THE glitzy Ginza district is famous for its trendy spots, department stores, fine-dining restaurants, Izakaya or Japanese pubs and
luxury boutiques. Amid all these is an unassuming restaurant on the fifth floor of a modest building.
Almost every top Malaysian leader has made it a point to eat at the Rasa Malaysia Cuisine Ginza located at the Ginza Morita Building.
It does not pretend to be a Michelin-star restaurant but it is here that Malaysians are warmly welcomed and they can call it their home, especially the businessmen, expatriates and students in Japan.
Personalities who have visited this restaurant include federal ministers Gobind Singh, Datuk Moha-maddin Ketapi and Baru Bian, badminton star Datuk Lee Chong Wei and singer Datuk Siti Nurhaliza.
Malaysians, who are on a short visit to Tokyo, will probably give this restaurant a miss but for many Muslims, who have problems looking for halal, or at least pork-free food, they know they can trust Rasa Malaysia Cuisine.
Recently, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Ali, accompanied by Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, decided to eat at Rasa Malaysia Cuisine.
Restaurant owner Datuk Seri Tam Yun Tong, who has been running the place for more than 20 years, said it was an honour and privilege to serve the Prime Minister.
“This is his third visit to our restaurant. We are indeed humbled that he has chosen to come here again,” he said in an interview.
Dr Mahathir’s favourites at Rasa Malaysia Cuisine are the Sarawak black pepper beef, char koay teow and satay.
Tam also presented Dr Mahathir with a cake to celebrate the latter receiving “The Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers” award from Emperor Akihito.
“It seems the Emperor himself wanted to give the award to Dr Mahathir,” said an aide.
It is understood that Dr Mahathir is the last foreign leader to receive the award before the emperor abdicates on April 30 next year.
Tam, who has stayed in Japan for more than 30 years, is proud to still be a Malaysian citizen and is happy to play the role of unofficial ambassador who promotes Malaysia as a tourist destination to the Japanese.
Like Dr Mahathir, Tam is a Kedahan and his journey to the Land of The Rising Sun began as a student, where he was also the president of the Malaysian Students’ Association in Japan (MSAJ).
“I started this restaurant in 1999, because I missed my mum’s cooking. The aim of this restaurant is to give Malaysians a taste of good food just like their mum’s home-cooked dishes, while providing the Japanese with the opportunity to enjoy the flavour and aroma of authentic Malaysian cuisine, every time they dine here,’’ he said.
With the help of his wife, Datin Seri Ang Hui Chin, they source for authentic ingredients and condiments from Malaysia.
“This is to ensure that we get the flavours of our Malaysian food right. We do not want to disappoint our customers, especially the Malaysians,” he added.
Among the recommended dishes at Rasa Malaysia Cuisine are the spicy Nyonya dishes, which mainly consist of Chinese ingredients that are blended well with Malay spices as well as coconut milk, lemon grass, chillies and sambal.
“We like to explain to foreigners that this is what Malaysia is all about. It is a melting pot of all races coming together,” he said.
The menu offers a wide variety of Malaysian specialities, ranging from the ever-popular nasi lemak, nasi goreng and Hainanese chicken rice to prawn mee, beehoon goreng, kam heong lala, tom yam soup, Hokkien mee, claypot chicken rice and even a mean assam fish head!
For dessert, there’s bubur cha cha, banana fritters and of course, teh tarik, to wrap up the meal.
Chef Wong Weng Wah, who is from Kuala Lumpur, has worked in several five-star hotels in the Malaysian capital.
“I am happy to be in Tokyo, as it is challenging, and Rasa Malaysia Cuisine is happy to be the home away from home to Malaysians.
“We have become reputable because of recommendations by Malaysians. Such word of mouth endorsement is the best form of advertisement,” he said.
Tam also credited the Malaysia Embassy, especially ambassador Datuk Ahmad Izlan Idris, and the staff for their continuous support.
But it isn’t only the food that makes Rasa Malaysia Cuisine Ginza special. The place also celebrates Hari Raya and Chinese New Year by hosting open houses in true Malaysian spirit every year, without fail.
And for every Anak-Anak Malaysia Walk, an annual event organised by Eco World Develop-ment Group Bhd and Star Media Group Bhd, the restaurant uploads pictures of its staff putting up the Jalur Gemilang in support of the event.
Rasa Malaysia Cuisine Ginza is located at Ginza Morita Building 5F 3-3-6 Ginza Chuo-ku Tokyo, Japan. For details, call +813-6263 2381 or email firstname.lastname@example.org