A Zen food for Thought OKU JAPANESE RESTAURANT
Washoku (literally, “food of Japan”) refers to Japanese-style meals. To the Japanese, food is not just something that gives nourishment, but it is also an exhilarating experience that caters to the five senses. At Hotel Indonesia Kempinski’s newly launched OKU Japanese restaurant, lovers of this healthy and delicious cuisine are treated to a visual and savoury feast.
A resplendent bonsai with gnarled roots and two “gold” rocks embellish a curvilinear table at the entrance of OKU, immediately evoking the image of a zone of tranquillity. To the left is a discreet bar well stocked with Japanese saké, ingenious cocktails, and other popular beverages.
Muted warm lighting complements the beige-coloured walls, the blonde wood of cosy furniture, marble flooring, pink-veined grey marble tabletops, and filigreed room partitions. One’s scrutiny is drawn to the magnificent pair of life-sized stylised “flying cranes over a small pond” that dominates the centre of the room. There are strategically placed wooden shelves filled with choice specimens of ceramic bowls, saké containers, and vases, casting a relaxing oriental ambience. Guests facing the windows can contemplate different elements of the fenced-in Zen garden. An eye-catcher is the singular miniature ficus tree on a mossy mound surrounded by white gravel raked to represent water ripples.
Seasoned Chef Kazumasa Yazawa orchestrates the visually arresting composition of luscious dishes that feature fresh and seasonal ingredients. Chef Kaz, who trained under renowned Japanese-born Australian Chef Tetsuya Wakuda, adheres to the guiding principles behind the preparation of washoku: balance, harmony, restraint, simplicity, and naturalness. His imaginative creations display bravura and modern flair.
The concept of OKU indicates that there is always something ahead which encourages one to move forward and search deeper, akin to penetrating the layers of an onion. In a culinary sense, one is emboldened to be adventurous and try new flavours.
For starters, relish the brilliant rendition of Ajitama: Smoked Onsen (Hot Springs) Style Organic Egg with minced Shiguren Beef topped with Chives. Smoke is trapped inside a glass funnel atop a circular black ceramic bowl. As the funnel is lifted, the fumes dissipate to reveal two delightful egg halves with runny yolk nestled atop organic rice straw. The unwieldy titbit should be quickly popped into the mouth to appreciate the burst of sublime smoky flavour. Next to try is the subtle Japanese Wafer filled with White Miso, Cream Cheese, and Foie Gras, a temptation for those lovers of the delicacy. Not to be missed is a house speciality: OKU Karaage. Sitting atop two charcoal sticks on a black slab are a trio of ebony-coloured, bite-sized deep-fried chicken thigh pieces sprinkled with Shichi-mi (“seven flavours”) Japanese spice. Meant to be eaten in one bite, the juicy morsels ooze a tasty sauce, the thin crust crisp and flavourful. Unagi (grilled Japanese eel) on Rice Crackers are served with a soupçon of special seafood jus and a riot of colourful edible blossoms, presented on a bed of seashells.
The mouth-watering main courses include Truffle Gyu Don, succulent US Short-Rib Beef topped with an Onsen Egg, doused with Black Truffle Sauce over fluffy white rice; glorious Sashimi with chef-selected fresh fish atop three varieties of seaweed; exquisite charcoal-grilled Salmon Teriyaki garnished with a delicate daikon flower and marigold petals, artfully arranged on a lovely ceramic dish.
The fabulous meal can be capped with round Japanese Wafers filled with Matcha Ice Cream or Yuki, a citrusy Chocolate Mousse, decorated with torn bits of feathery Sponge cake and springy Lemon Clouds, drizzled with passion fruit sauce and garnished with edible gold leaf and red begonia blossoms. Thank you, Chef Kaz and your team. Gochisousama deshita! (It was a feast!)