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
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
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
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 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
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, 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.
3F THE CUBE / CUBE_1
ISETAN The Japan Store KL
Lot 10 Shopping Mall
Jalan Bukit Bintang
GPS: 3.146462, 101.711758
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
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
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 (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
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
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
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 (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
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
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
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
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.
Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur
GPS: 3.171465, 101.667620
Tel: 03-6205 4999
Hokkaido Ichiba at One Utama and Mid Valley Gardens are two of the latest restaurants to be opened up by one of the largest Japanese restaurant chains in the country – Super Dining.
The group started out with their Raku Zen restaurants at SS 15 and other locations, then ventured into lower end conveyor belt style restaurants in Sushi Zanmai, a Japanese pasta chain in Pasta Zanmai, a higher end hotel-restaurant in Kura, and now, sitting between Zanmai and Raku Zen – Hokkiado Ichiba.
Hokkaido Ichiba, One Utama branch
The menu at Hokkaido Ichiba is rather extensive, there are sushi, sashimi, various bento, maki, ramen, udon, and even small side dishes that you normally wouldn’t find in ordinary Japanese outlets.
California temaki, anglerfish liver, spicy oyster ramen
For the two of us, we ordered an oyster ramen, a chirashi sushi, California temaki, and something that I haven’t eaten since 5 years ago in Vietnam – anglerfish liver.
The service was pretty brisk on a weekday night at One Utama, and we got our dishes within 15 minutes or so upon ordering.
The California temaki was Haze’s appetizer and reportedly quite tasty. The anglerfish liver though, was a tad too dry for me, though still retaining that distinctive taste that I can only describe as a blend of liver with a fishy (in a good way) undertone and has a texture between that of foie gras and pork liver. If you haven’t tried it before, this is a place to do so in an affordable way.
The spicy oyster ramen was a pretty decent dish as well, spicy and rather flavorful, though slightly lacking when compared to dedicated ramen shops such as Santouka or Marutama. This is perhaps due to the home made ramen used in other outlets, or the amount of effort poured into the making of ramen broth.
chirashi sushi, with scallops, amaebi, salmon, ikura
My chirashi sushi though, was a steal at RM 30. It has two amaebi (sweet shrimps), hotate (scallops), ikura (salmon roe), salmon, and a couple crab sticks. The ingredients were pretty fresh and I thought it was a very good bowl of chirashi sushi especially considering the price point.
Haze and KY at Hokkaido Ichiba Japanese restuarant
Overall, Hokkiado Ichiba really does find a niche in this pretty saturated Japanese restaurant market. The food is pretty good, prices reasonable (RM 77.70 for everything, including green tea). If you are at One Utama or Mid Valley Gardens looking for reasonably affordable Japanese food and not wanting to fight with the crowd at Sushi Zanmai, this is a place worth checking out.
Lot T-201, 3rd Floor, The Gardens,
Mid Valley City, Lingkaran Syed Putra, 59200 KL.
Tel: 03-2283 1060
Lot LG 101, Lower Ground Floor Promenade,
1 Utama Shopping Centre, No 1, Lebuh Bandar Utama,
Bandar Utama Damansara, 47800 PJ.
Tel: 03-7727 0020