Zipangu tries too hard, everything does not come off well and the service staff needs tweaking. Kampachi is too staid and predictable. Hanare @ The Intermark is doing most things right ... change the chopsticks dude for those prices.
After all that diatribe, my favourite Jap place does NOT serve sushi, no chawanmushi, no black sesame ice cream, no green tea ice cream, even wasabe is not on the table, no bloody dragon roll ... Having worked on and off in Tokyo for 3 years early in my career and been back there 4 more times since, I think I know a bit about Japanese food. So, its surprising as well to nominate a yakitori place as my favourite Jap place, as yakitori is a humdrum, low-end class of cuisine in Japan.
The word sumika translates to residence or habitat, and thats precisely apt indeed.
The chef is a jolly guy named Kiyoshi Ota, and the rest of the staff are locals except for one Japanese girl. There are smoking and non smoking areas, but the place to sit has to be the counter surrounding the grill and the chef. Must book or else be prepared to be disappointed.
See that green bottle of sake, its a limited edition bought by the chef for a few select customers (ahem) from the countryside of Nagasaki where he hails from.
I love the place because it has a very healthy drinking environment - healthy in the sense that you will find the majority of the patrons already having a big bottle of sake or sochu on their table. Thats the way to enjoy yakitori, with good company, great food served with sincerity and the drinks to go along with it.
You can get the best food served to you but the atmosphere must be right. Plus when you drink, everybody usually turns more than jolly. At least half the patrons are Japanese, it used to be three quarters but the locals have been discovering the place lately.
If you are not familiar with sake or sochu, just ask them to recommend a bottle, most will keep their bottles at the premises - they are not expensive, they range from RM120-RM200 a bottle. I think I have almost tried every single bottle that they have, except for 2.
As I am there at least once or twice a week, many local diners make the mistake of not knowing what to order, and they end up with the safe types, which is not really spectacular. Here are my list of MUST HAVE items:
The beef is very good (gyuniku, don't have it with miso sauce, plain), the gizzard is very good so is the liver (don't think of our local gizzard/liver taste, they are taken from much younger animals and hence taste a lot cleaner) ... but my favourites:
- the eggplant, brilliant with freshly chopped ginger and a delicate soya/sake sauce
- the Japanese sweet potato with butter and salt, you would think its boring but its heavenly
- nankotsu, chicken soft bone cartilage
- shishito, Japanese green chillies
- beef tongue
- the fantabulous beef tendon (ngau gun)
- plain roasted garlic and quail eggs
- grilled rice cakes with soy sauce, better than it sounds
- this final item is my top dish from Sumika, Tsubudai pronounce it correctly and get knowing glances from the chef and staff. I have asked before but no one knows the English name for the fish. Its grilled, its expensive at RM56 for half a side of fish thats frozen not live ... but its the sweetest tasting fish on earth with wonderful natural oils running through it and the crispy skin is to die for ... remember Tsubudai!!! (cher-bu-die)
Ask the wait staff for things not on the menu, you would be pleasantly surprised, they do an interesting grilled pig trotters, and the chicken blood vessels is hard to get (actually vessels near the chicken's heart) ... and the aficionado's only bonhiri (chicken's most southern part).
An Important Tip: DON'T ORDER EVERYTHING AT ONE GO, THAT'S NOT HOW TO ORDER AT A YAKITORI PLACE. ORDER 3 ITEMS OR SO ... FINISH, DRINK A BIT ... ORDER AGAIN, DRINK A BIT MORE ... ORDER AGAIN, DRINK A LOT MORE ... BREAK IT UP AT LEAST 3 TIMES. THIS WAY FOOD WON'T GET COLD, PLUS THE EXPERIENCE OF YAKITORI IS TO YAK-EAT A LITTLE-DRINK A LOT-YAK SOME MORE-ENJOY THE ATMOSPHERE-CHAT WITH STAFF-DRINK SOME MORE ...
Oh ... cash terms only, no credit cards ... dude, thats cool man... fucking piss me off nowadays where almost every restaurant in town will have special discounts with certain bank's cards, now unless you carry the 6 top banks plus Amex, you end up feeling shortchanged when you don't have the "right card" ... its getting to be ridiculous. You want to really get people to own your bank's credit card ... do this, when you use XYZ Bank's MachoVirile Card you get 10% off all your utilities bills... gas, phone, electricity ... now that card I want!!!
19, 1st Floor
(only dinner from 6pm-11pm; closed on Mondays)
Reservations: 03-56329312 / 016-2249312