The Japanese equivalent of the British pub and Spanish tapas bar is izakaya. A simple tavern where office workers go for post-work drinks and a bite to eat, it’s also a popular venue for casual social gatherings.
Tucked away in the bustling shopping haven of Pavilion KL is Aka Chochin Izakaya, a contemporary izakaya which draws a surprisingly good crowd thanks to its wide array of sophisticated F&B offerings. Wood and bamboo accents dominate inside, with rows of strung-up lanterns evoking a merry atmosphere. The inner sanctum opens into some private dining spaces with visual interest coming from artistic renderings adorning the upper wall panels.
Our recent preview began with Fresh Lime Soju Cocktail which tastes similar to mojito. Beware of overdosing on the addictive sambal-laced edamame and nori rice cracker; once eaten it’s hard to stop!
Winsome openers include Sashimi 3 ways, Yuzu Truffle Seabass and Hamachi Tiradito. The trinity of uber-fresh raw salmon, yellowtail & tuna slices only needed light soya sauce and a dab of wasabi to accentuate their freshness.
A good tipple to accompany these raw fish servings would be warm cups of sweet and dry Tatenokawa Seiryu Junmai Daiginjyo rice wine. Scented with fresh Japanese citron dressing and truffle oil, the Yuzu Truffle Seabass is a pleasantly agreeable way to sample the translucent slices of raw fish.
Intriguingly, the tiradito is a Peruvian take of ceviche featuring sliced Japanese amberjack drizzled with two sauces; one concocted using Japanese curry and red miso while the other is creamy mentaiko mayo. Complemented by pickled onion and grilled baby corn, the platter proved stimulating on the tastebuds.
Chinese and Japanese culinary influences merge seamlessly in the house speciality of Black Cod & Prawn Gyoza. Small mounds of crunchy ebikko add bursts of brininess to the delicious stuffed parcels while shredded spring onion holds any greasiness in check.
Succulent chicken thigh meat grilled with negi (Japanese leek) batonettes basted with tare (Japanese basting sauce of soya sauce, sugar, sake and mirin) and a dusting of shichimi (seven spice condiment) makes the Yakitori Galbi with Oden Vegetables here truly divine.
The fresh lemony-peach nuances of the Australian Lyrebird Chardonnay 2014 makes a great match with the smoky Miso Grilled Eggplant. Flecked with sesame seeds and edible floral petals, the eggplant becomes an epicurean treat thanks to its slick coating of sweetish red miso and sansho (Japanese prickly ash) pepper.
Deep-fried Seasonal Vegetable, Mushroom and Prawn Tempura adds a crunchy dimension to our dinner. The gossamer-light batter sheaths the assorted ingredients so every morsel is delightful.
We enjoyed a notable Australian Margaret River Pierro Pinot Noir with the Grilled Beef Short Rib with rice followed by Spicy Seafood Miso – a bouillabaisse with chunky seafood and tofu dices. The bracingly robust broth is culled from a mixture of Korean gochujang and Japanese miso, resulting in greater depth and complexity.
The soup was the perfect counterpoint for the lush creamy richness of Salmon Udon Carbonara. Best to share this unless you are partial to indulgent carb-laden fare.
Local palates raise on pickled mustard (kiam chye) would readily roll with the punchy hot Chilli Padi Takana Fried Rice. Generously speckled with sesame seeds and nori, the fluffy rice has chopped Japanese pickled vegetable and bird’s eye chilli thrown into the equation.
Even dessert throws up an unexpected curveball with matcha perking up the Italian ‘pick-me-up’ to create the heavenly tasting Green Tea Tiramisu. Mercifully devoid of the cloying heaviness of cream and cheese, it disappeared in a twinkling from our plates.
If you wish to sample of the house specialities, Aka Chochin Izakaya serves reasonably priced set lunches priced from RM25 onwards. The quality remain top notch and should give you a good grounding on what to expect.
For reservations at Aka Chochin Izakaya, call: 03 2110 6118. Address: Lot C3.10.01B, Level 3, Pavilion KL, Bukit Bintang, KL. http://out2dine.com.my