Genji @ Hilton PJ
“Genji is derived from ‘Genji No Ma’, or ‘House of Genji’, which was named after a legendary nobleman… known as the shining Genji and famed for his appreciation and great passion for fine food, wine and lifestyle.”
– Press Release, Hilton Petaling Jaya
Those first lines reminded me of the introduction to Iron Chef.
“Kaga theatrically announced the start of each battle with ‘Allez cuisine!’. Which literally translates from French as “go kitchen”.
– extract from Wikipedia
So, was it ‘Go Kitchen!’ at Genji? Oh yeah, it definitely was.
You’ve got a sushi bar, you’ve got a tea lounge, you’ve got teppanyaki counters and six private ‘tatami’ dining rooms.
Perfect for that traditional intimate Japanese meal.
Whichever you decide on, you can enjoy freshly prepared sushi and sashimi items, kaiseki, teriyaki, tempura and sukiyaki dishes.
So, what did Chef Richard Teoh have in store for us? Simple, country-style cuisine, showcasing his experience, skill and quality of food. I mean, the guy has been with the restaurant since it opened in 1988! He must be good right?
The answer to that rhetorical question is YES. He is good. Having slogged it out in kitchens in Japan when he was merely a young ‘un, having chopsticks thrown at him (some sticking in the unfortunate sides of his colleagues) Chef Richard has endured the worst to bring you the best.
With a recent trip to Osaka, it is no wonder that a few dishes on the menu showcase typical cusine from the region. Our first dish was the Tomato Ohitashi.
Fresh Tomato with Wasabe and Ohitashi Dressing.
“What’s Ohitashi?” asks Terry (Red FM Drive) innocently.
Chef Richard replies,“Ahh… well, Tashi is actually a fish stock, and how we prepare this dish is quite simple. We blanch fresh tomatoes and peel the skin. While that’s happening, we cook the sauce, a combination of soya sauce, tashi (fish stock), vinegar, wasabe and sugar.”
I am tempted to drink the sauce like a soup after I finish eating the tomatoes.
“Of course, we cook the sauce gently, simmer it till it blends together then we put it in ice to drop the temperature,” he adds candidly. With added deep-fried bonito on top, it was a delicious, yet simple dish to smack your lips to. I waited until he left the room to prepare the next dish before I slurped down the remainder sauce! Ahem… Embarrassing? Yes. Satisfying? Oh yeah!
We were off to a good start. I mean, if blanched tomatoes and a blend of savoury sauces could satisfy me, then I think the rest of the meal was going to be a breeze!
Our sake arrived.
It was poured and sipped. Cold or hot, is there a difference? Apparently it’s up to personal preference, but we later found out from Chef Richard that hot sake is drunk to kill off any bacteria from the raw items.
Hazim (Red Weekends), decided to divulge a story that I shall leave for him to tell that tale. What I can tell you is that it had us in hysterics. Laughing so hard, even Elaine had to surpress her giggles.
Enter next course. Sashimi Santen Mori. Sounds dramatic.
It really means a combination of sashimi and we had delicately sliced yellowtail, scallop and salmon.
“Where’s the Wasabe?” I whispered to Hazim. “It’s under the flower Aly…” he replied laughing. A bright yellow edible flower camouflaged the fresh wasabe. Although the flowers are edible, I recommend giving them a miss unless you like a very bitter aftertaste.
The main menu comprises of Tokyo style dishes. Stronger in flavour, and more suitable to the Malaysian palate, Chef Richard often finds it difficult to satisfy the need for spice. Fusion items are also available and tend to be more for special monthly promotions.
Next up, Terry’s favourite. Even before we arrived he was chanting away, “Kobe beef, Kobe Beef…”
The Kobe Yaki Niku consisted of sliced Kobe beef grilled to perfection with Yakiniku sauce. The flavour was fruity and nutty, and the meat incredibly tender. As I mentioned, it was Terry’s favourite and he sneakily stole Elaine’s portion when she wasn’t looking!
“I love it! When you bite into it, it spurts out juice!” he exclaimed, working his was through the extra slices he’d acquired.
Chef Richard threw in a surprise, Genji’s signature Oyster baked in Chili Mayo.
Unlike any other oyster I’ve ever had, it was deliciously fat and juicy, but firm at the same time from being pan fried then oven baked.
Chef Richard explains to us that he tries to utilize local ingredients as much as possible but imports certain fish from Japan, because the water is colder there.
“That means the fish get fat because it’s cold right?” Terry asks. Man, he was on fire today!
We moved on the the Renkon Sandwich, which is a prawn paste sandwich with lotus root deep-fried in batter, served in a very pretty basket.
“Do we look like Geisha’s?”
Crispy on the outside and crunchy on the inside.
Following that was a variety of Osaka compressed sushi.
The Unagi Oshizushi Maguro (eel).
The Kampachi Oshizushi (yellowtail), and the Shake Oshizushi (salmon).
It reminded me of the chicken rice balls I had in Malacca. “Is there a reason for the compressed-ness?” I asked Chef Richard. “No,” he replied. “It’s just how they make it traditionally.” Mmm… I like. More pack to the punch. It is a skill to get the consistency right, to make sure it’s not too hard so it’s unpleasant to eat and not too soft so it doesn’t fall apart. At Genji, they have skill. And they also grate their wasabe from scratch.
The Kinoko Jiru (mix mushroom soup) was good, with a strong mushroom flavour. I still prefer the traditional miso.
We finished off with something rather unusual to me. Kudamono Tempura.
This is basically deep fried fruit fritter with melted vanilla ice-cream dipping.
We sampled apple, melon and mango, and Elaine kept shouting out “Banana! Banana!” Chef Richard said that then it would just be ‘Goreng Pisang” right? We all agreed that the Mango was the tastiest, and yes, he should endevour to include banana in the lineup.
By the end of the meal, I did kind of feel like one of the Iron Chef judges. Very open yet very critical, very happy yet very sad (because we had to leave and I wanted more!), and of course very full yet feeling there was more to try.
If you want to transport yourself to a place that offers excellent food and throws in the authentic Japanese experience at the same time, head to Genji at Hilton PJ. Genji, and Chef Richard (chopstick flinging experience and all) is really the place where…. Man, what does the guy in Iron Chef say again?
In this case, Go Genji! Arigato for a wonderful meal!
Hilton Petaling Jaya
No 2 Jalan Barat,
46200 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor Darul Ehsan
Tel : +60 3 7955 9122 Fax : +60 3 7957 3909
This restaurant is bookable through theQguides.com. BOOK, EAT, BE REWARDED.