Before going on with my post. I think its about time I give recognition to my makan gang. Me, the tactician and commander (columnist of this blog armed with a new Nikon digital compact camera) Evonne, the sniper team member (armed with DSLR and a few zoom lenses), Christine, sniper trainee but a well trained front assault member (DSLR user but also carries her trusty compact camera), Kathy - espionage and covert ops department (armed with only her SE cameraphone)
I was told by my colleagues there is a new kid in town in terms of Japanese food. Initially I was a bit skeptical on the Japanese restaurants in Ipoh which was mushrooming non-stop but only a few managed to make its mark. Well, since there is no new places to try recently, me and a few colleagues decided to give it the benefits of our doubt after reading MM's teaser post in the Ipoh FB page.
Hokkaido Japanese Cuisine is shyly hidden at the corner lot of the row of shops opposite Kizuna in Bandar Medan Ipoh Bestari. Upon entering this place, I was mesmerized by the interior decor and the service crew. We were seated in a private area which we need to remove our shoes at the steps. Somehow as I received the menu, I know that this meal won't come cheap. Even the bentos are slightly priced higher compared to other Japanese restaurants and only available for lunch.
As I was figuring what to order to make the fullest of our visit and yet not burn a hole TOO DEEP in our pockets, my friends are assigned to grab a few snapshots of the place. This is the public area. Not many tables are fit into this are but I believe its a good measure to avoid the possibility of the noise from the table beside you to spoil your dining experience
The sushi counter. Only a few seats here. These seats were eventually filled as the place was packed to the brim due to the "private birthday party" in the open area.
This is the private room. To dine here you need to spend a minimum RM500!!! If I'm not mistaken, a small group of Japanese were occupying this room which has a sliding door for privacy.
For the ones who are not so fully loaded, we were ushered to the "private zone" but without sliding doors. Hanging beads which act as a partition does give us some "exclusiveness" from the rest. At least, we get to sit on the wooden floor and rest our butts on the cushions.
There is a small LCD monitor which present a slideshow of food photos available here. There... the waitress were polite, good looking and well versed when I need a recommendation of the house specialty. And now... lets see how the food appease to our senses of sight, taste and smell.
Sashimi in all its fullest glory!!! Can you see the aura radiating from the thick slabs of salmon and salmon belly (the one with stripes of omega 3 rich fat). For RM25 (salmon) and RM30 (salmon belly) you get 5 thick slabs of fresh raw cuts. Not thumb numbing cold, the sashimi is among one of the freshest from the many Japanese restaurants in Ipoh. Practically, it "melts" in your mouth and love at first bite once contacting your tongue. I somehow had the whole slice without any soy sauce or wasabi because it is just fresh and tasted best on its own. Presentation was indeed very classy and elegant with abit of Salmon Roe.
Forget the lime wedges cause..... Its so good you can eat it on its own!!! Take a closer look... Ahhh somebody's chopstick stained with wasabi eh, contaminated the purest form of sashimi =p Well, besides the traditional way, sashimi can be done ala carpaccio. I've tasted salmon carpaccio in Kizuna One before. It's appetizing from the oil and vinegar dressing but somehow raw cuts of carpaccio is normally very thinly sliced, which did not appease me as I prefer thicker cuts. And for those who are fully loaded, you can go for the Sea Urchin, Alaskan Crabs and other out of the norm sashimis available.
Fickle minded over what sushi to order, we just went for the Matsu Moriawase (RM28) You get typical nigiri sushis like the Tuna, Salmon, White Tuna, Squid, Tamago, Roe and.... more unknowned fish. You get a fair share of maki sushis - cucumber, tuna.
You should've known me by now. My review on a Japanese Restaurant will not be complete without ordering a handroll. And normally I will test their California Temaki. The version here is quite decent, having all the items I am looking for - egg, avocado, roe, crabstick, fresh ice berg lettuce (correct me if i'm wrong) and most importantly crispy seaweed sheets used! Thumbs up from me! =D
Since I've named this blog as it is, I am always fond of soft shell crabs. I have the urge to have a soft shell crab temaki but since tonight's bill is shared equally, its best I am not so selfish. Alternatively, I ordered the Spider Roll (RM18). Coincidentally, there is enough for one piece per person. And this time around, I'm a bit selfish by grabbing the piece with the legs of the crabs! Crackling and crispy on the outside, moist and juicy inside!!! The soft shell crab is freshly fried and the roll prepared without delay. Lovely~
Gyoza (RM6.90) came in 6 pieces. Not the best gyozas I tasted as the minced meat in the filling is too fine. I would prefer abit of mouthfeel from the filling rather than biting in a "paste". This was ordered towards the end as the food we ordered do not seem to be enough. Do not underestimate the ladies~
Next, we took full advantage of our seats and the hot plate in front of us. Before I proceed, let me briefly differentiate Yakiniku and Teppanyaki. Although both uses hot plate to grill the meat and vegetables, the most significant difference is for Tepanyakki, the chef does the grilling for you and for Yakiniku, you get the honour to grill the meat on the hot plate at the centre of your table on your own (normally available via buffet style whereby you select the preferred meat of your choice). In Hokkaido, there are a considerably wide selections for the Yakiniku section in the menu. The chicken is priced at RM18 (or RM20... blame me for not keeping the receipt!)
The scallops at RM30 per portion. Fresh and succulent. Around 10 pieces which has a size slightly larger than a 5o cent coin.
The mixed seafood (forgot its RM25 or RM30). Slices of Salmon, tiger prawns and scallops. At first the waitress told me I will get squid and that was why I ordered a plate of scallop. No squid to be found but another 4 pieces of scallops.
This is the joy of Yakiniku, being part of the action yourself. The hot plate is electrically heated and there is a suction chimney but it was not powerful enough to save our hair and clothes from being infused with charred and oily odour. And yes, when having Yakiniku, you can play around with your food. I experimented basting the salmon with the garlic dip and sizzle it with a dash of the soya sauce provided. As a result, the waitress don't seem to be very happy with our table for charring their hot plate. Guess they will have a hard time scrapping the black carbon stains. =S
Niniku Charhan or Garlic Fried Rice (RM6). We had the eggless version as one of my friend is allergic to eggs. Not bad. Love the fried garlic bits used as garnishing, but serves more as an extra punch. Goes well with the grilled seafood, especially my own garlic infused salmon. =)
Claypot Udon with Tempura Prawns, Eggs and Fishcake. The egg has made the broth abit cloudy. Though I prefer the clear soup version, the egg whites made the udon nicer to slurp but abit 'jelak' if one person were to finish the whole portion.
Coincidentally, there was a birthday party on the night we dined in Hokkaido. The public area was fully booked by a group of more than 20 people. I was amazed by what they eat. Everyone has their own serving of sashimis, tempura and sushis. I managed to get a snapshot of the "Japanese catering" items.
And because the public are was fully booked, we were ushered to the "private rooms". Bear in mind that you will need to spend RM300 to utilize the private rooms to use the hot plate. We were lucky that day to have a chance to occupy the private room without spending that amount. Anyway, our bill was not any inferior to the minimum amount. RM264 for 4 people... It was indeed a great Friday night and a wonderful yakiniku experience with good food. Cheers for Hokkaido, you have indeed made your mark to compete in the already saturated Japanese restaurants and give the other contenders a run for their money =)