(That Thing I Do)

The Omakase Experience (Hanare @ The Intermark Building, Jalan Tun Razak)

Despite being a hardcore foodie and food blogger, I’m quite tame in my choice of food. On the other end of the spectrum would be the adventurous diners without any reservations (no pun intended) towards the food that is served before them. For those who are towards the more adventurous end of the spectrum, a Japanese  Omakase -style meal might fit the bill.

Very coarsely translated, Omakase means “Hey yo chef-san! Surprise me!”, and rest assured at Hanare (The Intermark Building, Jalan Tun Razak), Chef Sudo aims to achieve no less. Oh yes, he definitely managed to keep my eyebrows raised for the most part of the duration of my dinner at Hanare recently.

Omakase was a new experience for me, which struck me more a fine-dining degustation menu, except it’s more ad hoc, depending on which ingredients are the best available. Such an experience doesn’t come cheap at Hanare. At RM250++ onwards (depending on what’s available), Hanare spares no expense at delivering the best of their kitchen. With the freshest hand-picked ingredients flown in from Tsukuji fish market three times a week, Chef Sudo is well-armed to deliver the Japanese cuisine purist his bang for his buck.

Angel fish liver in vinegar

A highly unusual appetizer, the angel fish liver in vinegar caught me severely off guard with it’s briny, mildly acidic flavors over very fresh and juicy ingredients. The shrimp squirted a little in my mouth, I swear.

Shirako chawan mushi

I love a good chawan mushi , but Chef Sudo took the liberty to shake things up really early in the meal with this surprise of a variant of chawan mushi made with the genitalia (including seminal fluid) of a cod fish. I imagine a cod fish swimming around, all ready to get lucky and spray his goodness all over some cod roe, when it got caught and his jolly bits got turned into dinner. I wish we weren’t told what it was before we ate it, because it actually tasted very light, silky and egg-like. I just gotta keep telling myself I’m not eating the spunk and privates of a fish. Chef Sudo seems to be taking “surprise me!” a little too seriously (*laughs*) .

Assorted sashimi

Even when it comes to something as staple as  sashimi , Chef Sudo would not allow room for conventionality. No tuna and salmon were to be found on the sashimi platter. I didn’t dare ask what exactly was served before me, as I was still a little shaken with the previous course. Freshness was without question, and the soy sauce with wasabi completed each and every anonymous piece of raw fish very well.

King crab claw

A claw of a king crab lay solitary on the other end of the sashimi platter, with the flesh de-shelled. I wished I was served with the claws of an entire king crab. I couldn’t tell it apart from regular crab – it was the stuff of kings (no pun intended, again).

Chinese cabbage with fresh oyster in cream sauce

Grilled Spanish mackerel

In a twist of the dinner plot, towards the middle of our dinner, food was served cooked. Oysters have never been my thing, and I found the mackerel to be less moist than I had expected.

Fresh sea urchin, salmon roe, crab meat and salmon

I must admit, being so used to Malaysian carb-filled food, I had a slight tickling for some starch all through my dinner at Hanare. The small portion of Japanese rice that came topped with the wonders of the sea was surprisingly enough to keep my carbo-itch away. The combination of sea urchin, salmon roe, crab meat and salmon sashimi balanced each other out in terms of flavor and texture very well, with the rice serving as a canvas. The sea urchin was soft like tofu, but tasted unlike any other seafood I’ve ever had the pleasure of savoring; while salmon roe provided a little burst of juiciness, and salmon sashimi lends a silken yet rich texture. Oh my, what an awakening medley of unusual seafood!

Wagyu beef miso

Being a big beef lover, the wagyu beef miso was my favorite surprise. I’ve had wagyu beef only once before, and I found it smooth but tasteless. However the wagyu at Hanare redefined my experience and enjoyment of wagyu . Soft and tender, almost like tofu , with the rich yet smooth flavors and aromas screaming on my tongue, it was a familiar taste, yet completely unfamiliar. The accompaniments of an anonymous vegetable, potato and mushroom helped tame the flavors of the beef from bursting right out of my mouth.

Abalone with fine sesame noodle

As a Malaysian, I’m used to having my noodles piping hot. However recently, I’ve grown fond of Japanese cold noodles. Cold noodles are best made fresh, and you can count on freshness at Hanare. The soumen is a close cousin to the more familiar soba – so close that I couldn’t tell the difference. Topped with abalone and seaweed, this serving of cold noodles is an extravagant (and welcome) departure from the cold noodles that I’m used to.

Ice cream with rice flour dumpling and red beans

I’ve never experienced a dessert at a Japanese restaurant that I’d consider truly authentically Japanese, and perhaps unfortunately, this is no different at Hanare. Delicious, no doubt (after all, it’s ice cream!), though I had my heart set on being served something more exciting.

Dessert aside, the Omakase experience at Hanare was a surprise at every course, and as a bonus, it was also a very healthy meal. I can understand why the fairer sex are particularly fond of authentic Japanese cuisine – all the enjoyment with none of the guilt. While definitely not something I’d indulge in on a regular basis, the Omakase experience would seem the perfect treat for a Japanese-obsessed lady friend. Or maybe I’ll just settle for the cheaper a-la carte menu. Whichever it is, Hanare is sure to provide a unique experience.

Perhaps next time, no fish-ejaculate for me, though.

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