Those who know us well, know we have a penchant for Japanese cuisine. Good Japanese food tends to be marked by fresh ingredients, tantalizing combinations of flavor and a chef’s passion for the process. We haven’t had much sushi since we left Toronto so we decided to try to find the best Japanese food in Thailand. We found what we were looking for and more at Kobori Japanese Restaurant in Koh Samui, Thailand and for us, the bar has been raised.
Our Journey To Find The Best Japanese Food In Thailand Ends Where It Begins
When we arrived at the restaurant, along the Mae Nam walking street, we were greeted immediately by the restaurant’s namesake, Chef Koji O Kobori, wearing full traditional Japanese clothing and a warm smile. He led us through the narrow restaurant to a table near the back of the comfortably lit, authentically decorated dining area.
Chef Kobori Brings Japan to Koh Samui and Takes His Kimonos With Him
In talking to Kobori we learned that the restaurant was only 9 months old, opening in February 2014, and while he did not go to culinary school for formal training, Kobori learned to cook in various establishments in Japan before working there as a chef for around 5 years. His friendly demeanor and obvious love for Japanese cuisine and hosting guests made us immediately feel welcome and even more excited to try the food.
We requested that Kobori provide suggestions on our meal and drinks, which he did, starting first with a tasting of Japanese plum liqueur and some sake, both of which were a great way to start our meal. The sake was smooth and light and the liqueur was sweet and fruity and left our palate cleansed and ready for the food to come.
We started with a tuna avocado salad made with fresh, melt-in-your-mouth pieces of tuna sashimi, chunks of avocado, slices of tomato, cucumber, onion and carrot on a bed of lettuce and served with a homemade wasabi dressing. The components contrasted well and provided a mix of textures while the slight kick to the dressing was a complement to the mild flavor of the tuna and the balsamic flavor blended well with the stronger hints of cucumber and tomato.
To enjoy with the rest of our meal, we had iced matcha green tea and a Thai iced tea. The green tea was bold and strong in flavor while the Thai iced tea was lighter and refreshing. We could have drank several glasses of both but stuck to just one.
Our next dish was the Samui fish fry plate. Six beautifully and lightly fried, crispy pieces of skewered white fish were served with a katsu sauce on the side. The fish were neither greasy nor strong in taste and we were told that the type of fish used are chosen from whatever is fresh at the market that day. On our particular plate, we had three different kinds of white, flaky fish. Whatever they had caught in Samui that day, it was absolutely perfect for this fish fry.
What Japanese meal would be complete without some sashimi, sushi or a maki roll? Our Salmon-tataki roll was beautifully plated and served just as we were finishing our fried fish skewers. The freshness of the ingredients were evident as the flavor burst and blended in a perfect mix of salmon, rice, Japanese mayo and vegetables. The salmon on the outside was nicely seared without being cooked through and matched the fish and vegetables on the inside of the roll.
By this point we were both starting to get pretty full but when Kobori mentioned his miso soup made from fresh miso paste, which he makes each day, we couldn’t resist. We must’ve been eating instant miso base all this time because the flavour was unlike any other miso soup we had tried back home. The soup had vibrant flavours that were strong and not watered down. Even the tofu held the flavour and was present in the soup in thick chunks rather than the small tiny cubes one usually sees when ordering a miso soup.
Kobori followed up the miso soup with some beef teppanyaki which he brought out on a hot steel plate and cooked himself on a service cart in front of us. Colourful vegetables combined with the thinly sliced New Zealand beef and emitted a wonderful aroma while being cooked with the sauces Kobori had also made and brought out with the rest. Fresh and flavourful we thoroughly enjoyed this dish, served with rice, and its unique presentation.
By this point of the meal we were quite full but the photos of dessert on the wall, and the Japanese sword Kobori kept strapped to his side, made it hard to resist ordering something. We decided on the homemade matcha green tea ice cream, especially since the iced tea was so good, and the homemade coconut milk pana cotta. Afterall, Kobori said that Koh Samui is nicknamed coconut island, so it only made sense to try at least something involving one of the island’s main crops.
The ice cream had a strong and creamy matcha taste while the pana cotta was light in texture and flavour. The drizzle of strawberry sauce on top was a perfect touch. We don’t know too much about pana cotta other than it’s delicious and can be tricky to make but when we asked Kobori where he learned to make it, he told us he taught himself and that “it’s easy”. If we hadn’t already decided that he was a talented chef, we would’ve been convinced in that moment.
Just as we were winding down to the last few bites of our dessert, a plate of ‘the fruit of the day’ was brought out. Served to all guests at the completion of their meal, the plate of fruit is to cleanse the palate after eating and the day we went was composed of lychee and watermelon.
Needless to say, by the end of the meal we were completely satiated and incredibly impressed by the quality and presentation of the food we had just consumed. Kobori then took time to help the both of us dress in traditional Japanese clothing and take photos with him.
Donning some interesting, and pretty humourous, headwear we all took various shots alone and together and it was a great way to round out the evening and an example of what makes Kobori Japanese Restaurant and Kobori himself so special. Here, you receive individual attention, an amazing meal and a funny and attentive host.
Open everday from 5:30pm-11pm we highly suggest you find your way to Mae Nam and Kobori Japanese Restaurant for some incredible and authentic Japanese cuisine and a chance to unwind, dress-up and enjoy. We definitely won’t be forgetting the meal or the evening anytime soon.
Moo 5, Mae Nam,
Ko Samui District, Surat Thani
Comment below and let us know which cuisine you’d look for after being away from home for a couple months!! We can’t decide between Japanese or Dim Sum!