sushi oribe 寿司 織部

"is there anything you don't eat?" chef naoya asked with a smile from behind the counter at sushi oribe, the japanese restaurant in the neighborhood of klcc opened by chef hideaki oritsuki, who was last seen sharpening his knife at sushi hinata a few months prior.

i shook my head almost immediately from my coveted seat at the chef's counter, returning his smile momentarily before i shifted my focus to the lunch menu again, trying to etch into memory what to expect from my iga pre-fixe selection (rm 168).

"this is pickled ginger, made in house," as he placed the sliced ginger on one corner of the sushi plate.

both chef naoya and chef oritsuki were completely in their element behind the counter as they expertly shaped perfect pieces of sushi, one after another seamlessly - their motions seemingly hypnotized the diners seated at the chef's counter, with the spell occasionally broken by their instructions for fresh ingredients to the assistant chefs, standing on the sidelines. a few minutes later, the rice in the wooden rice bucket by the chefs were replaced in order to keep it warm.

"deja vu..." the words resounded in my head as i stared at the japanese knives in envy, reminiscent of my food excursion to kyubey in ginza, tokyo four years ago. the feelings were similar but the setting was different - sushi oribe's dining space was a modern interpretation through its minimalist approach while still rooted firmly to the charm of a traditional sushi house.

a dainty boat-shaped bowl was placed in front of me, as the server described it as cubes of melon dressed in a light gravy with crab meat.

"ah, this is appetizer," chef naoya explained with a smile as he chopped up some spring onions together with tuna belly sashimi for one of the dishes. the two chefs prepare most of the food facing the diners across the counter and also for the whole restaurant. it was a meal that requires diners to slow down in order to savor the dishes the way each deserves.

the melon cubes was light in flavor where the gravy followed suit - almost bland but what surprised me was the slightly stringy crab meat from being overdone in the gravy. i raised my eyebrows, quiet disappointment lurking by the corner, ready to pounce at a moment's notice.

but, i was quickly distracted by the server who placed a tiny wet towel folded neatly in a similarly sized plate, "this is your finger towel," in anticipation for the next courses.

opening the cover to the chawanmushi cup revealed a clam obscuring the egg custard. the dashi-based, silken egg custard hid mushrooms and fresh clams was an umami jackpot, contrary to the first course. the comforting warmth of the steamed chawanmushi trickled down the throat, leaving in its trail a cozy feeling, embracing the heart.

"this is a yellow tail belly, brushed with some shoyu and there is already a little bit of fresh wasabi inside.." as the chef set the piece of nigiri sushi - perfectly cooked rice topped with a scored thick slice of white fish in front of us.

"please eat using your fingers," chef naoya recommended. that was when the finger towel finally made sense.

it was the opener for the chef's eight piece specialty sushi, the chef had evidently put much thought for this act of the play. the theme evolved around the freshness of high quality ingredients while the plot begins with cleaner, lighter flavors to build towards a crescendo - a pleasure to the taste buds, as it reaches the finale of the octet course. the guest star - the pickled ginger, to which we were introduced earlier, imparted a mild bite/heat underneath the sweet-tart pickling, acting as the perfect palate cleanser between each piece. the fluffy grains of rice barely had whispers of vinegar, worthy of its supporting role in elevating slices of fresh seafood into the spotlight.

yellow tail belly. 
flounder, shiso & yuzu.
aji mackerel, shiso & green onion.
shrimp from hokkaido. 
hokkaido scallop.
grilled flounder fin.
chef's special bowl.

each main character has its own merits, reflected in their different flavor profiles which created such a meaningful story of flavors and textures. a few stood out more than the rest, some because of the nostalgia it evoked, others were a symphony of taste and texture that worked harmoniously to leave a lasting impression in that single bite.

aji mackerel.
topped with shiso and green onion. best during the summer, aji mackerel held its own with its meaty texture. it was one of my favorite discoveries in my omakase meals in tokyo, which brought back the memories of sweeter flavors from my previous encounters.

the one that never fails to bring happiness. the rich texture of the fatty belly imparted such a satisfying lusciousness under the familiarity of the distinct salmon flavor. 

hokkaido scallop.
light smoky grilled flavors to gradually transition into the citrus fragrance from the yuzu, suddenly caught unaware by the natural sweetness of the scallop - subtle distinction between the torched exterior to the raw interior. it was as if each chew held its own tasting experience.
//my top pick 

grilled flounder fin.
a rare find. the soft natural sweetness of the fish, melt in mouth sensation, coating the tongue with a pleasant sweet soy smokiness and umami, persuading my dining companion wishing for another.
//her top pick.

the finale of the sushi course: chef's special bowl.

chef naoya gently placed a small amount of rice into a deep silver bowl where he piled chopped fresh tuna belly with young green onions, small shrimp and a generous amount of salmon roe before topping it off with uni and a dab of fresh wasabi. he squeezed a brush of shoyu over the bowl and finally finishing it off with grated yuzu.

"all mix," chef naoya gestured towards the bowl as he finished the description of this final sushi. on its own, each ingredient packed a punch. together, it was bursting with flavors of the sea interjected with undertones of citrus freshness.

a chopped tuna belly sushi roll, cut into three one bite pieces completed the flight of sushi. the chefs cleverly alternated the dishes of hot with cold meant the cup of the warm miso soup in its earthy-salty complexity followed next. the dessert closed out the meal without much conviction as the rest of the meal did.

i was still basking in exhilaration as i recounted the highlights of the iga courses when our friendly chef placed a piece of what seemingly looked like a brûléed cube pudding on the sushi plate.

"we added some small shrimp in this special tamago and was steamed for 5 hours. it tastes like cheesecake. special for you two since you've had to wait patiently," chef naoya's offered although there was really no reason for him to. taking it gratefully, the whispers of sweetness of the tamago pudding resonated with the chef's description.

tldr // sushi oribe. easily one of the most memorable meals i've had all year, despite the minor hiccups along the way. i'd love to return for an encore but the hefty price tag makes it something that cannot be done frequently. even so, the freshness of quality ingredients from japan and wonderful dining experience with a chef who is passionate about food make it all worthwhile. it is sushi done right.

so, yes to a return visit and definitely reservations for seats at the kitchen counter again a few days in advance.

when the maitre'd was overheard informing the caller apologetically, "i'm sorry, sir. the restaurant is fully booked today..." i exchanged glances with my dining companion, as if being able to read each other feelings perfectly especially after the meal.

- content...and perhaps with a sliver of gloat.

sushi oribe 寿司 織部| location 
block c-1, vipod residences
no 6, jalan kia peng,
kuala lumpur, 50450
{opens mon - sat: 12pm - 3pm;
6pm - 11pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

the molten salted egg yolk croissant rivalry: le bread days & bake plan

food trendspotting.

typically, it starts with #saltedeggyolkcroissant trending on instagram, which inevitably leads to long queues.

sometimes, i'd find myself waiting in those.
other times, i let novelty runs its full course before a new food trend ousts its counterpart off the pedestal.

in the case of the salted egg yolk croissant phenomenon, it was the latter.

salted egg yolk in bun is nothing new. in fact, it is a staple at chinese dim sum eateries.
however, it was mind boggling that during the peak of the food trend, food eateries could have slathered salted egg yolk custard on almost anything and the crowd would have gobbled it up in no time. maybe it's the revolutionary east meets west roots. or maybe it was the pairing the salty & sweet.

with a story featured in an international newspaper going "will the salted egg yolk trend ever die out?" i had to get to the bottom of it - it being the reason behind the craze behind this movement, headlining the local food scene for several months.

two of the most talked about salted egg yolk croissants later, the one thing i've managed to figure out is that i'm a fan. 

not an obsessive fan, but a fan. 

le molten egg yolk custard croissant at le bread days (rm 7.30) stirred quite the controversy, a love-hate relationship with its following. poor service by the staff had aggravated hordes of people swarming to the quaint pastry shop in ss2 - the overwhelming popularity was something le bread days wasn't prepared for, making no room whatsoever for reservations for its signature pastry. 

the crispy shell of the croissant crackled briefly before giving way under the pressure of the knife as the rich golden molten lava of the salted egg yolk oozed out from the cut, while some ebbed into the crevices of the honeycomb insides of the soft freshly baked bread. i eagerly took a lick of the molten lava - a strong salted egg yolk flavor but with sweet undertones that managed to sneak in to achieve a salty-sweet balance. the crunchy ends of the crescent were probably my favorite bite.

'overhype,' a couple of my friends had lamented.
maybe. or it could be novelty.

but i can't deny that le bread days had managed to get this rich decadence balance to work; still, it is probably best shared with friends (or not, if you really LOVE salted egg yolk).

labeled by many as a worthy rival (if not better), the bake plan churns out their version just in the vicinity at the food square in ss2. garnering love and regulars for its pastries, i called to reserve two just to make sure it wasn't a futile drive.

as i walked into the quaint pastry shop made for take outs, it was a busy - almost boisterous - mid-afternoon. the kitchen staff were boxing up freshly baked cheese tarts from trays as swiftly as they could. other patrons were browsing through the selection of loaves and breads on the shelves that lined the walls. i queued at the cash register for my pick up order alongside the others who were beaming at their trays, filled with bounties of golden pastries. 

the freshly baked croissant, still warm, was a lovely golden brown with a lighter and softer texture honeycomb insides wrapped by a lightly crisp outer shell. equally as decadent and a slightly thicker, the molten salted egg yolk was a smidgen sweeter.

tldr // the molten salted egg yolk lava croissant - a fusion of the chinese classic dim sum with the french croissant turned into sensation. both renditions of this pastry by le bread days and bake plan summon their own camp of followers. 

my take on the rivalry? edging out its counterpart slightly, le bread days moved me more.

le bread days | location 
68, jalan ss 2/72,
seksyen 19
46300 petaling jaya
{opens daily: 8am - 8pm}

bake plan | location 
36, jalan ss 2/61,
ss2, 47300 petaling jaya
{opens tues - sun: 9 am - 10pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

serice // poke bowl rice

"oh, there is one place that i've wanted to try out!" my friend exclaimed.

"hmm...?" i wondered.

"you know pokebowls? in puchong?" 

"lol! i have 25 pokémons!

"lol i'm serious," she laments.

yes, i have 25 pokémons - as much as i'd loathe to admit it
(quietly mumbles *the number has grown considerably*)

when she first suggested poke bowl rice last week, i was amazed by how quickly the 'pokémon go' phenomenon made its way into the local food scene (although for that very brief moment).

until she said it was a hawaiian dish, it dawned on me. 

just to clarify. it has nothing to do with pokémons. 

pronounced as poh-keh
a popular hawaiian dish of raw fish salad (ahi tuna is hugely popular), where modern versions are heavily influenced by japanese flavors with seasonings of shoyu, sesame oil and furikake.
the translation from hawaiian: "to chop" or "to cut crosswise".

honing in on the location of poke bowl rice could have been more challenging than discovering pokémons if it wasn't for the online reviews. korea wallpaper was probably the last place i'd imagine a food joint to be at - poke bowl rice shares the space on the second floor. i entered through the glass door almost apprehensively (with no shoes - it's the rule!) like a lost lamb, doubt and thoughts of me mistakenly thinking interior supplies store has a restaurant crept in.

"is this where poke bowl rice is?
i asked quietly, to which the staff (perhaps it was the owner...)
behind the counter smiled and nodded. 

"we are no longer called poke bowl rice, it has been changed to serice"
i honestly thought he had said 'sir rice' 
until he spelled it to me, twice. 

"it's S-E-R-I-C-E!"

nope, i still don't know what it means.

inspired by the poke he had in LA, he had wanted to bring his experience back and share it at serice.

brightly colored ingredients spanned across the counter, my eyes darted from one after another as i tried to listen intently on the rules on ordering the tailor-made poke bowls:

// pick a base of either japanese rice, tofu or greens
// top it with as much sides as the bowl can fit
// add on one protein of salmon poke, grilled chicken or sautéed beef slices with onions
// finish it off with condiments and drizzle of their special shoyu and/or other sauces

i spent several minutes of strategizing a game plan like i was picking out a fantasy football team.. wait, this was EXACTLY LIKE PICKING OUT A FANTASY FOODBOWL FOOTBALL TEAM!

here was my line up: rice // diced mango, sliced black olives, sautéed oyster mushrooms, julienned bell peppers, halved cherry tomatoes, wood ear mushrooms, blanched okra // salmon poke // bonito flakes, furikake // special shoyu, sesame dressing.

serice swears by the special shoyu sauce, which is mandatory with every poke bowl.

i, on the other hand, swear by furikake and bonito flakes. most of these fresh ingredients were no bench warmers either especially since the qualification requirement was dependent on being my favorites, as much as i can make them work together, rooted to japanese flavors.

rm16.90 at the cash register for your personalized poke bowl rice and any table in the store was for the taking.

i enjoyed the bespoke approach, highlighting the hottest food trend: healthful,  bearing resemblance to a customized salad (which is an option here too with the base of greens). the one hitch: the rice could have used a bit more time cooking.

oh and diced avocado, we would  have definitely loved some of that.
and luffa. it's like the soft melons of cucumber! we liked it.

i enjoyed the surprisingly comfortable ambiance although it was rather odd to be dining in an interior supplies store - i suspect it's all in the shoes off policy. the one hitch: i sneakily peeked to make sure our shoes were where we left them.

i'd probably skip the mocha (rm 12.90) though. mild in chocolate/coffee notes and missing the punch of caffeine that i needed very much.

tldr // serice (previously known as poke bowl rice) serves hawaiian inspired fish salad, customized . while it wasn't out of this world delicious, this was one good healthy dish that we don't mind having seconds of.

serice // poke bowl rice | location 
shared space with korea wallpaper, 
2-1, jalan  merbah 1,
bandar puchong jaya
{opens tues - sun: 12pm - 9pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

tokyo secret's hanjuku cheese tart

a brief inner monologue transpired as i ogled at my subject. 

"hmm.. a rare find..."

i berated myself for being so oblivious of its existence.

however, what's more upsetting was the time it took for me to seek it out.

no one was keeping tokyo secret's hanjyuku cheese tart a secret. in fact, it frequently slips its way into my conversations, where it often ends with my buddy swooning with praise and a craving for one.

if these were not telling signs that i needed one, i don't know what is. 

i'll let you in on a secret, though. unlike its name suggests, tokyo secret's roots began in tsim sha tsui, hong kong. while its appearance is akin to the local favorite - the egg tart, the inspiration behind is the molten cheese tarts in japan.

"oh no! did it not open today?" 

i thought out loud as i spied the yellow print of "TOKYO SECRET" punctuated against the dark brick wall.

from all the reviews i've read, it was rather uncharacteristic for this petite speciality pastry shop to be anything but crowded especially on a beautiful sunday afternoon. its popularity (some may classify as hype) is often translated into long queues out of the door and i had imagined a constant boisterous hordes of people spilling out of the petite shop despite being in a "hidden" spot in the ipc mall as it shared its space with a mac store.

delicious sweet fragrance of pastry baking in the oven emanated throughout the bright space, distracting us and most likely the two other diners in queue as we contemplated numbers. i breathed a sigh of relief. i made a quick beeline for the only available table out of the three while my companion had the task of procuring the prized treat, tagged at rm7.90 each.

so as i was saying, ogling at my subject.

the most unassuming golden tart with caramelized top and golden brown crust. i'd be lying if i'd say i didn't form a pre-expectation but somehow it worked in the tart's favor.

it was in the crust.
pleasantly surprised, the crust had a shortbread cookie buttery texture and sweet fragrance, crispy edges contained the slightly caramelized top of the half baked cheese slightly give as i took a nibble.  it almost distracted me from the thick molten cheese oozes slightly - delicate but rich in cheesy goodness, striking the perfect balance of dainty sweetness.

after wolfing one down gladly, it was obvious that i NEEDED another - i ordered one to go but not before having to wait for 10-15 minutes. people-watching from our seats, waves of people continuously flooded in periodically - it was then i realized, perhaps the stars were aligned when we first arrived because it only took us under five minutes to get ours.

this hanjyuku cheese tart assumed an alter ego of a cheesecake after spending a few hours in the fridge. the intensity of the sweet cheese flavor was distinct and the tart shell reminiscent of graham crust, emulating the cheesecake brilliantly.

often the antagonist/protagonist of the latest food trend is hype. while some have regarded it as overhyped, the hanjuku cheese tart at tokyo secret have proven its worth to me and defy the odds the moment i needed a second. #cheesescrust

tldr // each speciality pastry shop possess a special something and tokyo secret's charm certainly lies in its delicious hanjyuku cheese tart albeit its price tag.

tokyo secret | location 
g23, pic shopping centre,
jalan pju 7/2 mutiara damansara
47800 petaling jaya
{opens daily: 10 am - 10 pm} 

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.