"Luxury flavours, not-so-luxury prices. Good!"
Sushi - maybe many years ago thought of as weird and unappetizing (raw fish, ZOMG no!) in Malaysia - is now a firm favourite for a lot of us. Part of it has been because it's become relatively affordable, even in KL (I remember a time when the only sushi restaurants were specialty ones, where you pay a bomb). Just go to any shopping complex and you'll find at least one conveyor belt sushi place. One of the best is of course, Sushi Zanmai.
"A quirky and unpretentious eatery..."
Stepping into this café is much like going to someone’s home for a meal. An old fashioned sewing machine sitting in the corner makes it feel like you’re over at grandmas. All the furniture are old pieces that have been salvaged and recycled, such as using lawn chairs and school desks in place of the usual restaurant fittings. The quirky décor is done in the popular Japanese Zakka style. This is when a place is decorated with kitschy household items that are mainly from the fifties, sixties, and seventies.
Poco Homemade was started by a young couple who are known as Zzz and Mermer. Their interests are prominently displayed throughout the café as Zzz loves doing draft work and sketches and Mermer enjoys sewing and handmade crafts. This would explain the art displayed throughout and the beautifully stitched pieces such as the fluorescent light covers and cloth coasters. The person responsible for the healthy homemade dishes prepared here is none other than Zzz’s mother. More »
"Bouncy chewy udon"
While I simply adore Japanese food, I’ve always found it to be on the expensive side. A simple meal for two at the fast food spots can easily run a bill of RM50 and there are times where the quality does not match up to the hefty price tag. What’s a girl to do when she simply must have her Japanese noodle fix?
Marufuku is the sister restaurant of the very popular Sanuki Udon in Taman Desa. Sanuki makes the udon daily and delivers it over to them. This ensures quality control and freshness. There are quite a few udon dishes to choose from; you can have it hot or cold, in a soup or dry, in a clay pot, or even with curry. The sheer variety makes eating here a treat. Being a bit of a health nut, it’s also comforting to know that this chewy noodle is lower in calories than rice, pasta, bread and even soba. That makes the slurping up of this delicious dish a guilt free experience.
Prices here are another major attraction. The most expensive bowl of udon is RM10. We were able to enjoy a meal for 4 at RM50 complete with a bowl of udon each and a few sides to share.
My personal favourite is the Niku udon, a hot fish broth topped with thin sliced strips of beef and green leafy veg. While it’s a fish broth, it has a beefy richness to it resulting in a deep intricate essence. Of all the bowls at our table this broth had the most flavour by far. The beef slices are thin and tender, although there is a bit more fat left on the strips than I would like.
"Open up and say aaah..."
How in the world did Old Klang Road suddenly become this rough where diamonds of Japanese restaurants could be found? First there was Sanuki Udon with its brilliant offerings of udon and yakitori. Not long after, a friend pointed me in the direction of Nihon Kai. We now find ourselves braving the evening traffic crawl to satiate our Japanese food cravings...
Just like Sanuki, you will not notice Nihon Kai if you are not looking. We reach the brightly lit corner shop a little after 7 o’clock, and already there is a wait for a table. The restaurant is a bit of a mixed bag of atmospheres: there are booths, counters and sidewalk seating. Diners of all variety are there too. When we are eventually steered to the tables upstairs, we had to squeeze in between a lively group of colleagues and a father out with his toddler daughter.
Wanting to sample a wide variety without busting our guts, we order a mixed sashimi platter, Nihon Kai’s special maki, and agedashi tofu. I had originally wanted to order shake atama (salmon fish head with ginger sauce) but they had run out, so a saba shioyaki (grilled mackerel with salt) is a great substitute
A rather kitschy boat of sashimi arrives first. When I say boat, I mean the platter is literally shaped like one. Thankfully, the sashimi itself is in very good taste. The tuna is so clean and tender, I immediately claim both slices. Many Japanese restaurants, even the higher end ones, tend to serve tuna that is a little stringy when pulled apart. The ones here darn near melt in my mouth! The salmon is excellent too, with a good bite. My dinner companion says the crab sticks smell a little off, which makes me glad I did not reach for any. More »
"Chewy, fresh with superb broth"
There is, to me, a holy trinity of Japanese noodles: ramen, soba, and udon. Up until now, udon has always ranked a little lower than the other two. Always a little too tough, swimming in uninspiring broth, it never really grabbed me. But tonight I am about to discover that the problem all along, was that I had never eaten fresh udon. And that, my friend, makes all the difference in the world.
Sanuki Udon is named after the Japanese province famed for udon, and is tucked into the quiet end of Taman Desa, a seemingly unlikely locale for great Japanese food. The owner, Seiji Fujimoto, was working for a department store when he was transferred here some years ago. He moved back to Japan and promptly quit his job. Looking for business opportunities and greener pastures, he decided to open an udon restaurant in Malaysia. He preferred Malaysia for its infinitely more relaxed pace than Japan, and realized there were no specialized udon places here. After taking a short course, he opened Sanuki Udon a little more than a year ago.
Prices here are so cheap, it's almost unbelieveable. A basic bowl of udon with broth or egg will set you back only RM5, while a bowl of tsuke men (udon loaded with vegetables) costs only RM10. My dinner companions and I order a variety of toppings and side dishes, sip on green tea and wait. The restaurant is quaint and cosy, filled with families, groups of girlfriends and sarariman (salarymen). Very quickly after, our food arrives.
"Crispy fried slices of garlic!"
The menu here features over 200 dishes that blend authentic Japanese recipes with contemporary ingredients and flavours. The chefs here are known to produce personalized Kaiseki (course by course) style sets that fit to each person’s specifications. You can choose to walk in and leave your dining fate up to the chef or you can let him know that you don’t really feel like eating salmon and tuna today and let him work around those restrictions. No two are alike and this is what makes Xenri unique. Each dining experience there can be as different as you’d like it to be, or you can always note down your favourites and ask for those when you visit. There is also the Ala Carte menu on hand if you would rather play it safe.
To get a feel for the favourites we decided to go with the Mini Kaiseki and the Teppanyaki Kaiseki both priced at RM68++. Both Kaisekis start off with a chilled beancurd with marinated scallop along with three kinds of sashimi based on what is the freshest. The bean curd is made in house and is silky and delicious with the light sweet and sour applesauce it is paired with. The marinated scallop tops it off with a lovely bit of chew.
Next up for the Mini Kaiseki is the fried burdock chicken roll. It is my first time trying burdock, which is a type of root meant to be beneficial for all sorts of ailments. This is very popular in Japanese and Chinese cuisine. This roll is a piece of burdock wrapped with chicken and is then breaded and deep-fried. The best way to eat it is to just dip it in a bit of sea salt. Delicious! The Teppanyaki set has a wakame salad with yuzu dressing which is a refreshing pause in the meal. The citrusy yuzu stirs up the appetite and has us craving for more. More »
"The gingerbread ice cream will blow your mind!"
With any restaurant review I'd usually start off with telling you about the appetizers and then go from there but I'm going to do it a bit differently this time because the dessert here was impressive! Not only did it look stunning, a work of art almost too beautiful to eat (I said almost), but the gingerbread ice cream was so good it had me inquiring if I could buy a quart of it to take home.
The dessert plate is beautifully spattered with sauces like brush strokes on a painting. The mascarpone cream with strawberry compote is served in a little chocolate pot complete with a chocolate lid. The cream is rich and yet not cloyingly so with the tang of the strawberries and the crunch of the cookie crumble. And the beautiful little scoop of gingerbread ice cream sits atop a sugary sesame crisp. If you like gingerbread, this ice cream will blow your mind. It's refreshing and spicy and creamy all at the same time. Simply genius!
Ok uhmm, I guess we should get back to the meal portion of this review, heh, we started off with an amuse bouche trio, a beef an asparagus roll, crab tofu with ponzu sauce, and Japanese cucumber with barley sauce. My favourite was the beef, which was juicy and tasty with the fresh crunchy asparagus. I also enjoyed the silky smooth crab tofu. Next up was the salmon belly carpaccio starter with lovely pearls of roe. The fresh salmon belly worked beautifully with the chef's special mixture of sauces.