Eat Drink KL: Sushi Kazu, Damansara Heights

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Sushi Kazu, Damansara Heights

Chef Norikazu Shibata's genuine joy in his work makes Sushi Kazu an experience that KL's omakase enthusiasts will savour. Chef Shibata has been working with sushi since he was 16, wielding nearly four decades of professional wisdom that informs each slice of his blade and stroke of his nikiri brush - but beyond that hard-earned skill, he radiates a love for his craft behind the counter, placing customers in the hands of a master whose sushi leaves an exuberant mark on the memory.

Sushi Kazu serves the Edomae style of sushi for which chef Shibata's home city of Tokyo is known (Tokyo was named Edo until 1868), characterised by seafood that's carefully treated - aged, marinated, pickled or even parboiled - to bring out more depth and dimensions compared to straightforward fresh fish. It's the style that chef Shibata has carried with him wherever he's worked, from Hong Kong to Johannesburg, bringing a distinctive, dynamic flourish to everything from filefish to flounder.

Sushi Kazu offers different omakase menus for lunch and dinner, ranging from a set that spotlights eight pieces of nigiri sushi, as well as a salad, appetiser, maki roll, miso soup and dessert for RM178, to a no-holds-barred feast of sashimi, five kinds of amuse-bouche, six pieces of sushi, a side dish, soup and dessert for RM598 in the evening.

We took a leap of faith with the latter, kicking off with kanpachi, its firm, full-fleshed bite yielding to a fatty oiliness, a testament to amberjack at its prime. A bunch of juicy sea grapes cleanses the palate for the even richer chutoro, followed by a true treat for oyster lovers, luscious specimens from Miyagi Prefecture, delicately briny, splashed with ponzu and a squeeze of citrus.

The more impressive surprises follow - hirame, garnished with a 'sprig' of salted seaweed with the taste and texture of jerky, pleasurably jolting the mild-mannered flounder with a sweet punch; akagai, aromatic in that oceanic way, crunchy but supple; and abalone with its own liver, creamy with a robust, iron-loaded tang. A one-two-three voyage of under-the-sea magnificence, each conveying its own inimitable maritime quality.

The courses are punctuated with several cooked or more elaborately assembled dishes - ankimo is well-balanced with a luscious cushion of seaweed, though the monkfish liver itself seems leaner and less decadent-textured than expected; fugu is simmered with Japanese onions and hints of spices for a soulful rainy-night heart-warmer that belies the perils of pufferfish; hamachi is stewed with seaweed stock, transformed into something like a single-fish oden with heavier, bolder flavours; and wagyu beef is lightly torched and heaped in tender, temptingly marbled cuts for an odd-man-out, non-seafood dish.

But everyone's favourite is likely to be the uni-crowned bowl of the ocean's raw, nectarous bounty - toss it all together, then slather the sashimi across crisp nori sheets like canapes, a scintillating star that customers might never let the chef leave off the menu.

So far, so good - but the ultimate highlights ensue in steady succession. Chef Shibata finesses each hand-pressed sushi with an unhurried confidence, by the second nature of someone who's nearly certainly made a million-or-so pieces in his lifetime.

Sushi Kazu, naturally, relies on seasonality - the current wintertime, for example, brings the best in kawahagi, a filefish ideally rounded out with its buttery liver on top for potently intense synergy. Tuna surfaces next - first, restaurant-aged otoro, its extra days in the chiller adding more umami to the most-coveted tuna belly, followed by a layered twosome of akami and chutoro, offering discrete nuances of tuna in one mouthful, tinged with yuzu shavings for a zesty spark.

Aji is conventionally one of our least favourite neta, but Sushi Kazu's horse mackerel is a revelation, clean-tasting but still resonant, succulently draped over subtly vinegared rice for a pairing that illustrates why we'll never tire of omakase encounters. Engawa is also ravishingly presented, not torched so that customers can appreciate the pure, muscular chew of the flounder tail fin. 

We'd happily have Sushi Kazu's classic tamago regularly, relishing its dense, concentrated eggy sweetness, as well as the perfect simplicity of the traditional tuna roll, precisely proportioned with plenty of fish and sufficient rice, wrapped in ultra-crackly nori that demands you devour it within seconds of chef Shibata handing it to you.

We had arrived at Sushi Kazu at 9pm for a late-starting dinner, and by the time our final sushi course appeared, it was past 10:30pm and the other customers had left. So when chef Shibata asked us whether we'd had enough, we nodded reluctantly at first, not wanting to keep him and his small, hardworking team for too long, but our looks betrayed our greed for more. 

Chef Shibata generously took nearly an additional 10 minutes to prepare a culinary coup de grace - wintertime iwashi, sardines torched for a gentle smokiness to buoy the inherent decadence of the plump, unctuous fish. He wished he could also serve us anago, but the crowds earlier in the week had wiped out his stock of eel - mercifully, the ikura was a powerhouse of flavour that went a long way in bursting any possible bubble of disappointment.

The sense of meticulous mindfulness lingered to the very end, with splendid miso soup and a platter of Japanese fruits - pear, persimmon, melon and orange - proving that the prowess of Japan extends to the produce of its land. With sake starting at RM80 per 300-ml bottle, there's no reason not to indulge; rumour has it that Sushi Kazu will also open an adjacent Japanese whisky and cocktail bar after the Lunar New Year.

Sushi Kazu
8A, First Floor, Plaza Batai, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm. Tel: 03-7490-2208

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