Kintsugi by Jeff Ramsey
Let your hair down at this unstuffy kaiseki restaurant
The buzz: American-Japanese chef Jeff Ramsey has taken time away from his creative Japanese tapas restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Babe, to open a kaiseki restaurant where you can let your hair down.
The vibe: Classic blond wood and minimalist vertical lines are given a contemporary edge with abstract bronze light clusters, black marble and a rustic, flowing wood table, setting the scene for chef Ramsey’s laid-back approach to traditional kaiseki (multi-course) dining. Get up close to the action at the 12-seat counter, take one of the tables separated by slatted screens or book one of the two private dining room complete with sunken 10-seat horigotatsu tables.
The food: Combining his American-Japanese heritage with experience spanning becoming a Master Sushi Chef, opening Tokyo’s Michelin-starred Molecular Bar and launching his fun-loving Babe, chef Ramsey brings some serious clout to the kitchen. His non-stuffy approach to traditional Japanese kaiseki takes a globe-trotting turn. Part French, part Japanese, the Shirako Brandade sees the traditional salt cod and potato emulsion combined with cod milt and served as a creamy espuma topped with a zesty yuzu kimizu—a vinegar dressing that stems from a little known, 300-year-old technique used in edo-mae sushi. The dish is served with a crisp flatbread disguised as kombu—one of a few subtle theatrics that punctuate the menu. Another sees plumes of vapor rising from the umami-rich Nagano Walnut Soba thanks to the addition of dry ice “walnut oil snow.” The Charcoal Grilled Tachiuo takes a less showy approach, featuring seasonal belt fish intensified by miso and kelp marinade partnered with grated daikon radish and house-brewed soy sauce. Finish with an indulgent “Kin Kat”—chilled roasted foie gras and cognac in a dark chocolate shell sandwiched between a crisp monaka wafer. Served in three tiers—nine-course Ito (B2,488); 12-course Kin (B3,788); and 15-course Omakase (B6,388)—the menus will change seasonally, with items also available to order a la carte (from B120-840).
The drinks: Go traditional with sake, ranging from the Hakutsuru nama (B390/bottle) to the Sempuku Miyajimaemaki ginjo-shu (B1,980/bottle), or opt for the refreshing Athenee Hugo (B350), a mix of lemongrass, lime, mint leaves, elderflower syrup, sparkling wine and soda.
Why we’d come back: Chef Ramsey makes an often stiff type of dining approachable, challenging the boundaries of what can be considered Japanese while adapting to the seasons and the local palate.