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Malaysian Food Blog, Travel, Diving & More

Category / Japanese

I don’t do a lot of invited reviews these days, mostly due to work commitments and staying quite a fair bit away from the city. However, every now and then there are something intriguing enough that warrant the time and effort.

The invitation for Festive Menu at Babe Gastro was one of such events.

Babe at Clearwater, Damansara Height KL
Babe at Clearwater, Damansara Height KL

Located at the top floor of Clearwater at Damansara Height, Babe is a tastefully decorated cozy restaurant with a perhaps one of the best views of the city. There’s the infinity pool, an unobstructed post-card worthy view of KL, neat looking cutlery imported from Spain, and even air conditioned alfresco dining area.

What’s there not to like except? Well, there’s the rather confusing elevator system where you have to select which floor to go BEFORE getting in.

refreshing mocktail, Chef Jeff Ramsey
refreshing mocktail, Chef Jeff Ramsey

Babe is headed by Chef Jeff Ramsey, a Michelin starred chef who previously headed the Tapas Molecular Bar at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo.

The menu here is a unique creation of Jeff Ramsey using a lot of Japanese & other international ingredients while infusing local flavors. Some of these are coined “Japas”, or Japanese style tapas.

While “fusion” has a bit of a negative connotation, I love chefs who aren’t afraid to experiment and push the boundary in culinary space. Without these trailblazers, we’d forever be stuck with “traditional” dishes. What’s the fun in that?

Babe Gastro invited us to try out Michelin star Chef Jeff Ramsey’s unconventional approach to Malaysian flavors with the unveil of their new tasting menu with lots of Japanese ingredients. The 12 course menu includes dishes such as foie gras and jackfruit, snow crab donburi with sambal, and dinosaur egg. Priced at RM 300++ per pax. Available from 26/5 to 30/6 . @babegastro #babegastro #kyeats #foodreview #japas

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The Festive menu is perhaps the most unique buka puasa meal you can get this Ramadhan season. Priced at RM 300++ per pax, the 12-course dinner is available from 26/5/2017 to 30/6/2017. If you are tired with the same Selera Kampung buffet, this would be a place worthy of your consideration.

"down the rabbit hole", Foiegras and Jackfruit
“down the rabbit hole”, Foiegras and Jackfruit

We started the night with “down the rabbit hole”, a shot of drink that tastes like chicken rice, or roti canai, or something that’s completely unfamiliar. An interesting start, and certainly a precursor as to what to be expected for dinner.

The first course was Foiegras and Jackfruit, finely chopped jackfruit in a crispy shell and foie gras proved to be a good combination and served as a perfect start to open up our appetite.

Onsen Chowder
Onsen Chowder

Then came Onsen Chowder, a potato mousse with smoked coconut, 63c egg (molecular gastronomy magic), and chives. It was actually unexpectedly good! The smoked coconut, or what Celina the “top babe” described as coconut bacon brought the dish a very unique crispy contrast to the texture of the potato mousse.

Laska Injections, Mango and Curry Sphere
Laska Injections Canapé , Mango and Curry Sphere

Then there was Laksa Injections Canapé  and Mango & Curry Sphere.

The former is like mouthful of my favorite ingredients in a bowl of curry laksa – prawn & soup, though perhaps a slightly bigger syringe that contains those soup would make it even better.

Mango & Curry Sphere utilizes another Molecular gastronomy technique called “spherification”, utilizing calcium chloride or some other voodoo in making an eggyolk lookalike sphere that explodes in your mouth with the tangy & spicy taste of the liquid ingredients within. Quite an experience.

Crispy Chicken Terrine, Marinated Roast Kabayaki Ikan Keli
Crispy Chicken Terrine, Marinated Roast Kabayaki Ikan Keli

Next were two of the more creative dishes that may looks and taste almost exactly alike what they are supposed to be, but made up of entirely different ingredients that is halal.

Crispy Chicken Terrine looks and taste like a good piece of charsiu, but actually made up of up to 40 layers of crispy rendered chicken skin (sans the fatty part) and charsiu sauce, while Marinated Roast Kabayaki Ikan Keli is their interpretation of bak kwa, but instead of pork/chicken, catfish is the main ingredient.

I’d have never guessed the ingredients in a million year.

Prawn and Curry Leaf Ice Cream, Manga Crab, Snow Crab Donburi with Sambal
Prawn and Curry Leaf Ice Cream, Manga Crab, Snow Crab Donburi with Sambal

Next up was Prawn and Curry Leaf Ice Cream, which was quite a unique combo, you don’t have a seafood ingredient with ice cream very often.

Manga Crab is perhaps one of the more “normal” dish, but they actually print the sauce on the plate manga style, and serve with coriander sauce.

Snow Crab Donburi with Sambal is basically just as what the name suggests, a small portion of snow crab rice bowl, but with sambal and Dashi jelly to give it that extra dimension. To be honest, I may enjoy this without the sambal just a tad more, maybe.

Smoked Chicken Percik, Stanbroke Farms Striploin with Japanese Sambal
Smoked Chicken Percik, Stanbroke Farms Striploin with Japanese Sambal

If you’re still hungry by this time, well, afraid not. The Smoked Chicken Percik is a whole ayam kampung to be shared by two. Four hour was spent preparing the chicken, and the result was a prefect tenderness and flavor, definitely one of the benefits of utilizing molecular methods in traditional dishes.

Stanbroke Farms Striploin with Japanese Sambal was another welcoming meat base dish which I really enjoyed, especially with the accompanying Yuzu Kosho Sambal.

Dinosaur Egg
Dinosaur Egg

Then came the twelveth course – another playful dish by the name of Dinosaur Egg, a  dessert made from DaunKaduk, Yoghurt, Tropical Fruit, and Nutty “Birds Nest”. Crack it open with your spoon and viola, an egg looking thing that by now, you should know it tastes entirely not like an egg, but a sweet concoction that’s apt to end the night.

map to Clearwater, Damansara Height

Address:
Babe Gastro
Level 11, Clearwater,
Jalan Changkat Semantan,
Bukit Damansara, KL
GPS: 3.152327, 101.666762
Tel 03.2095 8599
Web: babe.com.my

Japanese cuisine started in Malaysia with sushi and sashimi, and thankfully over the years, we are introduced to more and more different Japanese dishes to the country. Now we have Japanese bakery, cafe, egg tarts, teppanyaki, tendon, izakaya, ramen, pasta, pizza, and of course, one of my favorites – tonkatsu restaurants.

Tonkatsu by Ma Maison, now at Subang Main Place
Tonkatsu by Ma Maison, now at Subang Main Place

For the uninitiated, tonkatsu is basically breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet that is usually served with shredded cabbage. For those who are in low carb or keto diet (not that I am), this would make a fine meal.

salt, sweet, or slightly spicy sauce?
salt, sweet, or slightly spicy sauce?

Tonkatsu by Ma Maison is one of the few Japanese restaurants serving tonkatsu in the country at the moment, and they’ve opened up a branch at Main Place in Subang, which is quite a fair bit closer to home for us than their 1-Utama or Publika branches.

Furthermore, I’ve recently being introduced to the ENTERTAINER Malaysia App which offers a buy 1 main and get 1 free offer for Tonkatsu, so why not?

Yep, we only paid for 1 main out of the two, more on this below

pork loin has that perfect amount of fat I love
pork loin has that perfect amount of fat I love

If you’re not familiar with Tonkatsu, there are basically two cuts you should concentrate on – pork loin, or rosu katsu is the version with a layer of rich fat, and hire katsu, pork fillet, which will be less fatty. I almost always went for rosu katsu.

miso katsu anyone?
miso katsu anyone?

At this restaurant there are a few sauces available, and here’s how you use them – the sesame sauce is for the cabbage, raw sesame for rice, sweet, or spicy sauce for the meat, as with the salt as well. Additionally, they also provide mustard on the side (feel free to ask for more). I find myself enjoying the combination of mustard and salt with the meat the most.

Rice, shredded cabbage, and even the miso soup is bottomless here, so knock yourself out.

The Entertainer app, buy one tonkatsu, get another free
The Entertainer app, buy one tonkatsu, get another free

Now about the ENTERTAINER Malaysia app. Well, it is basically an Android and iOS application that is full with buy one get one free offers. You browse through the offer via current location or by searching, click on the offer and redeem it at the venue (other services and attractions too, not just food).

The application is priced at RM 145  for the Malaysia version. If you’ve used it at a decent restaurant a couple times (or even just once at a higher end place), you’d have gotten your return of investment already.

Furthermore, if you purchase it with Promo Code KYSPEAKS2017, you get RM 50 off, just cos you hear it for me. Yah, RM 95 for all those deals is really quite a steal.

 

map to Main Place, Subang

Address:
Tonkatsu by Ma Maison
Lot 2F- 2nd Floor, Main Place,
19, Jalan USJ 21/10, Usj 21,
47630 Subang Jaya, Selangor
GPS3.026153, 101.581200
Tel03-8081 9913

Of the five restaurants recently opened at Isetan The Japan Store’s 4F The Table, Sushi Azabu would be the one that has the most prestige. An offshoot from the Michelin star restaurant from New York, Sushi Azabu promises authentic and intimate dining experience in its 40 seat set up.

Cher Saito, Sushi Azabu at Isetan The Japan Store KL
Chef Saito, Sushi Azabu at Isetan The Japan Store KL

We sampled a 5 pieces of sushi from Chef Saito Makoto Sam during the launch and came away impressed. So a week after the event, we decided that a proper meal at Sushi Azabu was required.

The course menu here consists of three choices – Koi at RM 120 will get you appetizer, 10 pieces of sushi and miso soup. The Azabu course at RM 220 that promises the following:

  • Appetizer
  • 2 kinds of sashimi
  • Chawanmushi
  • Palate freshener
  • Nigiri 7 pieces
  • Maki mono
  • Miso soup
  • Dessert

Or you could go all out with the Omakase menu for RM 420 and let the chef decides what you should have for dinner. Obviously, we went for broke.

nasu nibitshi - fried eggplant
nasu nibitshi – fried eggplant

So these are the dishes we had for dinner on the 1st of March 2017 off the Omakase menu at Sushi Azabu.

Nasa Nibitshi was our appetizer, a deceptively simple dish consists of fried eggplant in some very light broth/sauce and topped with finely shaved bonito flakes. Light with very subtle flavor, it does the job well to leave us wanting for more.

sashimi - kampachi, tai, aji
sashimi – kampachi, tai, aji

Next was sashimi in the form of kampachi, tai, and aji; or yellow tail, sea bream, and horse mackerel. The quality was top notch, and somewhat surprisingly our favorite was the horse mackerel. The freshly grated wasabi too was a treat in itself and we wasted none of it.

chawanmushi
chawanmushi

Chawanmushi was our next dish, the version here is simple, no fuss, but very well executed.

grilled Spanish mackerel
grilled Spanish mackerel

Grilled Spanish mackerel came next, we thought that chewing this together with the pickle yield the perfect combination of flavor that simply explodes in your mouth. This was a very well seasoned traditional dish.

stewed sowrd fish
stewed sword fish

Stewed sword fish came next, a dish that is new to me. The fish is topped with a piece of starchy cube that compliments this savory dish quite well, though I felt that perhaps the sophistication of this dish escapes me. Someone with more experience in Japanese cuisine will probably enjoy this more than me.

firefly squid with sweet miso
firefly squid with sweet miso

Then came the cutest dish of the night – firefly squid with sweet miso. A perfect balance of sweet, salty, and savory taste that is further accentuated by the freshness of firefly squid, this was one of my favorite non-sushi dish of the entire course.

Sushi Azabu

The main dish was of course, sushi, and we got ten pieces of these goodness in the form of chutoro, cattlefish, snapper, golden eye red snapper, striped jack, sea urchin, fat tuna roll, and raw prawn.

At Sushi Azabu, they take the guesswork out of eating sushi. Chef Saito expertly apply the perfect amount of soya sauce on each piece, as well as the appropriate amount of wasabi his experience hands deemed worthy of the sea bounty. So you simply just.. eat, no dipping into the saucer or fiddling with wasabi, grated or otherwise.

sushi - chutoro, cattlefish, snapper, golden eye red snapper, striped jack, sea urchin, fat tuna roll, prawn
sushi – chutoro, cattlefish, snapper, golden eye red snapper,
striped jack, sea urchin, fat tuna roll, prawn

The result was an experience worthy of the asking price. Each piece was perfect, and each offers an expression in some of the bests Japan has to offer. We thoroughly enjoyed and if I say I don’t miss it as I am writing this, I’d be lying.

miso soup & yuzu shaved ice
miso soup & yuzu shaved ice

A relatively simple bowl of miso soup with prawn head helped wound us down, and we concluded the dinner experience with a simple dessert of yuzu shaved ice.

the menu at Sushi Azabu KL
menu at Sushi Azabu KL

If you’re a sushi lover, this is surely a place to check out. I think I’m going to be back to try their more affordable menu one of these days.

map to Lot 10, KL

Address:
Sushi Azabu
The Table, Level 4
ISETAN The Japan Store KL
Lot 10 Shopping Mall
Jalan Bukit Bintang
GPS: 3.146462, 101.711758
Tel: 03-2119 2625

Tonkatsu Anzu is one of the five premium restaurants located on the 4th floor of Isetan The Japan Store KL that serves one of my favorite ingredients of all time – pork.

We were lucky enough to be part of the launch event a week ago, allowing a sneak peek to what this space has got to offer.

Tonkatsu Anzu, The Table, Isetan The Japan Store, KL
Tonkatsu Anzu, The Table,  Isetan The Japan Store, KL

Tonkatsu Anzu uses only premium aged black pork from Kyushu, making it the first tonkatsu restaurant in Malaysia to have that distinction, which sets it apart from the likes of Tonkatsu by Mai Mason and Tonkatsu at Pavilion.

pork fillet, with that perfect strip of fat on top
pork fillet, with that perfect strip of fat on top

The pork loin katsu set starts from RM 35 to the premium Gin-Jo-Pork Fatty loin katsu set at RM 55, and for those who may want to skip pork for whatever reasons, they also offer some seafood options, such as fried shrimp set (RM 52), salmon katsu (RM 48), and chicken katsu (RM 32) sets.

sycookie is very serious with photo taking, I love it with salt and some mustard
sycookie is very serious with photo taking, I love it with salt and some mustard

However, pork is the name of the game here and their version of tonkatsu is definitely on point. I love the light batter and those almost melt-in-your-mouth texture. My preference is to sprinkle some salt and have those fatty loin with the supplied mustard. There’s also tonkatsu sauce should you prefer a more complex flavor.

the menu at Tonkatsu Anzu
the menu at Tonkatsu Anzu

I think Tonkatsu Anzu did live up to the expectations and manage to set itself apart from the other offerings around town when it comes to Japanese fried pork cutlets, the slightly premium price is definitely worth it.

map to Lot 10, KL

Address:
Tonkatsu Anzu
The Table, Level 4
ISETAN The Japan Store KL
Lot 10 Shopping Mall
Jalan Bukit Bintang
GPS: 3.146462, 101.711758
Tel: 03-2119 2625

Last weekend I had the good fortune of attending a pretty special food event, the Flavours of Hanami live presentation and tasting at Isetan the KL Store. For those who aren’t familiar with Isetan the KL Store, it is the re-branded up class retail at the exact location previously occupied by regular Isetan at Lot 10.

The place is tastefully decorated and packed with premium Japanese wear, everything from fashion items, watches, gadgets, grocery and food.

chefs from Tsuruse, Chikurin, & Kinobu restaurants
chefs from Tsuruse, Chikurin, & Kinobu restaurants

The Flavors of Hanami features four chefs each from Izuu, Tsuruse, Chikurin, and Kinobu restaurants of Kyoto in live presentation and tasting format at the following schedule:

  • Shogo Sasaki of Izuu – 21, 22 Jan 2017
  • Nobyuki Tanaka of Tsuruse – 18, 19 Feb 2017
  • Hideki Shimoguchi of Chikurin – 4, 5 March 2017
  • Takuji Takahashi of Kinobu – 18, 19 March 2017

dishes from which chef fancies you? the mock-ups sure look interesting
dishes from which chef fancies you? the mock-ups sure look interesting

Each day features 3 separate sessions at 12 pm to 1:30 pm, 3 pm to 4:30 pm, and 6 pm to 7:30 pm and priced at RM 100 per person including GST. The venue is at 3F THE CUBE/CUBE_1 Isetan The Japan Store KL.

One thing to note, each session is limited to 25 pax only so get your tickets as soon as possible at CUBE_1 ticket counter, Isetan.

The Hanami theme is an ancient tradition of welcoming spring, and this event is a chance for Malaysians to experience the cultural aspects as well as the delicacies associated with the Hanami season.

chef Shogo Sasaki of Izuu with his signature dishes
chef Shogo Sasaki of Izuu with his signature dishes

We were fortunate to participate in the first session with Chef Shogo Sasaki, the 7th generation owner of IZUU, a Kyoto sushi restaurant established in 1781, a restaurant that has its history 176 years before we yelled Merdeka and formed this country, talk about tradition.

chef Shogo Sasaki of Izuu preparing the famous saba-sugatazushi
chef Shogo Sasaki of Izuu preparing the famous saba-sugatazushi 

Chef started out with the live demonstration in preparing the most famous dish of IZUU – their saba-sugatazushi, or whole mackeral lightly matured sushi. The fish is expertly prepared and then wrapped in vinegar-ed kelp to draw out  a stronger umami flavor to the sushi.

We then got to try two versions of it, one freshly prepared and the other matured for a day. It was well balanced with a pretty complex taste unlike normal “fresh” sushi. Best thing is, you can actually buy this wrapped up to bring back to home country from his restaurant in Kyoto as the sushi would last for about 2 days.

and here's Izuu's signature chirashi sushi
and here’s Izuu’s signature chirashi sushi

Next up was their signature Chirashi sushi. Chirashi sushi is often my go-to dish in any Japanese restaurant, and the version prepared by chef Sasaki is as good as any. While it is slightly lighter on seafood, the seasoning of rice and other ingredients were right on point, making it quite a delightful dish.

we ended the day with green tea and mochi
we ended the day with green tea and mochi, notice the bunny?

The chef also showed us how the saba-sugatazushi cross section resembled a bunny, which is how IZUU got it’s logo all the way from 200+ years ago.

We then ended the session with a piece of traditional mochi and a cup of green tea so good we had to go downstairs to get the packet to enjoy at home.

If you love authentic Japanese cuisine with a cultural twist to the whole experience, don’t miss out on this event.

map to Lot 10, KL

Address:
3F THE CUBE / CUBE_1
ISETAN The Japan Store KL
Lot 10 Shopping Mall
Jalan Bukit Bintang

GPS: 3.146462, 101.711758