Extra herbs and spices boost the flavours at the St Regis’ Japanese restaurant

ZUMA, ONE of Britain’s top Japanese-food restaurant chains, has opened a branch at the St Regis Bangkok, bringing Thais its delightful izakaya cuisine.

The chic and modern outlet is said to be a match for its sister restaurants in London, New York, Rome, Dubai and elsewhere.

Izakaya refers to the casual style of dining (and drinking) that’s typically been found in Japanese sake bars since the Edo Period more than a century ago.

Noriyoshi Muramatsu of the Tokyo design firm Glitt Studio gave Zuma two separate areas where patrons can while away the pleasant hours.

The first is indoors, part retro and part contemporary, where the food is prepared in an open kitchen. Alongside is an open bar. It feels fun and relaxing.

The other is outdoors, in what could very well be a genuine, rock-strewn Japanese garden if you didn’t know you were in downtown Bangkok.

Executive chef Pawel Viktorek says the food is authentic in terms of the ingredients and cooking techniques used, but the flavours are much stronger than what you’d find in Japan.

“I’ve been travelling to Japan since I was 18 and I know how pure and delicate the flavours of the food are. But the customers at our 14 restaurants around the world, mainly in the US and Europe, are mostly non-Japanese. They want stronger flavours and more spiciness, and the original menu created by the chef at the first branch in London reflected that.”

Asians prefer their fish and tofu delicately flavoured, Viktorek says, so the more robust taste derives from the use of miso (soy paste) and Japanese herbs.

“Japanese customers often say the flavours are too strong, but the recipes used at Zuma around the world are almost the same. We use the same soy sauce, which comes from the same place in Japan, and then we always try to find good local products too, delivered fresh every morning, and there are some very good vegetables from Chiang Mai.”

Menu highlights include the inarguably authentic Hamachi Tataki (Bt350) served on a halved tomato with garlic sauce, and Black Cod (Bt1,350), with the Alaskan fish marinated in miso and sesame oil. It’s given a caramel coating with sugar, sake and mirin, is wrapped in leaves of hoba (golden teak) and set aside for five days.

Once all the flavours have married in an astonishing crescendo of tastes, the cod is roasted ready for the table.

Spicy Beef Tenderloin (Bt1,050) is grilled to perfection and presented in a sauce of dried chillies, garlic, sweet soy sauce and sesame oil and topped with Japanese chilli powder.

Yuzu orange, with its irresistible citrus scent, is a key ingredient at Zuma, appearing in Jumbo Tiger Prawn with yuzu pepper (Bt1,050), Wagyu Gyoza with yuzu truffle dip (Bt450), Thinly sliced Seabass with yuzu, truffle oil, and salmon roe (Bt390) and Black Cod Shiso Tempura with chilli yuzu mayonnaise (Bt400).

Another temptation is Crispy Fried Squid with green chilli and lime (Bt290) and, for a great summer sushi platter, Zuma Nigiri (Bt1,350) offers nine varieties.

Sliced Yellowtail with green chilli relish, ponzu and pickled garlic (Bt450) should not be ignored either.

Fans of bean curd will thoroughly enjoy Chilled Homemade Tofu with condiments (Bt220). The tofu is made with bottled soymilk, nigari (a coagulent made from sea brine) and sea-salt, then steamed to set.

A few chemistry experiments in the sake bar establish that the drinks – both with and without alcohol – are just as strong-flavoured as the food.

Among the cocktails, the Daisen (Bt320) involves Diplomatico rum, yuzu sake, lime, demerara syrup and herbs. The Kirifuri (Bt345) uses Tanqueray gin, sake, hibiscus liqueur, jasmine, lemon and soda. The Otaru (Bt360) blends pineapple rum, yusu sake, suma de coco and passion fruit.

For dessert there are Green Tea Banana Cake with peanut toffee sauce and coconut ice (Bt260) and Special Chocolate Cake with vanilla ice cream (Bt450).

Like everyone else who loves Japanese cuisine, Viktorek greatly admires the care and precision that goes into every detail.

“They have developed various techniques to keep the raw ingredients fresh and natural, from the delivery system to the processing and cooking,” he says. “And at Zuma, we aim for the same high quality. That’s our first priority.”


Zuma at the St Regis Bangkok is open daily for lunch (noon to 3pm)

and dinner (6 to 11pm).

Book a table at (02) 252 4707.