Niku Kappo, a small, cozy Japanese teppanyaki restaurant with a skewer and beer terrace in the front of Thong Lor’s Opus building, offers a variety of experiences not available elsewhere in Bangkok.
Old-fashioned drinking games, paper fortunes, vintage kimono decor, Japanese craft beers, and snow-aged Wagyu beef are becoming the calling cards for the six-month old spot. A fun and impressive place to take a date or group of friends, visitors might want to make a booking for the teppanyaki, since they can only seat about 15 people.
Offering a unique experience is what owner Yuta Yamaguchi is all about. He owns Japanese restaurants across Asia, each with a different name and theme, but can occasionally be found in traditional clothes, charming customers behind the Thong Lor grill or studiously laboring over skewers on the newly-opened beer terrace in front.
As guests step inside, they’ll notice 10 taps of Japanese craft beers from Hitachi Nest (a hard find in Bangkok), chairs crafted of vintage Kyoto kimono, and a modern graffiti mural on the wall.
“I didn’t want to make a normal Japanese restaurant. There are so many of those in Bangkok. I wanted to make the style more fusion. I wanted to make a point with the design,” said Yamaguchi of the modern, funky spot.
On a recent night, we stopped in to try some of their signature dishes.
We started with the Yuzu Aroma Assorted Sashimi (THB1,200) a good-sized appetizer for two featuring sushi flown in from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fish market. The standout on the plate, which is dramatically presented on a plate of dry ice, was the melt-in-your-mouth hamachi.
Next up was another often Instagrammed dish, the Grilled Oyster with Scorched Sea Urchin Sauce (THB320 for two pieces). Yamaguchi grilled the oysters before gently placing them back in their shells, coating them with savory orange sauce, and taking a torch to them. They large oysters — each a few, messy, far from regrettable bites — were briny and delicious.
Their famed beef, Snow Aged A5 Wagyu Teppan Sirloin (THB1,800 for 100g) would be coming next, but Yamaguchi explained that it needs to thaw at least ten minutes to reach temperature equilibrium. Apparently, the marbled meat needs to be the same temperature throughout before it hits the grill.
A round of drinking games were in order during the wait. A Beku Hai set (THB388 for 250ml of sake) lets diners play a little-known (even inside Japan, Yamaguchi told us) drinking game from the country’s Kochi prefecture.
Each player spins a top and it lands on the image of one of three characters — each of which corresponds to a ceramic head in the set. Each head is a cup when you flip it and it gets filled with sake to down. One cup has a small hole in its nose, meaning the drinker has to imbibe quickly to avoid spilling.
When the meat was finished thawing, it was time for grilling. Yamaguchi explained the backstory of the meat as he worked. The beef comes from Northern Uoshoku, Japan, a place often covered in 3-4 meters of snow. The beef is aged under the cold stuff for 35 days to make it more tender, sweet, and pricey.
It’s presented rare, with grilled vegetables on a block of Himalayan pink salt. The marbling is apparent and pretty. To the side are nine homemade sauces including truffle cheese, pepper paste, and uni sauce.
We could taste how the freezing of the meat under snow had changed the texture, breaking it down without turning it to mush. It was unlike others we tried before and worth the trip and the price.
Outside on the terrace, guests can get great food at significantly lower prices. They can grab Takoyaki (THB120), Japanese Nachos (THB420), and 24 versions of Skewers (including veggie versions) that range in price from THB25 for vegetarian versions to THB150 for lamb.
They also have craft Japanese beers and sake out there, and a free welcome shot for guests. Their ten Hitachino Nest Beer taps, range in price as the night goes on. The beers are cheapest from 5-7pm, when you can get a pint for THB188, that same beer is THB278 from 7-10pm, and THB258 after 10pm.
This is a won’t miss place to meet up with friends to grab a bite and beer outside before hitting the clubs of Thong Lor, and also a good choice for dining inside for a highly unusual Japanese experience.
Thong Lor Soi 10
Open daily, 5pm-midnight ( later on weekends)
BTS Thong Lor