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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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Favourite Sushi Spot – Sushi Zanmai

KL-ites have a love affair with Japanese food, and there are plenty of kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants around to fit every budget. Some of the more value for money chains include Sushi Jiro, Sushi King and Sushi Mentai, while the mid to higher-end ones include Sushi Tei and Sushi Zanmai. The latter is one of my favourite places to go to when I have the money to splurge. There are also two specific dishes that I must order, lol.

Sushi Zanmai has many outlets scattered across the Klang Valley. I usually dine at the one at Jaya Shopping Centre, but this post was when I went to 1Utama with N.

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First must order: Chuka iidako (baby octopus). I love chewy things (like squid and mochi), so chuka iidako is a must have whenever I go to any Japanese restaurant. The one at Sushi Zanmai, however, has perfected the marinade, so much so that it doesn’t feel right eating it anywhere else. It has a nice balance between sweet and savoury, peppered with fragrant sesame seeds on a bed of fresh lettuce and shredded radish. Portions are of a reasonable size as well.

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Second must order: Shimeji karaage. Lightly battered and served with a dollop of mayonnaise, these are crisp, salty and I like how the mushrooms have a crunchy exterior complemented by a juicy, almost meat-like texture on the inside. I usually order a bowl of rice to go with it.

And that would be what I eat when I’m alone – I call it my trinity of Sushi Zanmai – and I never tire of ordering the same things. On this occasion, however, I had to digress from my weird eating habits and order other stuff for N.

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N’s Chicken Katsudon. The chicken was first fried before it was cooked with the egg and sauce, but that meant it was soggy and somewhat tasteless. Maybe stick to their sushi offerings ? 

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Anago (boiled saltedwater eel), basted with a light teriyaki-sauce for that perfect sweet-savoury taste, and salmon.

SUSHI ZANMAI 

For a full list of their outlets, visit: supersushi.com.my

PS: In case you’re wondering, no this is not a paid spot, but the personal opinion of the writer. 

 

 

Review: Tsukiji Sushidai Honkan @ Tsukiji Outer Market, Tokyo

On my last trip to Japan, I was fortunate enough to experience many off-the-beaten path gems, from visiting thatched-roof villages in Gokayama to strolling through one of the country’s most beautifully landscaped gardens in Kanazawa.

This time around, I had a couple of days in Tokyo – the country’s modern, bustling capital. While most of it was spent on a work-related assignment, our group managed to squeeze in time to visit a couple of places – many thanks to our guide Ken-san, who brought us to both popular attractions and little spots that only the locals would know.

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After a morning work briefing at his office, Ken-san brought us to the site of the old Tsukiji Market. Many visitors to Tokyo would have visited (or at least heard) of the iconic Tsukiji Market, a sprawling wholesale seafood market located in the heart of the city. Opened in 1935, it replaced an even older market nearby called Nihonbashi, and was famous for its tuna auctions.

The market shuttered and moved its wholesale operations to the newer Toyosu Market, some two kilometres away, in October last year, citing better facilities and hygiene. The restaurants and shops outside Tsukiji, however, have remained – and they still get their seafood fresh from Toyosu (from the same wholesalers that were operating at Tsukiji) each morning.

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One of the area’s most famous sushi restaurants, which has since moved to Toyosu (you gotta line up for 2-3 hours to get in) was called Sushi Dai. I was initially confused when looking up the name of the restaurant we dined at, because it sounded so similar, but have now confirmed that they’re not related. That is not to say that Tsukiji Sushidai Honkan is not worth a visit, because we found the sushi to be excellent. No long wait as well!

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You know a place is good when it’s mostly locals. I think we were the only foreigners dining in during lunch time. The space was rather cramped (as it usually is with many Japanese restos), but cosy, with multiple floors. We settled into a corner and let Ken-san do the ordering while we sipped on green tea.

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Our first platter of five nigiri sushi. I can’t even recall all of them (lol), but from second left, tuna, ika (squid), ebi (shrimp) and hotate (scallop). Needless to say, everything was very fresh, and the nigiri was expertly done with no flaky rice bits – just firm balls of rice covered by beautifully sliced fish and seafood.

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Next, grilled anago (eel), ikura (salmon roe), kampachi (yellowtail), and maki rolls stuffed with sliced cucumber and tuna, plus sweet egg rolls. Don’t let their simple appearance fool you – the egg rolls are laborious to make and require much skill, as they have to be folded in a special pan with minute timing.

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Ikura – glistening, briny bubbles that burst when you pop them in your mouth.

While I have not had the good fortune to try Sushi Dai (ie ‘the best sushi in Japan according to some travelers), I think this is a good alternative if you, like me, can’t stand queueing up for hours just to have a meal! Prices for the platters vary, from 1,000 yen to 2,000 yen depending on the number and variety of items.

TSUKIJI SUSHIDAI HONKAN 

6-21-2, Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan

Business hours: 10.30AM – 4.00PM (Mon – Sat), 11AM – 10PM (Sun)

 

Review: Nobu Kuala Lumpur’s “Ode To Nobu” Omakase Menu + Sushi Masterclass With Chef Nobu Himself!

I’m pretty thankful for the job I have and the experiences it affords me.

I mean, it’s not everyday one gets to meet, let alone have a sushi Masterclass with a celebrity chef like Nobu Matsuhisa. Known for his unusual approach of combining traditional Japanese techniques with Peruvian ingredients, the 70-year-old restaurateur has several restaurants (and hotels) around the world bearing his name, all frequented by celebrities and prominent people in society. He was in town recently to visit his Kuala Lumpur restaurant, and members of the media were treated to a crash course in the art of sushi making.

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Chef Nobu demonstrating one of his dishes. He related an interesting story about how a guest once declined to eat sashimi after it was served to the table, saying she ‘didn’t like raw food’. He took it back to the kitchen, heated some oil and then poured it over the sides that the fish would be cooked on the edges, without disrupting the original dish’s presentation. The guest ate it.

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What we were making: nigiri sushi and some rolls.

 

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We each got an apron, a board and ingredients at our workstation. Assisted by some of the younger Nobu KL chefs, we were then instructed to roll our sushi rice into a ball.  Easier said than done! The rice was extremely sticky, and we soon had bits of rice everywhere. Mine refused to clump properly into any sort of shape. Ended up with the apprentice chef making most of my nigiri for me lmfao

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The rolls were much easier as all I had to do was, well, roll it up.

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Horrendous.  :’D 

Making good sushi can take years to master – it is truly an art form. That aside, we ate the sushi we ‘made’. What I can say is the fish was really fresh. lol.

This October, you can get a taste of the “Ode to Nobu” omakase menu, uniquely designed and curated by Chef Nobu himself together with the team of chefs at Nobu Kuala Lumpur. The elegant 7-course menu, available until 31 October 2019, will elevate selected Nobu signature and Malaysia-exclusive dishes, with the addition of luxury ingredients such as caviar, uni and truffle. 

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We tried some of the dishes, starting off with Seared Kampachi and Scallop Sashimi with Salad. Fat, juicy scallops and thick slices of kampachi (Almaco jack) were served on a bed of greens with an oily but light dressing that brought everything together well. You get the crisp crunch of the vegetables, as well as the sweetness and the ‘meaty’ texture of seafood, all in one bite. 

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The Cold Inaniwa with Lobster in Watercress Soup was another winner. Served cold, we were treated to a whole lobster claw swimming in an emerald green soup that gets its vibrant colour from the mild, herby watercress. Inaniwa noodles are not as well known as ramen and udon outside of Japan, but they are essentially hand stretched udon with a thinner, chewier texture. 

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The star of the afternoon was the tender Wagyu Truffle Sansho Pepper Sauce with wasabi purple potato puree, grilled takenoko and baby vegetables. Melt-in-the-mouth does not even begin to describe the fatty, beefy goodness of the meat – it felt like butter dissolving on the tongue. Nobu uses Miyazaki A5 wagyu, the highest grade available. Even without the Sansho Pepper sauce, digging into this was pure bliss. 

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Ending the meal on a sweet note was the exquisite Soya Panna Cotta on Monaka & Monk Fruit Sorbet with kinako, mocha and kuromame. Loved the delicate pink sakura-flower shaped wafer, and the monk fruit sorbet was both refreshing and intriguing – haven’t seen the fruit used much in desserts other than the Chinese ‘leong sui’.

The ‘Ode to Nobu’ Omakase menu is priced at RM595++ per person.

In addition to the exclusive menu, Nobu Kuala Lumpur has also launched its Sushi master Class, spearheaded by Chef Chico Dator, Head Sushi Chef of NObu Kuala Lumpur. The class will be available on the first Saturday of every month from 11AM to 2PM, with a minimum booking of six persons, two weeks in advance. Guests will have the opportunity to acquire knowledge of sushi making, and the session is inclusive of lunch and a signed Nobu cookbook by the Nobu Kuala Lumpur chefs.

For inquiries or reservations, call +603 2164 5084 or WhatsApp 019-3895085.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Affordable Sushi From RM2.80 Per Plate @ Sushi Mentai IOI Boulevard, Puchong

There are times when I crave a Japanese meal, but feel like I can’t afford to splurge on an ‘atas’ (expensive) place. (This typically occurs at the end of the month. lmao).

When that happens, I head to Sushi Mentai @ IOI Boulevard in Puchong – a cheap, fast sushi joint that offers decent sushi at a fraction of the price you’d normally have to pay at regular Japanese restos.

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Weekend evenings are particularly crowded, so come early to beat the queue. Otherwise, be prepared to wait for a fair bit. This isn’t the kind of place you sit in and chat for hours though – it’s pop in, eat, and pop out again. The set up is pretty basic and the space is cramped to accommodate as many seats as possible. Service wise, the waiters are attentive enough but don’t expect 5-star table service, of course.

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There is a good selection of sushi items at RM2.80 per plate – way cheaper than the usual price of RM5 – 8 at other outlets. Depending on what you order, you either get one or two pieces (eg the more expensive salmon cuts only come in one portion, as does the tempura shrimp sushi, etc.). Taste wise, it is pretty decent, considering the low price point.

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One of the must-tries here in my opinion is the inari with tempura shrimp. Each plate comes with one piece only, but this is the most addictive shit you’ll ever come across. The shrimp is sizable and not just from the batter, it’s crispy, and there are fried flour bits thrown into the sweet inari as well to lend it texture. Couple it with the sushi rice underneath and a smattering of Jap mayo and salty fish roe on top, and you have a recipe for success. I can eat 5 of these in one go lol.

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Other RM2.80 items. Due to space constraints, the waiters pile the sushi onto the same plate – not very visually appetising but this ain’t a Michelin-star resto yo.

(From top left) Salmon with mayo, inari with crab meat stick, and tamago with mentaiko. The flavours were a bit heavy handed, but the sushi was still tasty enough.

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Chuuka idaako (marinated baby octopus in a sweet sauce) and jellyfish. For some reason the jellyfish was way. too. salty. Felt like I was eating something swimming in salt water. This was the only disappointment of the night.

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Last but not least, the soft shell crab temaki. Again, the flavours were stronger (they used a type of soy sauce glaze which was very sweet) so if you’re looking for something delicate and refined, this might not be the place for you. What you do get here is cheap, fuss-free sushi at a cheap price.

Our meal, inclusive of green tea for two, came up to RM35. 

Aside from sushi, they offer rice (bento, tonkatsu, etc.) and noodle (ramen, udon, soba) dishes as well.

SUSHI MENTAI (BANDAR PUCHONG JAYA)

F-G-18, IOI Boulevard, Jalan Kenari 5,

Bandar Puchong Jaya, 47170 Puchong, Selangor, Malaysia

Opening hours: 12PM – 9.30PM (weekdays), 11.30AM – 10PM (weekends)

Phone:  +60 16-230 8270 

Food Review: Miyabi Japanese Restaurant, Sheraton PJ

A friend visiting from Johor once remarked how the Klang Valley seems to have an abundance of Japanese restaurants – something I never noticed until she pointed it out, lol. It’s true though – Japanese restos are a dime a dozen in and around KL. You have cheap sushi joints, teppanyaki places, yakiniku spots, ramen restaurants – you name it, we got it.

If you’re craving for authentic stuff and have got the moolah to splurge, there’s Miyabi, Sheraton PJ’s Japanese restaurant. Helmed by chef Dino Png, the place offers traditional kaiseki (multi-course) meals, or omakase (literally ‘as you like’) where the chef creates a menu for you.

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The resto itself is pretty spacious and able to accommodate up to 120 pax. Decor is Japanese inspired and minimalist – clean lines, lots of wood, warm tones.

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For our media tasting session, the restaurant arranged for a fun little sushi making session to create our own hand rolls! Technicalllyyy all the ingredients were sliced and ready – all we had to do was form it into a roll – but it was easier said than done. A lot of it ended up falling apart lmao.

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At the end of it Chef Png ‘judged’ our creations – and somehow my misshapen ones were deemed the ‘best’. The rest must have been terrible looking lol.

I much prefer people cooking for me xD On to the food!

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Our Kaiseki lunch kicked off with Zensai, an assorted appetiser of three items. There was Umi Budo, which were sea grapes with ponzu sauce (not pictured). If you’ve never had sea grapes, they’re basically a type of seaweed with little nodules that explode in your mouth in a brininess. The ponzu sauce was a nice touch to balance it out with a tart, sour element.

(Above) Watarari Kani Unagi Harumaki – soft shell crab tempura and Japanese egg roll. Topped with tiny pops of fish roe, the roll was a beautiful blend of textures and flavours – the crunchy, the salty, the sweet, the delicate, the silky.

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Am a sucker for fried things (that’s why I’m fat), so the Koebi Karaage or deep fried river shrimp was an instant hit. Crisp and crunchy, the shrimps sat on a bed of battered shiso leaf, which has this unique herby taste that cuts through the oiliness.

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Nothing like a clear hearty soup to warm the insides. Dobin Mushi – assorted seafood with mushroom broth – was served in a small teapot, poured out and sipped like tea.

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Sashimi of salmon, tuna and octopus on a bed of ice. Nicely cut and fresh, since they fly in the seafood twice each week.

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One of my favourites of the afternoon was Kani Sarada – soft shell crab with dressing. Despite being deep fried, the crab was not too greasy and retained much of its moist juiciness on the inside. The salad helped to cut through any oiliness as well. Plus I always think it’s good to have some veggies to make yourself feel better about eating all that fried stuff haha

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Our final entree was a teppanyaki of beef tenderloin and assorted mushroom. Some people have a misconception that the more expensive the beef cut, the tastier it will be. I think that with most meat, what matters is how you cook it, and the tenderloin was tasty, tender and went well with the garlicky flavours of the dish. Good stuff.

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Last but not least, dessert was green tea cheese cake and mixed fruit. Was up to my nose with food by this time and couldn’t finish, but if you enjoy rich tasting cakes, this is well worth a try. The matcha gave it a hint of bitterness, but it was still a pleasant taste.

MIYABI 

Level 3A, Sheraton Petaling Jaya Hotel, Jalan Utara C, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Tel: +603-7622 8888

Business hours: 12 PM – 2.30 PM , 6.30 – 10.30PM (daily)

Review: Aoki-Tei Japanese Buffet, IOI Boulevard Puchong

Aoki-Tei has been around for a long time in Puchong; I just never had the chance to try it out. Figured C’s farewell dinner (she’s leaving for better prospects in HK) was as good a time as any to check out the place.

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Modern dining area with Japanese elements like sake barrels as decor.

What almost turned me off when we first stepped into the resto was the service. We initially didn’t think of having the buffet option so I asked the front desk if ala carte was available. Although she responded to the query, it was short, curt and her unsmiling face just spelled out ‘you guys are wasting my time if your cheap asses are only going to eat ala carte’. 

That aside, they were severely understaffed and it took some time before anyone attended to our orders. We changed our mind and opted for the buffet, told her we would like to have that instead, to which her demeanour changed immediately to be much warmer.  lol?

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Ordering is done via chit. Anything on the menu is game, and they have a pretty extensive selection. For starters, we went for salmon sashimi on ice. Cut was thick with a nice coloration and taste.

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Soft shell crab temaki. Seaweed wrap was nice and crisp, the deep fried soft shell crab was not greasy and went well with the fresh greens and sushi rice.

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Lightly salted edamame beans to share.

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The baked oysters were fresh, succulent and juicy, complemented well by the saltiness of the melted cheese.

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Despite it’s less than appealing appearance, the stir-fried beef with garlic sauce was one of the most excellent dishes of the night, with juicy beef cubes, still soft and tender in the middle and perfectly seared on the outside, swimming in a savoury, garlicky sauce.

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C wasn’t big on the stir-fried squid dish, but I liked the chewiness and the way the sweet and savoury sauce coated each piece.

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We had another sashimi platter to share, featuring different seafood cuts, including oyster, scallops, octopi, salmon, oyster and butterfish. The butterfish and salmon were both good, but the other items like tuna had a frozen quality to it, as it seemed completely tasteless.

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Takoyaki topepd with mayo and bonito flakes.

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The chuka idaako (marinated baby octopus) was nice, chewy and well-seasoned, but I didn’t like the seaweed that came with it.

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Grilled hotate (scallops) – sizable and smothered in a rich creamy garlic mayo sauce.

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The seared tuna was again, tasteless despite its attractive appearance.

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Rounding the meal off on a sweet note was the Taiyaki vanilla ice cream. The wafer wasn’t as crispy as it should be but it was tasty nonetheless.

Our meal for four came up to RM97 per pax, which was reasonable imo because of its value for money and variety on the menu. Service, though, was less than desirable as they were understaffed, slow and forgot several of our orders. All in all, a decent place if you’re craving for unlimited Japanese food while in Puchong.

Service: 2/5

Food: 3.5/5

Ambience: 4/5

Price: Value for money

AOKI TEI (PUCHONG BRANCH) 

Block A, IOI Boulevard, Jalan Kenari 5, Puchong Jaya, 47170

Opening hours: 1130AM – 230PM, 6.30PM – 10.30PM (daily)

Phone: +603-8075 1113

 

Review: Sushi ZenS, Bandar Puteri Puchong – From Only RM1.80!

It was the pop’s birthday recently and he wanted Japanese food for dinner. We’ve practically tried every Japanese restaurant in Puchong lol so the only place I could think of was this new place in Bandar Puteri, called ZenS Sushi. Like Sushi Mentai, the cheapest plates start from only RM1.80, and they serve value set meals as well – a good place to get your Japanese food fix if you’re on a tight budget! 🙂

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The setting is very similar to Sushi Mentai, made for fast, casual dining.

I read an article about how design plays a big role in a restaurant’s turnover, like how ‘cosy’ cafes have this problem of people sitting there for hours ordering just one cup of coffee (like myself lol. guilty as charged).

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There wasn’t much of a selection on the conveyor belt, but you can order from the menu if something there catches your eye, and they’ll bring it to your table. Expect the usual varieties like fried ebi (shrimp), salmon, inari (sweet tofu), tamago (sweet egg), salmon roe and tuna.

The salmon cuts were slightly thinner but that is to be expected for the price. Rice was well shaped and didn’t have rogue bits falling all over the place. It was topped with sweet Japanese pink mayo sauce.

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Side of soft shell crab temaki.

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Both moo and pops had the saba (grilled mackerel) set. Fish was done well, and the meal came with rice, tofu, chawan mushi and miso soup.

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I had the ebi tempura soba, which came served with two fried pieces of lightly battered shrimp, seaweed topped cold buckwheat noodles and a light shoyu broth for dipping. The food was tasty enough although unremarkable. The noodle/rice meals were all below RM20.

Verdict: The variety is limited, but if you’re looking for a cheap, quick Jap food fix, Sushi ZenS is just one of the options you can go for in Puchong, aside from Sushi Mentai.

SUSHI ZENS 

No 26G, Persiaran Puteri 1,
Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong Selangor.
Business hours: 12pm – 10pm
Tel : +603-5889 5942