Written by Karn Chatikavanij
“The Japanese Issue”, August-September 2023
Effectively translating as “entrusting another to decide what is best”, omakase is one of the most daunting yet rewarding kinds of dining experiences. To embark on omakase is to relinquish all control over the course of your meal to the culinary expert—in the case of sushi, the sushi chef—who is then to serve you the best seasonal ingredients, from his hands directly to yours, with the utmost craftsmanship. Dishes are presented one at a time, at the perfect moment when flavour, temperature, and texture are in ittai-kan (“unity”). It is a unique and remarkable experience, intensely meticulous and fervently respectful of Japanese tradition and culture.
An omakase sushi course usually consists of between 12 to 16 dishes (depending on your appetite) and always begins with lighter fare, progressing towards heavier textures, and ending with a light dessert. It takes several hours, so choose your company wisely, and as for the dishes themselves, though omakase may be commonly associated with sushi or raw fish, they can also incorporate other meats and cooking techniques.
But this isn’t just a matter of a chef cooking and a diner dining; it’s an interactive dance. The chef may directly communicate with his guests or subtly gauge their reactions towards certain dishes in order to curate the best possible experience for them. Because omakase is so dependent on the happiness and satisfaction of the diner, you’ll often find that seatings are very limited at such restaurants, with perhaps only two rounds a day. Advance reservation is not only necessary but a sign of respect.
It’s clear to see that such a meal won’t come with an ordinary pricetag. However, it can be excellent value when considering that diners typically receive higher quality and rarer fish at a lower cost than if they had ordered it à la carte. Plus, the highly personalised and intimate treatment from the chef himself is quite invaluable. That being said, Bangkok’s abundance of elite omakase restaurants proves that the city’s foodies are prepared to pay a pretty baht for the experience.
Of course, omakase isn’t for everyone. You should ideally be two things if you are to fully enjoy the experience: patient and open-minded. The former to appreciate the bite-by-bite service, and the latter to relax control over your meal. As it’s the exact opposite of choosing your own dishes from a menu— “okonomi” being the name for that— don’t ask to be served unagi when unagi is not in season. Again, this is a simple sign of respect for omakase etiquette.
So, where does one actually go for this experience of truly world-class Japanese craftsmanship and service in Bangkok? Judging from authenticity, quality, and expertise, the following is a list of the most highly recommended omakase sushi restaurants in the city.
Ginza Sushi Ichi
Authenticity and consistency is the name of the game for Ginza Sushi Ichi. As one of only three branches outside of Japan, Bangkok’s Ginza Sushi Ichi imports fresh fish and ingredients every morning from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market—the same source as its revered Michelin-starred mother restaurant in the swanky Ginza district of Tokyo. The sushi rice, meanwhile, is imported from Yamagata and made using the same rice-vinegar formula as the flagship restaurant. Even the chefs rotate among the branches, moving from Bangkok to Ginza to Singapore, to ensure no single branch can lay claim to more qualified staff.
Chef Masakazu Ishibashi heads the elite sushi chain and personally goes to the fresh market in Tokyo at 5am to buy the fish for all his branches. There is no compromising on quality or negotiating on price as he has built up strong relationships with his suppliers over years.
The decor of Bangkok’s Ginza Sushi Ichi is quintessentially Japanese, minimally decorated with light pine wood. Diners sit around a marble counter, with only 10 seats up for taking per night. The chef presents his pieces at an officious pace, moving from the light and fresh white meats onto the heavier, deeper tastes of fatty tuna or richer, more decadent textures like uni and Hokkaido crab.
Location: 3rd Floor, Gaysorn Village, 999 Phloen Chit Road
Price Range: ฿4,500–7,500++
Reservations: 02-240-0014, ginza-sushiichi.jp
After moving to Bangkok from New York with his Thai-Japanese wife in 2015, Chef Masato Shimizu opened the doors to his own tiny restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 31. Here, at the eponymous Sushi Masato, you’ve found yourself at the most in- demand sushi counter in the city. Six nights a week, a team of three chefs serve 20 or so courses of omakase sushi to the nine customers lucky enough to get a seat. To say getting a sitting is difficult would be an understatement. Reservations open a month in advance, so prospective diners should make their booking as soon as the next month’s openings are announced, as they tend to fill up very quickly.
With the former New Yorker being able to converse casually with diners in English and his right-hand man, Chef Shige, speaking fluent Thai, non-Japanese diners can leave the restaurant with a thorough understanding of everything they’ve just eaten, from how the sashimi has been cured using the Edo- period aging technique of kobujime to what those dainty cups of shirako contained (it’s red snapper sperm).
Location: 3 22 Soi Sawatdi (Sukhumvit Soi 31)
Price Range: ฿4,000–6,000
Reservations: 097-234-1370, sushimasato.com
Osaka-born, Tokyo-trained, and LA-launched, Chef Keizo Seki opened his first branch of Sushi Zo outside of the United States here in Bangkok in 2016. Sushi Zo’s outstanding success amongst the Hollywood crowd and now the passionate Bangkok foodie community can be credited to the establishment’s subtle nuances and dedication to detail that are somehow incredibly consistent. The rice is made with specially imported Japanese deep-well water for flavour and texture purposes and is served exactly at body temperature. The fish, of course, is always seasonal and in such variety that it often times seems like Zo has something that other places do not. Another noticeable difference here is the complete absence of soy sauce, which is never missed as the chef always packs the perfect amount of savoury, umami flavours into his sushi.
All the fresh ingredients used in Sushi Zo’s 16-course omakase impressively arrive from Japan daily. The restaurant’s fresh catch-of-the-day is pre-ordered 48 hours prior to a guest’s arrival, hence the 48 hours cancellation policy, secured by a credit card.
Location: Athenee Tower, 63 Wireless Road
Price Range: ฿7,000++
Reservations: 091-757-2222, sushizobangkok.com
With sweeping city views from the 24th floor of The Okura Prestige Bangkok hotel, Yamazato is one of the most refined and elegant Japanese dining locations in town, offering a real sense of occasion and privacy that’s perfect for special celebrations or important business meetings. Specialising in Japanese haute cuisine, the polished restaurant offers a truly luxurious experience of season-focused dining and, unlike most other omakase venues, services diverse dining styles, including à la carte and kaiseki. Diners who opt for the omakase menu are taken care of by Master Chef Shigeru Hagiwara, who performs his “kaiseki omakase” service at Sushi Yamazato, the restaurant’s dedicated sushi counter.
As is tradition, the chef ’s selection of fresh sashimi is based on the day’s catch. Before the sushi courses, Chef Hagiwara serves a section of pan-fired seasonal yakimono followed by a palette cleanser to prepare guests for their next mouthwatering chapter.
The “Kaiseki Omakase” experience at Sushi Yamazato is available only from Wednesday to Sunday at 6:30pm, for dinner.
Location: 24th Floor, The Okura Prestige Bangkok, 57 Witthayu Road
Price Range: ฿4,900–6,500++
Reservations: 02-687-9000, okurabangkok.com
Fillets adds a layer of fun, modernity, and colour to the traditional, hushed minimalism of fine Japanese sushi dens. Chef and business partner Randy Nopprapa is a protegé of world-renowned Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and has over a decade’s experience heading some of the best sushi restaurants in Washington D.C. For his omakase experience, Chef Randy uses traditional techniques and sources his fish from Tokyo’s most esteemed sellers, but you’ll also find creative touches like cherry blossom marinade or caviar making their way into the elegant pieces of sashimi and sushi. The loungey vibe of his restaurant, along with his own playful and casual manner, infuses a little more dynamism into the experience and therefore tends to draw in a younger but still well-heeled crowd.
The chef also takes wagyu beef as seriously as he does fish. It should be well-noted that Fillets is a great option for guests who are not too keen on raw fish. The restaurant offers a great selection of local dry-aged beef as well as friendlier priced omakase courses for lunch.
Location: 102 Maha Set Road
Price Range: ฿1,900–6,000++
Reservations: 092-879-6882, filletsbangkok.com
An exception to the norm but not the rule, Umi is one of the very few omakase specialists with a Thai chef at the helm. Chef Banphot Boonklom and his right-hand man Chokchai Memmana have made a name for their unpretentious and committed restaurant through their focus on hard-to- source seasonal ingredients, whether that’s nama-sujiko (fresh immature salmon roe) or shinko (small gizzard shad). After serving guests with delicate appetisers such as grilled saltwater eel with perfectly crispy skin and melt-in-your-mouth tender meat, they begin crafting their nigiri sushi with two types of rice, seasoned with either white or red vinegar. The establishment features a simple counter with 15 seats and two tatami- floored private rooms for à la carte dining. Going for the full omakase experience will give you about 20 bites, but there are several other course options at more accessible prices, including a smaller lunch sitting that certainly won’t burn a hole in your wallet.
Location: 3rd Floor, Piman 49, 46/4 Sukhumvit Soi 49
Price Range: ฿2,900–5,700++
Reservations: 02-662-6661, @umibangkok
Despite his young age, Chef Riku Toda is no rookie in the art of sushi. Toda
was trained by Hachiro Mizutani, head of the three-Michelin-starred Sushi Mizutani and a former student of the legendary sushi master Jiro Ono. Once Mizutani retired, forcing his restaurant to close, Toda relocated to another establishment, Sushi Sugita, where he became sous chef whilst helping the restaurant achieve a Michelin star. Today, Chef Toda takes the reigns himself at Sushi Ichizu in Bangkok, where he skillfully and energetically crafts 18 bites across his omakase course, making use of seasonal seafood imported daily from Tsukiji Fish Market. The abundant range is a highlight of Ichizu, with kuro awabi (black abalone), nodoguro (blackthroat seaperch), and kegani (horsehair crab) being just a few examples of the highly sought-after seasonal catch showcased here.
Location: 1982 New Petchaburi Road
Price Range: ฿4,000–8,000++
Reservations: 065-738-9999, sushiichizu.com
It could be easy to miss this hidden, unostentatious, little Japanese restaurant. Sushi Misaki is as minimal inside as it is outside, giving a sense that all focus and efforts have been put exclusively on the food. With only 10 seats around the sushi counter, the tiny restaurant is helmed by Shizuoka-born Chef Masahiro Misaki (formerly of Nippon Tei) and serves an omakase journey of around 20 items. The course includes lighter appetisers, 12 nigiri sushi, a sushi roll, tamago, miso soup, and a light, seasonal dessert.
Most notable about Sushi Misaki is how dedicated they are to crafting sushi using the traditional Edo technique, meaning that the fish has been through an intricate process of aging, curing, or fermenting. This process of marinating or curing helps to soften and balance out flavours—balance being essential to Tokyo’s traditional sushi.
Location: Ground Floor, Rain Hill, 777 Sukhumvit Soi 47
Price Range: ฿4,800–7,200++
Reservations: 02-258-1783, tablecheck.com
Get notified about all our bite-sized food and drink content.
Get notified about all our bite-sized food and drink content.