My first encounter with robatayaki was at Keyaki – once a hotel's award-winning Jap resto but now defunct to the annals of my hotelling history. Like fashion, robatayaki has edged its way back into the city food scene; taking pride of place in modern Japanese restaurants like Manmaru which flaunts a robatayaki & bar on premise in the bigger and slicker Atria Shopping Mall.
Instead of just ocha (green tea), Manmaru entices diners to sip fancy cocktails and more sobering mocktails rustled up by the resto’s mixologists. Our drinks of choice: Yuzu Samurai (RM28), Spring Peach (RM25), Sparkling Ruby Calpis (RM15) and Lychee Sour Fizz RM15 are more than ample to keep spirits high.
Spurred by earnest owners who wish to make their restaurant's presence felt, head chef Danny Leow spearheads the Manmaru team, dishing up a dizzying selection that covers everything from Gozen Set Lunches (RM28-RM58) to mod-Nippon specialities.
With stiff competition, restaurateurs and chefs have to work so much harder to please and Manmaru takes the ‘feast for the eyes’ approach to new, detailed heights. Designed for social media sharing, the pretty as a picture Coral Bash Sarada (RM18) is just as nice to savour. The mound of tater mash ‘coral’ has tiny crabs, minute shrimps, pearly salmon roe, fish roe and strands of nori perched on it.
More Instagrammable eats appear in the dish of Salmon Ikura Millefeuille (RM45). The show-stopping composition is playful yet packs enough flavour and textural elements to reel us in. It’s a fun way of nibbling on crispy flatbread toasts heaped with diced salmon and salmon roe. A scattering of masago ‘caviar’ and a sawagani crab (subject to availability) complete the arty palette.
|Simply delish...think of it as 'deconstructed' gyoza turned salsa|
I like the clean almost minimalist preso of the Gyoza Kawa Age To Maguro Salsa (RM28) and Unagi Karaage (RM40) – two immensely likeable appetisers designed for sharing. Their uncomplicated tastiness amp up the appeal quotient several notches.
Pescatarians would snap at the Salmon Tataki Salad (RM35). With slices of lightly seared salmon playing peek-a-boo underneath a generous serving of fresh mixed leaves surrounded by a pool of olive green spinach dressing, you too would be clamouring for more salad days like this.
Manmaru’s Sashimi Moriawase (seven seasonal varieties @RM210) isn’t carve in stone selection-wise as the varieties served up each time changes according to market supply and season. Remember, there’s no such thing as cheap sashimi…
Likewise, Manmaru Nigiri Sushi Moriawase (RM150) follows the same maxim. Again it’s a visual masterpiece that resonates delicate, sublime accents. The picture alone is sufficient enough to ‘voice’ that proverbial thousand words.
Choice picks from the robatayaki bar appear as Kushiyaki Moriawase (RM68) – a stunning composition of various skewers threaded with crispy chicken skin, liver, beef bacon, chicken wing, salmon, king mushroom, scallop, smoked duck, beef and minced chicken balls. Looks good, tastes even better.
If you like the less is more approach, take your pick of seasonal fishes like Kasago (RM150/480g) from the ice-filled seafood counter where prized catches beckon. Grilled at the robatayaki, every morsel of the sweet flesh is picked clean from the rockfish.
Out to impress? Then you can’t go wrong with the dragon-shaped Lobster Roll (RM68) – a luscious maki roll fit for a king with shelled lobster, mango, cucumber, salmon roe and masago packed within vinegared rice.
Notable contenders for your wallet include Wagyu Teppanyaki (RM180) and Hotate Chawan Mushi (RM30); indulgent treats that should moo-ve beef enthusiasts and leave scallop lovers shell-syiok!
The zingy Volcano Roll (RM38) rocks too with its abundant filling: crab meat, salmon roe, avocado and cucumber drizzled with a creamy robust sauce.
Sakana Kami Yaki (RM58) - grilled snapper with beef bacon and seaweed baked in paper parcel with a creamy mustard sauce is one of the more inventive offerings available alongside Cream Korokke (RM22) – potato croquettes livened up with chopped onion, cream and seafood inside crisp breadcrumb crust.
Be prepared to fork out just a little more when dining at Manmaru but the creative efforts and quality should leave you walking away with a satisfied smile.
For reservations at Manmaru, please call tel: 03-77331038. Address: G-26, Ground Floor, Atria Shopping Mall, Jalan SS22/23, Damansara Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.