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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Enju-yable Japanese treats

Enju-yable Japanese treats
Chef Thomas Lim proves fusion accents can work in Japanese cuisine if used judiciously
Did you know in Japan chefs must have a licence to prepare fugu or puffer fish? If this little fish has not been handled and cleaned with meticulous care, those who eat it may just find themselves dicing with deatM So when the appetiser of Fugu Mirin Boshi (RM28~+) or grilled puffer fish appeared on our table, can you blame us for thinking twice before tucking into it?
Luckily, the chef de cuisine of Prince Hotel & Residences Enju Japanese restaurant, Thomas Lira, hastened to reassure us that he only used frozen, expettly-prepared puffer fish imported from Japan. So this speciality can be savoured without posing any risk to life or limb.

"The puffer fish slices are first marinated with sweet vinegar and Japanese rice wine for about an hour before it is grilled," says Chef Lim.

In reality, tile grilled wrinkly pieces looked like hum yue (dried salted fish) but tastewise, it was more akin to bak lava (dried and grilled meat slices) albei{ saltier. The chef told us it was best enjoyed with chilled sake or ice-cold beer.

Enju now boasts an open dining space that accords patrons a direct view of the show kitchen. Lim informs us that he learnt the finer rudlments of Japanese cuisine under a Japanese si fu (mastei" chef) at the New Otani Hotel in Singapore years ago. His 18-year stint also took him to Japan, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. Classical delicacies abound here but if you prefer more inventive stuff, there are California Roll (RM26++) and Crispy Tempura Salmon, Mountain Yam and Nori Roll (RM28++).

The first Makimono (rolled sushi) was a palate-pleaser. Vinegared rice came rolled with fresh slices of salmon, prawn, red and white tuna, and avocado. We had a hard time deciding which tasted better - this or the succulent salmon and crunchy mountain yam encased in tempura batter.

Another novel dish was the Papaya Bakingyaki (RM34++) which, according to Chef Lim, was influenced by sunny Hawaii.

The gooey sauce which looked too cloying at first, tasted lighter than expected, thanks to the papaya dices in the seafood and mushroom filling.

Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for the Soft Shell Kani Karaage (RM32++), The deep-fried critters were too greasy for my liking while the deep-fried wantan skins laced with mayonnaise did little to enhance the dish's appeal,

After such indulgent delicacies, the Yasai Mori Temaki (RM12++) was welcomed. The cone-shaped nori (dried seaweed) sheet stuffed with avocado, fresh lettuce, pickled radish and mayonnaise is a vegetarian's dream.

If I had to pick just one dish to partake at Enju, Sukiyaki wins hands down, Priced at RM45++ onwards, this hot pot of beef, chicken or sliced Wagyu mixed with leek, glass noodles, onion, cabbage, konnyaku bricks and egg in a hearty, sweet stock was unparalleled.

The ultra-smooth Ogura Matcha (green tea ice cream, RM20++) and Goma (black sesame ice cream, RM20++) rounded off the meal on a sweet note.

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