A sumptuous dinner at Kaze Japanese Restaurant, Penang
Dining out to celebrate Mother's Day on 9 May 2021, the eve of the third Movement Control Order (MCO) in Penang, was more than a chanced opportunity. The MCO was later announced to have been extended to the entire country stretching till 7 June 2021. It has been a while since my family and I visited a restaurant in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. We felt it necessary to be rather safe than sorry. However on Mother's Day, although filled with trepidation, we went to Kaze Japanese Restaurant at Promenade for dinner.
We brought along a bottle of sake to accompany the dinner. My wife Yvonne purchased this beautifully bottled sake from Japan a while back. It resembles a miniature traditional sake barrel, complete with synthetic straw coverings on the outside. We had the sake chilled to enhance its flavours.
Dining at Kaze Japanese Restaurant for the first time was exciting and there were plenty to choose from its comprehensive menu. All the usual suspects were present including kushiyaki (skewered and grilled items), nabemono (hot pot dishes) and teishoku (Japanese set meals).
Yvonne began her meal with two offerings of sushi – one topped with seared salmon and cod roe while the other was topped with a slice of raw salmon. Both were delicious parcels.
She also opted for the Black Dragon Rolls – two sushi rolls encasing crispy deep-fried tiger prawns and fresh cucumber, topped with grilled eel and almond flakes. They were drizzled over with cream cheese, mustard and teriyaki sauces. She enjoyed this dish very much.
Next was a serving of four deep-fried, breaded oysters served with a thick tonkatsu sauce as well as mustard. The crispy golden units, crunchy on the outside and velvety on the inside, complemented brilliantly with the sauces. I highly recommend this dish.
That evening I decided to go with the Teishoku meal which provided me the opportunity to sample a wide spectrum of offerings across the board. It had a serving of salad, chawanmushi, sashimi with three cuts of raw fish, crispy tempura prawns and vegetables, grilled unagi on vinegared rice, miso soup and cut fruits.
The fresh sashimi cuts – salmon, white tuna and red snapper – were truly scrumptious, a testament to good quality! It has been too long since I had sashimi this good. The last time I had exceptional sashimi was in Kyoto, more than a decade ago. I will definitely return to indulge in this further.
Do you know that the word "sashimi" literally means "pierced body" in Japanese ("sashi" – "pierced" and "mi" – "body")? This word dates from the Muromachi period. There is a theory that the word "sashi" has substituted "kiru/kiri"(cut); the culinary step was considered off-putting to be used because of the strong connection to the idea of “to kill". "Kiri" is used for instance in the widely known expression "harakiri" which literally means "cut the belly/stomach".
There are also two other theories behind the origin of the word "sashimi" relating to fish. Nevertheless, sashimi refers to all cuts of raw meat, not necessarily only fish.
The freshly cooked tempura arrived at the table piping hot. Plump and juicy prawns, as well as vegetables and sweet potato slices, were all coated with super crispy batter. On the side, along with grated daikon (to help refresh one's palate), the tentsuyu dipping sauce was served. The delicate sauce had the right balance of sweet and savoury flavours needed to accentuate the enjoyment of the golden pieces.
The set meal also included glazed barbecued unagi (Japanese freshwater eel) that matched perfectly with the vinegared rice. With the chawanmushi and miso soup, I had by then eaten way too much. Satisfied and contented with the quality of the servings, I was glad we decided to dine at this fine establishment.
We concluded the evening with a scoop of homemade ice cream with raisins plus a generous hit of sochu (Japanese liquor). I miss rum and raisin ice cream, a rarity nowadays in Penang although it was once commonly available in the good old days. This single scoop of ice cream made me ponder how quickly things have changed in Malaysia.
Kaze Japanese Restaurant was top of my list because my daughter Jean works there. Immediately after completing her SPM examination in March, Jean went all out to hunt for a part-time job. She has a few months to spare before enrolling in Form Six. On her second day of countless on-the-spot interviews, she managed to secure a position at Kaze as a service staff. This being her very first job, she was full of determination to succeed. Although her first day was tiring and demanding, she performed the best she possibly could. This was noticed by her employer who rewarded her. The kind gesture was not only a motivational boost for Jean but more importantly, it has left an indelible impression acknowledging that hard work does pay off.
Being served by Jean that evening was indeed a privilege. As a proud father, I have watched her grow, helped boost her confidence and encouraged her in all areas of life. Jean is writing a new chapter in her life currently and for Yvonne, a big part of motherhood is concluding. This indeed calls for celebration as Jean poured warm ocha for her beloved mum. I have to give five stars for both food and service that day at Kaze Japanese Restaurant.
Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah
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9 May 2021
Kaze Japanese Restaurant,
5-G-1, Promenade, Persiaran Mahsuri, Bayan Baru, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6012 408 9980
Opens daily: 11:00 am – 9:30 pm