By : KEN BARRETT
28 January 2019
About: The thought of tofu cuisine is perhaps not something to set the blood racing, but anything involving stellar-chef Gaggan Anand is, and this rather bold venture has been undertaken in cooperation with Takeshi Fukuyama, a highly respected chef in Fukuoka, on the northern shore of Japan’s Kyushu Island. Chef Fukuyama is owner of the immensely popular omakase restaurant La Maison de la Nature Goh in Fukuoka. Gaggan in 2015 had visited Mihara Tofuten in Fukuoka, a restaurant using its own tofu made at a factory in Saga prefecture. He realised that tofu is one of the unsung gems of Japanese cooking, providing chefs with endless possibilities, and being a very healthy ingredient into the bargain. Mihara Tofuten Bangkok is the world’s first tofu omakase restaurant, and has caught the current wave in Bangkok for omakase dining.
Decor: Mihara Tofuten, like all good omakase restaurants, is hidden away and you have to go looking; in this case, in the tiny soi that runs behind the Bank of China, on the corner of Sathorn and Naradhiwas roads. Tucked unobtrusively into a townhouse, with an almost blank frontage, there is a miniature Japanese garden in the courtyard. Inside is a small waiting area. The downstairs dining room is traditional omakase style, with 15 seats set in an L-shape around the kitchen, while upstairs are a further 12 seats and a private room for eight people.
Menu: Lunchtime sees an omakase set menu at 1,750 baht, while the dinner menu is for 16 courses at 4,900 baht. The set menu changes every three months, according to the season. There is a beverage pairing option ranging from 1,200 baht to 4,000 baht. Downstairs is pure omakase, while upstairs is a choice of omakase and a la carte, although the latter is for dinner only. There is one sitting at lunchtime, and two at dinner, at 6pm and 8.30pm. The tofu is made in-house, using only ingredients from Japan, flown in every two days and including the water, which comes from Saga. Here we must point out that tofu is far from being the only ingredient, for it is used in the most artful ways to blend, or contrast, or wrap other ingredients. We find a skin of miso-cured tofu wrapped around monkfish liver, silky-textured yuki tofu in a bowl of dashi soup with shredded snow crab from Zuwai, and tofu in a salad of raw ham placed in a hollowed-out persimmon fruit from Japan. Spanish mackerel’s smoky taste contrasted with a wobbly blancmange of tofu, while a pungently toasted cube of tofu offset chewy slivers of surf clam. A croquette (careful – it’s hot) placed inside a tiny envelope was stuffed with creamy molten tofu and fragments of bacon and mushroom. A tiny brick of momen (cotton) tofu sat in the silver shabu shabu bowl into which we ducked three large slices of perfect A5 Wagyu beef. Our final course displayed the ingenious use of tofu as a dessert.
Evaluation: For any lover of omakase cuisine, not to mention admirers of Gaggan, Mihara Tofuten is an extraordinary venture, and illustrates just what a fascinating dining-out city Bangkok has become.