Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Review of Taka by Sushi Saito, KL - "Three Star" Sushi in Malaysia

A Guest Post by Kenneth Tiong

Malaysia is not a country known for its fine-dining scene. Living in Singapore, my first thoughts of Malaysian food are nasi lemak, Sarawak laksa, KL hokkien mee, roti canai and fried carrot cake. So it was a big surprise to hear over lunch at Sushi Saito last year that Takashi Saito, probably the best sushi chef of his generation, had chosen Kuala Lumpur as the site of his first outpost worldwide, which would open in April. “Malaysia??” I wondered if I had misheard.  Malaysia was such a counterintuitive country for Saito to base his first outpost in. Singapore, or Hong Kong, or even Bangkok or China would have been much safer from an economic point of view.


But entering the finished restaurant on the day Saito said it would open, I could discern some strong reasons for being in Malaysia: No expense had been spared in outfitting the restaurant. The counter is large and spacious, the kitchen equipment state-of-the-art, the doors and decor threaded with clouds, the private dining rooms well-equipped. The restaurant has impressive financial backing, and decor-wise is a world away from even Saito’s stylish Roppongi outlet. Second, he would not be competing in the same city as his master Kanesaka. Third, KL has a lot of rich folks, but its dining scene is a lot less saturated than Singapore’s or the other Asian cities – a local Saito would likely dominate the market.


We began the meal with a light beer…

Baby Shrimp (shiroebi): Soft to the bite, delicate.

Steamed Abalone, Boiled Octopus

Excellent Chiba abalone with very tender texture.  Saito’s octopus is quite magical, the outer tissue becoming an amorphous sweet and tender jelly that completely defies one’s expectation, especially if one has only encountered the firm octopus that most sushi places serve.
Skewered Firefly Squid (hotaru ika): Excellent, creamy grilled squid


The Season’s First Bonito, Soy Marinated (katsuozuke)Good balance of soy and ginger


Hairy Crab (kegani)

I liked the flavor of the innards, but the crab flesh I felt was a bit less sweet than I remember in August or December (at the original Sushi Saito in Tokyo).
Grilled Rockfish (nodoguro)


Great skin, though the flesh was just a tad drier (like 5%) than I would liked it to be.
Flounder (hirame)


A bouncy texture that is always a delight, this seemed to be engawa (the side of the flounder).
Alfonsino (kinmedai) - Very tasty and fatty


Chu-toro

Akami


O-toro


This completed a delicious and unimpeachable tuna sequence, honmaguro from Wakayama.  Essentially perfect.
Gizzard Shad (kohada) - great balance of vinegar


Horse Mackerel (aji) - Well salted

Spear Squid (sumi ika)

Maintained its starchiness which I've rarely encountered outside of Tokyo.

Tiger Prawn (kuruma-ebi)  - Very good


Nemuro-Uni


A pleasing colour combination of deep orange, yellow and deep orange.  This uni had a very deep, sweet taste, and came from Nemuro in East Hokkaido.

Seawater Eel with Salt (anago shio) - Excellent


Seawater Eel with Sauce (anago tsume) - Excellent


Kanpyo Maki - Sweet and crunchy


Tamago - Custardy, like a flan


Miso Soup


I found Taka a faithful replica of the 3* Tokyo Saito experience. Our sushi flight, made by head chef Kubota-san, had well-seasoned rice compacted into a solid but airy form in Saito’s style, and possessed the same excellence. The only minor difference I could discern was the food (namely the sushi rice, and shiroebi) was a bit colder and drier than at Tokyo Saito. This is probably due to a stronger air conditioner, exacerbated by my taking 5-10 seconds before eating to snap photos. Overall, an excellent meal - Kenneth Tiong

A copy of Taka by Sushi Saito's current menu is here.

I asked Kenneth, a veteran of the original Sushi Saito, to elaborate on the differences between his meals in Tokyo and the KL branch, in particular, the fact that the KL branch only had its fish flown in thrice weekly.  He replied that most sushi raw fish benefits from aging, and that fish such as kohada, aji, tuna, abalone and octopus keep fine.  To his taste, the only ones on which same day consumption matters are more delicate morsels such as squid, kinmedai, shiroebi and scallops, and those weren't as good as Saito, maybe around 5% less quality if he had to put a number on it, although still excellent.

A supplementary note also that while omakase menus at Taka by Sushi Saito are priced from from RM 1,000 per person, the price of Kenneth's omakase described above was around RM 1,750 nett.  For those of you looking to get out for as "cheap" a meal as possible, the entry-level omakase will likely contain rather less and lesser food that as described above.

TAKA BY SUSHI SAITO
The St Regis Kuala Lumpur
KL Sentral
Kuala Lumpur
50470 Malaysia
Email: reservations@saitotenkuni.com
BYO Policy: RM200 nett per 750mL bottle of wine, RM250 nett per bottle of hard liquor.  BYO not otherwise allowed.  For a list of BYO restaurants in KL and the Klang Valley and their corkage policies, please click here

9 comments:

  1. Phoooargh... ho seck hor? My fren he go and whack the place oredi, Yamazaki whiskey some more, sick oso. It all looks amazing and hope to try one day soon. Maybe see if our IWFS Committee will try something with Sake.

    Julian, just to say that this post took an age to download on Chrome - crashed it once too. Presumably is Malaysia's traditionally slow Internet but thought worth to let you know. Hope Alsace is being good to you!

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  2. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Brian, I will fix when I have some decent Internet bandwidth back ;) Was at Bocuse last night, by the way, amazing!

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  3. Hi Brian,

    I think I've fixed the problem, care to check it out and let me know how it's loading now? Thanks!

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  4. I read on Kenneth Tiong's blog that his higher price was because the master chef was there in the opening days, and not because there is a full omakase and entry level omakase menu? This also seems consistent with business times article. Can you confirm whether my understanding is correct?

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    1. Hi gjheran,

      I haven't been since last month when Saito was there, so I can't say whether the price is normally 1k with certainty. I paid 1.7k myr and there was only one omakase menu, but it could be special occasion pricing. Like you, I read in the business times that normal prices were about 1k.

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    2. Hi gjheran, apparently there are now three omakase on offer at Taka, costing RM800++, RM1,200++ and RM1,400++.

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  5. Lunch and dinner menu

    http://imgur.com/a/2wSfY

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  6. "starchiness of squid" is the indicator I use to determine if it's a good sushi and there are actually a few less expensive place that you could find this in KL.

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