zo’s ex­ec­u­tive chef and man­ager in Bangkok, for the 20-course ex­pe­ri­ence.

To en­sure a year-round sup­ply of premium in­gre­di­ents, ul­tra-fresh fish and seafood is flown in daily from Tokyo’s fa­mous Tsuk­iji fish mar­ket, from the tem­per­ate waters off Kyushu, the most south­west­erly of Ja­pan’s four main is­lands, and from the pris­tine cold waters of Hokkaido in the north.

Speak­ing of water, chef Onishi is a stick­ler for au­then­tic­ity, in­sist­ing that his Ja­panese rice is made with deep-well water from his na­tive Hokkaido and sea­soned with spe­cific pro­por­tions of red and white Ja­panese vine­gar. “This en­sures fully flavoured and tex­tured rice, which is served close to body tem­per­a­ture,” he ex­plains. “Also, we pre­fer the It­tai-kan style in which a balance is struck be­tween the neta [seafood] and shari [sushi rice]—hence we use smaller amounts of rice and we don’t pack it so tight so as to cre­ate that balance.”

In fact balance is the watch­word at Sushi Zo and it im­pacts the order in which the dishes ar­rives; so you ex­pe­ri­ence the light and bright citrus flavours of hi­rame (hal­ibut) with yuzu juice and zest, or sawara (Span­ish mack­erel) with gin­ger, chives and ponzu sauce early in the meal be­fore pro­gress­ing to more flavoured and tex­tured of­fer­ings such as rich steak-like akami (tuna) with soy sauce or madai (red sea bream) served in a dome of smoke, which has the de­li­cious char­coal taste of the bar­be­cue. This high­lights an­other point, one es­pe­cially use­ful for a sushi new­bie, in that no lit­tle dishes of soy sauce, wasabi or other sea­son­ings are pro­vided here. Rather it is the chef who im­parts the creative flavours to each piece he serves, thus en­sur­ing that allimportant balance.

Then there is the culi­nary the­atre in­volved. Watch­ing Onishi and his team pro­duce bite-sized mas­ter­pieces with knife skills that a neu­ro­sur­geon would be proud of is a mes­meric ex­pe­ri­ence and only serves to heighten the an­tic­i­pa­tion of en­joy­ment prior to each morsel…even down to a dessert box con­tain­ing a won­der­ful Hokkaido ice cream as rich as but­ter­milk and a de­li­cious sponge-like steamed egg cus­tard.

In the days af­ter vis­it­ing the restau­rant I bumped into a friend, a sushi afi­cionado, and hap­pened to men­tion my first omakase ex­pe­ri­ence. His re­ac­tion? “Wow! Lucky you, talk about start­ing at the top. It’s all down-hill from here.” Say it ain’t zo!

Sushi Zo, Athe­nee Plaza Tower, 63 Wire­less Road, Tues-Sun 5pm-9:30pm, tel: 0-2168-8490

Sen­sory per­cep­tion (From left) Madai (red sea bream) served in a dome of smoke; vi­brant ikura (sal­mon eggs) in dashi brine burst with flavour; light and bright hi­rame (hal­ibut) with yuzu juice and zest

culi­nary art (From left) Sushi Zo’s dessert box in­cludes a serv­ing of de­li­cious Hokkaido ice cream; meaty and rich akami (tuna) with soy sauce; sushi mas­ter chef Toshi Onishi demon­strates his con­sid­er­able knife skills

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