Arty meets tasty at this iza­kaya

Bo­cosan Iza­kaya in Bangsar South is rein­vent­ing Ja­panese clas­sics in con­tem­po­rary new forms.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste - By SUZANNE LAZAROO star2@thes­

AN in­trigu­ing new spot un­der the same aus­pices as Botan­ica + Co and its sis­ter Botan­ica Deli, Bo­cosan Iza­kaya is a space for the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of art­ful aes­thet­ics as much as it is for the en­joy­ment of Ja­panese mod­ern clas­sics.

In Ja­pan, an iza­kaya is a sort of bar where cus­tomers dine (of­ten on shared dishes, tapas-style, un­usual for the Ja­panese cui­sine lex­i­con) and drink sake, shochu, wine, whisky or beer.

Bo­cosan takes the usu­ally-ca­sual con­cept up a few notches – it’s still a re­laxed space, but with so­phis­ti­cated styling, clean lines, and blond wood that takes ad­van­tage of the am­ple nat­u­ral light sup­ply to glow softly in the day­time.

It’s cur­rently open only for lunch, but denizens of the night will be able to en­joy din­ner and drinks on the ter­race out­side when it opens in early Novem­ber. This is when a more ex­ten­sive range of sake and Ja­panese-in­spired cock­tails will make its de­but.

In­side, a com­mu­nal din­ing ta­ble and a din­ing bar (where omakase meals will

ev en­tu­ally be serv ed) front the open kitchen, presided ov er by ex­ec­u­tiv e chef Mit­sugu I was hiro.

The Hiroshima na­tiv e has his kitchen roots firmly planted in the iza­kaya scene back home – where sim­plic­ity and tra­di­tion rule – but spent 15 years trav elling world­wide to get fresh per­spec­tives on tech­nique.

The re­sult is a menu that is un­mis­tak­ably au­then­tic, but fresh and con­tem­po­rary at the same time. And be­cause it’s made to pair with drinks, the food here seems to boast more ro­bust flav ours, with a more sav oury note than usual in some of the dishes.

At a re­cent me­dia rev iew, we be­gan with the Bon­sai Salad (RM29), which was ex­tremely pho­to­genic – and luck­ily, prov ed that it had sub­stance as well as looks.

Leav es, herbs, ed­i­ble flow­ers and a scoop of Ja­panese potato salad, re­plete with crunchy v egeta­bles, came look­ing like a ta­ble cen­tre­piece. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing ap­ple dress­ing com­bined a fruity, tangy-sweet ap­peal with a sub­tle umami back­bone.

There’s a se­lec­tion of unc­tu­ous, glis­ten­ing sashimi on of­fer here, but if you can’t de­cide among the salmon, yel­low­tail, tuna, red snap­per and Ja­panese jumbo sweet prawns, hav e three of the abov e in the sashimi mo­ri­awase (RM49).

If you pre­fer your fish cooked and whole, or­der­ing the saba no sh­ioy­aki (RM42) will land a whole Nor­we­gian mack­erel at your ta­ble, still smoky from its grilling ov er char­coal.

The fresh­ness of the fish shone in this sim­ple, pop­u­lar dish, with the grilling also in­ten­si­fy­ing its oily rich­ness.

The of­fer­ing of cold ra­men (RM45) is a dish that may take some get­ting used to for some, but it’s re­ally worth the ef­fort.

The in­tense, sweet-salt of the se­same dip­ping sauce clings to the chewy noo­dles, and prov es to pair just as well when ap­plied to the ac­com­pa­ny­ing prawns, king crab legs and char­coal-grilled chicken.

It was a v ery like­able dish, but the soul­ful bowl­ful of crispy kaki age with udon or soba (RM35) in a pip­ing hot broth was the real show-stealer – not least be­cause of the melt­ingly uber-silky, slen­der udon noo­dles the chef im­ports from Ja­pan.

Cou­pled with the crisp tem­pura lat­tice of onions, v egeta­bles and briny sakura ebi, and the sav oury broth, the noo­dle dish prov ided a sat­is­fy­ing cor­nu­copia of tastes and tex­tures.

The smoky, gen­tly-grilled Aus­tralian wagyu slices atop the Bo­cosan wagyu don (RM85) was another lus­cious dish, ev en with­out the ad­di­tion of the pas­teurised on­sen egg (the restau­rant uses only pas­teurised eggs in dishes where they aren’t cooked through). Gar­lic chips, salted seaweed and an earthy truf­fle shoyu com­pleted the de­li­cious pic­ture; if you want to add 50g of foie gras, it’s an ex­tra RM45.

For dessert, we had the mizu shin­gen mochi (RM18), bet­ter known by its more po­etic moniker of rain­drop jelly.

The colour­less jelly sphere cap­tured In­sta­gram, and is slowly mak­ing its pres­ence felt on menus here; this one boasted a good bal­ance of giv e and re­sis­tance, yield­ing to a gen­tle touch of the spoon.

It’s paired with Ja­panese black sugar syrup, which has a deep, dark, al­most malty sweet­ness, and toasty roasted soy bean pow­der.

Bo­cosan is in its early days yet, and it’s def­i­nitely one to keep an eye on as it grows.

From what we’ve seen, it looks set to be a for­mi­da­ble player on the KL scene.

Bo­cosan Iza­kaya

G-2A & 2B, Ground Floor, Ver­ti­cal Podium, Bangsar South, Jalan Ker­inchi, Kuala Lumpur. E-mail: hello@bo­

Open Mon­days to Satur­days, 11.30am to 3pm

— Photos: YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

The com­mu­nal din­ing ta­ble, com­plete with a cen­tral orchid mini gar­den.

Cold noo­dles for dip­ping are served with a se­same sauce and a host of ac­com­pa­ni­ments.

Ex­ec­u­tive chef Mit­sugu is a Hiroshima na­tive – and an iza­kaya veteran.

Get a glimpse of the kitchen team in full steam via the open kitchen.

The crisp, mor­eish melange of fried veg­eta­bles and sakura ebi sets this dish apart, as do the silky-smooth noo­dles and the sim­ple, con­cen­trated broth.

A de­cep­tively sim­ple don, made with suc­cu­lent Aus­tralian wagyu.

The ex­tremely pretty – and tasty – Bon­sai Salad.

The pop­u­lar rain­drop jelly – Bo­cosan does a very re­fined, well-bal­anced ver­sion.

The smoky-grilled saba, or mack­erel.

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