ISAKI - Excellent Japanese Food & Wonderful Ambience
Isaki or Grunt Fish has a very light and delicate taste. Grunt fish can be eaten as sashimi, grilled with salt or marinated with chili leaves. Isaki is also a wonderful restaurant in Sri Hartamas. Located at the end of the row that houses Backyard pub, Bulldog, Aunty Nat and Saigon .
I love its outdoor garden setting. Coming into the open bench area that is its portico, one gets a nice feeling to the place, a friendly vibe that Isaki has a casual dining side to it. The pebble lined walk, the Japanese wooden lanterns and small pine wood slats that the waitresses scurry across in typical wooden sandals. Upstairs is a large area that lends itself perfectly to parties and events, with ample bar and seating. You get the overall impression of intimacy and minimal pretensions here. Here I have to say that they make the best sushi rice - an often overlooked factor. I mean, the seafood has to be fresh and the cuts appropriate, those are a given. However, not many places take the case to come up with proper sushi rice. I shy away from the Sushi Kings and Sakae Sushis because they have no idea how to do the sushi rice. Maybe its because they are "process-manufactured", the rice is packed as hard as a chinese dumpling, and the rice vinegar-sugar-water-salt mix is almost indistinguishable. In Isaki's case, the mix is excellent plus I suspect they do put in a dash of sake or kombu.
Isaki's sushi rice is so good, I can eat the rice on its own.
Somehow, a good sushi rice place has to equate to a good place for sake. At Isaki, you know they are serious when they have 4 different huge sake bottles being heated at any one time, and the sake menu is extensive.
I have never seen a Japanese restaurant that has so many pork items on their menu - its an eye opener. It could very well be that the restaurant is more influenced by Okinawan cooking (will ask them next time). Okinawan cooking tends toward stronger and spicier flavors than Japanese food, and is more heavily influenced by Chinese cooking styles. Hence pork is a very important ingredient to Okinawan cooking. Other items on the menu that are very good: the buta kakuni (steamed pork belly) and buta shishilo itame (pork slices with Japanese chillies). The garden setting makes for a wonderful place to have a barbecue as well, as almost one-third of their menu is catered to having the mini barbecue pit at your table. Fresh ingredients, lotsa meats and veggies, lotsa sake (hot and cold), wonderful outdoor setting, how not to like the place.
Lastly, I want to mention that its a very dog friendly place. If you go in the evening, you are likely to see the owners, a tanned Japanese man who won't be back in Japan anytime soon and a lovely Chemor girl called Maggie Liew, with their two beautiful dogs - one is the cutest bulldog that looks like a bodybuilder gone bad, while the other is a lovely dobbiemix with a nice shiny coat - both absolutely people friendly. The place is very dog friendly.
I know some people has a list of so called pet friendly eateries - to me, most of them are not pet friendly, but rather if they have a patio/verandah, they don't mind you bringing your pets. Those are pets tolerant places, not pet friendly, they just accomodate you because of your business. Genuine pet friendly places are an inclusive and embracing environment for responsible dog owners who bring their dogs out because they are part of their family rather than just pets.