By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
KYO ROLL EN, the popular chain of Bangkok dessert cafes known for their hand-rolled cakes made from authentic Kyoto recipes, is introducing an all-day-dining concept with additional menus for savoury light and healthy meals.
The “Kyo Cafe and Meal” concept has so far gone into action at two of the chain’s 31 outlets – at J Avenue on Soi Thonglor and at Central Department Store on Rama IX Road. They’ve been renamed as such, though the Kyo Roll En brand remains clear enough.
The typical Kyo Roll En interior design – subdued lighting in a setting that mimics its signature bamboo charcoal roll – is replaced at these eateries with a minimalist Japanese aesthetic, all clean, pale-wood furnishings and seats upholstered in indigo material.
There are two Bangkok eateries called Kyo Cafe and Meal, this one at J Avenue on Soi Thonglor
The J Avenue branch next to Villa Market boasts a glass facade, infusing the restaurant with natural light that freshens up the mood. The glass-topped tables bear display cases containing miniature Zen gardens. About 40 people can comfortably share the 70 square metres.
“In the competitive confectionery business today, sweet treats alone can’t draw in customers all day,” says owner Litti Kewkacha, who also runs the Sfree and Parferio cafes.
“With the new concept, customers can still enjoy the full range of Kyo Roll En desserts and drinks and now also 30 new savoury dishes that are light, quick and healthy.”
The chain’s name includes “Kyo” as a nod to Kyoto, the former capital of Japan that’s home to its cuisine inspiration.
“We go back to the roots of Kyoto cuisine, which typically features the flavour of dashi, the clear soup stock made from kombu [dried kelp] and katsuobushi [dried, smoked bonito],” says Litti. “These dry ingredients are rich in naturally occurring glutamates and provide a natural savoury umami flavour – the ‘fifth taste’ after salty, sweet, sour and bitter.
“Making a good dashi is difficult and complicated. Our dashi spends six hours boiling and is used in every dish in varying amounts.”
Chazuke is a simple dish traditionally made by pouring green tea and dashi over cooked rice, along with common toppings like pickles, seaweed, mentaiko (cod roe) and salted fish. With Kyo Cafe & Meal, a must-try dish is Salmon Chazuke (Bt159), a bowl of steamed rice topped with a lightly grilled salmon fillet and salmon roe and a small teapot of dashi that’s mild yet distinctive in flavour.
For an extra Bt30 you can get a pot of matcha-flavoured dashi that’s slightly bitter compared to the dashi itself, and refills are available too. It goes well with side dishes like toasted nori (seaweed), arare (rice cracker), fresh wasabi, chopped negi (long onion) and homemade takana (pickled mustard leaves).
In addition to salmon, chazuke can be ordered with braised chicken and konjac (Bt125), unagi (freshwater eel) and shredded Japanese omelette (Bt189), and mentaiko (cod roe) and maitake mushroom (Bt139).
Signature Somen Soup
Two noodles – the very thin, white somen made with wheat flour and not-so-thin, matcha-flavoured cha-soba made from buckwheat flour – can be had hot or cold.
Marked “Lite” in the menu, Signature Somen (Bt135) is noodle soup capped with braised, lean chicken chashu, wakame seaweed, maitake mushroom and fishcake.
“The idea is to sate the appetite but not get too full so that after the light meal, you still have room for dessert,” says Litti.
The cold-noodle choices are somen (Bt125), cha-soba (Bt145) and a combination of the two (Bt145) to dip in dashi-shoyu sauce.
Cold Cha-soba and Somen with dashi-shoyu sauce
Another cold dish is Maze-Somen (Bt145), which has somen noodles, an onsen egg, chicken chashu, mentaiko roe, takata pickles, shredded omelette, zucchini, wakame seaweed and cherry tomato. The dressing is mild dashi-shoyu sauce.
Whether your noodles are hot or cold, pay an extra Bt89 for a refreshing soda infused with yuzu, grape or strawberry hibiscus. For an extra Bt75, you get to choose dessert from among a slice of roll cake or ice cream and pudding, and for Bt150, a soda-dessert combo.
You might want to also try oden, a traditional Japanese winter comfort food that’s a stew of tofu and fishcake in dashi broth. Other optional ingredients are a seafood ball, boiled egg, mochi tofu, daikon, a konjac chunk or konjac noodles, eringi mushroom and seaweed. A solo diner could get two ingredients for Bt50, while a group can get eight choices for Bt180.
Then there are six choices in pastas, each in a dashi sauce. Kyoto is well known for excellent matcha, and that’s what flavours Kyo Spaghetti (Bt165), along with grilled salmon and asparagus in a light, mildly creamy carbonara sauce.
Ebi-Miso Spaghetti (Bt185) has shrimps and mushrooms in a slightly spicy shrimp-roe cream sauce and Triple Roe Spaghetti (Bt195) with dashi cream sauce and eggs of cod, salmon and shrimp.
Melon and Yuzu Granita
Available only here are two palate-cleansing desserts – Melon and Yuzu Granita (each Bt89).
DASHI TO DELIGHT
Kyo Cafe and Meal at J Avenue on Thonglor Soi 15 in Bangkok is open daily from 10 to 10.
Call (092) 265 9100 or visit www.KyoRollEn.com.