Words: Louise Miller Photos: Monica Tindall
Sushi Azabu’s invitation to experience their Omakase menu came only weeks after I’d returned from the sushi capital of the world. The fond memories I’d created by sampling the incredible fish at Tsukiji market in Tokyo were still as fresh as the fish itself so this KL restaurant had a lot to live up to!
ISETAN – The Japan Store
Making my way through Isetan shopping mall was like being transported over to any chic Ginza shopping gallery. Pristine, uncluttered displays viewed from the escalators instil a sense of serenity and unmistakable Japanese style.
The fourth floor is home to six Japanese restaurants all partitioned by light wood latticed panels.
Like all traditional sushi bars, Sushi Azabu exudes an impression of intimacy. There is space for only 40 diners here and seats at the bar offer the opportunity to get closer to all the action.
Chef Toshihide Terado
Having worked for six years as Executive Chef at the original Michelin starred Sushi Azabu in New York, Chef Toshihide Terado now heads the kitchen in its KL branch. Monica and I were keen to witness his expertise and so settled in the seats with a view and prepared to be mesmerised.
Appetisers at Sushi Azabu
The appetisers echoed the elegance of the surroundings. Precisely placed, unfamiliar components created an artistic composition that aroused intrigue. Toasty and slightly bitter flavours of the creamy black sesame tofu were offset by the refreshing tang of a yuzu skin compote. Prawn and duck meat contrasted with the sharpness of clams in miso vinegar. Grilled snapper lay beneath a blanket of pickled radish with pretty ginger root and seaweed garnishes. This was certainly a rousing overture to what promised to be a symphony of flavours.
The Rock Oyster that followed was another sight to behold. From the Busen Sea of Kyushu Island, which is said to produce the finest oysters in the world, this mollusc was as large as the palm of my hand. A ponzu sauce, red radish and spring onion provided a delicious zing to lift the brininess of the oyster.
Sushi Azabu’s Sashimi
The plate of Sashimi that followed rivalled the artistry of the appetisers. Shiso leaves and flowers garnished the immaculately sliced Taba (a Japanese mollusc), Tuna, Ainame (a Japanese white fish or fat greenling) and Bonito. A little mound of wasabi added contrasting heat to the delicate flavours.
The Japanese egg custard dish, Chawan-mushi, was our next course. This delightful creamy savoury custard was flecked with white fish and gingko nuts and provided a warming contrast to the preceding raw course.
Sushi Azabu’s Kampachi
Steamed Kampachi (amberjack) cheek followed this. Bathed in a sauce of sweet sake, bonito salt, sugar and soy sauce, it was melt-in-the-mouth tender and aromatic.
Omakase diners can opt to accompany the courses with a range of Sakes so we had taken chef’s advice and had been enjoying the Shimeharitsuru “Jun” Junmai Ginjo. Its slow fermentation at low temperatures enhances the natural umami of the rice to produce a well-balanced, clean flavour with subtle peppery notes. This makes it a great partner to the delicate and perfectly balanced flavours of the seafood dishes.
The palate refresher was very different to any I’d had before – no citrus sorbets here! No, we were treated to a tureen like slice of crab meat and vegetables. Dressed in an egg yolk sauce and scattered with tiny flower petals, not only was it stunning to look at but it cleansed our taste buds effectively before the sushi feast.
Sushi at Sushi Azabu
This whole time, of course, we’d been watching Chef Terado prepare all of the wondrous dishes I have described but the sushi is what really showcased his prowess. Monica and I witnessed with fascination how he was able to prepare and assemble these perfect offerings with such superlative skill that it looked effortless. Possibly the most baffling thing of all though was that there was never any mess! He moulded rice, skinned, tweezed and sliced fish, basted and blowtorched without producing so much as a scrap of debris.
Chef Terado’s efficiency and cleanliness, impressive as it was, is secondary to the products of his expertise. The sushi courses consisted of seven Nigiri pieces and two types of sushi rolls. We delighted in Shinko (baby gizzard), Alfonsino (Japanese red snapper), fatty tuna, Japanese sea eel all of which were incredible but the three standout highlights for me were the delicate scallops, velvety sea urchin and the plump salmon roe rolls that burst in the mouth with delicious saltiness.
A dense and creamy Tofu Cheese Cake concluded this phenomenal meal at Sushi Azabu. I felt sated but due to the freshness and lightness of each dish, still able to explore Isetan. After all, I wanted to extend the feeling of having briefly returned to Japan.
If you’d previously thought that you’d have to travel as far as Japan to experience authentic and utterly exquisite Japanese food, then think again! The Omakase menu at Sushi Azabu ranks amongst the very best that Japanese cuisine offers. Whether you’re a seasoned connoisseur or an adventurous newbie, you will be blown away by the flavours and finesse of each dish.
The Omakase menu is priced at RM420 with Sake pairing options (RM200 for 4 sakes).
Reasons to visit: A truly authentic Japanese experience with excellent service. Steamed Amberjack cheeks, Scallop and Sea Urchin Nigiri Sushi and Salmon Roe Rolls.
The Table @ ISETAN The Japan Store
Lot 10, 50 Jalan Sultan Ismail
Bukit Bintang, 50250 Kuala Lumpur
The Japan Store
+60 3-2119 2624
Open: 11am–3pm, 6pm –11pm