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Miyako Land Izakaya, Petaling Jaya

Tucked on the southwestern most tip of Japan, Okinawa Prefecture is known for its azure blue waters, sandy beaches, and tropical climate. Also called “Japan’s Hawaii”, the prefecture regularly bags a spot on lists of top domestic destinations for locals.

Okinawan food is also popular, as it is notably different from that of the Japanese mainland. This is thanks to its proximity to Taiwan, China and Southeast Asia, as well as the long history of trade between these regions.

Lucky for us living in the Klang Valley, we don’t have to splurge thousands on a holiday to Japan, as there’s a hidden gem serving Okinawan cuisine, right in the heart of Petaling Jaya.

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Miyako Land Izakaya, which opened its doors last year, is tucked within an industrial-turned commercial lot called B-Land, sharing the place with a few other popular restaurants, a futsal court, gym facilities, and more. Touting itself the ‘first Okinawa style izakaya in Malaysia‘, diners can expect something different from the usual sushi, ramen, udon, and rice dishes that most people associate with Japanese cuisine.

PS: Miyako-jima is an island in Okinawa prefecture, some 300 kilometres southwest from Okinawa’s main island.

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I love the shop’s design and aesthetics. Most Japanese restaurants carry an elegant look and feel, featuring lots of wood, dark accents, orderly tables and chairs, tatamis, and the like. Miyako Land, on the other hand, is a vibrant medley of colours and cutesy knick knacks: reminiscent of a tropical beachside hut, but with a Japanese vibe.

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There’s a gazebo of sorts with rolled up bamboo blinds and noren (small banners that are hung on the exterior of traditional izakayas), bright and colourful posters of beer/soda ads, wooden tablets, as well as manga on shelves. The TV plays a travel show promoting Okinawa’s specialties, and there’s even a stand with imported Japanese magazines and newspapers.

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Trivia: Ultraman’s screenwriter, Shozo Uehara, was an Okinawan native!
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And here are some of Miyako Land Izakaya’s menu items:

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While the menu does carry some of the usual favourites such as ebi tempura (fried shrimp), you also get some not so conventional ones like Gooya (fried bitter gourd) and beni shouga (red ginger tempura). We wanted to try the signature Nankotsu karaage (chicken soft bone) but they had run out for the day, so we went for Mimiga (fried pig’s ears) instead.

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For the mains, again, some typically seen dishes like prawn tempura soba and curry udon – but also lesser known items like Ginger Tempura Udon, Natto Udon, Miyako Soba, Somen Champuru, ham and egg onigiri, and pork miso onigiri.

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And more dishes I have never seen or heard of before, like the Chi Bi Teh (slow cooked pork leg in Okinawa style), Ra Fu Te (braised pork belly with Okinawa sugar), and Goya Chan Puru (bitter gourd omelette).

I don’t know about you, but they sound quite similar to Chinese cuisine (chi bi teh reminds me of bak kut teh!). This is perhaps influence from when Okinawa was part of the Ryukyu kingdoms, and had a distinctly separate identity/culture from that of the Japanese mainland.

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For some reason, there is also a page on the menu dedicated to cheeses – crispy / grilled camembert, crispy cheese sticks, cheese crackers, and cheese korokke. But hey, I’m not complaining: it’s cheese!

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Some desserts as well, if you’re looking to finish off strong.

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Of course, being an izakaya, there are plenty of drinks to go with the snacks and munchies. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options are available.

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To match the whole ‘tropical holiday’ vibe, I got a Melon Cream Soda (RM14). The beverage came fizzing in a tall glass; the liquid a bright, almost acid-green, topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. It tasted sweet and syrupy, with an obviously artificial melon taste – but it was not unpleasant. Pretty refreshing, actually.

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I wanted noodles, so I ordered the Yakisoba. Ordinarily it comes with vegetables, but I requested for none. It was good; the noodles were chewy and had a nice texture, and they were generous with the pork slices. But it lacked wok hei, and I didn’t enjoy the red strips of pickled ginger either. If you want outstanding yakisoba, I recomend Okonomi. Still, Miyako Land’s version is pretty decent.

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The Hubs had Miyako Soba, a traditional pork based noodle. We ordered the half size (RM15) coz we got a couple of dishes to share, but you can go for the full (RM25) if you want something more filling. The soup is flavourful without being too rich, and you can really taste the goodness of the pork.

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We both agreed that the stars of the show were the small bites. I’m not an alcohol drinker, but the Hubs commented how well they would go with beer. The Sumi Yaki Buta (charcoal grilled pork belly) was excellent – glistening with juices and fat, with a smoky, slightly charred exterior. It was served with a slice of lemon, and the sourness actually elevated the flavour of the pork. Our only qualm was that the portion was pretty small for RM13, and you’d probably have to order several plates to feel satisfied!

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My personal favourite? The Mimiga (fried pig’s ears). It is cut into narrow strips, battered, then deep fried and lightly seasoned. The winner here is the texture. Pig’s ears are usually crunchy, and because of the batter, it was double the crunchiness, but with a layer of hardness to within (kind of like when you’re biting on cartilage). It was a workout for the jaw, but also strangely addictive. The mayo was creamy and had a hint of lemon and pepper, which cut through the greasiness.

There are so many interesting dishes to try at Miyako Land – which is why I think the place warrants another visit soon! Prices are on the steep side for the portions, but service is good, and the food is excellent.

Come check out the place and its Okinawan cuisine if you’re ever in PJ!

MIYAKO LAND IZAKAYA

Lot 4, B Land, 2, Jalan 51a/225, Seksyen 51a, 46100 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Opening hours: 12PM – 2.30PM, 5PM – 11PM

Website and menu here

PS: You can’t see the shop from the main road as it is located within a compound. Just Waze to B.Land and park inside the lot. Miyako Land is located to the left of the parking entrance.

I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.

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Japanese Festival – Nihon Matsuri 2022 @ Stadium Bukit Jalil, KL

The past two years have been tough for businesses, especially those involving events. But with restrictions now lifted and most sectors essentially back to ‘normal’, events are back in full swing. In fact, like the ‘revenge shopping’ phenomena (where people splurge to make up for not being able to spend during the pandemic), I think we’re having ‘revenge attending’, where crowds are flocking back to events after months of repressing their need for social activities.

I’m still cautious about going to crowded places (not just because of COVID, but also because I don’t like people in general. LOL). But there was a “Nihon Matsuri” (Japanese festival) happening in town that the Hubs expressed interest in attending after seeing banners of it along the highway. It didn’t look like a very big scale event (unlike Bon Odori three weeks ago, which saw a 50,000-strong turnout), and it was going to be held in an open-air space ie the carpark at Stadium Bukit Jalil, so we thought we’d check it out over the weekend.

The event, organized by local events and comms company Trumpet International, was held over five days from July 27 to July 31. We went on the second last day, which was a Saturday night. In retrospect, I think this was a bad choice, because although it was an open-air venue and it was not ‘packed’ in that sense, there was still a massive weekend crowd. There was also a RM10 entry fee. For the price, I think it would have been nice if they had given us a complimentary bottle of mineral water or a cheap fan or something, at least.

So what was there to see at the festival?

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The first thing we saw at the entrance was a series of torii, or traditional archways found at Shinto temples, complete with ‘blooming’ cherry blossoms, as well as Japanese-style lanterns. It looked great for photography, but since there were so many people queueing up to go in, it was difficult to get a good shot without people in the frame.

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An Instagram-bf hard at work capturing his partner’s photo
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The organisers had spaced everything far apart so there was lots of room for people to mill about, which helped with crowd control in some areas. When I wasn’t comfortable with an area because there were too many people clustered there, I at least had the option to move to another space, which would have been difficult in a closed setting.

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Standing alone in a corner was a makeshift sushi bar, serving omakase for RM349+ per pax.

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The plebs, on the other hand, had the choice of regular tarpaulin booths selling street snacks such as Sushi, tempura, takoyaki, bento, and grilled meat on skewers. The queues were extremely long, and I think most of them ran out of food by 9PM even though new visitors were still coming in.

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The festival’s central area featured cherry blossom ‘trees’ decorated with fairy lights, and raised wooden platforms for dining, giving the place a hanami (cherry blossom viewing) feel.

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Photo wall featuring a mix of traditional Japanese artwork and modern pop art.

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Another popular photo fixture featured rows of white lanterns. Japanese lanterns tend to be capsule-shaped compared to Chinese lanterns, which are usually spherical.

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There was a booth offering yukata rental services, and I saw many ladies walking around in beautiful, colourful dresses. There was also the occasional cosplayer.

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Ema (wooden plaque) board where visitors could hang up their wishes!
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We came at a good time and managed to catch two performances. The first was a Kendo performance with swords. It was meant to be a meditative performance, so there was no music. I think the idea was to showcase the beauty and grace in each movement, as the practitioners sliced through the air with their swords, sometimes swift, at times steady.

The second performance we watched was a Taiko performance. They even inserted some modern theatrical elements into it, playing out a storyline between the students and the master on the large drum.

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One more Instagrammable spot before leaving was the exit tunnel, which had hundreds of colourful paper wishes hanging from the ceiling.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad experience, but I definitely feel that they could have had more booths to justify the RM10 entry fee. There were about 20 food booths at most, and each had an almost hour-long queue; and there were only 2-3 game booths (which were all obviously crowded). Still, it was a nice activity to wile away time over the weekend, and we got to experience a slice of Japanese culture as well.

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.

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Largest Don Don Donki in Malaysia @ Tropicana Gardens Mall, Petaling Jaya

Earlier this year, Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki opened its first outlet in Malaysia at Lot 10, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. It was very well received, with people queueing up for hours just to get into the shop on the first day. I visited the store a month after its opening (read about it here), and it was a great shopping experience, with lots of interesting things to see and buy.

Fast forward to December 2021, and Don Don Donki has opened its second store at Tropicana Gardens Mall, Petaling Jaya. Covering over 42,000 square feet and spanning two floors, this is also the largest Donki in the country. Plans are in the works for a dozen other Donkis, but in the meantime, let’s see what this outlet has in store!

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I came during a weekday, so there was no queue, and I was able to shop in peace without having to squeeze my way through crowded aisles.

The entrance to the shop is located on the first floor. You go up the escalator in the central area ,then make a U-turn to where Donki is. The signs are a bit confusing as they point to the far end of the ground floor, which is where the exit is.

Video here. Subscribe if you haven’t already!

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You’ll be greeted by CosmeDonki as soon as you enter the shop, which is a section that carries makeup, beauty, and wellness products. Not my thing, so I made a beeline for the food section next to it. This area has numerous dessert counters, with items such as souffle, pudding, jellies, mochi, sweet sando (sandwiches), basque cheesecakes served in cups, and more.

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Here, you’ll find Japanese condiments like bonito flakes and wasabi furikake.
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Onigiri with a unique packaging design! I assume it’s meant to be convenient, especially for salarymen on the go.
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We might not be able to travel right now due to restrictions, but you can still experience a taste of Japan, as Donki carries specialty items from the different prefectures.
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On this floor, you can choose from a wide variety of ready-to-eat meals, from sushi rolls and sashimi over rice, to fried gyoza, karaage (fried chicken), bento bowls, and more.

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To cater to Muslims, the store has a section carrying halal certified products.
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Aside from food, there is a section dedicated to sports and gym equipment, as well as hobbies and toys. Check out these adorable socks.

One thing I observed with this Donki outlet – they seem to be focused more on food. The Donki in KL has a wider selection of household products. But being a foodie, I’m not complaining! The aisles are also a little organised compared to Don Don Donki KL, in that they’re neatly sectioned according to category, so it makes it easier to shop. The design still has that characteristic Donki ‘feel’ though, with shelves piled high with products, loud and colourful posters and signages, and of course, their mascot Donpen.

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After buying your snacks or ready-to-eat meals, you can pay for them directly and enjoy the food at a dining area nearby. There’s more to explore downstairs, though, so this can be like a ‘pitstop’ to your shopping.

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Try your hand at a capsule machine!
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Just before the escalator is a section selling street food. I adore this concept as they’ve designed the stalls (yatai) to look like Japanese railway stations, with the signs at each stall displaying destinations like Tokyo and Osaka. Each stall also sells a street food that is famous from that region; for example Taiyaki (fish-shaped pastries with filling) for Tokyo, Takoyaki (octopus balls) for Osaka, and Tako Senbei (octopus crackers) for Kanagawa.

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On the ground floor, you’ll be directed past a section selling premium Japanese goods, such as handmade Ukiyoe soaps, frozen seafood from Hokkaido including giant hairy crabs and fat, juicy scallops, handmade crafts, teas, as well as kimonos.

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Also in this area is the kitchen, where you’ll be able to see through a glass window the staff prepare sushi and sashimi, to be sold at the store.

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You then exit from this small section and reenter through another entrance, which is where they have the fresh produce, such as vegetables, fruits, meat and seafood. Most of these are imported from Japan. Everything looks fresh and is beautifully displayed – but expect to pay higher-than-average prices, of course.

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Wagyu beef, thinly sliced for grilling or the hotpot.
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Of course, not to be missed is the fresh seafood section. Thick cuts of tuna, uni (sea urchin), salmon, tako (octopus) – you name it, they got it.

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Uni. Which I still haven’t tried to date, by the way, due to its expensive price tag.
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Sashimi cuts, complete with sauces for dipping.
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Fish roe
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Unagi (eel)
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Moving on from the fresh produce section, you’ll come to the snacks section selling dry goods, including snacks, ramen, biscuits, drinks, and more.

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Have you tried Ramune? I first had this carbonated drink in San Francisco’s Japantown, and the little glass ball in the bottle has always fascinated me. Apparently in the old days, before the invention of bottle caps, it was used to stopper the drink and prevent the carbon from escaping. In modern times, Ramune is a symbol of summer in Japan, where it is often enjoyed at festivals.

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Anime fans are not left out, as you’ll also find anime-themed merchandise here, such as these Demon Slayer-themed snacks.

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I was tickled to find the Sakeru Gummy candy, which was popularised by the hilarious series of ads featuring the Long Long Man character. And it was, indeed, true to the name, measuring 50cm. There was a short version too.

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More unusual products – giant serving of noodles
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A lot of thought goes into packaging and presentation when it comes to Japanese products. I, at least, feel tempted to buy (and keep) them just for their looks lol.

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After over an hour exploring the aisles, I finally settled on a couple of snacks, some chuuka idako (marinated baby octopus) and fried squid. Would have liked to get more, but my budget doesn’t allow for it. Check out was fast as they have multiple counters, and there are staff members to help you bag your purchases. But do note that they don’t provide plastic bags, so you’ll have to bring your own or buy their recyclable tote bags.

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The squid was a bit rubbery since it had been fried early in the day, but it was well seasoned. The octopus was excellent and came in a sizable portion, considering the price.

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And that was my trip to Don Don Donki Tropicana Gardens Mall! I actually enjoyed shopping here more than the KL outlet. Not only is it closer to where I stay, so I don’t have to brave KL traffic, they also have a larger section dedicated to food and snacks, which is what I prefer over household goods or toys anyway. Another plus point would be the organisation – it’s definitely more neatly organised than Donki KL.

To those planning a visit, I recommend coming early or on a weekday to avoid the crowds. Tropicana Gardens Mall is a good place to shop too, with lots to see.

DON DON DONKI (TROPICANA GARDENS MALL)

Lot CC-26, 27, 28 & Lot G-20, 20A, 21 Tropicana Gardens Mall 2A, Persiaran Surian, Tropicana Indah Petaling Jaya, 47810 Selangor

Open daily

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via my Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.

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Review: I Tried Burger King Malaysia’s new Japanese Curry Burger

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It’s been awhile since I last had anything from Burger King, but they recently launched new menu items – ie the Japanese Curry Whopper and the Japanese Curry Chick’N Crisp – which looked pretty promising. Since there’s a Burger King at the place where I shop for groceries, I got the chicken version to go (ala carte: RM12). You can also get the sets, which come with the standard fries and a drink.

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First impressions: Sizeable. With fast food joints, sometimes you get really sad-looking, deflated burgers that looked as if an elephant had sat on them lol. This burger came with not one but two crispy chicken patties and a slice of cheese in between, and these were topped with a generous amount of vegetables and onions, sandwiched between two fluffy sesame buns.

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They were also very generous with the Japanese curry sauce, mixed with mayo. The sauce is the winner here; mildly sweet with a hint of spice, and it binds all of the elements in the burger really well – you get a flavourful mix of sweet and savoury, paired with the crispness of the patty, the juicy moistness of the chicken meat, the soft and pillowy buns, plus the crunch from the onions and veggies. A solid burger: I’d give it an 8.5/10.

Aside from the chicken, there’s also BK’s signature Beef Whopper, but with Japanese curry sauce. The sets go for RM15.90 (chicken) and RM16.90 (beef), and are available for a limited time only.

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Vlog: Is This The Best Halal Ramen in Malaysia?

A couple of months ago, I wrote about Ramen Seirock-Ya, an up-and-coming halal ramen chain that specialises in toripaitan (chicken ramen) – and how it might just be the best halal ramen that I’ve tasted. Well, my opinion hasn’t changed – but this time, I’ve made a vlog about it. And in Malay, no less!

The video clips have been in my folder for some time now, but I just couldn’t find the time/energy to edit them. But better late than never, right? PS: This was filmed before the Movement Control Order 3.0 came into effect, when dine-in was still allowed. Fret not, though – you can order from them online here.

BTW, this is the first time that I’ve vlogged in Malay. Language gets rusty if you don’t use it often, which is the case with my Malay, and that’s why I wanted to at least practice it a bit in my vlog.

“But aren’t you Malaysian?” my non-Malaysian readers might ask. “You should be fluent in Malay, since you live there.”

Well, technically, I am fluent. I learned it for 10 years in school. I even got a “Best in BM” award in high school, which is a pretty good achievement if I say so myself, seeing that I’m Malaysian Chinese.

Here’s the thing though. It’s complicated. Malaysia is a pretty odd country. You have all these different races living together in relative harmony, but racial (and religious) polarisation has been on the rise in recent years, and it’s no longer surprising to find people who aren’t that fluent in Malay, even though they are citizens. My parents, for example, can speak in Malay relatively well. But they tend to mix English words into their conversations, and if you asked them to speak purely in Malay, they would find it difficult. Would that be considered ‘fluent’?

As for myself, well, being stuck at home means I only speak Cantonese and English (my first language) most of the time. And to be honest, my Malay has been on a downward spiral ever since I graduated from high school, because I don’t have that many Malay friends (or friends in general *cough cough*) who speak to me in Malay. The only occasions where I have to dig up my long-lost BM vocab are when I have to visit a government office.

Anyway, I hope to make more vlogs in Malay. I’m already an outcast when it comes to Chinese (I can’t read Chinese characters and I’m not fluent in Mandarin. Third culture kid problems), so I don’t want mastery of my second best language to go down the drain.

If you liked the video, please consider subscribing! Or you could buy me a cup of coffee on Patreon.

Til the next one!

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Review: Shopping At Malaysia’s First Don Don Donki Store @ Lot 10, Kuala Lumpur

Earlier in March, Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki opened its first outlet in Malaysia at Lot 10 in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. Needless to say, the crowds were massive, with people queueing for hours just to get into the shop.

It’s been a month and the hype has died down a little – so I thought it would be a good time to check out what they have in store.

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I went on a weekday afternoon, and thankfully there was no queue. The entrance is on the second floor, so you’ll have to go up a couple of escalators. I suggest parking at Fahrenheit 88 nearby and walking over. It’s also advisable to go to the toilet beforehand, as there is no toilet inside the store and the toilets at Lot 10 have a 50-cent charge.

For the uninitiated, Don Don Donki (or Don Quijote as it is known in Japan) is a popular Japanese discount chain store with over 160 shops nationwide, and a strong presence in Asian Pacific markets such as Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and now Malaysia. They are known for being open till late (some shops are open 24 hours), and for having a distinctive retail concept which features aisles packed from floor to ceiling with goods.

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I have been to a Donki store in Tokyo, and it can be overwhelming for a first-timer – what with the explosion of colours, loud posters and merchandise everywhere. The Malaysian outlet has a similar design, with narrow aisles filled with all sorts of products imaginable, from toys and clothing, to cosmetics and snacks, most of which are imported from Japan. Unlike hypermarkets where there are clear signages indicating the sections, Don Don Donki’s layout is a jumble: everything here seems to vie for your attention.

If you’re lazy to scroll, here’s a video! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to subscribe. 🙂

Entering the store, you will come to the household goods and kitchenware section, and an area selling gym equipment and Donki merchandise such as plushies, toys and bags. The kitchen is located on this floor as well, and you can watch the staff preparing the food through glass windows.

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Don Don Donki’s mascot is a blue penguin called Donpen.
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Be prepared to have the Don Don Donki theme song stuck in your head after your visit. They play it on an infinite loop through the loudspeakers.
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The aisles here are very narrow, so even when there aren’t too many people, the place can feel cramped and claustrophobic. I don’t think SOPs were followed strictly (or should I say, it can’t be enforced due to the tight space?). At the snack aisles, for example, there was only room for 2 people to walk through, and I had to back-peddle out of the aisles several times whenever I saw people coming from the other end – there was simply no room for me to squeeze through.

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Some of the more unique items on sale. Be prepared to shell out a premium.
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Cosmetics section with vanity mirrors.

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The second floor wasn’t really my thing – I was more interested in the first floor, which is where they sell fresh produce and food items. When going down the staircase, the Don Don Donki staff will ask if they can help with your basket or trolley, which is a nice gesture.

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There is a wide selection of produce to choose from, including meat and vegetables, and of course, seafood. Following the design theme, every inch of this floor is packed with products – even the ceilings are filled with decorations. They also have these giant monitors playing interviews with farm owners / fishermen, which may tell you more about how the seafood was caught, or how crops were cultivated before they ended up in store.

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The store carries many common ingredients seen in Japanese cuisine, but may be more difficult to find in local hypermarkets.

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Assorted beef cuts. They also carry wagyu platters.
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The ready-to-eat section is an island counter laden with items such as chicken karaage, kaki furai (fried oyster), tori nanban, donburi bowls, fried squid, and more. The food is kept under heated lamps to keep them warm, but you can also reheat them upon checkout. Some of the food contains alcohol (such as the unagi don), so remember to check the labels if you’re unable to consume alcohol.

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 They import the seafood here from Toyosu Fish Market in Tokyo. Inset is Yasuhiro Yamazaki-san, the company president of Yamaharu Co., Ltd, whom I interviewed for an assignment a couple of years ago.
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The sushi and sashimi section. They have otoro (tuna belly) here, which is quite rare to see outside of premium Japanese restaurants.
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Uni (sea urchin)
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Humongous oysters, scallops and octopi
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Moving on to the ground floor, there are more food items including a section for fruits and dried goods.

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The aisles before checkout are also packed with easy-to-grab goods, to get customers to get a couple more items before payment. There are a lot of checkout counters, so payment is fast. They also bag up your items for you. If you’ve purchased food, you can proceed back up to the first floor, where there is a dining area outside the shop.

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Fried squid. Forgot to reheat it so I just had it cold. It wasn’t crispy anymore but the flavour was pretty good.
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Coming here is an exercise in self control. There are so many interesting things to buy, but if you’re not careful, it can blow a big hole in your wallet. I wanted to keep my budget below RM50, so I only got the above: the most expensive item was the tonkotsu instant noodles (RM12+), followed by the baked cheese cake snacks (RM9.90), the caramel corn snacks (RM8.50) and two cream puffs (RM5.90 each).

So how was my experience at Don Don Donki Malaysia?

While the selection of products is not as extensive as their outlets in Japan, I think there is still plenty to see and buy here, especially food items. Prices are premium, but that is to be expected, given that most of the goods are brought in from Japan, and you do get some unique things that you won’t be able to find in local grocery stores or hypermarkets. The displays are very colourful and attractive, but it can get tiring after awhile due to the visual and sensory overload.

That being said, there are a few things that the shop can improve on. The aisles are narrow, so getting people to follow SOPS is a challenge. It’s also not comfortable to take your time and shop, as it can get crowded and stuffy. I would suggest coming on a weekday, if possible. If not, then maybe come earlier on the weekend. Store opening hours are from 8AM – 12PM.

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Sushi Zanmai, Main Place Mall USJ

Back when I worked in PJ, I used to frequent Sushi Zanmai at Jaya Shopping Centre, which was just a 10-minute-drive from my office. I went there so often the server could anticipate my order even before I placed it (one plate of fried mushrooms, one bowl of rice and one portion of chuuka idako. Lol.) Unfortunately, I haven’t been back since transitioning to a fully WFH setup, which means that I haven’t had Sushi Zanmai for… well over a year.

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I didn’t realise how much I’ve missed it until I walked past the Sushi Zanmai outlet at Main Place Mall in USJ recently. Of course, memories of my favourite mushroom-rice-octopus combo came flooding back, and I had to stop by for lunch. It was a weekday afternoon so the place was empty and service was fast.

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The aesthetics are pretty standard across all of their outlets – wooden dividers, lots of beige, booth seating for privacy, plush pleather seats, and an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs in action.

I’m a creature of habit, so of course…

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Did you imagine I’d order anything else? lol

For some reason, the chuuka idako (baby octopus) came in a bigger portion than I remembered. Not that I’m complaining. The seafood was well marinated in a savoury sauce that brought out its natural sweetness, enhanced with a sprinkling of sesame and served atop a bed of salad.

One great thing about Sushi Zanmai is the consistent quality between outlets; so you get pretty much the same taste from one outlet as you do at any other.

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Not forgetting my favourite fried shimeji mushrooms, served with a small dollop of Japanese-style mayonnaise. The batter was perfectly crispy and salty, but the mushrooms retained their moistness on the inside.

There’s something about eating fluffy white rice with fried items, be they mushrooms or fried chicken wings; perhaps not the healthiest option, but oh-so-satisfying nonetheless.

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To switch things up beyond my usual trinity of orders (also because I haven’t had Japanese food for some time), I ordered kaki furai (fried oysters) and soft shell crab inari. They did not disappoint; the oysters were fresh, nicely battered and not greasy, while the inari and soft shell crab offered a great blend of textures and sweet and savoury flavours. Solid sushi!

Main Place Mall is much closer to where I live, so I guess I’ll be coming here now whenever I crave my Japanese food fix.

Service is friendly and efficient, prices are above average. If you come on weekends there might be a wait.

SUSHI ZANMAI (MAIN PLACE MALL USJ BRANCH)

Lot No.21, Second Floor, The Main Place, Jalan USJ 21/10, Persiaran Kewajipan, 47630 Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan.

Opening hours: 10AM – 10PM

https://www.supersushi.com.my/mainplace.php

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Brunch & Japanese Fare @ Buranchi, Bandar Puteri Puchong

I’ve driven past Buranchi a couple of times before, but never tried it until recently. Suprisingly, it was the Moo who suggested we grab lunch there (she isn’t keen on dining out because of the high number of coronavirus cases here in Selangor).

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Buranchi is Japanese for brunch, a fitting name for a cafe that specialises in all-day breakfasts and Japanese and Western fusion cuisine. Expect items such as sausage puffs, omu curry rice, yakiniku don, potato salad, ramen and udon. They also offer a selection of coffee and cakes.

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The interior is bright and cheerful, and you’ll find cute touches like these Japanese daruma dolls all around the premises.

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Honey Coffee (RM9) for a caffeine boost.

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Moo’s Chazuke (RM13) had exquisite presentation.

Chazuke comes from the Japanese ocha (tea) and zuke (to submerge), and usually comprises rice topped with various condiments such as pickled vegetables and wasabi, and a dashi/tea/broth that is poured over the rice. The one at Buranchi is served with a side of grilled saba (mackerel). It’s a simple meal that is not too heavy, which is probably why it’s popular with the ladies.

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I prefer robust flavours, so I got the Tonkatsu Ramen (RM17), which is one of the cafe’s specialties.

I was very impressed with the quality of the ramen. The noodles were al dente, and it was served with slices of crunchy bamboo shoots, ajitsuke tamago (half-boiled egg) and nori (seaweed). The star was definitely the pork bone soup, which was rich, savoury and full of porky goodness (I emptied the bowl, lol). While I remain devoted to Menya Shishi Do, I think Buranchi’s version is not bad at all for its price, especially if you’re stuck in Puchong and can’t drive all the way to PJ to have your ramen fix.

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To round off the meal, the Moo and I shared a Sea salt Chocolate Mousse (RM10). It was smooth, creamy and luscious; the chocolate was not too sweet and still had a hint of the astringency you get from dark cocoa, while the slight amount of sea salt helped to balance out everything – sort of like the principle of salted caramel.

Buranchi certainly impressed me with its service, quality and price, which is reasonable for the setting. Will be making a return visit to try out other dishes!

BURANCHI

72A-G, Jalan Puteri 5/5, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 830AM – 4PM (closed Mondays)

non-halal