Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Skewered Sensations

Kazu Sumi Yaki
No 5 Keok Road
#04-05 Cuppage Plaza
Tel:6734 2492

My wife N has just done it again!! She had won an Honourable Mention Performance Award (Artist and Song Category) at the prestigious 10th UNISONG International Song Writing Competition, USA and the occasion was to celebrate for her. The restaurant was chosen by our family friend Karen, whom also very generously planned this as a treat for N. Both my wife N and Karen have a fetish for all things Japanese especially when it comes to food. They can practically eat Jap everyday so I believe this restaurant must have been one of their favourite haunts. N has been here before while I believe Karen must be a regular. Located in our little Japan town (aka Cuppage Center), this restaurant on the fourth flour was packed to the brim when I stepped in. I was late and food had been ordered. The restaurant was supposed to be a cozy yakitori joint but when packed with customers that are almost rubbing shoulders with one another, it was just noisy, crazy and “Mama Mia!!” as people start to get happy with sake and beers. The menu was really wide for both beverages and food and I was wondering how they could really put out so much things from a tiny kitchen. Nevertheless, the food quality was not compromised as I tasted each dish one after another. Though it is a Yakitori joint, I would prefer to call it a Japanese Tapas Bar. Food comes mainly in small portions to be shared and this allows you to order a wide selection from the extensive menu.

As you sit down, individual small saucers of miso dipping sauce are place before you together with a bunch of Beijing Cabbage leaves. The idea is while wait for your food to be served, you are supposed to break the leaves and dip into the sauce and nibble for fun. The food here in Kazu is all about one thing, freshness. No complex or heavy marinades for the items to be grilled. Just fresh seasonal ingredients at their prime, lightly seasoned and off they go on the grill. The miso dipping sauce is made from dark miso mix with sweet mirin wine. Dipping the freshly sliced or grilled chunks of meat, seafood and vegetables into the miso sauce was really nice as the miso enhanced their natural taste.

My starter was Otoro sashimi or freshly sliced tuna belly on ice. This prized cut of the pacific blue fin tuna is valued for its well marbled belly that gives a melt in the mouth texture. At its peak during this time of the year, the luscious pieces dipped in the miso sauce was pure ecstasy as the dainty morsels slide down our throats with ease.

Then the grilled items started to arrive. We had Kurobuta Pork Belly rolled with Asparagus, with Mushrooms and simply chunks of it on its own. There was also Beef Short ribs (a little tough for us that night), more Pork Skewers with Apples, Stuffed with Shiso Leaves, Cheese Sausages, a whole Rock Fish which was also in season, Foie Gras, and Wagyu Beef. All the items were very well grilled except the Wagyu which was overcooked but they gladly replace it with another one with a doneness that was requested.

For the staples there were Garlic Fried Rice and Oyster Rice going around the table. The oyster rice was really nice with its subtle soy flavours on the background and the oyster aromas coming through with a nice meaty big piece of oyster. Another staple here is the grilled Japanese Sweet Potatoes whereby a wait of 20 minutes or longer is required. Serve simply with a chunk of slightly salted butter; it was hot, delicious and comforting.

Desserts were quite drama rama with fancy presentations. We had Mango filled Crepes with Grand Marnier Sauce and Whipped Cream, Gratinated Mochi with Red Bean Stuffing in Custard Sauce, Green Tea Ice Cream and Black Sesame Ice Cream with Adzuki Beans. Both the mango crepes and mochi came with beautiful pieces of spun sugar nets over them. The mochi was a little heavy for me and I preferred the mango crepes with its liqueur flavoured sauce. However I found both desserts too heavy for my personal liking and I was quite happy just sticking to the black sesame ice cream with red beans. I must have overstuffed myself earlier.

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