CAN THERE ever be too many Japanese restaurants in town?
Restaurateur Kenny Chui and his business partners certainly do not think so.
And they are putting their money in their Japanese venture Kimi-ya, the latest entrant to the Japanese dining scene in Klang Valley.
The 232sq m restaurant at Taman Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur can seat up to 80 diners.
Located on the ground floor of Avantas Residences, the restaurant overlooks the busy Jalan Kelang Lama, which is home to at least four other Japanese restaurants.
However, Chui and his partners say they have done their homework, including checking out all the competition, before taking the plunge last November.
Chui is no lightweight when it comes to operating restaurants.
He is one of the founders of Rocku Yakiniku, a chain of Japanese barbecue restaurants with branches in Pavilion KL and Petaling Jaya’s 1Utama Shopping Centre.
Kimi-ya has the backing of Hau Wan Khim, 35, a Malaysian chef who has had extensive training and experience in setting up several Japanese restaurants, having undergone training in Japan and Singapore since the age of 19.
“The philosophy of the place is semi-fine dining, serving quality cuisine that emphasises freshness,” says Chui of his restaurant located within a mixed commercial/residential development.
If you are driving here, then do take advantage of the free valet parking service, which is a superb touch that sets everything up on the right note.
The restaurant is well designed and inviting, as befits its name Kimi-ya, which means “my home” in Japanese.
Hau does not compromise on quality, and picks from the freshest air-flown seafood and meats from Japan.
According to Chui, they invested in a huge freezer to ensure the cold chain is maintained all the way from the delivery truck to the doorstep of the restaurant. Kimi-ya is one of the few eateries to have invested in a freezer that can keep food at down to -60°C.
With freshness taken care of, the second ingredient for success is, of course, Hau’s knowledge and expertise. For example, he abhors using sauces as they are straight from the bottle.
“He would take all the trouble to blend ingredients to arrive at a customised taste. It is never straight out of the packaging,” said Chui of his business partner.
All this results in Kimi-ya’s delectable range of dressings for its salad, which of course, manages to bring salad to another level.
No doubt, one can say it is merely plates of sesame, wafu, and yuzu dressings, but Hau’s special sauces and dressings are evident the moment one tastes them.
The Kimi-ya Soft Shell Crab Salad (RM33) is a great way to fulfil your daily need for dietary fibre, especially when paired with the three excellent dressings.
The 14-piece Sushi Moriawase or mixed platter (RM160) is also de riguer if you are into seafood sushi.
Kimi-ya’s signature sashimi set called Ume Sashimi Moriawase – consisting of salmon, white tuna, yellowtail, tuna belly, scallop, octopus and pink shrimp – is also bound to please.
Kimi-ya is heavily into serving seasonal delicacies.
For the Japanese fall/winter season, it flew in houbou (or blue fin robin) to optimise its taste for this sushi dish.
Another winner is the Buri Daikon, which is Japanese amberjack fillet simmered in soy sauce and Japanese sweet rice wine together with Japanese radish, leek and mushroom.
For dessert, try the Abekawa Mochi (RM10), a rice cake with red bean paste.
I was also intrigued by the Mizu Shingen Mochi (RM10). Also known as the Japanese raindrop cake, this is a jelly-like dessert made with water from the Japanese Alps, accompanied by brown sugar syrup and soybean powder.
To put Hau’s team to the test, you may want to order the kaiseki, a seven-course meal (from RM80 upwards) with varying items according to seasonal ingredients from Japan.
The beverage menu is quite extensive, especially if you have a thirst for Japanese spirits. A can of Kirin beer starts from RM18, Kim-ya house sake (highly recommended) at RM56 per bottle, and a 720ml bottle of Iichiko goes for RM190.
Other drinks include Ozeki Kinkan, Kubota Senjyu, Choya Umeshu, Kuro Kirishima, Josen Karakuchi, and Cho Tokusen.
While I am no sake fan, I think Kimi-ya’s house sake, which is blended with yuzu, is commendable and deserves to be tried.
With Kimi-ya’s commitment to excellence and doing things differently, I am certain that many Japanese food lovers will happily call this place – which is open year round, save for Chinese New Year – “home”.
The prices mentioned do not include applicable taxes such as GST.
KIMI-YA, G-2, Avantas Residences, 162, Jalan Kelang Lama, Taman Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur. (Tel: 03-7986 0732) Business hours: Noon to 3pm, 6-10.30pm (Mondays to Thursdays) and 11.30am-3pm, 6-11pm (Fridays to Sundays).
This is the writer’s observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.