The certification program of Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores Overseas
Interview of Suppoter Stores SUSHI JUBAN
A Japanese restaurant specializing in straw-grilled seafood and sushi helmed by culinary artisans committed to freshness and texture
Bangkok / Thailand
Sushi and straw-grilled seafood from Japan are most popular
Quietly nestled at the far end of a street, not far from Bangkok’s Asok business district, SUSHI JUBAN has the feel of a hideaway. First-time guests are sure to be astonished by the extensive selection of sake and shochu showcased along the interior wall. Opened in October 2015, it is a trendy restaurant offering Edomae-style sushi, Warayaki straw-grilled seafood, and a broad range of Japanese alcoholic beverages. Its guests are 90 percent Japanese and 10 percent locals, and it is used more for private dining than formal business entertaining. On the main menu are roughly 70 dishes, plus four to five seasonal fish specials. Ninety percent of the items on the menu are prepared using ingredients from Japan.
Says Yoji Kobayashi, the executive chef with 30 years of culinary experience: “Most of the fish we use come from Japan as do some of the vegetables, such as Japanese ginger, which we use year-round, as well as seasonal foodstuffs like gingko nuts and Mizunasu eggplants. And we’ve been using the same dried bonito shaving produced in Kyoto for miso soup ever since we opened.” The most popular item on the menu is Warayaki, SUSHI JUBAN’s signature dish featuring straw-grilled bonito, pickled mackerel, albacore tuna, and other seafood. Bringing out the best in the ingredients, the dish delights customers with the characteristic smoky flavor of straw-grilling that bursts in the mouth the moment you take a bite. Guests generally enjoy appetizers or delicacies like rice malt-pickled herring and salt-roasted gingko nuts before ordering the Warayaki and sushi. The sushi toppings on offer on this particular day included grunt from Odawara, Kanagawa; young yellowtail from Makurazaki in southern Japan; splendid alfonsino from Izu, Shizuoka; red big eye from Kanazawa of Ishikawa; and sea urchin from Hokkaido. “It’s of course important that sushi ingredients are fresh, but it’s also crucial that the topping and the rice come together in the mouth, complementing each other. So for best texture, we sometimes let the ingredients rest for a little while,” explains Mr. Kobayashi. The chef’s refined culinary prowess has been key to the restaurant’s success.
An outstanding selection of sake and shochu
Mr. Kobayashi buys the restaurant’s wide selection of alcoholic beverages, including 30 brands of sake, 24 brands of shochu, five brands of umeshu plum wine, nine brands of whiskey, and two brands of wine, from six different wholesalers. “Of the many Japanese restaurants in Bangkok, we have one of the biggest selections of sake and shochu, I think,” remarks Mr. Kobayashi. “All brands are more or less equally popular, but Zaku of Shimizu Seizaburo Shoten, a brewery in Mie Prefecture, is especially appreciated for its smooth, refreshing flavor. Its taste and aroma are exquisite, so when our guests ask for suggestions, I tell them that Zaku is the best bet for sake beginners.” According to the chef, the most frequently ordered shochu are the highly reputed Aka Kirishima of Kirishima Shuzo, based in Miyazaki, and two brands produced by breweries in Kagoshima: Higashi Shuzo’s Nanakubo, known for its full-bodied richness, and strongly aromatic Yasuda of Kokubu Shuzo.
Buying fish from all over Japan
Japanese ingredients are ordered through a Japanese-owned vendor operating in Thailand. Mr. Kobayashi places an order a few times a week to the company, which has an office in Tokyo and its own extensive business network. “This vendor can get us fish from all over Japan, although most come through Tsukiji fish market. They are flexible in responding to our requests. I can trust them with quality, so when they give us suggestions, like now is a good season for so-and-so fish, or, if they ask if we are interested in fish whose order was canceled by another buyer, I take them up on their offer.” Encouraged that the Mizunasu eggplant he has been trying out since May 2017 has proved free of bitterness and popular among his guests—who have said it is like eating sashimi—Mr. Kobayashi is looking to increase the variety of Japanese vegetables served in his restaurant. “I’d like to use vegetables that not many restaurants here offer, like matsutake and other mushrooms, yam, round eggplant, and so on. We can add a seasonal feel to the menu by featuring not just fish but an assortment of Japanese vegetables, and I’m sure our guests will be thrilled.
Training the local staff
SUSHI JUBAN currently has seven staff members, and one of them, a Thai woman, can communicate with customers in Japanese. With a good understanding of the characteristics of each category and brand of Japanese drinks, she helps guests make their pick by giving out helpful information, like: “This sake is Daiginjo, which means it has good flavor.” “There is still room for improvement,” Mr. Kobayashi notes modestly, but thanks to his enthusiastic guidance, the restaurant now has well-trained staff who have become a valuable source of information for the guests.