Michelin Chefs' Favorites: Chef Ku from Beijing Kitchen
The Michelin-Starred Chef’s Favorite Series presents recommendations shared by some of our clients.
This time we visited Beijing Kitchen, the One star Michelin restaurant in Beijing. As we had the pleasure to discuss with Chef Ku, he allowed us to travel across the different cities he lived in and by sharing his knowledge and memories, we came to understand what made him the chef he is today.
Chef Ku, wearing the SPOON jacket from Clement Design. Source: Chef Ku.
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About the Chef
Born in Hongkong, Chef Ku Chifai started his career working at Lei Garden, the Hong Kong Michelin Star Restaurant for 14 years. There, he perfected his culinary skills of authentic Cantonese cuisine. Then, he moved to Japan and joined the Ritz Carton as the executive Chinese chef. Not only did he help Xian Tao, the Chinese restaurant of Ritz Carlton Osaka get a Michelin Star, but he also brought drastic changes and fresh new opportunities to Yu Restaurant, in Ritz Carlton Beijing. After 11 years working for this group, Chef Ku opened the first Beijing Kitchen in 2016. It received his first star in 2019, also appearing in the Black Pearl for 2 years in a row.
For Beijing Kitchen, Chef Ku specializes in creating delicate Cantonese cuisine by combining traditional dishes with some new creations of his own.
As we travel across hismemories, we start at the first dining destination where Chef Ku started his career, in Hong Kong. Here are some of his favorite addresses.
First destination: Hongkong
LUNG KING HEEN in Four Seasons Hotel Hongkong
Lung King Heen incorporrates ingredients from all over the world, superb cooking techniques, while also presents a sense of innovative fashion. In the past decades, I have tasted many restaurants. Looking back on it, the feelings Lung King Heen has brought to me is still vivid. I paid more than 10 times visits at this restaurant, each time I visited I collected enjoyable dining experience and new knowledge. The baked chicken with black truffles fully reflects the delicate skills and solid training results of kitchen team. Abalone puff and pineapple bun, I would highly recommend for the consistent high quality they delivery.
Lung King Heen, Four Seasons Hotel Hongkong. Source: Four Seasons Hotel Hongkong website
Second destination: Osaka
Favorite Chinese Restaruant
FULINMEN Shinsaibashisuji (now re-named as Seventh Son Restaurant)
During my 4 years stay in Osaka, my favorite Chinese restaurant was Seventh Son, back when it was still called Fulinmen. When I first arrived, I was looking for a taste of home but was left disappointed by many of the Chinese restaurants I’ve tried and couldn’t connect with their flavor. Then I found Fulinmen. Their dishes represent the closest flavor of Cantonese cuisine in my memory. Although slightly pricey, their ingredients are all from the highest quality. If I were to rate the Chinese restaurants I tried in Osaka as a 6 or 7, then Fulinmen was definitely above 8.
Seventh Son Restaurant Osaka. Source: Seventh Son Restaurant Japan website
Chikuyotei Namba Dining Maison Restaurant
In Japan, lunch for most people consist of a simple Bento (box lunch), and I would take mine with roasted eel to top it off. Although I didn’t get to try that many versions, the one I had in Chikuyotei Namba was simply memorable. What made it so special is that all ingredient were perfectly balanced, from the soft and warm rice to the freshly grilled eel. As a chef, I am very sensitive to the freshness of the ingredients, even when I go out for a non-work-related meal, I seem to be judging the freshness of the ingredients. You can tell by the crispiness of the eel skin how fresh their ingredient is. And then at last but not least, they offer a perfect concentration of the seasonings.
Chikuyotei Namba Dining Maison Restaurant Osaka. Source: Dining Maison
Third destination: Beijing
Favorite Dining Experience
1949 - Duck De Chine
When we talk about of Beijing, people instantly think of Peking Duck. If you want to try this typical dish, I would recommend to try the one at 1949 Duck de Chine. Their Peking duck consists of all key elements such as a crispy roasted skin, juicy duck meat, and including my favorite sauce. Another element that hit close to home is that you will experience a heavy Cantonese touch throughout their menu. The locations in itself is glorious as well, with it’s a courtyard house-turned-restaurant, which bring a magical element.
1949 - Duck De Chine. Source: 1949 金宝街 official wechat
After reviewing the every memorable moment among those three cities, the all-time favorite dish of Chef Ku
Steamed Alaska Crab with Huadiao Rice Wine is my favorite, from Lei Garden to Beijing Kitchen.
I started making steamed crab with Huadiao rice wine since my days at Lei Garden. We would use lobster broth to elevate the flavor back then, it was strong and outstanding. The version I am making now in Beijing Kitchen uses chicken broth, which contains umami flavor from the chicken meat and a little sweetness found in the chicken meat itself. This brings the dish a unique aroma while it steams. A common misunderstanding that people have, is that the Huadiao for this dish has to be aged, like 20 or 30 years. The issue is that with vintage wine you find a certain mellowness that can affect the taste once it’s been heated. Finally, after testing 10 different vintages, I found the balance with a 15 years old bottle.
Steamed Alaska Crab with Huadiao Rice Wine. Source: Beijing Kitchen official wechat
How to describe Beijing Kitchen according to Chef Ku
In 2016, I had the chance to open my first restaurant, The Beijing Kitchen. My goal was to offer delicious Cantonese food but make it an accessible-for-everyone celebrities-picked-restaurant. I chose the name because even though I will always be a Cantonese chef at heart, I had such a special relationship to this city. I have spent a decade in this city, and basically living in my kitchen, it feels like home for me, that is the feeling I want to extend to my guests.
Beijing Kitchen. Resource: online.