Kuala Lumpur - Isshin Japanese Dining, Old Klang Road
I don't usually like to take Japanese food in KL. Very simple reasons why that's the case: (1) KL does Malay and traditional Cantonese-Chinese food very well so that's what Inormally eat when I'm there; (2) I go to Japan (especially Tokyo) *a lot* and where else can one get better Japanese food than in the country of origin; and (3) Japanese food in KL sucks big time - I'd yet to come across *any* Japanese restaurant in KL where you can actually see Japanese persons or families dining in there.
Anyway, a couple of KL friends decided that, to break away from our "usual" makan trips to Ye Olde KL Dining Spots like Sek Yuen, Yut Kee, Meng Kee et al, why don't they bring me to this "nice Japanese place in a little bungalow" on Old Klang Road? Now, that got my curiousity piqued - after all, I'd always associated Old Klang Road with old-school Cantonese-Chinese dining in rickety road-side, open-air seafood restaurants, "bak kut teh" eateries, or just simple (but very nice-tasting) hawker foods.
Isshin, at first glance, did look rather incongruous - the old bungalow house "used to be a laundromat", quipped one of my friends. Okaaay.
Once inside, it did look very nice - modern, brightly-lit semi-circular sushi counter, plus a scattering of tables. Menus came in the form of individual IPads for the guests, which was great to leaf thru and provided nice pop-up photosof the dishes.
Some of what we had:
- Amuse geule was a fusiony, wonky tuna in mayo, topped with lumpfish caviar. I didn't quite like it as the tastes did not gel together;
- the Japanese-style potato salad which we ordered off the menu was nicely presented with a generous scattering of salad leaves with soy-vinegar dressing. Looked nice, though the potato salad itself was below-par: gluey (over-boiled potatoes) and did not contain any crunchy cucumber or scallion bits to offset the richness of the potato-mayo combination;
- Unagi (grilled eel)-topped sushi was lovely, though they ran out of avocado and substituted that with cucumber. Good, nevertheless.
- Baked scallops topped with creamy-cheese. Now this was really nice. Very good quality scallops with rich, creamy roe. The Japanese mayonaisse-flavored cheese topping was perfect - don't miss this dish if you ever visit Isshin;
- Next, each of us opted for one of the restaurant's dinner sets. I chose the sashimi-tempura combination set, which came with ultra-thick, generous cuts of tuna, salmon, mackerel, etc. Very fresh, very good. Pity about the inferior quality of soysauce and fake wasabi used at Isshin.
The tempura prawns and vegetables were adequate.
Really nice place. The food's adequately "authentic", by KL's standards. I can see why it's popular - mainly local Chinese clientele.
Isshin Japanese Dining
202, Persian Klang Batu 3 3/4
Off Jalan Kelang Lama
58000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603 7980 8228
Lots of modern-era Japanese-mayo stuff and cheesy-stuff on the menu, then? [Traditionalists would shudder!] :-) What was the cost, if I may ask?
Interesting tid-bits about the lack of Japanese clientele in KL's Japanese restaurants. Where do they dine, then? Such as that expatriate Japanese population around the Hartamas and Mount Kiara area you remarked upon in that other thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8356...) ?
I'm also scratching my head wondering if the local Japanese have any fave restaursnts in KL at all - or whether they chose to entertain at home. It's like in Mumbai - when I went to Taj Mahal Palace Hotel's Wasabi by Morimoto, regarded by food reviewer Vir Sanghvi as the best Japanese restaurant in the Indian sub-continent, there wasn't a single Japanese diner in the packed dining room.
I later learnt from a Japanese expat that they hardly eat there or any other "Japanese" spots. In fact, some Mumbai-based Japanese load up on their groceries when they were in Singapore - from Japanese supermarkets like Isetan or Meidi-ya.
Now, i'm wondering if the same happens here in KL, i.e. no local "Japanese" restaurant exists where the Japanese expats gather. But I would like to find one such place if it exists, though.
No, but Yamagoya Ramen, which I just posted about today (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/875960) comes close - but probably because of its proximity to where most Japanese expats live (Solaris Dutamas, Mont Kiara area) and the fact that it's part of a Japanese chain (140 outlets back in Japan).
Back to Ishin for lunch yesterday. We over-ordered - my colleagues went to town with the Californian/American-style makis: Dragonmaki,Spidermaki, etc. - very creamy (lots of mayo), very sweet (lots of teriyaki sauce & other condiments), and crispy (lots of deep-fried morsels - softshell crab, shrimps).
Ishin caters to a largely Chinese middle-class clientele in the Old Klang Road area: you see mainly families, students after class & groups of ladies-who-lunch in the restaurant.
The salmon sashimi is one of the better ones I'd had in KL - thick, generous cuts of pretty fresh fish.
The shioyaki of salmon fish-head was pretty bony & hard to eat if you're on a business lunch, as you'd probably have to keep picking fish-bones out of your mouth - pretty hard to be discrete there.
The seafood soup was pretty average, the shellfish and other seafoods seemed a bit overcooked - but maybe it's our fault for leaving the soup too long till the end of our meal - Japanese soups usually have to be consumed the moment they are served.
Well, they all look very pretty at least!
I must say I've never really cared for makimono, but especially the American types with all those bizarre (to me) combinations and copious dairy and mayo.
Did you notice this recent thread on the General Topics board? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/875411 (Shudder)
Charlie Chan's Ching Chong roll?! My gawd. Sometimes, I marvel at the resilience of some (most?) Americans who don't seem to move with the times.
Anyway, American-style Japanese makis are the counterparts of American-style Chinese food - many Americans *love* their ethnic food sweet & crispy, creamy would be a bonus.