From the Japanese ones with a separate compartment for your big toe, the gray pair with the blue skulls – I’ve rarely thought so hard about the pair of socks I’d put on for a night out. I have also rarely undertaken such an adventurous-mysterious urban expedition to reach a restaurant.
The elevator is broken, so we are led via the grim concrete staircase to the third floor of a student flat at Amsterdam’s Science Park. We are not here to buy illegal drugs. We’re going to eat sushi. In rooms.
Kitsanin Thanyakulsajja, for friends Kit, is 21, comes from Thailand and studies Liberal Arts and Sciences here. At the weekend, he transforms his student room with limited resources (read: Ikea) into restaurant Ephemeral, where he receives up to six people at a time at a long bar that is also his workbench. Ephemeral is according to the website Amsterdam’s sole omakase dining location.
Omakase is Japanese, it roughly means ‘I leave it up to you’. In a real omakase restaurant there is nothing to choose from. The chief decides everything. You do not have to gain weight with allergies or dietary restrictions. Don’t bullshit, say thank you and just pay for what’s on your unspecified receipt (in this case 75 euros). And take off your shoes. If you apply these criteria strictly, Ephemeral is probably indeed the only real omakase restaurant in Amsterdam.
On the map
Today Kit has the help of a fellow student, whom he timidly but resolutely orders around – she is mainly responsible for the three rice steamers under the coat rack. A menu consists of an average of fifteen to twenty small dishes, which are prepared on the spot by the chef and literally handed to you. You have to bring your own drinks.
Kit and Ephemeral have since become a cult phenomenon in the Amsterdam culinary underground. Because of the combination of that piecemeal setting on the one hand, and the extreme seriousness with which Kit handles things on the other. Such as the sophisticated blend of types of rice that, depending on the type of sushi topping, he prepares with different rice vinegars, based on polished rice or saké lees. As a child he came to Japan three times, later he gained his extensive theoretical sushi knowledge mainly by watching documentaries and studying the sushi scene in Bangkok.
Omakase also means a lot of interaction with the chef and Kit misses few opportunities to show that he has done his homework – admittedly, very well. He sets the bar very high for himself. Then it is extra noticeable that the rice is not made every time spot on is – the rice is and remains the main ingredient, you have to charge a sushi chef for that. That it is a shame for that beautifully skinny mackerel that it really has been in the acid for just a little too long. And that a wet cloth in the bathroom wouldn’t have gone amiss.
But that’s not quite fair. The flair and confidence with which Kit guides us through the evening also makes it easy to forget that here we are looked after by a 21-year-old boy who twice a week with a curtain over his bed and the help of one classmate. from scratch a very impressive and respectful Japanese menu is cooking. That tuna ripens in its own fridge. Who has mastered the technique of transforming a slice of raw squid with just a knife into a luscious glassy, silky, fishy creaminess. The culmination is a thumb-sized canapé of sour white rice with creamy white squid tartare that melt together both on the eye and on the palate. A bite. A momentary delight, followed by a small moment of pure bliss. That’s the idea of sushi.
Reservations are no longer possible – due to overwhelming success. You can send an email via the website and hope that something can be arranged.
Above all, you should hope that Kit will graduate soon and continue to cook here in the Netherlands. This boy has so much to offer, we must not lose sight of that.