Nokishita711 - Gastro Obscura

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Gastro Obscura

Nokishita711

Sip “liquid cuisine” made with meat, vegetables, and insects. 

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Kyoto’s Nokishita711 is probably the only place on earth where you can drink a cocktail flavored with raccoon meat barbacoa. Or water beetles. Or fish sperm. You might even taste all of them during one of the bar’s adventurous omakase cocktail tastings. It’s all part of what owner and bartender Tomoiki Sekine calls “liquid cuisine,” where anything goes, and any natural ingredient can be infused into a beverage. Only the typical cocktail flavorings—commercial liqueurs and sodas, sugar, citrus juice—are off-limits

“Like oil in cooking,” reads the bar website, “alcohol helps to extract the flavor from ingredients.” Drawing on his previous career as a chef, Sekine’s drinks are flavored with custom infusions that capture the taste of fresh ingredients, including out-there choices that some may find shocking. 

“It is most important that I can change the mind of the guest,” says Sekine. His cocktails are designed to “expand your world,” and challenge your preconceived notions of what flavors a beverage can carry. Presented in antique Japanese vessels, Sekine’s drinks have colorful names that sometimes—only sometimes—give you a hint of what you’re about to taste. “Forest gump” is flavored with mushrooms and “ancient wood.” “Winnie the Pooh” is infused with bear meat. Other names are anyone’s guess, like “not give a shit” for a smoky sake-based cocktail made with fig and dried plum, and “AHH,” which contains a sweet/savory infusion of peaches and grilled beef.

What Sekine calls “bugology” has become one of his specialties, and he treats insects like any other ingredient. “Each insect has a different flavor,” he explains. Sekine has made cocktails with bee larvae (a traditional bar snack in parts of Japan), and mangda, a Southeast Asian giant water bug with an intense fruity, herbal sweetness, among many others. 

Sekine, who also owns another bar with a more traditional format, as well as an antiques business, opened Nokishita711 in 2014. “Nine years ago, my cocktails were more simple,” he says. Originally specializing in gin, his first experimental cocktails used savory Japanese ingredients like dashi. Gradually, Sekine shifted to using fresh ingredients, developing his own techniques to capture the flavors of fruits, vegetables, meats, and insects. Extracting flavors into liquid ingredients required much trial and error. Sekine has found that cooked ingredients tend to be easier to infuse into liquor than raw, and capturing the flavor of raw meat has posed the biggest challenge.

Each reservation includes a set menu of five cocktails, each paired with a different snack. The snacks often contain one or more of the same ingredients infused into the cocktail, as Sekine tries to waste as little as possible of the food used in his infusions. The bar’s menu changes seasonally, and so does the antique decor, inspired by the seasonally-changing decorations of a traditional Japanese tearoom. 

Tea is also a part of Sekine’s model: he shares a pot with his four customers at the end of every seating. “It is very important that we have the same drink together,” says Sekine of the tea service. Sekine draws on tearoom traditions as a way to bridge the gap between guest and host. He compares the bar’s format to a party at someone’s home, with the bartender on the same level as the customers.

Nokishita711 is a place to broaden one’s horizons; where the rules of the culinary world outside don’t apply. “Normally, we don’t think of meat [as something] to drink,” says Sekine, “but in my bar, we can!”

Know Before You Go

Nokishita711 is open by reservation only. Reservations can be made through the bar website. Each day, three seating times are available, for up to four guests per seating. Your reservation includes the bartender’s choice of five cocktails, each paired with a snack, followed by tea. Sekine describes most of his cocktails as “low alcohol,” and also offers alcohol-free and vegan tastings.

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