Finding Fusion in Siam Paragon’s Gourmet Market
Since when did “fusion” become such a dirty word for chefs? Just try pitching someone’s dish as fusion and you’ll likely get the chef foaming at the mouth with a smattering of expletives. However, not only is Nippon Kai—located in the Gourmet Market at Siam Paragon—daring to drop the “F” bomb all over their menu boards, their sushi bar stands in the middle of a grocery store. It’s a bizarre experience at first, but once you settle in, the vibe is infectious.
Along the U-shaped counter are a mix of gentlemen, tourists, and hipsters, all enjoying chilled mugs of Asashi, eating sushi, and taking photos. On the other side of the counter is Nippon Kai’s fresh Japanese seafood service area. There’s no banquette seating, or complimentary edamame here. Instead you’re almost rubbing elbows with your neighbour and there are no cold refresher towels in sight (God forbid). But seeing first-hand the freshness of your seafood, along with such extreme proximity to the chefs, makes all that other stuff seem trivial.
Chef Jakkapan Thongman, the mastermind behind the ‘Sushi Fusion’ menu, is young, bright, and bubbling with enthusiasm. He relishes in the details of his original creations, most of which use paste and sauces made from scratch, like the incredible homemade ume (Japanese plum) paste which the chef cooks down with sake as part of his best-selling ‘Dynamite’ sushi.
We started with the Tokujoe sashimi (B1,200), a mini mountain of the usual suspects—salmon, hamachi, maguro etc.—which all tasted just as one would expect, yet it was the scallops that felt outrageously fresh and mildly sweet, albeit the truffle sauce threatened to overpower the delicateness. Meanwhile, the Japanese clam (B500), a revered delicacy known as Akagai, came out looking like an elaborate science project and tasted just as alien. With the texture of a chewy mussel it delivers a fishy, metallic taste which is not for the faint hearted (but worthy of a one-off experience).
To heighten the experience to our already challenged palates, Chef Jakkapan presented us with a beautiful piece of sushi topped with kiwi fruit, tabiko and torched cheese (B80). I dreaded trying this sushi abomination, but was floored by how savoury and well married it was.
We finally met our match with the chef’s pièce de résistance Sushi Fusion (B380). It’s an artful construction of unagi (eel), torched toro salmon, foie gras, engawa (fish fin), and avocado, topped with salmon skin, sea urchin, salmon roe, and a sauce of red wine, foie gras, tsukudani (seaweed), and ume paste. Most foodies would laugh at such a monstrosity but somehow, in some way, it actually worked. As you bite down on each element, the flavour hits you singularly then melds together all at once like a mini explosion or, more accurately, like “dynamite”.
By Samantha Proyrungtong
Nippon Kai Sushi Counter
GF, Siam Paragon, 991 Rama 1 Rd.
Tel: 02 610 7622 | Open daily: 10am-10pm