KATANA: a very special Japanese restaurant A 17 year old boy thought he was just a step away from his dream when several professional baseball teams came to watch his right arm pitch a tremendous speed ball. But his elbow gave out. What would you expect him to do? Cry hard and go on living? Study hard, enter a good university, get a good job, marry a good woman, have a couple of kids and .. and .. what? A perfectly good life, if that’s what you want. Instead the boy left for Australia with not much money, no prospects, no family, no friends, no nothing.
All alone. He needed to find out what he could do in his life to feel alive again. That was 17 years ago. The boy, Tetsuya Fukuda, is now the head chef of an exclusive Japanese cuisine restaurant “KATANA” in the heart of Bangkok. The restaurant boasts of its highly refined and sophisticated Japanese cuisine, and the top quality fresh ingredients imported from Japan four times a week, and the absolutely gorgeous recreation of the architecture of Sengoku Era, the Warring States Period in 16th century Japan.
What happened to that boy? If you are curious, come and try the food he puts on your table. You don’t need to know his story, his creations will tell you how interesting his life has been.Whatever you order, I guarantee that you won’t regret your choice. All dishes are prepared with great care and love, and cooked to perfection. The alluring presentation will take your breath away for sure.
Not all of the dishes are classic Japanese dishes, the chef has no limit on his ideas about what should be in a dish together. No worries, if you find a certain kind of fusion strange, such as European pear tempura wrapped in prosciutto! Whatever it is that your chopsticks are holding, put it into your mouth. The moment it hits your palate, you can feel your whole body immediately reacting to its exquisite taste.
All your attention rushes to your mouth to enjoy the sensation, and the food will just melt away. Take small bites, savour the moments, and enjoy the aftertaste. And don’t forget to ask the chef for a good Japanese Saké rice wine to go with it. Saké can change the great aftertaste into another interesting one.
My editor and I went for the course of the month one rainy night in August. The course included Matsusaka beef Shabushabu with house sesame and ponzu sauce. Don’t miss this dish for anything. This special dish would be a great reward for yourself after a extremely busy week or a stressful project. Also a wonderful treat for your important guests or special occasions.
My editor being a non Japanese, was sometimes feeling not sure about how to eat some dishes such as fresh slices of raw Japanese lobster and flounder with several unusual garnishes with Matsutaké mushroom soy sauce on side. Well, honestly, I don’t know that, either. He asked, “What’s the correct way?” At a place this high class and orderly, you might be worried if you would look bad by not knowing how to eat. Be assured, just enjoy, try the way your instinct tells you to. Truly, eating is eating, there is no correct way. But if you have no idea at all and are at a total loss, don’t hesitate to ask the chef or ever attentive waitresses in kimono what’s the best way to enjoy it, like we did. Life can use a little help and good advice from someone who knows.
Between the dishes, look around the interior and soak up the atmosphere from Japan’s Sengoku Era (especially the bathrooms with the aquarium wall with live fish). It’s an experience to be there. The Sengoku Era was short, but one of the most spectacular and powerful eras in Japanese history. People started rebelling against the old system of the repressive medieval period.
Provincial powerful clans were fighting each other to expand their territories while destroying the existing old morals and social structure. Merchants obtained enormous wealth by trading with foreign countries such as Spain and Portugal. They contributed to the new war strategies by producing and selling guns, and supported the most grand and magnificent art and architecture influenced by the first good contact with Western culture in Japanese history.
At the same time, the philosophy of the Way of Tea (O-cha no yu), which emphasises the beauty in simplification and minimalism, was being quietly but strongly developed as well. You can see a lovely tea room on the second floor of Katana.
In the turmoil of the warring period, the warriors, who were called Samurai, developed their own morals and disciplines to train themselves in order to accept a sudden death with tranquility and grace at any time.
They adored their swords (Katana) as the symbol of the way they ought to be as samurai: extremely sharpened and forged, and incredibly beautiful.Samurai as warriors, as fascinating as they were, do not exist any more in Japan, but you can find the spirit of them still exists in some people; those who live with their own principals and morals, not caving in to the nonsense of social expectations and common sense: in those who have faith in themselves and live their lives fully. The head chef of KATANA is definitely one of them.
His profile as a chef is not conventional, but rather odd. Yet his cooking can touch your heart and bring out the feelings you’ve never known you have in you. Something unique about him does the trick. I suspect that it comes from his attitude towards life. He never shrinks from difficulties. He rather embraces them, and uses them as options to create something new. There was a time he couldn’t even afford a bowl of rice. Now he’s a well known chef who can produce one of the most elegant and sophisticated Japanese cuisines in Bangkok. He knows what it’s like to be almost nothing and also how it is to be recognised and honoured. It shows in his style. His cooking is as grand and interesting as Sengoku Era architecture, and simple but deep as the Way of Tea.