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Sep 14, 2011 06:58 AM

Kuala Lumpur - Great Japanese Flavors at Kuriya

I was a regular at Kuriya's original Singapore outlet for years. So it was a great pleasure that, just as I was being re-located to KL, I found their KL branch in close proximity to where I'm staying.

Sixth trip there in the last coiuple of months - every meal had been absolutely satisfying - no exceptions this evening. The grilled unagi (perfect!) rested on a bed of the best-tasting yakimeshi I'd had in a loooong while: the fat, short-grain rice fried till fragrant, yet moist, with flavorsome little gems of scrambled egg generously strewn throughout.

The special miso soup contained fat, just-cooked slivers of salmon - again, perfectly-timed cooking. The umami flavors of the dashi used for the soup, further heightened with a double-whammy of good miso & seaweed made this simply pleasurable. Beautifully presented with carrot & daikon flowerettes.

Loved the simple yet elegant furnishings, and the very efficient, attentive & friendly service - definitely my go-to place for Japanese food in KL :-)

Address details
Kuriya Japanese Restaurant
Lot T2, 3rd Flr
Bangsar Shopping Centre
285 Jalan Maarof
59000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-20939242

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  1. Great soba noodles with wild mushrooms, tempura was so-so (it's never been the same since I tried Tatsu's whereas the slightly grilled salmon belly slices were satisfying, with the right amount of oiliness.

    16 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh

      Stll, everything looks nice. Soba with mushrooms and broth in a shallow wide bowl? A little odd...

      Y'know, if you posted about such meals on a certain CH thread (now locked) you might get your head chopped off by certain posters (who are not native Japanese themselves as far as I can tell) who have strong opinions about the "proper" combinations of stuff in a Japanese meal or the progression of courses &etc and who feel that the *only* way to have a proper Japanese meal would be to have one in a Japanese restaurant in Japan and nowhere else (and preferably in a capital-T Traditional, unvarying, specialized place in Deepest Japan)

      1. re: huiray

        Mea culpa - I posted the meal in reverse order because the soba was the outstanding dish which I wanted to highlight. It *was* served last.

        The tempura and salmon "aburi" were actually added on in my post later as an afterthought ;-)

        A bit of info about Kuriya in Bangsar - the restaurant's clientele are mainly Japanese expats living in the area. The last couple of times I was there, I'm flanked by Japanese diners on both sides, I'm the only non-Japanese around.

        The restaurant's fronted by a Japanese lady restaurant-manager who's always immaculately turned out in dark suit-skirt outfits, with nary a hair out of place. The Executive Chef's Nakagawa Takahiro, from Tokyo. Kuriya's only serious rival in the area is Mizu at the bustling dining/shopping Bangsar Village precinct, about 5-10 minutes' drive down Jalan Maarof(

        But Bangsar is no longer a Japanese expat area these days - most Japanese residents in KL now live in Mont Kiara/Desa Hartamas area with newer, better condominiums and facilities, and where quite a few good Japanese restaurants can be found.

        1. re: klyeoh

          Heh. Oh, I myself don't mind whatever combination of stuff one chooses to have. The order in which one eats it also doesn't really bug me although I might have a preference. :-) I was thinking of some folks (not you or I) who seem to have very strong ideas on them. ;-)

          About that soba - I was just wondering why they didn't serve it in a deeper bowl-like thing, that's all.

          Interesting tid-bits about the Japs in KL.

          1. re: huiray

            Actually, the bowl wasn't *that* shallow - about the depth of a cereal breakfast bowl - but the wide brim made it look less deep, I guess. It *was* the best soba I'd had in a while.

      2. re: klyeoh

        Unfortunately, after all these years of eating Japanese food in Malaysia, I have never really encountered a Japanese restaurant which exceeded my expectations. At the very best, they just met my basic requirements. My favourite Japanese restaurant in KL is Kampachi at the Equatorial Hotel, butI think now it's in the Pavilion as I refer to its web-site. I heard from a couple of friends who're in the food industry that the main challenge of running a Japanese restaurant in Malaysia is that many imported ingredients will not meet the "halal" certification requirements. So, Malaysia's Japanese restaurants often have just a small range of ingredients to "play with". Kampachi is also halal, I hear.

        1. re: penang_rojak

          Interesting. Could you elaborate a bit on those halal certification requirements for imported foodstuff? Surely it doesn't apply across the board for all types of stuff! Why is this a limitation for *Japanese* restaurants - as compared with other restaurants?

          1. re: huiray

            I've heard from a friend who works for the Sheraton hotel here that Japanese Kikkoman soy sauce is not acceptable to the Muslim authorities in Malaysia as it doesn't carry the "Halal" certification - so the hotel had to do away with their attempts to introduce a Japanese buffet. I can imagine how hard it would be for places in KL to obtain "Halal" certification with such stringent requirements from the local authorities here: I can imagine miso, wasabi, all sorts of condiments, seaweed products, many shellfish, Wagyu beef, etc. imported from Japan do not carry the "Halal" certification. Penang_rojak - would that be the case in Penang's hotels & restaurants, too?

            I know most, if not all Malay-Muslims in KL will not eat in Indian vegetarian restaurants as they said those are NOT halal as well!

            1. re: klyeoh

              Yes, I remember your reporting on the Kikkoman soy sauce hoo-ha. I also understand your comments about the other ingredients you mention as additional examples. Yet they can still be imported and used, can they not? Those restaurants simply become non-halal. (Wow, I made a statement that doesn't bash halaldomness in KL!! :-D ) I was wondering why it seemed to be (from p_r's wording) that Japanese restaurants had especial difficulty with ingredients, compared with other restaurants which must surely face the same issues. Why, do all Japanese restaurants (but not others) HAVE to be certified as "Halal" before they can operate? Are they really dependent on the Malay/Muslim population to survive? I gathered from just your account above that this place (Kuriya), for one, is well-patronized and mainly by the expatriate Japanese community there - whom I somehow doubt would be demanding "halal" certification from the restaurant. :::scratchinghead:::

              1. re: huiray

                I don't think Kuriya is "Halal" but it doesn't serve pork. I think many Japanese restaurants in KL simply label themselves as "pork-less". then leave it to whether Muslim customers want to patronize them or not. But Japanese restaurants in the large hotels generally try and get "halal" certification, so the government agencies or ministries (which are usually Muslim-Malay) will hold official functions there.

                I think ALL restaurants, not just Japanese ones, face the same challenges in Malaysia. Most of these restaurants just label themselves "pork-less".

                1. re: klyeoh

                  I was going to add a comment to my post that surely people could get tonkatsu or a bowl of proper ramen in Japanese restaurants in KL (and also in Malaysia everywhere?) but it seems from your last post that one CANNOT!!?

                  How about in Penang?

                  1. re: huiray

                    The top floor of Pavilion mall in KL has a handful of non-halal Japanese spots like Tonkatsu by Wa Kitchen ( which serves all manners of pork cutlets, Santouka Ramen ( which serves great cha-shu ramen, etc. That said, their standards of cooking are way behind similar places in Singapore, so I normally wait till I'm back in Singapore (monthly) to get my tonkatsu or cha-shu ramen fix.

                    I think it's the same case in Penang where some Japanese restaurants serve pork, some label themselves as pork-less but non-halal, whilst some would be certified halal (usually the hotel-based Japanese restaurants). Can penang_rojak verify this?

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      So good Japanese restaurants can be created and maintained - they just won't be constrained by the "need" to be halal and non-halaldomness of their imported ingredients would not be an issue so long as they concentrated on good Japanese cooking and technique. Is the issue then that folks in KL running Japanese restaurants just won't - in general - do that as much as they should to have a simply great Japanese restaurant, halaldomness be hanged? (Note I said "in general") Curious.

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        I would add that it seems a little futile for restaurants (in general, not just Japanese) to label themselves as "pork-less" (and not serve pork) but not go the full route to halaldomness if, as you report elsewhere, Malays/Muslims in KL and Malaysia are increasingly (overwhelmingly?) demanding halal certification before they would even cross the threshold of a dining establishment. Why don't these places just junk the half-hearted attempts and just ply their craft in full-throated glory with full use of pork and eschew trying to sort-of half-way pander to the Malays? Yes, I understand that the Malays have money nowadays and constitute a large proportion of the dining public - at least in KL - but trying to play it both ways gets you nowhere if they are going to demand full halal certification anyway.

                        Of course, having said all that, it is my personal opinion that any cuisine which has the pig as a central component of its character would *always* be deficient and not up to par in a restaurant that willfully omitted pork and pork products from its lineup of dishes. But we have talked about this elsewhere.

              2. re: huiray

                The situation in Penang is like what klyeoh mentioned, each and every ingredient used to cook a dish has to be certified as "Halal" and carry a "Halal" stamp in order for a particular Japanese restaurant's kitchen to be certified "Halal". But why would Japanese manufacturers need to get "Halal" certification when the Middle-East or Muslim countries are not their target market? Japanese producers normally supply only to their domestic market, and will only export to countries like US, Taiwan, etc. where there's a significant demand for Japanese products.

                Some Japanese restaurants in Penang like Furusato serves pork whereas others like Isaribi-Tei is "Halal".

                Pork does not figure very highly in Japanese cuisine, which is very seafood-based. BTW, there's been a debate among Muslims whether sushi or sashimi are "Halal" as (1) Traces of blood residue in fish flesh would make it "Non-Halal", (2) Any fish "without" scales will be "Non-Halal".

                1. re: penang_rojak

                  Oh yes, Isaribi-tei - thanks for introducing that place to me the last time we met (

                  1. re: penang_rojak

                    Thanks. That still doesn't answer the question of why Japanese restaurants feel the need to be certified as halal. Is their customer base really dependent on Malays patronizing them as well as other denominations? (Certainly it is nice to be able to cater to everyone but there is a cost-benefit tradeoff with regards to the difficulties you have described regarding getting every ingredient to be halal)

                    I'm curious too about whether Malays would even visit Japan to any significant extent. (I'm aware that there is/was significant Japan--> Malaysia tourism, with quite a bit of "long-term visitors" and even Japanese retirees living in Malaysia (which I would have thought would constitute a nice demographic for the Japanese restaurants to cater to also, and to whom halaldomness means nothing)