The first Taihei originated at Banyan Tree in Bangkok, where it overlooks the "Big Mango" from the 53rd and 54th floor of the hotel’s skyscraper, and over the last decade has built a rock-solid reputation for its high-quality seafood and authentic Japanese preparation.
In February this year Banyan Tree Phuket, the brand’s flagship resort, closed its long-standing Tamarind restaurant and re-opened the venue as a second Taihei – bringing the same exacting standards for ingredients and the same zeal to offer diners the finest quality Japanese cuisine. The name Taihei is a play on the Japanese word for peace and its tranquil setting alongside Banyan Tree’s luxury spa and main swimming pool gives the open-air restaurant a very relaxed ambiance.
Fortunately for both Banyan Tree and we local food-lovers, Japanese Master Chef Shiraishi, who oversaw Tamarind, has stayed – bringing his half-century of experience in the kitchen to bear on Taihei’s kitchen staff and menu. You don’t get more authentic than Chef Shiraishi, now in his 70s. He began his career in Kumamoto on Kyushu Island, helping his parents in their family restaurant at the age of 10, before heading to Osaka at age 19 to undertake his apprenticeship and become a fully qualified sushi chef.
Chef Shiraishi has gone back to his roots to create Taihei’s menu, which is a study in Japanese simplicity and elegance. First and foremost, the focus is on the fish – sourced both locally and from around the globe – only the highest quality cuts will make it to Taihei’s kitchen for use in their sashimi and sushi. There really is no way to fake this, the best sashimi is simply the best fish – expertly sliced and served so as to let the quality and freshness speak for itself.
It is here where Taihei truly shines, their otoro sashimi (the belly meat of the blue-fin tuna, graded by its level of fat marbling, much like quality beef) is indescribably good and simply a must try for anyone who wants to understand why this particular cut of tuna fetches such eye-wateringly high prices in Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fish market.
Next comes the sushi and makimono – raw fish variously placed on rice or wrapped in seaweed with rice and other ingredients. The menu contains a concise and representative selection of the staples of this style. One highlight here is the “rainbow” maki – made with avocado, shrimp, salmon, tuna and mackerel – it allows you to sample a good selection of the fish available.
Though the sushi and makimono dishes can be ordered individually, we decided to try the bento set so we could taste a wider selection of these delicious morsels. Consisting of sushi, sashimi, tonkatsu pork, seaweed salad, prawns, miso soup, raw sliced beef and Japanese omelette – the bento set provides the perfect way for beginners to experience Taihei’s charms.
We also decided to order a donburi (rice bowl) of grilled chicken and vegetables to get a sense of the non-seafood dishes on the menu. We were not disappointed. The perfectly cooked short-grain Japanese rice soaked up the richly flavoured, gingery stir-fry sauce and provided a hearty, belly-filling contrast to our previous dishes. For something lighter there is also a selection of salads, again featuring seafood, seaweed and avocado and various delicate and delicious dressings.
Continuing Taihei’s mission to provide exemplary dishes of several Japanese cooking styles are the yakimono (grilled) and agemono (deep-fried) dishes. They include the classic tempura; lightly battered and fried vegetables and prawns served with a complex yet light sesame soy sauce which perfectly complements the crisp morsels. There is also the ever-popular pork tonkatsu (crumbed deep-fried pork), but for something a bit more adventurous you could try the kaki – crumbed and fried oysters served with tonkatsu sauce.
To top off the evening Chef Shiraishi himself brought us out some matcha green tea cake, which along with some hot green tea provided a suitably Japanese ending to our fabulous meal. Taihei is truly lifting the bar when it comes to Japanese food on the island.
For reservations or enquiries please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 076 372 400.