Kaiseki at 天 (Ten) - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Dinner - Tuesday, January 3, 2012

 (Ten, i.e. "heaven" or "sky" in Japanese) is a relative newcomer to the high-end Japanese scene in this country - it is the first branch of its parent restaurant, which is located in Sydney, Australia. 

In a surprisingly rare move for Malaysian establishments,  claims to source much of its fish from Tsukiji market. Also uncommonly for Malaysia, 天 employs two experienced Japanese chefs - Chef Hiroshi Miura (trained in cha kaiseki) and Chef Atsushi Nishibuchi (an Edo-mae sushi itamae). We visited with the express purpose of trying their kaiseki menu.

Fried gobo, tamari ika, daikon
Ika-sake sushi, kuromame, kazunoko, daikon-carrot salad
A very nice start indeed - the fried gobo was simultaneously soft and crunchy, and had a great balance of sweet and salty. The shredded daikon and carrot salad was cool, bright and refreshing. I don't particularly care for kazunoko (herring roe), but objectively speaking, the one served was of high quality.

Ankimo, shirako, seaweed, ponzu
Creamy and decadent. The bright ponzu sauce, together with the seaweed, grated daikon and cucumber worked together to offset the richness of the monkfish liver and cod milt. Still, I actually found the portion too large for me.

Chicken, daikon, shiratama, carrot, broth
A great cleanser after the previous course. The broth was delicate, with a hint of smokiness from bonito - it was extremely complex on the palate. Defying appearances, the chicken meatballs were actually smooth-textured and creamy, a real pleasure to eat. The tender daikon, having been infused with broth, was expectedly flavourful. Finally, the chewy shiratama (nicely made) brought a festive air to the dish.

Botan ebi, harasu, hirame
Although the salmon belly and hirame were significantly above average quality, the shrimp stole the show. I've rarely had such sweet botan ebi, and its flesh was the perfect texture. We made sure to thoroughly enjoy its innards as well.

Adzuki rice, grilled pomfret, ginger stem
Sea cucumber, ikura, daikon
Wagyu tataki, tempura apple, zucchini
Otoro, hirame, chutoro, hotate, sake
Tamago, amaebi, kohada, ika, akagai
With the exception of the tamago (which I found rather chunky for my liking), every bite ranged from good to great - my highlights were the chutoro, akagai and kohada. Based on size and taste, I believe that the latter might actually have been shinko (a younger gizzard shad). As expected at this level, wasabi was freshly grated. The rice was also a highlight, being nicely seasoned (with a darker colour than usual) and well-cooked.

Duck yawarakani
Cabbage, shimeji, enoki, satoimo, wasabi
Our shiizakana was slices of duck served in a thick duck and soy sauce broth, enhanced with ginger and wasabi - a truely seasonal winter dish. The other vegetables added different textures and soaked up the delicious broth. The gigantic ball of satoimo was particularly tasty - it's been too long since I've just eaten pure taro.

Soba, bonito, poached egg
Apple sorbet, Crème anglaise
Plum compote, plum jelly
As is de rigueur for Japanese desserts, our final course was tantalizingly light. The apple sorbet (more of a granita) was so refreshing in combination with the aroma of the lone mint leaf, although I didn't feel like the custard was necessary. The sorbet paired very nicely with the whole stewed plum, tender and mildly sweet.

Our meal deviated here and there from traditional kaiseki ryori progression, but it was very competent from start to finish, featuring quality ingredients. Dashi seems to be used in every course except dessert - it ties components together within a dish, and provides a thread of commonality to connect separate courses. Fortunately, 天's dashi is superb.

I've noticed that Japanese restaurants in Malaysia tend to start out great, and slowly decline as they age. Hopefully, 天 will be able to retain the services of its knowledgable chefs and buck the trend. If not, I would encourage people to visit soon to savour their talents.

D5-G3-5, Solaris Dutamas
No. 1, Jalan Dutamas 1
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 50480
Phone: (+603) 6211-9910