Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Anything new is bound to have advocates and detractors. So it is with chefs and restaurants that dare venture beyond the norm. Even world renowned and highly acclaimed eateries like Nobu and The Fat Duck have their fair share of accolades and criticisms.

Still it won't stop gourmands like Larry Gan from pushing the envelope with his daring restaurant ventures. After opening the trendy 'U' Japanese eatery in Bangsar, Uzen is the evolution of its sister outlet's success.

For Uzen is not your run-of-the-mill Japanese restaurant so be prepared for surprising twists when you dine there.

An ardent globe trotter, Gan and his wife, Caroline personally worked on Uzen’s interior design and menu concepts that remind them of their many overseas forays.

“From our travels, we discover that there is a vacuum in Kuala Lumpur for more sophisticated restaurants that will attract cosmopolitan travelers and local gourmands,” said Gan. “Uzen is modeled after trendy, popular eateries in London, New York and Sydney such as Nobu and The Fat Duck.”

There is no tatami mat in sight nor any kimono clad service staff. Instead, Uzen looks more like an ultra-cool, upmarket jazz club. The snazzy d├ęcor features raw, milled steel walls, custom-made furniture in futuristic designs, shiny, multi-layered tiled walls, and old railway sleeper tracks refurbished into sturdy dining tables. The lamp shapes are hanging works of art – some are wrought from traditional fishing baskets and bamboo fish traps banded with milled steel bands whilst others are fashioned into circular shades reminiscent of flirty frou frou skirts using squares of steel netting threaded and bound together. Even its tableware comprises specially commissioned clay pieces by Penang-based artist, Yee Kwai Hoong. The talented lass also worked closely with the Gans to execute the outlet’s edgy interior design.

Its extensive menu is rather ambitious given that Uzen can only seat 70 persons. Many are classical Japanese delights with an updated twist or given fresh interpretations, inspired by innovative outlets such as Nobu and Shunju.

Should you decide to dispense with the menu, leave it to the Uzen chefs to surprise you with their creations for the day. The omakase set (chef’s creations) priced between RM115 and RM175 per person gives the outlet chefs opportunity to express and surprise you with their creativity, allowing for frequent changes to the set menu using fresh, seasonal produce. “The element of surprise is always there so you can be assured of new dishes all the time,” said Gan.

Our omakase set commenced with seafood salad of sliced prawn and octopus layered between slices of lotus root, red and green peppers, and carrot. The crunchy root vegetables certainly emphasized the seafood’s freshness and delicate flavours. A simple dressing of apple vinaigrette rendered the whole ensemble refreshingly crisp and tangy.

This was followed by gratin of oysters in an orange cup with gelatine and deep-fried shredded gobo (burdock root). A sublime warm appetizer that would be remembered for its rich, creamy and indulgent nuances after the cold dish served earlier.

The fresh sashimi – slices of raw shake (salmon), kampachi (amberjack) and shiro maguro (butterfish) – came nicely presented in a hollowed ice bowl. We had a hard time deciding which of these splendid fishes taste better.

To cleanse the palate, we sipped on melon cocktail before partaking two other subsequent chef’s creations. The first comprised a piece of crisp Belgian endive filled with strips of raw tuna, salmon, squid and avocado in a mayonnaise and wasabi dressing and topped with a dollop of lumpfish roe. We like the clever interplay of flavours and textures.

Even though I found the mashed okra with salmon roe atop a slice of tomato and gelatine a little too slimy and mushy, this creation was unconventional for its textural and taste contrasts.

Our main course of gindara teriyaki (RM45++) with creamy mashed potato fared better. Basted with just a hint of teriyaki sauce to enhance the fish’s natural sweetness, the buttery cod was exquisite.

The teppanyaki ribeye (RM42++) is simplicity at its best. Teppan-fried with butter and a dash of salt, pepper, soya and minced garlic, we enjoyed every tender, succulent mouthful. Discerning diners can request for wagyu or Kobe beef (charged at prevailing market price).

Dessert ranges from macha or green tea ice cream with red bean (RM12++), dorayaki or Japanese pancake with red bean filling (RM12++) or Uzen’s cake of the day (RM10++). We had a most decadent black and white chocolate cake on the night we were there, so check on what is available for the day.

Since opening, this chic outlet has quietly drawn many a corporate captain and the city’s well-heeled high society through its doors. Uzen may just be paving the way for the next generation of edgy ‘ethnic’ restaurants to open in Kuala Lumpur.

UZEN (pork-free)
1st Floor Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Sultan Ismail
50250 Kuala Lumpur
Reservations: 2032 1388


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