BY TAN BEE HONG
THE entrance is a mere doorway in the wall marked by a noren (half curtain) at the Ritz-Carlton Residences. This is Takebayashi, the city’s first Kappo-style restaurant, opened by chef Tatsuo Takebayashi.
Kappo cuisine is where customers are encouraged to occupy bar-counter seats so they can watch the itame (chef) prepare the dishes, and perhaps have intellectual discussions about the food itself.
So one side of the small restaurant has a bar-counter running along its perimeter.
If preferred, customers can also sit at small tables or in a private room with a view of the iconic Twin Towers.
The green tea we are offered definitely does not come from tea bags; the aromatic brew soothes our throats and calms the mind, frayed from the congestion on the city roads.
For zensai (appetizer), we start with, a platter of three pieces of Cream Cheese With Miso (RM30). Take-san tells us he marinates the cheese in miso for three days. Just before serving, the cheese is lightly seared. I take a bite and feel the cheese melt, its taste enhanced by the saltiness of the miso. We take our time to savour this so as to prolong the moments of pleasure. On the side is a small red bayberry, sweet enough to cut through the richness of the cheese.
The next zensai, Cold Tomato Umami Jelly (RM45) doesn’t look like much, with just one momotaro tomato sitting on a cushion of chopped up jelly in hues of light tea. The tomato has been skinned and cut into four. The sweet crunch of the tomato is tempered by the salty, umami taste of the silky jelly, made with dashi and konbu. It’s delicately glorious.
Then we have a cold dish, White Fish with XO Salsa (RM80). The fish served depends on seasonal catches and what is freshest. We have kinmedai or golden eyed snapper. The flesh is sliced into slivers and arranged like a fan with scoops of XO salsa (scallops, dried prawns, garlic) at one end and, on the other, sango radish sprouts and a bunch of grated daikon. Ponzu sauce is drizzled over. It’s a good combination of flavours, with the salsa adding another level of taste and aroma to the fish.
For sure, Takebayashi may not serve traditional Japanese cuisine but we’re definitely not complaining.
For instance, Popcorn Shrimp Spicy Mayo Sauce (RM45) hardly sounds like traditional cuisine but don’t let that stop you. I am surprised to find that the deepfried shrimp stays crispy and hot even after the long photography session.
Chawan Mushi (RM45) comes with a topping of Dried Scallop Sauce that’s an explosion of flavoursome sweetness. Steamed perfectly, the egg custard is silky smooth, with chicken, prawn, ginkgo and to my surprise, a small slab of yomogi mochi that gives an extra textural contrast to the dish.
The Salmon Tataki Salad (RM50) comes with a Takebayashi signature, jalapeno sauce. The salmon, seasoned with salt pepper and charred on the outside, is allowed to cool before it’s sliced and arranged artfully on a bed of salad greens, sliced red turnip and a creamy jalapeno sauce.
If you get the feeling you’ve tasted this somewhere, you probably have, at Nobu. Take-san was previously at Nobu KL for three years before he opened Takebayashi in September last year. This connection is his tribute to his years spent in Nobu.
It’s not all seafood. Takebayashi’s popular for Grilled Wagyu Beef Tongue and Steak. Take-san prepares us his favourite Grilled Spring Chicken from his Omakase menu, served with a grilled chilli pepper, grilled white corn, cauliflower, brown sauce and freshly grated wasabi.
Apart from beer and sake, Takebayashi stocks a range of wines, including its own brand (RM250/bottle; RM45/glass) of Red Croatian and White Malvasia from Italy. Our pick, the white Castello di Luzzano is a crisp, semi-dry wine that twirls a sparkling tango with the fresh seafood. I love the tiny, light bubbles that hints of prosecco and the long, aromatic floral finish.
We couldn’t leave without some sushi, so we order just a piece of Toro (RM40) and Aji (RM10) each, with an added bounty in the wasabi, grated a la minute at the table with a sharkskin grater by Executive Chef Jhon Chan.
Our dessert is a simple platter of juicy Japanese nashi pear and vanilla ice cream which helps to calm our palates enthralled by the exquisite samplings this evening.
TAKEBAYASHI KAPPO RESTAURANT (no pork served) is located at Concourse Area, The Ritz-Carlton Residences Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. For reservations, call +603-2181 3365. Takebayashi serves a 7-course omakase menu (RM280) as well as a lunch set menu (from RM40) with rice, chawan mushi, salad, oshinko (pickled radish) and miso soup.