Be warned, Japanese cuisine F&B proprietors, there is a new kid in town! Sushi Zento was just opened on 1st November in Festival Walk, the colourful row of shops in Bandar Medan Ipoh. This new outlet will send shivers to the spine to once dominating famous names like Akamomiji, Kizuna and the latest addition Hokkaido. I'm not sure about you, but have you ever wondering why Japanese restaurants like to mushroom around this area? o.O As mentioned in my previous blog posts, I think there are nearly 10 Japanese restaurants around the vicinity of 2km radius >.<
Well, what makes Sushi Zento different from the rest? I was surprised to be greeted by a kaiten belt as I expected this to be a prime/premier Japanese restaurant from its exterior decor. After flipping through the menu, I found out that they are under the same management as Azuma, which I tried in Queensbay Mall, Penang.
The interior decor - Staff were polite and friendly and very attentive indeed. Before I move on to review their food, I must commend their attentive service and they kept on refilling my tea from time to time despite the crowd was building up. Learn that, Sushi King! Yes, the place was full by 7pm+ as this place could accomodate around at the most.... say 30 tables?
I decided to go with the Sashimi To Tempura Set (RM42) because I can try two of their core areas at one go! There are other cheaper sets like Chicken Teriyaka, Grilled Mackarel which ranges from RM22 but can go up to RM60 for premium grilled cod and unagi sets. Each set comes with a salad, chawanmushi, fruits, rice, and miso soup. I must make special mention on the rice, its really sticky & starchy Japanese rice and those normal white rice in Chinese restaurant! I feel they really do mean business in giving you as authentic ingredients as possible here.
The sashimi is uber fresh! The last time I ate so fresh sashimi was during Oh!Sushi opening week. The Japanese restaurants in Ipoh couldn't really match it! The fish slices did its chemistry upon touching your tongue and with some light mouth work, you can feel it melting in your mouth without any icy bits or deterioration to their texture. 3 pieces each of Salmon, White Tuna and Red Tuna. From this sample palate, I give an A for their sashimi skills and freshness/quality as well.
The tempura also fared quite well. Lightly battered and evenly coated, it is both presentable and also tasty. The dipping broth is a bit salty to my liking but that's not a big issue as both the vegetables and prawns have given their testimonial over this area! Very good!
This is the Kyushu Ramen (RM18)- belly pork slices served with hand made noodles in a cloudy miso based broth with stewed egg (RM2.50 on ala carte order), fish cake, seaweed and vegetables.The noodles are springy but the soup is not really to my liking, abit too murky and salty.
Did I mention pork? Yeshhh... Finally, a Japanese restaurant which serves pork! Sometimes I'm really disappointed to hear a new Japanese restaurant opened but its still pork-free. Come one, it takes more than being pork free to attract the Muslim customers. You need to be Halal certified and trust me, that was one my job scope to maintain a Halal certification and system, its a real pain in the ass sometimes. Sometimes, I really feel that you just focus on your core customers and have a wide array of food options (pork!) to get that real authentic feel.
And I have been deprived of having real belly pork in my Ramen. I'm sick of just choosing between Tempura or Beef Udon/Ramen. So, thank goodness Sushi Zento has came to their senses to give us pure Japanese cuisine and satisfy our pork cravings! Look at the translucent fatty layer, isn't it............ lovely?
With pork in the menu, you can rest assured to be served Kusyiyaki instead of just Yakitori (Grilled chicken Skewers). In the photo are the Chicken Meatballs (RM6) and Grilled Bacon wrapped Asparagus (RM8). Chicken meatballs has the right degree of mouthfeel, as in you know you are eating real chicken meat and not the smooth and juicy texture like nuggets/sausages. Coated with teriyaki sauce, I find this to be good accompaniment to your white rice. The bacon tasted a bit like ham but it was great combination with the crunchy asparagus. There are ones wrapped over cherry tomatoes and Yakitori with leek, grilled beef with enoki mushroom, grilled shitake mushrooms, to name a few.
Done with the seafood, raw fish and pork, lets evaluate how well they execute the red meats. They serve Kobe Beef (RM180 for 200g, Marbling Grade 5) although its not in the menu. Do I look like a rich customer since the friendly manageress decided to recommend it to me? Hehe... I opted for a less expensive dish - Teppan Gyuniku Hire (Hot plate Premium Beef Cuts) for RM48. Served with a side of stir fried mixed cabbage with beansprouts, I request for Medium but the beef turned out to be Medium-Well Done instead. No complaints as it was still juicy and tender with pales of reddish centre. Far from melt in your mouth, just above average. Nothing really spectacular about this dish.
Since the Teppanyaki does not come with rice, you are recommended to top up with a serving of fried rice. There are few options available. I tried the Nameko Yaki Meshi (Mushroom Fried Rice - RM6) which turns out to be very well executed. The grains were fluffy and light without being too oily. Very nicely done! I think I will try their Garlic Fried Rice (RM5) on the next visit. Or maybe the Beef Fried Rice (RM10) or the recommended Pork Belly Fried Rice (RM10)
Okay, my pit was kinda bottomless that night, I couldn't help but to order one unit of handroll. The California Roll (RM4.50) was too mainstream so I decided to try the Soft Shell Crab Temaki (RM6), its the moniker of this blog after all. The soft shell crab was not VERY crispy as it it lightly doused with Teriyaki Sauce to bring a savoury touch. The one thing I wanna commend it the seaweed used was indeed fresh and crispy. Many restaurants serve you handroll with soggy/soft seaweed which need you to rip them off. The one here will have you bite off till the bottom tip with a slight crisp. Freshness and quality are really well looked after here.
Currently, there are having some opening promotion with 20% on all items on their conveyor belt. So perhaps you guys would like to make use of this offer and save the ala carte for next time? I did grab a plate or two from the conveyor belt to fill up the empty spaces in my stomach.
The mochis - how could I resist them to put a sweet end to this enticing meal... Was really filled and enjoyed the 1 1/2 hour meal. Bill came to RM170 for 3 people. Well, it depends on what you order actually, you may say its expensive but from the menu, this is averagely priced Japanese restaurants. Sashimi ranges from RM20-35 on standard items, Unagi Kabayaki at RM35, Teppanyaki and Sets at RM20+ and noodles around RM20, I think Hokkaido and the other Japanese restaurants also are in this price range.
Like I said, its very subjective whether to judge its expensive or not. If you order their seasonal prices lobsters or Oysters or the Kobe Beef, of course you will be paying a hefty amount. Yes, the lobsters are alive and swimming. I was busy body-ing when the Head Chef is teaching the staff to handle the lobsters in a correct manner. Lobsters must NOT be transferred directly to the water tank upon their supply delivery. They should be dipped partially on the tails and legs to acclimatize with the water temperature to avoid any temperature related phobia. Geez, I learned something new for being a passerby.
There you go, a detailed and well rounded review on this new place. We came in 3 person and have a limited budget, so this was the best I can cover on most areas of their menu. But I definitely will be coming back again, this time to try slightly less expensive items. Or anybody would like to partner me to share the bill and try the Kobe Beef or Lobster Sashimi? :)