Kizuna One (or Kizuna1 ... or 1Kizuna, depends on how patriotic you are. Okay, bad joke, I know) recently opened its doors to the Japanese food lovers in Ipoh, right smack in the posh-est location of all, at the newly refurbished and reopened Royal Golf Club on Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah.
Of course, me being a mere peasant, with no skills whatsoever in handling (more like, manhandling!) a golf club, can only drool at the sizzling hot, newest Japanese restaurant in town.
Seriously .... I'm not crossing my fingers in anticipation. After a few bad reviews from all quarters, I'll be glad to practise a wait-and-see approach, much like I'm salivating at the thought of a spanking new (back then, not now) Korean BBQ Buffet restaurant named Riche Montana in Ipoh Garden South, only to walk in and preview their selections one evening, and walked out with tails between my legs. Wrong metaphor? Whatever.
A little disturbing concept they have is that you'll be charged RM5/pax more if you're seated downstairs, nearer to the buffet spread, while the upstair's crowd get RM5/pax shaven off their respective bill, as they've to carry their food up the stairs repeatedly. Hmm, they could've reached a compromise kind of situation, whereby they can serve the food on both floors, and charge a reasonable amount. For your information, RM29.90+ for the convenient crowd, and RM24.90+ for the slightly more active (and maybe kiamsap?) people.
Been in the business for a good 3 years now - A Lai I Japanese Restaurant has constantly missed my radar, although occupying a rather strategic spot.
But this post ain't about Korean food, but instead dedicated to some of Ipoh's Japanese restaurants. Though to no one's surprise, you can literally count all of them with two hands. (Sushi King NOT included, of course).
At the same row as Sushi East (another Japanese restaurant at Bandar Medan Ipoh Baru, though I do not favour the Japanese cuisine served there; being anything but authentic), A Lai I has operated for a good 3 years, and the head chef (he's the ONLY chef, as I recalled from our conversation) Mr Lai, was in fact from the now defunct Moritomo Japanese restaurant in Jusco Kinta City.
But wait, didn't all the chef, cooks and workers from Moritomo jumped ship to Kizuna when Moritomo closed down? Truth is, no. MOST of the workers from Moritomo started the Kizuna flagship, but not ALL. If any of you can recall, in my post on Akamomiji, I mentioned about the management of Kizuna had again, jumped the bandwagon and opened the former. Which, in reality, is partly true. Kizuna has 3 owners, or managers. One of them quitted and started Akamomiji. While another has recently opened Kizuna One at the Golf Club.
Confusing, convulated stories? Yeah, almost like a tussle-for-power type of TVB drama. Only with less bickering and bitching around. (I think). Let's move on to the FOOD now, shall we?
Mr Lai Yip Meng is young, vibrant, and adventurous. Constantly seeking change, and some radical ones at that, he controls the business, and the kitchen in any ways he deemed fit. Which is a plus, given the vast experience he had, and a tendency to stray off the beaten path.
The extensive menu at A Lai I was impressive, covering various specialties not commonly available in other run-of-the-mill Japanese eateries here in Ipoh, for example the Dobin Mushi (soup in tea pot, Japanese style).
One of their main selling point happened to be the Teppanyaki, or grilled meats and seafood on iron plates. The Seafood teppanyaki platter consists of prawns, squids, scallops, salmon, and vegetables. The accompanying sauce may be a little salty, when this dish is eaten alone without white rice. Generally tasty, with fresh seafood being cooked to perfection; ensuring the right texture, and sweet flavours of the seafood coming through. Other than seafood, you can opt for beef, or chicken to be cooked the same way.
The mixed tempura appeared a little lacklustre, amidst the yellowish lighting and all. Which explains the less than stellar quality of the pictures, sorry.
The batter-fried prawns and mixed vegetables were of nothing particularly spectacular, but still decent enough to warrant an order, IF you're a fan of tempura. But I'd certainly prefer more grated radish (daikon) to be served with the tempura.
The Japanese cold noodles, Hiyashi Chuka Ramen came in a far from dainty portion. With lots of fritters on top for that extra crunch, the combination of cold noodles and assorted vegetables in tare sauce (water, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and sesame seeds) is a refreshing and light dish, perfect to be slurped on hot, humid days.
And the friendly chap was kind enough to present us with a plate of sushi rolls, consisting of crabsticks, cucumber, carrot and egg, wrapped with a very thin layer of crepe and garnished with roes, and served with mayonaise and shoyu. Since this was on the house, I've no idea what's the name of the rolls, sorry.
Other items I've been eyeing were stir-fried mushrooms with butter, and beef with butter sauce. The sashimi and sushi selection was impressive as well, as was the other cooked items such as teppanyaki, and mixed bento sets.
Location : A Lai I Japanese Restaurant @ 34, Jalan Medan Ipoh 4, Bandar Medan Ipoh Baru, 31400 Ipoh, Perak.
Tel No : 605-545 0412.
Closed on Mondays. Opens for lunch and dinner.
(P/S : Initially planned for a combined write up on A Lai I and a few other Japanese restaurants, but I guess I rambled on for too long .... I'll save them for the next posts.)
(P/S again : Wondering what the name A Lai I means? Initially, it's supposed to be Arai Japanese Restaurant. Made more sense right? But Mr Lai claimed that the name Arai had people mispronounced the name continuously, calling it Alai, Alai ....... =P)