Shun by Yanagiya
One of Japan’s top-ranked restaurants now has a Bangkok sibling.
A sister of Gifu prefecture’s 73-year-old irori restaurant Yanagiya—which packs two Michelin stars, a Tabelog Gold award and was once hailed by The Guardian as possibly “the best restaurant on the planet”—Shun by Yanagiya has big boots to fill. The intimate omakase sumiyaki (charcoal-grilled chef’s selection) restaurant is a joint venture with the owner-investor of Bangkok’s Menya Itto, Ginza Tenharu and Odtomato.
Breaking away from the wild animal-heavy, regional cuisine of its invitation-only forerunner, this opening treats local and imported seasonal ingredients to traditional Yanagiya-style charcoal-cooking across 15 courses (B4,800/person), all served in an elegant 15-seat circular dining room centered around an open cooking island.
Currently on the menu, you’ll find juicy tebasaki (Japanese-style chicken wings), uzura (smoked and grilled quail eggs), Miyazaki kuroge A4 wagyu, and Yanigiya’s signature unadon, featuring Anguilla Japonica unagi basted in special 50-year-old tare sauce. A selection of rare sakes, Old World wines and seasonal cocktails, such as the Guava (slow-pressed fresh guava, matcha, gin and celery), fill the drinks list.
The buzz: Shun by Yanagiya is the first-ever spinoff of Yanagiya, a two-Michelin-starred, invitation-only restaurant outside Gifu, Japan, that The Guardian has suggested might be the world’s best. It comes to Bangkok courtesy of the man behind the local branches of Ginza Tenharu and Menya Itto, businessman and importer Ben Na Nakhon, who counts third-generation Yanagiya owner Masashi Yamada as a friend.
The vibe: This place certainly qualifies as easy-to-miss—it’s located behind a barely marked wooden door in the unlikeliest of locations: the third floor of the Don Don Donki mall. Once inside, you’ll discover a private dining space dominated by a semi-circular table that surrounds smoking grills and a team of Japanese chefs that cater to two seatings a night. Looming over it all is a lighting fixture that resembles hot coals—a clever way of telling you what you’re in for at this omakase sumiyaki (charcoal-grilled chef’s selection) restaurant. Unlike your run-of-the-mill yakitori joint, however, high-tech vents suck the smoke down into metal tubes and out of the room, so you won’t leave smelling like burnt apple chips.
The food: The food at Shun, meaning “seasons,” is driven largely by that: whatever is fresh and available. In time, Ben also hopes to incorporate wild game—the very products that Yanagiya uses to such critical acclaim—as long as the local palate warms up to it. For the time being, the focus is on more accessible, premium products, including carabineros (red shrimp), Ibérico pork belly and Atlantic salmon. Tasting menus span a dizzying 17 courses (B4,800), and the flavors amplify as you navigate your way to the finish line (a tangy dessert of toasted marshmallows with yuzu cream). The menu features three cuts of chicken, starting with the shoulder, moving to the fattier thigh and finishing with the succulent middle wing—all glazed with the restaurant’s 50-year-old master tare sauce. The seafood does the same, culminating in an over-the-top temaki roll stuffed with uni, ikura and fatty tuna. The restaurant’s signature dish is the fork-tender wild unagi, but the real standout might be the creamy, oak-smoked and mentsuyu-marinated quail eggs—they’re redolent of a still-burning campfire.
The drinks: The sake selection is what you’re after here. It’s packed with rare regional bottles, with entry-level offerings like Niigata’s Koshi no Kanbai Ginjo Bessen starting at B430/carafe. If it’s cocktails you crave, you’re still in good hands. The menu changes depending on the season and might feature anything from an off-pink, raspberry-and-spice rum drink topped with Emmental cheese foam (B650) or a surprisingly vegetal blend of Talisker 10 with Mahiki coconut liqueur, rum and young coconut (B650). If you arrive early or want to stay late, check out the secret bar hidden behind the entryway.
Why we’d come back: The constantly changing menu and promise of exotic game merit repeat visits. Not to mention dining here gets you an invitation to eat at Yanagiya, one of the most sought-after meal tickets in Japan.