Friday, July 09, 2010
CURRYING FAVOUR WITH A NEW CHEF
It is not everday when one's first encounter with a new Japanese chef in town was over a bowl of Curry Udon.
But that was exactly what happened when Prince Hotel & Residence Kuala Lumpur hosted some food bloggers including yours truly to meet ENJU's latest king of its Japanese kitchen - Chef Heiji Kasuga.
Our encounter was fleetingly brief as the new chef had his hands full; the restaurant turned out to be unexpectedly busy on the evening we were there.
Still, with 46 years of experience under his torque, Chef Kasuga seemed undaunted by the frenetic pace and gamely served up a succession of dishes for us to sample. Most were typical Japanese fare with the exception of 1-2 items which had subtle fusion accents.
Setting the ball rolling was Assorted Makimono featuring 3 types of rolled sushi. The first was ENJU Dynamite Roll (top) made with fresh salmon, cucumber, flying fish roe, tempura flakes, avocado and vineegared rice wrapped in seaweed. Although the change is barely discernible, the rolls did appear daintier than before.
Two other rolls were those reversed versions that were speckled with different types of roe outside. One was filled with crabstick, cucumber, avocado and egg with orange fish roe (pix above) while the other combined pickled daikon (radish), cucumber and crabstick with green prawn roe.
We also sampled a slightly fusion dish - Murugai Yaki (grilled mussels with egg yolk sauce). It was an incredibly simple but moreish delicacy - I love that the inherent sweetness of the mussels remained intact despite the rich creamy sauce on top of it.
Chef Kasuga also proffered Gindara Saikyo Yaki which was grilled cod that had been marinated with miso (Japanese soya bean paste). The fish came in bite-size pieces on Chinese soup soons for easy eating. Personally I found the miso flavour far too mild and local palates used to stronger, more robust fare may find the overall taste a tad too bland for their liking.
Next up as the Soft Shell Crab Karaage. Thankfully the deep-fried soft shell crab pieces remained crispy to the bite after photography was completed. Dainty mounds of creamy potato salad were served on the side to lend additional susbtance.
Then came the bowl of Curry Udon which I stared at intriguingly. When I took my first mouthful, I hadn't really prepare myself for the thick gravy's unexpected burst of sweetness. My facial expression must have been quite comical and caught the chef's eye. He immediately bustled over, declared proudly that it was a classic Japanese favourite and asked for my opinion. Well...I had to admit that it was my first run-in with the dish and told him that it was indeed a novel experience. Luckily my other half thought the noodles were great so I gladly let him devoured the whole lot and Chef Kasuga seemed to be ok with that.
All in all, the food was agreeable though I think we were anticipating 'sparks' to fly. Perhaps the chef is playing it safe for now and decides to keep things on an even keel?