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Category / Japanese

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

In my memory, the rustic row of shops by Jalan Batai is home to a couple old school kopitiam in an otherwise pretty luxurious residential area, but my memory of the place hasn’t been updated for a while. Batai Village now houses some of the more trendy restaurants in town, and the old Hock Lee has since became Ben’s Independent Grocer.

Progress I guess, and to be honest I think it is in a good way. There’s still a sense of close knit community presence, and they’ve even managed to retain many of the hawker stalls operating in the corner kopitiam, upgraded of course.

We were there at night on a promise of good Japanese premium steaks at Torii. As it turned out, the promise was delivered with excess.

Torii at Batai Village, Damansara Height
Torii at Batai Village, Damansara Height

I’ve talked about the excellent yakitori offered at Torii at TTDI previously, similar menu is offered here at Batai branch, but now with the addition of Japanese Premium Steaks, which is what we were there for.

I was told that the branch at TTDI is closing down as they shift their focus to Batai.

Matsusaka or kobe beef? Take your pick
Matsusaka or kobe beef? Take your pick

The steak comes in 5 different choices and are priced per 100 gram:

  • Matsusaka, RM 310
  • Kobe Zabutan A5, RM 250
  • Kobe Sirloin A4, RM 180
  • Kobe Sirloin A3, RM 150
  • Kobe Sirloin F1, RM 120

You may have read on wikipedia or other sources that Kobe beef is usually not exported (or only to limited countries) from Japan, in a way that is true, so some of these Kobe beef found in “unofficial” countries are actually hand carried over borders, but they are true 100% Kobe beef regardless.

sauteed spinach, green bean with black sesame, egg yolk croquette
sauteed spinach, green bean with black sesame, egg yolk croquette

Additionally, Torii also offer several sides to go with those red meat

  • Shaved fresh black truffle, RM 15
  • Pan-seared foie gras, RM 29
  • Grilled Japanese scallop, RM 19
  • Truffled mashed parsnip, RM 25
  • Sauteed Spinach, RM 25
  • Egg yolk croquettes, RM 19
  • Green beans with black sesame sauce, RM 18
  • Cream of spinach, RM 18
  • Heritage salad, RM 15

kobe sirloin A3, kobe zabutan A5, matsusaka, pan seared foie gras
kobe sirloin A3, kobe zabutan A5, matsusaka, pan seared foie gras

For the session, we worked through Kobe Sirloin A3, Kobe Zabutan A5, and Matsusaka, a 100 gram each and served with pan seared foie gras & grilled Japanese scallop.

As you can see from the picture, marbling goes up from each grade, and to be honest you really have to find your sweet spot. While I love the super fatty Matsusaka and it’s melt in your mouth texture, Haze found her sweet spot to be around Kobe Zabutan A5 or even the A3. You get a bit more firmness as you go “down” the grade. There’s really nothing wrong if your favorite is at F1.

The steak is served with black truffle sauce, they are basically match make in heaven for the beef, so rich, full flavor, and ultra satisfying. Yes, 100 gram is plenty of beef when they are of these quality and so rich in fats (in a good way).

Needless to say, the foie gras and scallops were both on point and served as perfect companion for the steaks.

KY & Haze at Torii Batai Village
KY & Haze at Torii Batai Village

Together with the steaks, we also sampled three different side dishes. Sauteed spinach was simple and refreshing while staying true to its Japanese identity, green beans with black sesame is a little stronger tasting and perhaps needs a bit of getting used to, while egg yolk croquettes were perhaps a bit of an culinary experiment that I myself may not 100% agree at this point of my life.

Torii Premium Japanese Steak price list (as of Oct 2016)
Torii Premium Japanese Steak price list (as of Oct 2016)

I hope this menu is going to be offered on a permanent basis at Torii. A certain treat for anyone who loves steak, and to be honest, at this price, they do offer pretty decent value for money, especially considering you don’t have to fly to Japan for it.

P/S: interesting useless fact, Kobe beef is so good the basketball superstar’s parents named him Kobe Bryant.

map to Torii at Jalan Batai

 

Address:
Torii
8, Jalan Batai, Bukit Damansara,
50490 Kuala Lumpur
GPS: 3.149612, 101.661402
Tel: 03-2011 3798

A couple weeks ago we were invited to a special Japanese food event held at Yakitori Fukuda Dining at Evolve Mall, and since I had very good impression with their ten don (deep fried seafood with rice) dishes at Shitamichi Tendon Akitmitsu, it was a no brainer to participate. After all, these two restaurants share the same kitchen that is smacked right in between them.

Yakitori Dining Fukuda at Evolve Concept Mall, Ara Damansara
Yakitori Dining Fukuda at Evolve Concept Mall, Ara Damansara

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Evolved Concept Mall, it is one of the newest malls in town and located right next to the Ara Damansara LRT station. You can walk to the mall from the station in 5 minutes. Occupancy at the new mall isn’t quite close to full yet but there’s Jaya Grocer as the anchor tenant, so I assume it’ll do fine.

somen with chicken, eel, shrimp & vege, somen with chicken and lime
somen with chicken, eel, shrimp & vege, somen with chicken and lime

We started the day with a demonstration of somen, these are wheat flour noodle that’s pretty fine, almost “mee suah” fine and usually served cold. That proved to be very appropriate on a hot day. It was a good blend of savoury taste with sourish freshness especially for the version with lime. I think I may actually like this more than cha soba, and I do like cha soba on a hot afternoon.

You can also buy these pre-packaged somen and the associated sauce to be cooked at home.

pressed sushi with grilled conger eel
pressed sushi with grilled conger eel

Then there’s pressed sushi with grilled conger eel. Conger eel a different marine species of eel. The texture is a little more firm from unagi, though taste wise they do not differ very far. To be honest, I do like unagi just a little bit more, but anything with a dash of ikura never disappoint, as in this case.

deep fried Japanese yam with seaweed, chicken meatball with grated yam
deep fried Japanese yam with seaweed, chicken meatball with grated yam

Finally, we also sampled some of the dishes prepared using the imported Japanese yam. The deep fried Japanese yam with seaweed was my favorite, it was very light and packs a punch in flavors, which I suspect contributed by the seaweed. The deep fried yam in strips was much more muted in comparison.

The other yam related dish we tried was the bowl of rice topped with homemade chicken meatball and grated Japanese yam, which is served with a raw quail’s egg yolk, super creamy and perhaps a bit gooey if you’re not used to those type of taste.

and there's me with cheesiepetite!
and there’s me with cheesiepetite!

The food at this event was pretty decent, but I would certainly suggest that you try their ten dons first, especially if you’re those in favor for stronger taste. I’d want to go back to Fukuda to try their yakitori.

Evolve Concept Mall map

Address:
Yakitori Fukuda Dining

EV-G-09, Ground floor
Evolve Concept Mall
Pacific Place @ Ara Damansara
Petaling Jaya Selangor
GPS: 3.110532, 101.586864
Tel: 03-7831 9929
Hours: Monday to Friday, 11am to 3pm and 6pm to 9pm; Weekends and public holiday, 11am-9pm

We Malaysians love buffets, but more often than not, most buffets around Klang Valley offers a variety of many different cuisines, much like the cultural make up of the country, which allows us to sample many varying dishes at the same time. Now that’s not a bad thing, but sometimes, you just want to concentrate on (mostly) one single cuisine, and you want it buffet style.

If that’s your calling and your choice of cuisine happens to be Japanese food, then Tatsu’s Saturday dinner buffet may just be something you want to check out.

Authentic Japanese Buffet at Tatsu
Authentic Japanese Buffet at Tatsu

The Saturday dinner buffet featuring authentic Japanese cuisine started at on the 6th of August and will run through 26 November 2016. We were among the few fortunate invitees to be sampling the spread on the first day of its offering at Intercontinental Hotel.

The all-you-can-eat deal is priced at RM 118 nett per adult and RM 69 nett for children between age 5-11 years.

Sushi or Sashimi anyone?
Sushi or Sashimi anyone?

The spread is concocted by Assistant Chef Tommy Kuan and comprises of some 75 items, and obviously, we got the night started at the raw bar with some sushi & sashimi.

Here you find a selection of salmon, tuna, and butter fish sashimi in pretty generous cuts. There’s ebi, tamago, inari, sake, and maguro sushi as well as some sushi rolls to pick from. Quality are more than decent, though lacking some of the more premium ingredients like amaebi or otoro, this is to be expected at this price point I suppose.

onsen egg, baby octopus, and other small dishes
onsen egg, baby octopus, and other small dishes

Other dishes from the “appetizer” bar includes those perfectly prepared Onsen eggs, salad, baby octopus, and a selection of small Japanese vegetable dishes which I really enjoy.

some pre-cooked Japanese dishes too
some pre-cooked Japanese dishes too

For those who likes pre-cooked items, there are a few selections too. Udon, soup, chawamushi, edamame, spicy tofu, miso soup, and even Japanese curry. To be honest, these aren’t my usual dishes to go for in a buffet such as this, because what I really enjoy more is up next…

made to order teppanyaki dishes
made to order teppanyaki dishes

The live teppanyaki cooking!

Here you pick the ingredients (salmon, prawns, squid, butter fish, chicken, beef, mushroom, vege etc) and have the chef cook on the spot. They’re usually ready in 5-10 minutes and then you can enjoy the piping hot teppanyaki dishes. I thought their chicken teppanyaki was particularly delicious.

"ala minute" dishes - ebi tempura, saba, kaki furai, sawara teriyaki
“ala minute” dishes – ebi tempura, saba, kaki furai, sawara teriyaki

In addition to teppanyaki, there are also a selection of “ala minute” dishes you can order to be served to your table. These includes ebi tempura hand roll, California hand roll, salmon teriyaki, saba shioyaki, sanma shioyaki, chicken teriyaki, sawara teriyaki, tempura moraiwase, and kaki furai.

Some of these dishes tend to get tepid & tired looking on a buffet spread if they’ve been left there for a while, so having them freshly made to order is a great idea.

beautifully crafted desserts
beautifully crafted desserts

Then of course, there’s Japanese desserts such as shiratama zenzai (red bean soup with mochi), manju (traditional Japanese confection), and assortments of ice cream, including one of my favorites – black sesame flavor.

fruits, black sesame ice cream, onsen eggs, Haze & KY
fresh fruits, black sesame ice cream, onsen eggs, Haze & KY

I really enjoyed the buffet spread, and though it offers pretty decent value for the price at a up class hotel restaurant in the heart of KL. If you’re up to some authentic Japanese buffet, do not that the last day to enjoy this at Tatsu is at the end of November 2016, don’t miss out.

map to Intercontinental Hotel, KL

Address:
Tatsu Japanese Cuisine
Intercontinental Hotel

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

I’ve always had problems with parking and navigating within Publika. The place has the most confusing lettering/numbering system for floors. There are numerous different “ground levels”, and some parking lots aren’t connected to each other the way a logically sound person may expect.

That being said, the place is also packed with huge amount of restaurants offering various different dining concepts, and often in relatively affordable price range due to the immense competition. Today, we’re going to look at Tsubohachi Hokkaido Izakaya. One of the Japanese restaurants that is undoubtedly among one of my favorites in the area.

Tsubohachi Hokkaido Izakaya, Publika
Tsubohachi Hokkaido Izakaya, Publika

Izakaya is basically an informal Japanese gastropub, a place caters for after-work drinking and dining session not entirely unlike many of the Western pubs/bars, but one that obviously serves Japanese cuisine.

Tsubohachi is a renowned chain with over 300 outlets in Japan since its inception 40 years ago at Hokkaido, and currently is one of the two izakaya outlets in Publika, the other being Senya Izakaya owned by the Sushi Train group.

Our first time visiting Tsubohachi Hokkaido Izakaya was with Cheesie sampling their normal menu, but this time around we were invited to try their special Zuwaigani (snow crab) menu. How could I say no?

zuwaigani nabe (snow crab hotpot)
zuwaigani nabe (snow crab hotpot)

The snow crab menu is available till late July, but do call up to make sure its availability. Then again, the usual menu is quite extensive and certainly worthy of a visit or three.

Our session started with zuwagani nabe, or snow crab hot pot (RM 79.90). Basically half a raw snow crab (male, female would have too little meat) with fresh vegetable, tofu, and mushroom in a hot pot. Certainly a luxury comfort dish that is perfect especially on a rainy day, or any day for that matter.

The crab made the soup oh so sweet, it was as good as I had hoped.

aburi zuwaigani, kani chawanmushi
aburi zuwaigani, kani chawanmushi

For those who likes it grilled, aburi zuwaigani (RM 58) should satisfy your cravings. A no-nonsense and unadultered way of enjoying snow crab with maybe just a little squeeze of lemon. Snow crab has a much softer shell than our Malaysian mud crabs, so getting a “perfect” peel is an easier job.

Kani chawanmushi (RM 12.90) too is worth trying if you just want to lux up the ordinary Japanese steamed egg with some snow crab meat.

zuwaigani sarada, aburi zuwaigani hakozushi
zuwaigani sarada, aburi zuwaigani hakozushi

Want more greens? Try zuwaigani sarada, or snow crab salad (RM 22.90), though all those mayonnaise may discount the perceived healthiness of this salad dish, but those savory taste combined with sweetness of snow crab makes it worth the extra calories.

Aburi zuwaigani hakozushi (RM 35.00) is another dish we tried that incorporate liberal use of those savory Japanese mayo. The pressed sushi was certainly delicious, though I always find mayo & wasabi sort of clashes a bit with each other.

ankake kani chahan, kani zosui, zuwaigani masu-zushi
ankake kani chahan, kani zosui, zuwaigani masu-zushi

Rice or porridge? Take your pick in ankake kani chahan (RM 22.90), or kani zosui (RM 29.90). Neither should disappoint as they were both expertly prepared and show cases the sweetness of snow crab through the simplicity of the dishes. I can have either of these for lunch and be a happy man.

If you like things in small packages, try the zuwaigani masu-zushi (RM 21.90). A tiny box of sushi rice with generous amount of snow crab meat on top. Just enough to taste, but unless you have had stomach stapling surgery, this can’t be your only dish for the night.

a selection of yakitori, chicken, pork, mushroom
a selection of yakitori, chicken, pork, mushroom

All the trying pretty much all the snow crab dishes sans tempura & sushi, we got greedy and decided to sample some of their signature yakitori dishes.

We tried chicken skin, bishop’s nose, chicken soft bone, chicken neck, pork belly, and mushroom. They came in both salted or in teriyaki, and I wished I had enough stomach space left to order a beer to go with these. Yakitori dishes are priced mostly at RM 7.80 to 9.80 for two sticks, pretty decent deal if you asked me.

Johnny, KY, Kelvin, Haze, macha de roru
Johnny, KY, Kelvin, Haze, macha de roru

Our final dish of the night was macha de roru as dessert, a sweet ending to a satisfying review session. I certainly don’t mind coming back here again, good food, great value, and without fuss, there should be more izakaya around town!

map to Solaris Dutamas

Address:
Tsubohachi Hokkaido Izakaya
A2-UG1-9, Publika

Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur
GPS3.170961, 101.665721
Tel: 03-6206 5526
Website: www.tsubohachi.com.my