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While located in Le Meridien, Ginza Sushimasa is independently operated and tucked away on level 7 of the hotel with a subtle directional sign. Honey-coloured timber dominates the sushi counter and a few small and well-appointed private dining rooms. Couples dine at the counter unless they want to pay a surcharge for a private dining space and the proximity of two chefs and wait staff in the confines of the sushi counter is a tad intimidating at first. The dining experience here is focused on observing the chefs prepare dishes à la minute.
The food of high-end premium imported produce served here is definitely the hero of the dining experience. There’s little point in asking where the produce is sourced as it can be assumed that it is all air-freighted from Japan. There is no à la carte menu and just a handful of set menus with the Omakase menu based upon the whim of Chef Murakami, showcasing top flight ingredients but with a first-class price tag. With fresh and seasonal being the chef’s mantra, dishes vary from day to day but could include the following:
A cold appetiser of micro prawns and lighted cooked greens plus a separate dish of black beans, mini melon, roe, octopus and edible flowers sets the scene for a meal of flavours that arouse the taste buds and stimulate the range of possibilities of Japanese cuisine. Diners can control the delivery of each dish by discussing it immediately with the chefs who stand at the ready throughout the culinary journey. Freshly grated wasabi and grated-on-the-spot Himalayan rock salt are featured with several dishes and add to the dining theatrics.
Both are included in one of the signature dishes of grade five Wagyu beef and sea urchin with the beef delicately scored on both sides by the chef. Chefs helpfully suggest the sea urchin should be wrapped within the beef and then eaten in one go. The result is a rich, creamy and tasty mouthful of indulgent ingredients enhanced by salt and wasabi.
Another rich dish is kinki fish lightly cooked in butter and served with daikon. Kinki, also known as idiot fish, has a soft cod-like texture and exudes a subtle flavour. Seafood, in bite-sized proportions, dominates with deep-fried snapper and a very flavoursome tempura Japanese sweet potato following.
Halfway through the experience it’s time for the chefs to bring out a pine bucket of carefully prepared and plump rice for the sushi. Each grain is large and softer than ever experienced and lightly flavoured with fresh wasabi. A tablespoon full is gently worked within a slumbering Bering sea cockle which is ‘brought to life’ by a slap from the chef, which makes it wiggle before being consumed.
Wild tuna sushi follows as does a signature dish of flounder, which is blow-torched by the chef before being served. A portion of egg cake is enriched with prawns and served with fish broth that the chef explains takes six hours to prepare. The penultimate dish is a soup prepared from what looks like undersized clams but is good for the liver, according to the chef.
The meal ends quite unceremoniously with a humble serving of Muscat grapes, seedless plum and a green melon – all eaten in that order.
Apart from the wines (although a sparkling Japanese sake is offered) the other alcoholic beverages served here are from Japan. Imported Japanese beer is served as is sochu by the glass and bottle and a whole sway of sakes, hot and cold. The wine list is sufficiently impressive with a range of wines from leading global wine regions although only three wines are available by the glass: a sparkling, one red and one white. There are no bargains on offer with all wines by the bottle being more than RM200.
The service is very attentive. The sit-up sushi counter where many diners will eat is intimate with two chefs on the other side of the counter watching the every move of their patrons. Wait staff are on hand to attend to every request and no doubt this impresses many diners. However, for those seeking a more private dinner this attention could be a little invasive. The ice tends to be broken by engaging the staff in conversation as to how the dishes are prepared and the origins of the produce. The restaurant manager is also very helpful, conversant in Japanese and a fount of knowledge on the produce served and the meticulous preparation of each dish.
The cheapest offering is the Yui Menu at some RM400 per diner and soars with the Omakase at RM950 per diner. Add a few drinks, with the cheapest wine by the bottle at RM220 and you’ll soon chalk up a bill that’s the equivalent of an airfare to Japan. This is a venue for aficionados of fresh, seasonal, natural, imported and non-farmed seafood, especially and well-supported by other top flight Japanese produce.