This is the first food article since the beginning of the new year. It’s the longest we’ve gone without a food article so far I think. Part of it had to do with the many projects we’ve been doing aside from the blog. And in part, it was also a lack of enthusiasm for the new restaurant openings in Amsterdam. Let me know if you guys want to see a particular restaurant featured here or if you have suggestions. I’m in need of some food inspiration!
One food inspiring discovery of late was my visit to Ephemeral – Project Omakase. If you’re a well-informed sushi addict, you’ll have heard of this tiny gem in Amsterdam. Kitsanin Thanyakulsajja, is a student by day and sushi master by night. Currently living in a student dorm in Amsterdam-Oost, Kit has garnered quite the sushi-loving following already in the city. In his dorm room, Kit’s Project Omakase is open for dinner during the weekends. And we couldn’t wait to try.
Upon entering the dorm room, we are greeted by student hosts, who lead us to the chef’s table behind a curtain. A setup of six seats by a counter, with Kit standing behind it, preparing the omakase. It’s amazing what little space he’s working with and yet Kit has realized an authentic omakase that is already sending quite a buzz in the food scene. Kit explains his background and tells about how his vision passionately.
Omakase is a Japanese phrase that roughly translates to “I’ll leave it up to you”. An omakase dinner is when you go with the chef’s creativity and servings. That means leaving it all up to the chef’s choice of ingredients and serving sequence.
The size of the room and the table setup made for a very personal and intimate dinner. In a restaurant you share the attention of the chef with a whole restaurant, leaving little interaction with the chef. At Ephemeral, you get to have a close look at the chef’s preparations and techniques and pick his brains on all things sushi.
The dinner started with sesame tofu and marinated mackerel in soy and vinegar topped with shredded myoga – a Japanese ginger that tastes like young ginger with a hint of mild onion. Such a beautiful and delicate root that goes well with fish.
Before we start with the nigiri, Kit explains Edomae-style sushi. The sushi that we’ve grown accustomed to here, of fresh raw fish on top of cooked rice, seasoned with vinegar, appears to be a rather modern style of sushi. But it is one style of many sushi styles. Edomae-style sushi focuses more on getting most flavour out of its main ingredients, instead of combining many ingredients to create a whole. Edomae-style sushi often features ingredients that are simmered, marinated, cured and matured. And it comes from a time when shelf life of ingredients needed to be maintained throughout the shipping from harbours to cities.
We start with a yellowtail nigiri – soft and rich in flavor – and continue with a range of squid nigiris, finished with salt, drops of lime and lime zest. Our first Edomae-style sushi and we’re impressed with the buttery soft and flavourful ingredients. Kit explains the different types of soy sauces and the difference between a Kikkoman, Koikuchi (dark soy sauce with a deep umami flavour) and Shiro shoyu (white soy sauce with a sweet and mild flavour). The soy sauces each have a different flavour profile, ranging from more deep umami tones to sweetness and richly fermented flavours.
Kit, originally from Thailand, tells about how he has always been fascinated by Japanese culture. And how that fascination has sparked a life-long curiosity to learn and master his craft. Through studying books, occasionally bothering his sushi chef friends, and experimenting thoroughly in his spare time, a hobby became a pursuit of perfection. Leading him to where he is today – on a road to opening his own omakase restaurant. A dream he hopes to realize in the near future.
We continue with a row of tuna nigiris. This is where the curing and maturing really shines. Tuna is like a beautiful red meat. Let it mature and you open up a flavour profile that is richer and meatier. Garnished with lime zest and chopped onions, the tuna nigiris really don’t need much more. With a blowtorch, the last tuna nigiri is scorched beautifully to perfection. We watch Kit and his team, fellow students in his dorm, shave off fresh wasabi from wasabi root (how often do you see this in Amsterdam) and make preparations for the next nigiris. There’s not a moment where you feel you’re left in the hands of students. The setup is professional and you’re mostly impressed by the ease and effortlessness through which the team works.
From a sequence of buttery yellowtail, mackerel with nori to ikura over rice and a tuna tartare with myoga, wasabi and rice – after twenty to twenty-five servings, we leave the premises full and satisfied. In awe of the whole supperclub experience (I mean, we did just come out of a student dorm). And in anticipation of hopefully a new sushi era waiting – or already starting – to happen in Amsterdam.