Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Japanese Food @ Old Klang Road, Kuala Lumpur


the river that runs parallel with Old Klang Road, as seen from Xenri

A bumper post to make up for lost days. Hope this stirs up your tastebuds for Japanese food!

Recently I was invited to join the Red FM deejay Alison Victor for her review on Ishin Restaurant located just off the ever busy Old Klang Road. Usually a weekly jaunt, she reviews various restaurants on air from noon (when our tummies rumble for food) and offers dining vouchers to these places - so tune in at FM104.9 to grab the great deals (She is doing Ishin this week and giving away RM100 dining vouchers). That review on Ishin got me thinking on how varied the food offerings is on this incredibly iconic road (it used to be the main thoroughfare from Klang to Kuala Lumpur before the Federal Highway came up in the 1970s!). A little digging revealed while it is a predominant Chinese area, globalisation seems to be creeping in with Japanese cuisine to give their residents a varied plate of goodies. One trend I noticed about Japanese outlets here - value-for-money deals rule as they have to cater to a crowd that love to get their Japanese fix without breaking the bank.

Ishin

baby crab conquers the glass tower ala King Kong. At the bottom is the fresh fava beans

I suspect Ishin is going to be those blogged to death places soon, so bear with me while I spin my take on this new kid on the block! Opened for four months the restaurant is located at a bungalow just off the busy Old Klang Road. Formerly a laundry, it seems they converted the place quickly to fit the restaurant to open just in time for last year's Christmas festivities. The owners are now in the midst of working out phase 2 - beautifying the place and doing those things they missed out when they first opened.

crabby, we love you....

The kitchen is run by Chef Q or Chef Kew, formerly from Xenri D'River Terrace just down the road. The friendly chef used to work under Fukuya Restaurant's Chef Ando, which explains some similarity with Chef Ando's food (the sesame tofu cube in my appetizer was similar to one I had before in Fukuya) especially since he practices the art of kaiseki or omakase where the chef will work out several courses based on seasonal ingredients flown in from Japan.

prawn bisque - a fusion twist

Chef Q definitely knows how to impress us with his first dish - a pretty composition of pink tinged petals with giant grilled fava beans, bright green marinated sweet plums, sesame tofu and baby crabs! We took the most time with this dish purely because we had numerous picture sessions with the baby crabs. While they looked amazing, tastewise they are mainly just the crunchy shell with not much sweet flesh within. I loved the grilled gigantic fava beans - so sweet and yummy (seems they also import in fresh edamame!) while I wasn't too hot about the sesame tofu since its texture was more bouncy versus silky soft.

chef Q at work, grilling beef, sake and a leaping prawn among the makis

Next was a twist to the Japanese meal....a prawn bisque that looked like it stepped out from a French kitchen. The rich tasting soup was paired nicely with a bouncy grilled prawn and shimeji mushrooms - simply tummy warming and so satisfying. Then came another eye popping dish - the assorted sashimi platter piled high on ice. It was hard to choose what was my favourite among the fresh strip jack, amaebi (prawns), yellow tail, uni (sea urchin), jumbo prawns, salmon, flounder, butter fish and meji tuna belly.

sashimi galore, tempura scallop, precise cuts for the sashimi

Up next was the interesting salt grilled tuna jaw. Technically looking at that piece we were served that night, it resembled more the head of the tuna fish minus the eyes, rather than just the tuna jaw. Xenri also serves the exact dish except their cut is just the tuna jaw. Ishin's version is much nicer purely because the fatty bits from the mouth combine so well with the drier white tuna flesh. Am not so sure if they just serve the grilled tuna jaw only on normal occasions (it can be ordered from RM68 to RM100 on the a la carte menu) but Chef Q did mention this piece was definitely bigger than what is usually served in the a la carte selection. The tempura was another fun time - playing with the fan-like somen noodles fried with teeny weeny flour bits. It was so fun, I almost forgot to eat the scallop tempura with sweet potato. The sweet potato bits were my favourite and like Aly said, it reminded one of the goreng goreng stuff we get from the stalls.


colourful maki, grilled tuna jaw or head, so-somen pretty

Despite our full tummies, the food kept rolling on.....with the stone grilled A5 Kagoshima wagyu beef. Literally a cook-yourself dish, you cook your fatty beef slices on the hot stone grill. A miso sauce is served on the side but believe me, you don't need it as once you sink your teeth in that piece - the beefy juices mingling with the oozing oil is good enough. Next came the makis - all of Ishin's signature rolls - phoenxi rolls with prawn and avocado, hawaiian roll with prawn and mango, special house roll with a tempura prawn and a sweet homemade sauce drizzled over it and the caterpillar roll with softshell crab and avocado. Believe me, by then the stomach was protesting and saying it can't take anymore. Out of the ones I tried, I liked the sweet tasting and unusual mango topped Hawaiian roll. Last but not least, it was an assortment of ice creams - served on a bed of shaved ice. Imported in from Japan, you get unusual flavours like wasabi (that tasted very nice indeed), peach, melon, lavender, sakura or cherry blossom, citrus, black sesame and the must-have Japanese classic green tea.

Really a good deal I reckon - 8 kaiseki courses for RM180++!! I personally reckon that it can be shared among two people, as it is a lot of courses to go through on your own. The fish like all other Japanese restaurants are flown in on Tuesday and Friday so check those days out for fresher than fresh items from Japan. The restaurant also brings in whole tuna fish aka meiji maguro (we saw them carving up a 11kg whopper when we were there) and hopes to bring a different variety in the furture - kindai maguro that is a sustainably-raised blue fin tuna. For more information on Ishin including their menu or what is freshly available, check their Facebook page. There are even discounts for Facebook fans. The place definitely seems to have captured customers as it was packed on a Monday night. Seems weekend has them also packed with customers so book to avoid dissapointment.

The lowdown (minus the fluff):
Good place for kaiseki especially if you have a huge appetite and can't be bothered to think on what to eat (great after a long day in work!). Their kaiseki is very similar to Xenri's but have more unusual items given. Will have to return to give their other a la carte items a spin. Book also during weekends as it gets full. Offers discounts for their facebook fans. To join, click this link. For more pictures, see the Flickr set.

Ishin Restaurant
No. 202, Persiaran Klang
3 3/4 Miles, Off Old Klang Road
Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03-7980 8228

(Pork Free. Open from 12 noon to 3pm, 6-11pm)

Xenri D'Riverview

sushi counter, sashimi from the kaiseki set

One has heard a lot about this legendary place...purely for its value-for-money Sunday buffets. Located just next to the river (hence the river view in its name even though technically you don't see it from the restaurant!), it is advisable to get here early during the weekend or book! We arrived for an early dinner on Saturday night and found the place packed already at 6.30pm!! Stream of people kept pouring in throughout the whole night signifying that the residents of Old Klang Road definitely has a hefty appetite for Japanese food.

clam soup served in a golden bowl

While Xenri does have an impressive menu (that kinda resembles Rakuzen in looks), we went for their kaiseki meal to give it an equal comparison with what I had in Ishin earlier on. Service is kinda lacking here - when we asked the wait staff about the kaiseki meal and how much it cost, he had to check, be reminded one time before the answer came back. The staff seemed more equipped to handle set meals, as I could spy other tables having quick meals while we dawdled over ours for about 2 plus hours!

spider maki, salt grilled tuna jaw, the appetizer with the sea snail

Priced at RM180++, the kaiseki meal at Xenri bears a close resemblance to Ishin probably because Chef Q was formerly from there and the food is based on seasonal ingredients available around the same time. The appetizer was a simple set up - three varieties of a spinach ohitashi (in soy sauce), cucumbers with natto and the slightly chewy sea snail (something Ishin served in another kaiseki meal they had before if you read the blogs). Since the kaiseki set was for one, the sashimi didn't look as impressive as the Ishin version for four people, but each slice of the sashimi was bouncy, sweet and fresh. I loved the sweet tasting prawns, just the same as the one we had in Ishin.

beefy goodness, pretty lights on the tree, light tempura and the simple but satisfying noodles

Next came the soup in a lovely shiny golden bowl with a large clam. While the seafood was fresh, the soup didn't have any sweet taste and was more towards a konbu broth laced with julienned ginger and seaweed. As I wasn't too sure about the portions, I had also ordered a spider maki (RM30) and the grilled tuna jaw (maguro kama shioyaki for RM78). I admit I wasn't too impressed with the maki, as the taste of the soft shell crab wasn't evident and seemed to be drowned by the rice and other ingredients. The grilled tuna jaw was huge - you had to dig dig dig around the large piece of bone to get to the sweet tasting flesh. Unlike the version in Ishin, I felt this one fell short as we got the darker tuna flesh that didn't taste so sweet. The lack of any fatty bits also made it a little dry. Instead, I thoroughly preferred the grilled amberjack fish head they served with the kaiseki set - delicate white flaky sweet tasting flesh that had me digging each part of the fish with vengeance.

grilled amberjack fish head

There was so many courses, that after a while I got a little confused on what came next. We had the stone grilled wagyu beef, just like Ishin that was Splashie Boy's favourite. I loved the tempura they served, as it had a light pale yellow batter that wasn't too oily. The mix was vegetarian - shimeji mushrooms and green peppers.

river night view, green tea ice cream and mochi to end the meal


Unlike Ishin, the carbohydrates were in a form of a bowl of noodles. While it was simple, it was a delicious ending as the broth was sweet and I especially liked the mountain vegetables topping the strands. Dessert was quite run-of-the-mill with a scoop of green tea ice cream topped with red bean paste and a mochi.

The lowdown (minus the fluff): The kaiseki set does not seem to have the "wow" factor featuring run-of-the-mill items. Prices are a little higher compared to Ishin but they give you dining vouchers for their sister restaurant in Menara Hap Seng with your bill. Service seems a little lacking too. Nevertheless, good place for the set meals but best you book ahead as it's packed with people! For more pictures, see the Flickr set.

Xenri D' River Terrace
No 9, Wisma Elken
Jalan 4/137C
Old Klang Road

Tel: 03-7783 8118

(Pork free. Open for lunch and dinner. A branch is in
Menara Hap Seng which we blogged about before on their buffet promotion also. )

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here is entirely based on my personal tastebuds and may vary for others. This review is time sensitive; changes may occur to the place later on that can affect this opinion. The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from this place for writing the review.

Nihon Kai Restaurant

the gigantic futomaki to fill your tummy

Eating here brings back a flood of memories....as this place is so near my friend's place where we used to spend happy times. I remember there used to be a fantastic Hokkien mee place round the corner here, where we got to satisfy those midnight cravings. Sadly that seems to have gone with the wind like all old places. Just off the main road, you can spot the red lanterns blowing in the wind to signify you can get your Nippon fix here.

ocha for two, the mix sashimi platter

This place seems to cater to the locals and even on a weekday, it's overflowing with people. Located at the corner shophouse, you get a choice of sitting al fresco (if you're puffing on some cancer sticks!), downstairs that seem to be quieter or the more happening first floor where tatami private rooms are available. Families and large crowds of people seem to frequent this no frills place.

wakame, lanterns, family eating place and pretty Japanese bowls

The menu offers simple home styled Japanese food mainly in set meals, good for those who are not looking for anything exotic. Don't expect any exotic fish here as they only offer run of the mill sashimi items like salmon, tuna, butterfish, ebiko, ikura, akagai and etc. The mix sashimi set (RM53) is decent but not exactly super fresh. We fared better with their hefty futomakis, the Nihon Kai Maki - stuffed to the brim with salmon sashimi, crab stick, egg, pickle radish and mushrooms. It's so hefty there is no way you can pop one in the mouth!! Other items we also sampled were their nameko shiru (RM5) - miso soup with nameko mushrooms and the greener than green chuka wakame (RM5) topped with sesame seeds.

The lowdown (minus the fluff): Good for a simple and unadventurous set meal with family or friends. We loved their enormous futomaki that will fill up the belly. For more pictures see
the Flickr set.

Nihon Kai Restaurant
No. 4-2, Jalan Telok Gadong
Off Old Klang Road
Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03-7982 3668

(Pork free. Open for lunch from 12-3pm, dinner from 6-10pm.)

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here is entirely based on my personal tastebuds and may vary for others. This review is time sensitive; changes may occur to the place later on that can affect this opinion. The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from this place for writing the review.

18 comments:

Su Ling said...

Just FYI, The chef (and owner) at Nihonkai use to run the Japanese restaurant at Japan Club so the menu and quality is almost identical.

He is a Japanese man who is married to a local woman.

boo_licious said...

Thxs Su Ling for that info! Love the futomaki there.

J said...

Everytime I hear/read "fava bean", I keep thinking of Hannibal Lecter! =_=
(Sorry, a bit of an unrelated comment, I know...)

Food looks great though! Love the shot of the little baby crabs - they look like they are trying to run away. *lol* :)

ah hun said...

Ohh....so Ishin is a Japanese Restaurant!!! i passed by there everyday and i wonder what is inside the building...

the food looks good!

boo_licious said...

J - didn't know Hannibal liked fava beans, thought he was more into Clarice! Yes, the crabbies had a runaway look abt them.

ah hun - yup, Japanese food so now you can go and try it out. Makes a change from the Chinese food on Old Klang Road.

Sean said...

xenri is my favorite of the three (though i kinda prefer the branch at menara hap seng, mainly because of the better ambience). old klang road is so close to my home, but i rarely eat here due to the jam on weekday evenings...

boo_licious said...

sean - it's amazing how when food is so near us, we rarely go eat there!! Get well soon.

Amiina said...

If you want to get some recipe, I have it in my blog

Life for Beginners said...

Oh I love this - a more thorough run down of Japanese offerings near my abode I have yet to see. I guess I know where I'm heading this weekend... :)

boo_licious said...

Thanks Amiina.

Life for Beginners - looks like you live in the thick of things. Happy eating.

jasmine said...

blogged to death eh? but i am still hoping to visit ishin soon so looks another one on the bandwagon :P :P

mr. pineapple man said...

love the photos! and the crab :)

Bangsar-bAbE said...

I think the kaiseki set at Ishin looks quite promising. And affordable. ;)

thule a.k.a leo said...

wah.. so many places in one post!!!
Been busy lately?

aly said...

Thanks for the great post boo! Love your pics! muaks x aly

boo_licious said...

jasmine - hee hee, am sure you will add another spin to your review!

Thxs Mr. Pineapple man!

Bsar-babe - it's a lot for kaiseki! We were rolling in our seats with our full tummies.

leo - one post for the week, hence all 3 places done vs 3 posts for the week!

Aly - thxs for inviting!

義珊 said...

Well begun is half done.......................................................

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