Omakase @ Kampachi Plaza 33

I have been thinking about trying the omakase at Kampachi for a while since my brother last brought me here for a meal some time ago. Today, I decided to go with my mother. Mum, being an elderly, thrifty Chinese lady, could not understand why I would spend so much on a meal that was half raw and served in such small portions. But I convinced her that it was the experience that people come for, as well as the freshness of the food. This was, after all, a Japanese fine dining experience, over a 7-course meal. Naturally the Chinese 8-course and serving portions came to mind, which was not the case here. Midway through the course, Mum asked if I was full. Well, not Chinese full but sufficiently full, I assured her. She had ordered a bento as well which she was having problems finishing. So she asked me to help her with it. Of course with omakase, the dishes are served in a certain way so as to enhance the palate and appetite progessively. If I had helped Mum with her bento, it would have ruined my palete but she was insistent; very insistent. I managed to convince her that I would help her at the end of the meal.

A sake ball hangs at the door.The ball is made of cedar twigs and is traditionally hung at the entrance of sake breweries to show the arrival of new good quality sake. By displaying it at its restaurant, Kampachi is pointing to its sake selection which is one of the largest in Malaysia, some of which are exclusive to Kampachi.

Kirara roasted rice tea. I love this tea because it is not caffeinated and it has a lovely roast flavour.

The detail that has gone into the furnishing of the restaurant.

Look at the cute rabbit at the top of the teapot! Isn’t this a lovely teapot set with a matching cup. It’s a restaurant, I know, but it’s still lovely.

The appetiser consisted of brinjal, mushroom, spinach and roe salad and hamachi. I have not eaten crunchy brinjal before and I actually do not like brinjal because those that I have eaten are usually mushy. But these were slightly crunchy, complemented nicely by the sea salt. The little salad was also nicely balanced between the vegetables and roe . And the lightly fried hamachi was good too

The appetiser consisted of brinjal, mushroom, spinach and roe salad and hamachi. I have not eaten crunchy brinjal before and I actually do not like brinjal because those that I have eaten are usually mushy. But these were slightly crunchy, complemented nicely by the sea salt. The little salad was also nicely balanced between the vegetables and roe . And hamachi was good too.

The next course was snapper soup. This was light and delicious.

A choice of three sauces.

Good serving portions of tuna, amberjack and flounder sashimi. The flowers too are edible. The flowers are hanaho and shokuyo hana respectively. Both are imported from Japan and are edible. The shokuyo hana was actually a little sweet.

For the sashimi, I was given a choice of three soy sauce choices – normal soy, low salt soy and tosa sauce. The tosa sauce was Kampachi’s own soy sauce and it had bonito in it. Next was the tasting. Which one did I like best, I was asked. Well, I liked the low salt shoyu the best. The contrast between the taste of the fish and the soy sauce was the best. As for the tosa sauce, it was already flavoured with bonito and hence the contrast in the taste did not seem as great. The tuna, yellow tail and flounder were a good size and they tasted very fresh.  I was served another fish dish which actually looked and tasted like cod but I did not take a picture of it. I was busy talking to the waitress who was explaining to me about the side fish. That is the name of the fish, makokare, or side fish. It was lightly fried and it tasted really good as well. Again, light and delicately balanced.

Grilled beef served with the famous Kampachi truffle shoyu sauce.

Next was the beef. This was not part of the menu but I asked if they had beef in the omakase. This was probably where the communication was not clear though it was not really the fault of the staff. I was under the impression that they could let me have beef in my omakase without realising that they had actually replaced one of the items in my omakase. I do not know what was replaced nor did I ask. I only realised this after the meal was over.I had been hankering for Japanese beef since I came back from Japan. The beef there was cheap and good. The beef here was not bad but it was not like the one I had just had in Japan for a fraction of the cost. It was definitely not wagyu nor did it melt in my mouth but neither was the one I had in Japan. I ordered it done medium and it was prepared correctly. Don’t get me wrong, the beef was good but just not the melt-in-mouth good that I was half expecting in a Japanese omakase.

Chirashi don in inari. I thought this was a novel idea. The vinegar in the inari, or beancurd, added a slight sour taste to the chirashi don that we normally know.

This was when my mum asked me if I was full. Well, I was not Chinese full but sufficiently full. The next dish was unexpected and so was the appearance of the chef. Chef Ishigami was as nervous with his English as I was with my limited Japanese. He explained how to eat the dessert, bowed and left. I thought this was a nice finish to my omakase meal.

Again, perfectly balanced in terms of taste. The Japanese dorayaki pancake with sweet red bean filling was just crunchy on the outside and spongey on the inside. The mint, pineapple, strawberry and rock melon balanced each other out nicely, along with the cold vanilla ice-cream and hot pancake. Chef Ishigami said to eat everything together and he was right. How zen is that?!

Two unhurried hours later, we were done. It had been a pleasant lunch.The taste of the food was clean, distinct and fresh.

Unhurried was really appreciated as all the omakase that I have had in Singapore had been rushed. This one was so much more pleasant. It was also the start of Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims, and the restaurant was not busy. Each staff who served us was very polite and made sure that we were served well. Whatever question I had was answered in detail, something which would not have happened in Singapore at all. I also appreciated that I was not overly full and that this restaurant was in PJ and not KL because I would not have made that journey downtown for omakase in KL as much as I liked it.

Gochisousamadeshita.

For other Japanese fine dining posts, please check out here, here and here.

Kampachi, P1-02, 1st floor Plaza 33, Jalan Kemajuan, Seksyen 13, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Tel: +60 3 7931 6938.

This was a last minute reservation for one omakase and they were able to accommodate us. Best to reserve if you are planning to have omakase there.

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Tabemono 8: Grilled gyuniku @ Shinjuku

So far, we have had fish, chicken, seafood and pork for meat but not beef. And I really wanted to try some beef. Not the super expensive Wagyu or Kobe beef but some beef. So we wandered into a shop which we thought would serve beef. Up until this point, we had based our decisions almost entirely on pictures that were displayed in menus and if the restaurant mentioned that English menus were available in the shop. This particular shop mentioned that English menus were available so in we went.

The waitress handed us the English menu which we read very quickly. We decided on the cheapest portion of beef that we could see on the menu. We were not that hungry and as part of the meal, we had to pay for a drink and a side dish.

The waitress came back with a charcoal grill. The menu had instructions in it on how to douse a fire on the grill and such. Since we had not tried this before, this was starting to look exciting.

But first, we toasted to the last night of our trip with our compulsory drinks. See the old-fashioned charcoal grill behind the drinks. I had not seen one of those in a very long time.

Then our beef arrived, along with the ice cubes for putting out fires and the side dishes.

I proceeded to grill the slices. It soon became very smokey but the place had a rather efficient smoke-sucking system, provided the nozzle was in the right place. It was adjusted to the right position so it turned out to be fine. And no, none of the beef caught fire so we did not need to use the ice cubes.

The beef was really good. There was sufficient fat in the meat so despite being grilled, the meat was still juicy. I am not even sure I will be able to find something similar in SIngapore. The whole meal was about $15 per person, even with compulsory drinks and side salad. If we had not been in such a hurry, we could have ordered a second helping of beef. But we had to be somewhere else by a certain time. Also, the restaurant had been booked out and the place was a smoking restaurant. We managed to get a place only because we were early. We requested to sit near the door so that there would be better ventilation but it turned out that the tables near the exit were already booked and the waitress kindly alerted us to the possibility that the people who had booked the tables were likely to be smokers. So we ate quickly for that reason as well. In fact, we were done in half an hour.  

If I come back to Shinjuku, I’ll probably come back here again. Ja matta rainen!

This is the end of this series.

Tabemono 7: Coffee and Pancakes @ Odakyu, Shinjuku

After a couple of days of not having afternoon tea, I had to have it. We were in Japan after all and if there was one thing I must have on this trip, it was nice afternoon tea so we came here.

Initially I thought the place was rather expensive. We could have a proper dinner for the price of our afternoon tea. That was until we saw the food.

Talk about perfect pancakes! They sure looked perfect.

The organic wheat pancakes were served with a choice of three condiments – maple syrup, strawberry and blueberry jam.

This coffee was a little expensive but it was really good. A plain Americano that was intoxicatingly delicious. I found out later that the coffee beans are organic.

The cafe was on the second floor of Odakyu. At the street level, someone was wearing a yukata and a face mask to promote an event.

Cafe Nature, Odakyu Departmental Store, Shinjuku Main Store, Shinjuku Train Station, Higashi exit.

Tabemono 6: Thai food @ Shinjuku

We had not intended to eat Thai food but we came across two restaurants who seemed to be doing very good business during lunch hour and we decided to try one of them. The first thing I noticed was the size of the noodles in the Pad Thai. They were finer than the usual thin noodles. In fact the size was closer to fat bee hoon size than the thin rice noodles we usually have in Singapore.

Basil Chicken rice


Pad Thai with the much thinner rice noodles.


Both orders came with a small side dish.

The meal was surprisingly good and the food actually tasted better than the Thai food we normally get in Singapore. And no, I did not take a picture of the restaurant front. This was in the side lanes of Shinjuku.

Tabemono 5: Japanised Chinese food @ Shinjuku

There are different types of eating places in Japan. Many of the cheaper places that sell noodles and rice are run by Chinese. Tonight was one such shop. Very little English was spoken here and we communicated in Mandarin instead. After pressing a few buttons on the machine, dinner was served.

This was basically fried pork on rice with a lot of shallots on the top. That was my vegetable portion for the day.

The gyoza were probably frozen gyoza that were fried. The skin was hard in different places and they were oily.

It was only after the meal that I felt the effects of too much MSG in the food. It took three cups of tea to rid myself of the effects of the MSG.

Tabemono 4: Soba and yaki things @ Kanazawa

We met a friend for dinner while travelling through Kanazawa. We settled for a soba dinner as we were not very hungry. What I really struggled with was the smoke from people smoking in the restaurant.

Soba with duck and leeks.


Hot soba with prawn tempura on the side

Grilled sardines which I had mistook for shishamo as they looked similar


Grilled sausage, chicken, chicken gizzard and pork.

The unique part of the dinner was grilling the sardines ourselves. Our Japanese friend told us that the fish was probably already half-cooked so the grilling bit was probably more of a novelty.

Tabemono 3: A Light meal @ Senmaida, Ishikawa

Our next destination was Senmaida, Ishikawa, or 1000 terraced rice paddies. This shop was the only place that sold souvenirs, food and drinks. We ordered a cold udon and vanilla and blueberry ice-cream. Both were really good and inexpensive. I was impressed that this place did not overcharge even though they had a monopoly on the food and souvenirs in the area. 

There are about 1004 paddies, managed by hand, by locals and volunteers.

 

Yummilicious cold udon

Vanilla and blueberry ice-cream

Shiroyone Senmaida

Tabemono 2: Toyamawan sushi @ Iwasehama

Toyama is famous for its fresh sea produce. Seafood like the firefly squid (yes, they actually light up like fireflies) and shiroebi, i.e. white or transparent prawns are quite well-known here. They are also well known for the fishes that are found in Toyama Bay. The bay has been likened to a very deep natural fish tank that is also very near the shore. As a result, seafood could be brought to the table very fresh and quickly.

Our plans had to be changed in the last minute and we were looking for a place to visit before we moved on to our next destination. We decided on Iwasehama. One of the things I wanted to do was to have the seafood. We were referred to this place by the Toyama Tourist Information counter since we were in the area.

Squid

Bento set with fried shiroebi on the side. This bento came with pumpkin croquette and cold soba. It was delicious.

Fresh sashimi.

Toyamawan sushi – a set of ten sushi. The crab was delicious. The taste of the other sushi pieces were more subtle. I am very used to eating tuna and salmon in Singapore. The fish here was obviously fresh but the taste was very subtle. It would have been nice to be able to explore a little more but language was a barrier and there was no English menu which limited my options somewhat.

Miso soup with mushroom and tofu.

The restaurant where we had our lunch.

Since Toyama Bay seafood is famous, I should have researched this a little more and be clearer on where I wanted to go for my seafood. To enjoy good and fresh seafood at Toyama, Toyama City itself may have been a better option.

Tabemono 1: Saizeriya @ Toyama City

For the next few days, I’ll be blogging about different places I ate at, while in Japan. This is the first over several days. Tabemono in Japanese means food or literally (eat + things).

Toyama City is actually well-known for its fresh seafood. But my friend was not keen on raw food so we settled for a place that had enough variety and was affordable.

Saizeriya is a famous chain of Japanised Italian food at very affordable prices. Since I liked the chain in Singapore and knowing that it had originated in Japan, we decided to go there for dinner.

The corn soup was delicious. I could have had another serving.

I ordered this without the bacon bits as I did not want it too salty. It wasn’t salty but it was a little too oily.

These were understandably not spicy enough for Singaporeans but good.

The pizza was a thin crust and just nice to share between two people. No complaints here either.

I love eating their focaccia in Singapore and I love them in Japan as well.

All in all, a very satisfying meal for our first night in Japan. I love that one can eat well and affordably in Japan and regardless of where you go, there is a certain standard of food quality because the food is first catered to a predominantly Japanese clientele. There are places that cater to other races like the Chinese or Koreans, for example, but those places tend to be individual shops rather than restaurant chains.

Saizeriya, 38-11, Kamiiino, Toyama-shi, Toyama, 930-0827/