Taka by Sushi Saito in KL (Apr ’16)

4 Apr

Malaysia is not a country known for its fine-dining scene. Living in Singapore, my first thoughts of Malaysian food are nasi lemak, Sarawak laksa, KL hokkien mee, roti canai and fried carrot cake. So it was a big surprise to hear over lunch at Sushi Saito last year that Takashi Saito, probably the best sushi chef of his generation, had chosen Kuala Lumpur as the site of his first outpost worldwide, which would open in April. “Malaysia??” I wondered if I had misheard. I had just flown in from KL to Tokyo, and that very week the Police Headquarters had conveniently caught fire, the latest episode in the shameful 1MDB scandal to engulf ruling party UMNO. Investor confidence had fallen, and the exchange value of the ringgit was falling rapidly. Malaysia was such a counterintuitive country for Saito to base his first outpost in. Singapore, or Hong Kong, or even Bangkok or China would have been much safer from an economic point of view.

But entering the finished restaurant on the day Saito said it would open, I could discern some strong reasons for being in Malaysia: No expense had been spared in outfitting the restaurant. The counter is large and spacious, the kitchen equipment state-of-the-art, the doors and decor threaded with clouds, the private dining rooms well-equipped. The restaurant has impressive financial backing, and decor-wise is a world away from even Saito’s stylish Roppongi outlet. Second, he would not be competing in the same city as his master Kanesaka. Third, KL has a lot of rich folks, but its dining scene is a lot less saturated than Singapore’s or the other Asian cities – a local Saito would likely dominate the market.

We began the meal with a light beer…


2016-04-01 21.33.50 2016-04-01 21.37.46 2016-04-01 21.59.03 2016-04-01 22.04.28 2016-04-01 22.05.06

  • Baby shrimp (shiroebi):
    • Soft to the bite, delicate.

2016-04-01 22.09.58 2016-04-01 22.10.03 2016-04-01 22.10.07

  • Steamed abalone, boiled octopus
    • Excellent Chiba abalone with very tender texture
    • Saito’s octopus is quite magical, the outer tissue becoming an amorphous sweet and tender jelly that completely defies one’s expectation, especially if one has only encountered the firm octopus that most sushi places serve.

2016-04-01 22.15.29

  • Skewered firefly squid (hotaru ika)
    • Excellent, creamy grilled squid

2016-04-01 22.20.50

  • The Season’s First Bonito, Soy Marinated (katsuozuke)
    • Good balance of soy and ginger

2016-04-01 22.24.20

  • Hairy crab (kegani)
    • I liked the flavor of the innards, but the crab flesh I felt was a bit less sweet than I remember in August or December.

2016-04-01 22.31.22

  • Grilled rockfish (nodoguro)
    • Great skin, though the flesh was just a tad drier (like 5%) than I would liked it to be

2016-04-01 22.40.30 2016-04-01 22.40.51 2016-04-01 22.40.47

  • Flounder (hirame)
    • A bouncy texture that is always a delight, this seemed to be engawa (the side of the flounder).

2016-04-01 22.42.21

  • Alfonsino (kinmedai)
    • Very tasty and fatty

2016-04-01 22.44.05

  • Chutoro

2016-04-01 22.46.41

  • Akami

2016-04-01 22.48.51

  • Otoro
    • A delicious and unimpeachable tuna sequence, Honmaguro from Wakayama. Essentially perfect.

2016-04-01 22.51.46

  • Gizzard shad (Kohada)
    • Great balance of vinegar

2016-04-01 22.52.04 2016-04-01 22.53.56

  • Horse mackerel (Aji)
    • Well salted

2016-04-01 22.56.34

  • Spear squid (Sumi-ika)
    • Maintained its starchiness, which I’ve only rarely encountered outside of Tokyo

2016-04-01 22.58.17

  • Tiger prawn (Kurumaebi)
    • Good

2016-04-01 23.04.38

  • Nemuro Uni
    • A pleasing color combination of deep orange, yellow, and deep orange. This uni had a very deep sweet taste, and came from Nemuro in East Hokkaido.

2016-04-01 23.13.07

  • Seawater eel with salt (Anago shio)
    • Excellent

2016-04-01 23.14.05

  • Seawater eel with sauce (Anago tsume)
    • Excellent

2016-04-01 23.19.31

  • Kanpyo maki
    • Sweet and crunchy

2016-04-01 23.19.51

  • Tamago
    • Custardy, like a flan

2016-04-01 23.14.28

  • Miso soup

2016-04-01 23.32.52

  • Katsuyama sake

I found Taka a faithful replica of the 3* Tokyo Saito experience. Our sushi flight, made by head chef Kubota-san, had well-seasoned rice compacted into a solid but airy form in Saito’s style, and possessed the same excellence. The only minor difference I could discern was the food (namely the sushi rice, and shiroebi) was a bit colder and drier than at Tokyo Saito. This is probably due to a stronger air conditioner, exacerbated by my taking 5-10 seconds before eating to snap photos. Overall, an excellent meal.

Advertisements

6 Responses to “Taka by Sushi Saito in KL (Apr ’16)”

  1. Marten April 7, 2016 at 11:59 am #

    Excellent report! I’m heading to Taka by Sushi Saito Apr 16th and looking forward to it even more now… What was the total cost for this feast?

    • kentiong April 7, 2016 at 12:28 pm #

      Hi Marten, hope you will enjoy your experience there as I did. I paid about 450 USD (1.7myr) but that is probably higher than normal since it was during opening period. I’ve read it will be about 1k myr typically.

      • Marten April 7, 2016 at 1:02 pm #

        Thanks Ken! 1k MYR sounds perfectly reasonable for something at this level. Can’t wait!

  2. Jasmine April 13, 2016 at 11:36 am #

    Just wondering how much would a set like this set you back?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Taka By Sushi Saito, KL | Bloggsom - June 4, 2016

    […] have read Kenneth’s post which he pointed out the air conditioning being the root cause. Perhaps something they will adjust […]

  2. Taka by Sushi Saito St. Regis Kuala Lumpur – W Studio Resort Suites - June 5, 2016

    […] here’s a review by Kenneth Tiong on his dining experience in […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: