The certification program of Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores Overseas
Interview of Supporter Stores Kitaohji Bangkok
Top Grade Japanese Restaurant for Entertaining Guests
Careful Selection of Japanese Ingredients that is Topical and Demonstrates Competency
Bangkok / Thailand
Popular Kuroge Wagyu Beef and Crab Kaiseki Courses
Beyond a sukiya-zukuri style (style of a tea-ceremony house) gate, the Japanese restaurant Kitaohji Bangkok stands quietly, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Established 80 years ago and operating 11 Japanese-style restaurants in the center of Tokyo, the long-standing restaurant Kitaohji together with Singha Corporation (a subsidiary of Boon Rawd Brewery) opened a high-end kaiseki (banquet style) restaurant in August 2015.
The concept is to serve authentic kaiseki courses of kuroge wagyu and crab. There are five courses on the grand menu. Starting from 2,500 Baht, the courses increase by 500 Baht increments, the most expensive being 4,500 Baht. Japanese customers who comprise 45 percent of the clientele frequently order the “Kuroge-wagyu no sukiyaki toban kaiseki” priced at 3,000 Baht or the “Kegani kaiseki” priced at 3,500 Baht. On the other hand, the most expensive course, “Taraba no kani sumibiyaki kaiseki,” which is 4,500 Baht is popular among the Thai customers. Head chef Mr. Takeshi Murakami explains, “99 percent of the time, Japanese customers come here for business entertainment, so they order a course within 10,000 yen because of budget reasons. Our Thai customers are mostly here to dine with their family or come as a couple. They also like to order à la carte.”
Leveraging Japanese Ingredients for Most of the Menus
The monthly seasonal menu comprises five to eight dishes including an assortment of sashimi and zuwai-gani (snow crab) shabu-shabu. Most of the items on both the grand menu and seasonal menu use ingredients and condiments sourced from Japan. Japanese alcohol consists of 13 types of Japanese sake, six types of ume-shu plum wine and yuzu-shu citrus wine, six types of shochu, and three types of whisky. Not many Thai customers drink alcohol with their meal, while shochu, particularly Kuro Kirishima (Kirishima Shuzo Co. Ltd.) from Miyazaki Prefecture, is a popular drink among Japanese customers.
Both the food and alcohol are not only delicious, but also the presentation has an impact, and the restaurant has thorough and uncompromised passion for a story behind each ingredient. For example, the sea urchin that Kitaohji sources has only been fed with natural kelp. This kitamurasaki-uni sea urchin (North sea urchin) from Hirono Town in Iwate Prefecture is rich and sweet in flavor with established reputation, and Kitaohji was the first to serve it in Thailand. They also proactively source various rare ingredients that are hard to find at any other restaurants in Thailand such as vegetables from Kyoto with a short expiration date, Kyoto-gyu beef, which is not easily available even in Japan, and six-liter-size taraba-gani (king crab) from Hokkaido. On the menu are explanations for why the products are so tasty and the particular methods used in the production process, and these sorts of information are also given verbally by the staff as well. This is the same for alcoholic beverages. “Kamotsuru Gold daiginjo” (Kamotsuru Sake Brewing Co. Ltd.) from Hiroshima Prefecture, which is the Japanese sake President Obama was served when he dined at a sushi restaurant with Prime Minister Abe in Japan, and high-quality “Fukuju junmai ginjo” (Kobe Shushinkan Breweries, Ltd.) from Hoyogo Prefecture, which was served at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony, are some of the brands that are topical and popular and carefully selected by Kitaohji. Serving a great variety of Japanese products that have both brand power and a story is the key for attracting customers. This is where Kitaohji Bangkok shows its true value.
Hosting Japanese Ingredients Fairs in Cooperation with the Municipalities
The purchase department of the main office (Daitohkigyo Co. Ltd.) in Japan selects the items when purchasing Japanese ingredients. If it is tuna, the department would place an order with Yoshitomi, an intermediate wholesaler in Tsukiji that handles high-grade seafood, and after a grade check is performed on the tuna in Japan, a Japanese distribution company would send the products to Thailand, where a Thai importer would deliver it to the restaurant. As Kitaohji Bangkok also holds an import license, on certain occasions when they hold events with municipalities or for some specific products, they would import them on their own accord. These kinds of events are held four or five times a year. At the recent “Yamanashi Festival,” Koshu-wagyu, Shine Muscat, and Pione grapes were served and were well-received by the Thai people. Opinion leaders in Thailand such as celebrities and leading figures of the financial circles are many of the regular clients, and because of its power to influence, many municipalities are said to approach Kitaohji Bangkok. Mr. Murakami says, “The provincial areas of Japan are buried with good food products. We would like the Bangkok store to be like the ‘antenna shop’ that discovers good ingredients and also assist in the branding of these products.” There are already plans for a second restaurant in Bangkok. The concept for the new store is sushi kappo (Japanese-style cooking) cuisine. The focus will be placed on entertaining customers through performing hamo-otoshi (preparing daggertooth pike-conger) in front of the customers, or frying tempura in a copper pot. It will also promote the sales of sake and wine. It is already looking quite clear that the second restaurant will become a place to come into contact with another fascinating facet of Japanese ingredients