Anything new is bound to have enthusiasts and detractors. So it is with chefs and restaurants that dare venture beyond the norm.
Still it won't stop gourmands like Larry Gan from pushing the envelope with his daring restaurant ventures. After the trendy 'U' Japanese eatery in Bangsar, Uzen is the evolution of its sister outlet's success. Gan and his wife, Caroline, worked on Uzen’s interior design and menu, inspired by their many overseas trips.
Be prepared for surprising twists when you dine there. There is no tatami mat in sight or kimono-clad service staff. Instead, Uzen looks more like an ultra-cool, upmarket jazz club with snazzy décor of 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 traditional fishing baskets and bamboo fish traps whilst others are steel netting fashioned into circular shades reminiscent of frou frou skirts. Penang-based artist Yee Kwai Hoong was commissioned by the Gans to help in the edgy interior design and clay tableware.
“We feel there is a vacuum in Kuala Lumpur for sophisticated restaurants that will attract the well-heeled, cosmopolitan travellers,” said Gan. “Uzen is modelled after trendy eateries in London, New York and Sydney such as Nobu and The Fat Duck.”
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. The Omakase set (chef’s creations) priced between RM115 and RM175 per person exemplify the chef’s creativity.
”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 emphasised the seafood’s freshness and delicate flavours. A simple dressing of apple vinaigrette rendered the whole ensemble 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 appetiser 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 tasted better.
To cleanse the palate, we sipped on Melon Cocktail before partaking in two chef’s creations. The first comprised a piece of crisp Belgian Endive with strips of raw tuna, salmon, squid and avocado in a mayonnaise-wasabi dressing, topped with a dollop of lumpfish roe. We thoroughly enjoyed 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++) was 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 consists of Macha or Green Tea Ice Cream with Red Bean (RM12++), Dorayaki, Japanese Pancake with red bean filling (RM12++) and 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 what is available for the day.
1st Floor Concorde Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Sultan Ismail
50250 Kuala Lumpur
Reservations: tel: (03) 2032 1388