Whenever I go to a Japanese restaurant, I’ll always order the dishes that I am familiar with. Like sushi, sashimis, Japanese curry rice, ramen, cold soba noodles, and meals in a bento box.
So when I got the invite to go for a food tasting as Nagoya Restaurant, one of Kuching’s newest Japanese restaurants, I simply could not resist. Replacing the previous eatery (The Bites), this 2-month-old restaurant at the understated beauty that is Batik Boutique Hotel, certainly adds on the growing popularity of Japanese cuisine in Cat City.
Together with fellow bloggers Garner Wyne, Aliey and Veronica, plus Veronica’s boyfriend and a man named Marvin, we were greeted by Mr. Max, who runs the Nagoya restaurant.
As we began the food tasting, I assumed it was going to be the dishes I was accustomed to. I had expected the night to be a familiar one, welcoming recognisable taste buds, and to channel the inner food critic in me in hopes this restaurant would rank similar to the likes of the more popular Japanese fine-dining outlets here.
Instead, the taste goblet in me went through what can be described as…”foreign”.
We were first introduced to “Tatami Iwashi”, known as dried sardine sheet. Served with cabbage, salmon roe and mayonnaise-like sauce, this salad certainly exposed my lack of adventure in Japanese recipes, and hence this was quite an interesting dish. Imagine the taste of your local dried fish fillet with a standard Western salad.
Next, Crispy Fried Salmon Skin. While I am familiar with this dish, I rarely ordered this in a Japanese restaurant. Its reintroduction to me was positive; I silently kept having seconds of this incredibly addictive snack/appetizer.
Now the following dish was the one most curious to me; Nagoya’s mix appetizer. The mix consisted of two types of pickled vegetables (“Tsukemono”): the purple one is chopped cucumbers and eggplant, salted and brined with red shiso (“Shibazuke”) while the green one is cucumber pickles made with rice bran (“Kyurizuke”). Together with picked jellyfish, pickled garlic and the star of the plate, the “Fugu Mirin Boshi”, known as dried pufferfish (yes that fish that can KILL you)… this appetizer was a truly amazing experience for my palate. The cold, crunchy vegetables, the garlic that wasn’t pungent, and the dried pufferfish that tasted like mix of dried fish fillet and “bak kwa” (dried barbeque pork). Such a pleasure to go through so many different flavours on a single plate!
Oh about that pufferfish. Don’t worry, it was safe for consumption. I didn’t die. Or was Mr. Max pulling our legs and making us think it was indeed pufferfish?
Anyway, it was back to familiarity from the following dish onwards. Teriyaki Chicken? Yeap, I had that many times before. The chicken was nicely cooked, and the teriyaki sauce has the nice consistency; wish I had a bowl of white rice to fully appreciate it.
A short while later, comes the Scallops with Japanese Mayonnaise. This should have been great, but the overdose of mayo killed the taste. Plus point if you love mayonnaise that much though.
To me, no visit to a Japanese fine-dining eatery is complete without a plate of sushi. Bless Mr. Max for providing the national dish of Japan to us! Naturally I had some high expectations over one of my favourite kinds of Japanese food.
As you can see, we were served with your classic Salmon Sushi, California Sushi Roll and Mango Tempura Roll. It was alright. And that’s not good news because alright means there are better places to have sushi than Nagoya. The rice served for the sushi was a little more coarse/”off”, so it distracted the whole flavour of a sushi. That said, I am certain this was a one-off matter and perhaps you, the reader, would have a better dining experience with their sushi after this review.
The last hot meal we got to try was the Japanese Fried Rice, served with a generous chunk of grilled fish fillet. On its own, the fried rice was unspectacular, but with together with the flavourful fillet, it became that would finally curb my hunger for the rest of the evening.
Oh, and there’s fruits too. But I didn’t touch them. Too busy finishing the fried rice!
Plot twist: the food tasting didn’t end with the conservative fruit platter. And it didn’t end with a dessert from Nagoya, Japan either. Instead, we completed the evening with a type of ice-cream that originated from Sicily, Italy.
You guessed it. GELATO!
And in six different flavours too (Sesame seed (Yum! Yum!), Teh Tarik (Yum to that too!), Green Tea, Oreos, Mint Chip and Chocolate Chip)!
Nagoya has impressed me with the unfamiliar; the experience in trying out new flavours I otherwise wouldn’t have tried gave me much appreciation to the roots of Japanese cuisine. I knew the Crispy Fried Salmon Skin was addictive, and the Teriyaki Chicken was pleasantly more delicious that what I had expected.
No doubt, I was disappointed with the turnout of both the scallop dish and especially the Sushi platter. That was the chink in the armour for me to an otherwise excellent night. I must stress though; they’ve only been around for 2 months. I am sure Mr. Max will take the criticism to good heart, and will improve on the dishes to the benefit of all of us in Kuching.
Trust me, I will be back again for round 2. No, I wasn’t paid to write that. But the fact Mr. Max showed his passion for his food is what got me to support him.
Nagoya is not halal certified, but it serves no pork. And you can request for off-menu items (for example the mix appetizer) with Nagoya restaurant. Just let them know 24 hours in advance and see if they can cater to your request.
Batik Boutique Hotel
38, Jalan Padungan,
93600 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm/6pm-11pm
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