Q&A: Ken Chin – Nippon Kitchen
Head Chef talks festive food as Christmas approaches
How does your restaurant change in look and atmosphere in December? What effect are you hoping for?
You may find some twinkly lights on our bonsai trees and some origami shapes on our Christmas tree but we don't go for the full tinsel and glitter vibe. You most definitely won't be subjected to carols and annoying Christmas tunes either. Unless of course you're dining in one of our private rooms and it’s at your request … There is definitely a difference in atmosphere though. The space is really ambiently lit and the candles on the tables make it feel cosy, especially in winter. Also, our Japanese-inspired winter cocktail list goes down a storm and usually makes for happy, smiley diners.
What are the challenges in catering for larger groups and parties? What works? What doesn't work?
The biggest challenge we have in catering for larger groups is that individuals usually forget what they've ordered! Especially if there are cocktails and sake involved! This certainly makes for an interesting service. In all seriousness though, we want to have everyone eating at the same time so we put together a specially constructed menu to allow lots of variety for the customer but something that also works for the kitchen. This helps us to deliver as smooth a service as possible. We're passionate about providing great food and great service at ALL times – the busy Christmas period included. You won't find any overpriced, under par food here. The customer's dining experience is key to our success and we don't drop our standards just because we're busy.
Anything new and exciting likely to be on your December menu this year?
Our Festive menus offer dishes or ingredients that you won't find on our usual A La Carte menu. We like to add a touch of extravagance so you'll find prime cuts of meat, scallops, unusual fish ... We put a lot of thought into making our Festive menus stand apart from our standard menu. It's our chance to be adventurous.
Any top tips for cooking for a big group at home?
When cooking for a big group at home, I always opt for Shabu Shabu as it's quick and easy. Its essentially a big bubbling pot of broth in the centre of the table where guests can add their raw ingredients as they want them. It's a really sociable way to eat.
OK, a stalk of fresh brussels sprouts has just arrived in the kitchen. What do you do next?
Brussel sprouts?? I've never cooked them in my life. If someone convinced me not to put them in the bin then I'd probably make a soy marinade and top with them bonito – a kind of dried fish that is finely shaved to add texture and flavour.
What's your favourite day of the Christmas season? What are you likely to be eating?
Haha, I'm usually working over the Christmas season. For me, Christmas is all about cooking for others. I get great pleasure in others enjoying my food but when it comes to cooking for myself, I'd go for Shabu Shabu again ... Simple and delicious!