A Hidden gem - A Japanese Restaurant at OKR


THERE’S a gem of a Japanese restaurant tucked away at the 5th mile Old Klang Road in Kuala Lumpur, just across the road from Central supermarket. Xenri Japanese Cuisine at Wisma Elken has been around for two years, pens EU HOOI KHAW.

It has a “five-star dining environment”, as the management calls it, that befits the quality ingredients from Japan, particularly Hokkaido, that are flown in twice a week. It has a bright, woody décor, with private dining spaces, tatami rooms and a sushi bar.

Chef T.J Kew has had 13 years experience in his field, beginning in Mutiara Hotel Penang, then expanding his horizons at the Legend Hotel Kuala Lumpur and then opening Sagano at the Renaissance Hotel Kuala Lumpur, where he served seven years.

Our dinner began with an elegant platter of sashimi that consisted of butter fish, tuna, salmon, sweet prawns, scallop, maguro and octopus..

“I always serve my sashimi on ice, so it retains its freshness, texture and flavour,” said Kew. Indeed an “igloo” made of compacted shaved ice sat on the platter, with tuna slices inside.

Small mounds of freshly grated wasabi root were served with the sashimi, which accounted for its zingy and fragrant flavours, and which raised this platter to a higher plane.The butter fish was smooth and meltingly good. The other fish, sea urchin, prawns and scallop were top-notch.

The Special House Maki was fine and tasty. It’s a tempura prawn wrapped round with sushi rice, dusted with flying fish roe and lightly piped around with mayonnaise. It comes with a special sweet sauce that has been cooked and reduced slowly, comprising sake, mirin, sugar and soya sauce.
The vinegared rice round the prawn was thin, to emphasise its sweetness and freshness.

“The kids love it,” said Kew. So did we.

It was certainly no ordinary Japanese dinner we were having. The Unagi Kama Meshi came next, in a metal pot fitted snugly into a wooden box, with a wooden cover over it.

“It’s like claypot rice,” said Kew, except this is done with grilled eel from Taiwan (not from China). “In Japan you can take away the whole pot of rice, together with the box which keeps it warm!”

The rice had been cooked in a dashi stock flavoured with soya sauce together with tiny mushrooms, some shredded green pepper and carrot. A small portion of the shredded carrot was tucked underneath the unagi. The grilled eel was excellent, soft yet firm and sticky sweet with its marinade. I always like the texture of Japanese rice – the grains are fat, and they are slightly sticky. I was told to eat the rice crust as well, which I did, which offers more concentrated flavours and a nice crunchy texture.

If you’re looking for something to lift a tired palate, I would recommend the Sakana Chirimushi. This is steamed fish, tofu, leek, snow peas, carrot and enoki mushrooms in a dashi broth, served with a dipping sauce of ponzu scented with citrus (small, fragrant lime) and chilli radish. I liked the fat round bowl it came in – with a dish of grated radish with chilli and chopped spring onion sitting on top – and a little teapot of ponzu.

I stirred the radish with the sauce, picked pieces off the cod inside and dipped into it. The light, tangy flavours hugged the fish, which tasted good, as did the tofu and leek.

All the food is cooked with reverse osmosis water.

A tasting of different kinds of ice cream imported from Japan ended dinner sweetly. Sakura or cherry blossom, black sesame, and green tea were the ones we had, though there are more, such as wasabi (!), melon, peach and deep-fried ice cream on the menu.

The Special Maki is RM24; Unagi Kama Meshi, RM39; and sashimi is according to market prices.

Other special items include the Grilled Yellowtail Jaw with salt and teriyaki (RM45); Dobin Mushi (RM14); Tori Soba (RM18); Kaisen Kami Nabe (a seafood hotpot contained in paper, RM40); Dragon Roll (with grilled eel and avocado, RM28).

There are very reasonably priced set lunches below RM30. Next month there’s a Crab Fiesta, featuring the Alaskan King Crab and Hokkaido Snow Crab in various scrumptious preparations.

There is a Sunday buffet of 50 items, priced at only RM43++ for adults, and RM22++ for children. (Reservations are required) Xenri is open all day from 11am to 10pm. It’s located at No. 9 Wisma Elken, Lorong 4/137C, Batu 5, Jalan Kelang Lama, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: (03) 7783-8118.



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