Friday, 14 June 2013

Setting the Savoury Stage Atop Sizzling Hot Plates

So after frequenting our usual Bangna haunts to death, my brother and I have now begun to gravitate towards one place in town to fulfil our epicurean cravings: Central World. This is one of the largest shopping malls in Asia, but it appeals to us because of the epic amount of food outlets and restaurants housed beneath its sprawling roof. Isetan is of particular interest as it is a Japanese department store catering to locally-based Japanese expats and Nipponophiles, much like ourselves. It has a compact supermarket stocking ingredients you would think could only be found in Japan, a little food court/stall area where you can pick up things to go or have a quick counter-top meal and also, its own range of Japanese restaurants which vary in speciality.

On this occasion we wanted to venture into uncharted restaurant territory. After surveying the field, we chose the Grill Kabuki Honten as our target. This is a restaurant that specialises in Japanese style hamburg steaks (salisbury steaks to our American cousins) served on sizzling hot plates. The menu, although quite specialised, is very generous. Every set meal ordered comes with an all-you-can-eat buffet of salad, soup, rice and the surprise item, Japanese curry! Not just the sauce either, it had diced vegetables and a pot of red pickles to bejewel your plate.

The salad includes your basic choices like lettuce, carrot, tomatoes and cabbage, but it also includes edamame! These are green soy beans that are still in their pods. They are often served as a bar snack but are very healthy and delicious. Even though the buffet looks quite small and reserved, the items really could serve as a hefty meal themselves.
My dish of choice was the rib eye steak and hamburg combo set. My brother had the fried chicken and hamburg combo and we also ordered a yakisoba to share (like we needed more food with all-you-can-eat curry rice o_O). Our main objective was to try as much as possible though, not to greedily, really.

The hamburg blew my mind. It is ridiculously tender and juicy but was still packed full of flavour. Now, some may prefer a solid meat patty charred with grill marks on an outdoor barbeque, but keep in mind, this is a Japanese restaurant, so naturally expect everything in a Nippon-fashion. It was a similar story with the steak. Stupidly tender and stupidly tasty. It was adorned simply with a garlic butter, but that alone was enough. 

I didn't even think about reaching for the trio of sauces that came with it, although I later did make a conscious effort to taste each on their own. There was a Thai-style spicy dipping sauce, a Japanese ponzu and then the attention-grabbing fuchsia pickle mayonnaise. That, despite the alarming bubblegum colour (which I assume came from the pickles), was very tasty.

For the hamburg steaks we had radish and ponzu sauce and a demi-glace. I preferred the resonant savoury tones of the demiglace but if you want a lighter alternative, I would recommend the citrus-like tang of the ponzu.

The karaage, or fried chicken, was very tender and juicy and the breading was a softer crumbly texture. It went very well with Japanese mayonnaise. As did the yakisoba, which is packed with slices of pork and shredded cabbage and came crowned with an undulating mass of bonito shavings. It was much more generous than most establishments would be willing to provide, in every aspect too. 

Even the prices were extremely reasonable, comparative to local mid-range chains. I think the noodles also came with an entire bottle of Japanese mayonnaise served on the table. And did I mention the complimentary scoop of matcha ice cream? Hell yeah.

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