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Category / Foreign Food

A couple weeks ago a few of us were fortunate enough to get a taste of ten different dishes at Senya Izakaya at Publika for their upcoming Aomori Fair that runs from 15th February to 29th February 2016.

For those who aren’t familiar with Senya Izakaya, they are from the same group that runs Ten Sushi, Sushi Ichiro, and Menya Ramen. Izakaya is basically a type of informal Japanese gastropub, a place for after-work dining and (sometimes plenty of) drinking.

Senya Izakaya at Solaris Dutamas
Senya Izakaya at Solaris Dutamas

The Aomari Fair is basically an initiative to introduce the produce from Aomori Prefecture, which is situated at the northernmost area of Japan’s main island, just South of Hokkaido. The prefecture is famous for apple, in fact, 50% of all apples produced in Japan is from Aomori prefecture, and 90% of all apples exported out of Japan is Aomori apples.

Seafood, squid, and scallops are also among the exported produce from the area.

In conjunction to the Aomori Fair, Senya Izakaya is running a competition with the winner getting an RM 100 voucher, just vote for the most popular dishes out of the ten below on their FB page and in the restaurant. Check it out!

Now, here are the ten dishes that will be available during the fair, though the actual number of dishes is actually slightly more than these presented to us, but we had to be somewhat realistic in the ability to sample all these in one seating, isn’t it?

Aomori Apple with Pork Belly Skewer
Aomori Apple with Pork Belly Skewer

One of my favorite of the day, and probably the best beer food I’d like to have with me – Aomori Apple with Pork Belly Skewer (RM6). Made from preserved Aomori apples wrapped with sliced pork belly and grilled in charcoal, this was just the perfect blend of savory and sweetness in a mouthful, absolutely beautiful.

Fried Aomori Baby Scallop & Long Bean Sprout
Fried Aomori Baby Scallop &  Long Bean Sprout

Fried Aomori Baby Scallop &  Long Bean Sprout (RM25) looked a bit like fried noodle in a glance, but those are actually really long bean sprouts that is packed with vitamin C, E, and B (twice as much as normal bean sprouts, I was told).

Those baby scallops pack a punch in flavor as well, mostly due to the smallish size which tend to condensed the natural sweetness of scallops.

Grilled Aomori Squid with Guts
Grilled Aomori Squid with Guts

The Grilled Aomori Squid with Guts  (RM22) is a traditional dish that may take a bit of getting used to for some of us. Whole squid is used in this dish, and since innards aren’t removed, the squid used must be really fresh, often at sashimi quality. This dish is usually enjoyed with shochu or sake.

Aomori Baby Scallop Kakiage Tempura
Aomori Baby Scallop Kakiage Tempura

If you like deep fried food, Aomori Baby Scallop Kakiage Tempura (RM19.80) is not to be missed. This tempura is almost like a really luxurious version of our local prawn fritters, but with baby scallops, onion, carrot, and mitsuba leaves. I really liked it.

Vinegared Saba Sushi
Vinegared Saba Sushi

No Japanese menu is complete without sushi, and I was glad when we were served with Vinegared Saba Sushi (RM22.80). Made with Aomori saba that is harvested during winter time when they’re packed with more fat, this pressed sushi (oshizushi) also comes with egg, cucumber, and sakura denbu to give it that extra character.

Nanbu Aomori Senbei Hot Pot
Nanbu Aomori Senbei Hot Pot

Nanbu Aomori Senbei Hot Pot (RM19) is a dish that’s perfect for cold weather, and I guess for here too when it rains or the aircond is particularly cold. It is a traditional local dish famous at the Nanbu area. The soup is a blend of shoyu and chicken broth and accented by Nanbu Senbei, a type of local rice cracker (an award winning one at that.)

I really like the rice cracker when it soaked up the broth, not entirely unlike how we have fuchuk in BKT soup, if you know what I mean.

Aomori Seafood Barachirashi Don
Aomori Seafood Barachirashi Don

Then there’s the Aomori Seafood Barachirashi Don (RM33.80), a dish that I’d most likely order if I was completely oblivious to the menu, just because chirashi and barachirashi sushi are some of my favorite Japanese dishes.

This version uses boiled Aomori baby scallop, raw scallop, Aomori squid, Aomori vinegared saba, tuna, garlic, and Aomori yam. It certainly packs a punch with all the flavors in a bowl. Not disappointed at all.

Pork Don with Preserved Aomori Apple
Pork Don with Preserved Aomori Apple

If you can only order one dish from this list of ten, my recommendation will go to the Pork Don with Preserved Aomori Apple (RM23.80). This is Senya Izakaya’s signature dish, a fairly simple pork don with preserved Aomori apple. The apple with lemon flavor balance the rich taste of those perfectly prepared pork belly, it is basically just heaven in a bowl if you love pork like I do. Don’t miss this.

Aomori Baby Scallop Miso Curry Milk Ramen
Aomori Baby Scallop Miso Curry Milk Ramen

For those who like ramen, you’re covered. We sampled the Aomori Baby Scallop Miso Curry Milk Ramen (RM22.8), which interestingly, is an invention by the children of Aomori by putting milk and curry into ramen. It is a little creamier than usual, and still packed with plenty of ingredients, most notably those baby scallops. I find the soup base perhaps a little too creamy for me, but your mileage may vary.

Cream Cheese Snow Mountain & Aomori Apple Sorbet with Cinnamon Cookie
Cream Cheese Snow Mountain & Aomori Apple Sorbet with Cinnamon Cookie

Then of course, we had dessert. The Cream Cheese Snow Mountain & Aomori Apple Sorbet with Cinnamon Cookie (RM16). It is a cream cheese moose with Aomori apple ice cream and cinnamon cookie. This dessert is most popular at Hiromae-shi Ringo Park, which is at Hiromae-shi, a place where the best quality of apple is produced in all of Aomori.

The dessert proved to be a great ending to this overly lushed tasting session. I feel like I need to go back for some of those pork & apple dishes now.

map to Solaris Dutamas

Address:
Senya Izakaya
D5-G3-5,
Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur
GPS: 3.171465, 101.667620
Tel: 03-6205 4999

When thinking about Japanese restaurants, SS15 in Subang and KL city centre area usually spring to mind, and it wasn’t until I was invited by Logan to sample the food at Ishin Japanese Dining that there are actually good Japanese outlets in the relative older part of town that is Old Klang Road.

Ishin Japanese Dining, on Old Klang Road
Ishin Japanese Dining, on Old Klang Road

Ishin is located along Old Klang Road, between Scott’s Garden and the junction that leads to Mid Valley Megamall. It is unfortunately, also the part of OKR that is relatively congested during rush hour (as with most part of KL anyway). Good thing is, parking isn’t an issue here at all, as the restaurant provides free valet service.

menu is on a tablet
menu is on a tablet

The restaurant is formerly a residential bungalow building, and seating is split into upper and lower floors. Interior design and ambiance provides a comfortable and somewhat private dining experience due to the structure of the building.

Menu comes in the form of miPad, and pricing is on par with most Japanese restaurants of this statue.

For this visit, we sampled the New Year Eve Kaiseki, available only for one day on this new year eve at 31/12/2015. The set is priced at RM 160 NETT.

fugu skin vinegar jelly, kuri kanroni, anchovies in sweet sauce
fugu skin vinegar jelly, kuri kanroni, anchovies in sweet sauce

For the six course Kaiseki, we started out with quite an exquisite appetizer that comes in three – the fugu skin vinegar jelly, kuri kanroni, and anchovies in sweet sauce.

The fugu skin jelly is quite an experience, slightly sourish with a really soft, have it with the shiso leave and it’s perfect. Kuri Kanroni is boiled chestnut, and tasted a bit like a cross between sweet potato and water chestnut. Anchovies, well, is anchovies, sweet and slightly crunchy, good for a change of texture.

braised Japanese turnip with kani miso served clear soup
braised Japanese turnip with kani miso served clear soup

Second course was braised Japanese turnip with kani miso clear soup, with bits of crab meat tucked into the turnip, beautiful and rather delicious in a simple way. This beats the usual miso soup by miles.

premium sashimi (chutoro, salmon toro, kanpachi toro)
premium sashimi (chutoro, salmon toro, kampachi toro)

No proper Kaiseki is complete without some good sashimi.

The version here is served in a cute little shaved ice igloo with slices of fresh chutoro, salmon toro, and kampachi toro. These are the belly cuts of tuna, salmon, and yellow tail, and they’re absolutely wonderful. The little igloo also served to keep the fish in perfect temperature prior to entering your mouth, plus, they’re cute isn’t it?

unagi kabayaki, sujiko don
unagi kabayaki, sujiko don

The fourth course was pan fried gindara with tsubugai (top shell) butteryaki. The cod was expertly prepared, and the top shell went really well with the butteryaki sauce that carries a strong hint of miso taste to it. I can have this with a bowl of rice and be a happy camper.

unagi kabayaki, sujiko don
unagi kabayaki, sujiko don

Next up was unagi kabayaki, sujiko don. A simple dish with rice, eel, and salmon roe on top. The salmon roe here is cured in-house and has a firmer texture to it which we found rather nice, and unagi is never disappointing.

A thing to note, if you’re free, look up on eel’s life cycle, it is one of the nature’s mysteries. Absolutely fascinating.

cream tsutsumi, ao take macha ogura pudding, fruit tart
cream tsutsumi, ao take macha ogura pudding, fruit tart

The last course of the New Year Eve Kaiseki was a dessert – cream tsutsumi, aotake macha ogura pudding, and fruit tart. The pudding in the bamboo casing was good, fruit tart too was delicious, but what we really liked was the cream tsutsumi mochi, makes for a great ending to a wonderful meal.

Ishin is now definitely in my mind as one of the choices for good Japanese food at reasonable prices in Klang Valley. Check it out.

map to Ishin Japanese restaurant

Address:
Ishin Japanese Dining
No. 202 Persiaran Klang,
Batu 3 3/4, Off Jalan Klang Lama
Kuala Lumpur
GPS: 3.102737, 101.677789
Tel03-7980 8228

Now that we moved to Shah Alam, it’s time to explore the neighbouring places for food a bit, and there’s no better way to do this than starting out with some of the names that we’ve already familiar with – which is what brought us to Serai Thai Restaurant at Seksyen 3.

Serai Thai at Seksyen 3, Shah Alam
Serai Thai at Seksyen 3, Shah Alam

Serai has been quite successful since it first started out several years ago, we went to the Subang Empire branch and came away pretty impressed, so it was no surprise that we had some high hopes for their more Thai oriented version when we discovered it by typing “thai” on google map in search for dinner option nearby.

The restaurant is hidden in a quiet residential area, parking is plentiful, and interior is simple yet comfortable.

brinjal with belacan, tomyam, squid with salted egg
brinjal with belacan, tomyam, squid with salted egg

The menu is typical Southern Thai with influence of some Malaysian element. We tried three dishes for the two of us over dinner.

The tomyam seafood (RM 14 small)had quite a decent kick and while it wasn’t the most flavourful tomyam I’ve tried, it was more than decent and had the necessary ingredient to carry its own.

Brinjal with belacan (RM 10 small) was my favorite dish of the night, beautifully executed with the perfect balance of sweetness from brinjal complemented by the pungent belacan taste, bits of chopped dried shrimp completes this dish.

Squid with salted egg (RM 12 small) was another dish worth trying as well, they definitely didn’t skimp on the salted egg part at all.

dinner for two at Serai Thai, Shah Alam
dinner for two at Serai Thai, Shah Alam

We came away more than satisfied with our experience at Serai Thai, good food at fair price with a comfortable setting. If you’re hunting for decent halal food at Shah Alam, this is definitely a good option.

Serai Thai at Shah Alam map

Address:
Serai Thai
5, Jalan Cendana 3/13a,
Seksyen 3,
40000 Shah Alam, Selangor
GPS3.075940, 101.509329
Webhttp://seraithai.com.my/

While having visited Intercontinental’s buffet spread a couple times and came away impressed, we had never been to their new Japanese outfit – Tatsu. Hence, when I received the invitation from Lisa to participate in the Vina Maipo wine dinner late last month, I said yes without hesitation.

Vina Maipo wine dinner Tatsu Intercontinental KL
Vina Maipo wine dinner Tatsu Intercontinental KL

Vina Maipo was founded in 1948 in the Maipo Valley, renowned as the most famous wine growing region in Chile. The brand underwent an aggressive development since the year 2000 and is now the 4th biggest Chilean winery.

the selection Vina Maipo wines for the night
the selection Vina Maipo wines for the night

For the wine dinner, five different Vina Maipo wines were paired with various Japanese dishes thought up by the more than capable chef at Tatsu. It was priced at RM 280 nett per pax, a more than fair price considering the dishes and drinks offered, I thought.

sushi, sashimi, & chawamushi with Hokkaido uni
sushi, sashimi, & chawamushi with Hokkaido uni

As with most Japanese course dinner, we started out with a selection of sushi, sashimi, and cucumber spider roll. The seafood was top notch, and the freshness of cucumber combined with the savoury deep fried soft shell crab worked out rather well. We had this with Vina Maipo Varietal Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley. The well-bodied wine was sharp and balanced, went well with the seafood.

Next dish was steamed egg custard with Hokkaido sea urchin paired with Vina Maipo Vitral Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley. The wine carries a creamy butter texture with crispy acidity.

Himalayan salt and Sansho roast duck breast
Himalayan salt and Sansho roast duck breast

Then came the first of our three “main dishes” in the form of Himalayan salt and Sansho roast duck breast with grilled Japanese eggplant, baby bok choy, and Haccho honey sauce. The duck breast was juicy and I thought the Haccho honey sauce gave it quite a distinct taste.

For this dish, we went up a notch on the range and had the Vina Maipo Gran Devocion Carmenere Syrah, Maule Valley. It has a good body, soft tannins and complex finish that went well with the meat.

oven baked teriyaki salmon, Vina Maipo Gran Devocion Carbernet Sauvignon Syrah
oven baked teriyaki salmon,
Vina Maipo Gran Devocion Carbernet Sauvignon Syrah

We continued with our second “main dish” in the form of oven baked Yuzu teriyaki salmon, kani cream croquette, char kyuri cucumber, and crispy puff rice. Yuzu is all the rage these days, and the treatment of salmon with this fruit in this instance was interesting, though ultimately I found perhaps slightly forced. I enjoyed it, but it could have been slightly better.

The wine paired with the salmon was Vina Maipo Gran Devocion Carbernet Sauvignon Syrah, which has a fresh acidity that carries a long nice finish.

grilled Australian Black Angus beef, shimeji mushroom
grilled Australian Black Angus beef, shimeji mushroom

The third main dish was the cha-grilled Australian Black Angus beef with king brown, shimeji mushroom, sweet peas, truffle oil topped with spicy mayo. An interesting dish to say the least, the beef was prepared perfectly in this instance, and those spicy mayo did go surprisingly well with the greens & mushrooms.

We had the Vina Maipo limited edition Syrah, Maipo Valley with this penultimate dish in the wine dinner course. The official tasting note says – “This Syrah rests on a sophisticated structure. In mouth tannins are ripe, elegant and the finish is smooth and persistent”. Well, I’m not one to come up with a different description, but I liked the wine!

Japanese green tea Panna Cotta, Haze, BabySumo & her big boy
Japanese green tea Panna Cotta, Haze, BabySumo & her big boy

Dinner was concluded with Japanese green tea panna cotta, chocolate soil, red beans, lychee jelly and vanilla bean ice cream.  Quite fancy and rather beautifully decorated. The mixture of different ingredients and texture in this dessert somehow came together quite well to provide a sweet ending to this more than decent dinner.

I’d want to return to Tatsu again to perhaps try some of their more traditional fare, and if I’m looking for a good bottle of wine for a party of four, Vina Maipo is now on my radar.

map to Intercontinental Hotel, KL

Address:
Tatsu
Intercontinental Hotel

165 Jalan Ampang,
50450 Kuala Lumpur
GPS3.159767, 101.718045
Tel03-2161 1111
Webwww.intercontinental.com

Back in September I was fortunate enough to get invited to a tasting event at Sheraton Imperial’s Sasagawa Japanese Restaurant to sample their Kansai Menu. While this write up is a little late, the Kansai Fair running through 20th December 2015, so we’re actually only about half way through.

The following 8-course meal is the brainchild of Chef Hitoshi Sasagawa, with premium ingredients from Kyoto, Osaka, Mie, Kouchi, Nara and Shiga. It is priced at RM 300.

mixed autumn vegetable with sesame cream, fresh sashimi
mixed autumn vegetable with sesame cream, fresh sashimi

The 8 course Kansai Menu started with fresh appetizer in the form of Mixed Autumn Vegetable with Sesame Cream. The daikoku shimeji mushroom in this dish was harvested from Kyoto, I also enjoyed the little bulb of yam in this dish, very refreshing.

It’s certainly an expectation that Japanese course dinner should have some form of sashimi, and in this case, we had a selection of fresh raw seafood handpicked by the chef. Instead of the usual soya sauce, the sashimi was served with Tanimachi ponzu from Osaka, the citrus based sauce gave it a hint of acidity which I find quite enjoyable.

Ise lobster from Mie
Ise lobster from Mie

Third course came in the form of Ise lobster, from Mie prefecture by the Pacific coast. The fresh lobster is lightly boiled with vegetable broth, preserving it’s natural seafood sweetness without over seasoning. Simple yet elegant.

pot stew with yuzu stock
pot stew with yuzu stock

Next up was a pot stew dish with Yuzu flavored stock to go with red snapper from Kouchi and Saikyo miso from Kyoto. Another rather simple dish that exudes a feeling of traditional home-cooked goodness. No complain from this happy camper, certainly.

Echizen soba salad, grilled sea eel with steamed Yoshino-kuzu ankake
Echizen soba salad, grilled sea eel with steamed Yoshino-kuzu ankake

The fifth item on the menu was Echizen soba salad, from Fukui, the cold soba provided a change from the previous two warm dishes.

Next up was the Grilled Sea Eel with Harvest Steamed Yoshino-kuzu Ankake. The eel was certainly delectable, and I thought the starchy broth complemented the seafood well. This dish has ingredients from Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara.

miso soup, seaweed pickle, salted bean rice cake dessert
miso soup, seaweed pickle, salted bean rice cake dessert

The penultimate dish was a combination of Aosa miso Soup with Japanese pickles served with rice. I find the pickle very very strong tasting, but a small bite with a healthy scoop of rice can work in a way not entirely unlike banana leaf with chutney. The seaweed laden miso soup though, was lovely.

The 8-course dinner was concluded with salted red bean rice cake from Shiga, a rather simple end to this enjoyable Kansai Course.

chef Sasagawa, Ringo, Haze, KY at Sasagawa Sheraton Imperial KL
chef Sasagawa, Ringo, Haze, KY at Sasagawa Sheraton Imperial KL

Overall it was quite an impressive course that showcases the various offerings from Kansai. The Premium Kansai menu is available through 20th December, 2015, it’s not too late yet, and I think I’ll be back to Sasagawa to sample some of their other dishes for sure.

map to Sheraton Imperial KL Hotel

Address:
Sasagawa Japanese Restaurant
Jalan Sultan Ismail,
50250 Kuala Lumpur
GPS3.158659, 101.700124
Tel03-2602 3288
Web: www.sasagawakl.asia