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  • Writer's pictureTien Chew

Autumnal Pleasures

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

It’s almost been a year since Sachi opened its doors in culinary mainstay TTDI and my inaugural visit, smack right at the beginning of autumn, proved to be quite a memorable affair.

To the untrained eater, Sachi’s uber minimalist, brutalist frontal exterior may not say very much at all, its stony facade seemingly uninviting and closed save for a literal hole in the wall. To gourmands, Japanese cuisine aficionados and Japanophiles, however, Sachi is another stellar addition to KL’s growing list of nihon shoku restaurants.

So what’s with the high praise? Sachi is helmed by chef Akira Sano and serves seasonal Japanese fine dining fare known as kaiseki, where the freshest, most prized ingredients of the season are showcased via various cooking techniques and presentation flourishes. Lunch begins at RM400++, while dinner will set you back at RM600++ per person.

What do you get in return for your money and time? An extensive yet well-balanced meal that gratifies without stealing that spring in your step.

Shiraae (Mashed Tofu) Salad With Persimmon

Autumn is the season for kaki, also known as persimmon. Akira showcases the sweetness and versatility of this fruit masterfully in a light yet punchy starter. Sliced Japanese persimmon here shares the limelight with mashed tofu, a paste-like delicacy with a touch of graininess to it. Dashi turns the mashed tofu into a savoury element, counteracting the sweet, firm persimmon and complementing bits of prawn, cream cheese, smoked daikon and ikura.

While these ingredients all represent different factors of the flavour spectrum, they come together splendidly in a refreshingly flavourful savoury-sweet salad.

Matsutake Dobin Mushi

Japanese matsutake mushrooms yield significant weight in the world of gastronomy, rivalling (and in my opinion surpassing) truffles. To the Japanese, the arrival of matsutake signals the arrival of autumn, so prized for its chunky texture, heady aromatics and pine-like taste. The chef decided to showcase this sought-after delicacy with minimal manipulation, hence the understandable choice of featuring it in a dobin mushi.

I have fond memories of dobin mushi growing up, a treat I would usually share with my father when he took me out to Japanese restaurants on the weekend. These steamed soups come in a quaint little teapot, and diners are encouraged to taste the broth before going for the ingredients inside.

On the first sip, a clean, clear and wholesome taste makes an appearance before retreating with a lovely matsutake finish. Chicken, mitsuba (Japanese parsley), carrot, ginkgo nuts, and hamo (daggertooth pike conger) are the supporting cast, enhancing the matsutake-charged dashi broth. Rich and clear on the palate, this was another fantastic progression and addition to Sachi’s autumn menu.

Seasonal Sashimi – Ika Somen & Sanma

Dinner goes swimmingly with seasonal sashimi, starting first with ika sōmen, so named because the squid is sliced so finely it resembles the noodles from which it takes its namesake. This particular dish, I later learn, is a Hokkaido speciality.

Akira uses yobuko ika from Saga prefecture, prized in the region as a traditional food for its thick texture and intense sweetness. He adds soba mentsuyu, thin strips of shiso and a sprinkling of sesame seeds for balance. The squid is marvellous, bouncy and firm in the mouth with a sweet, creamy quality that‘s kept in check with the aromatic shiso and the sesame’s natural nuttiness.

Next, sanma (Pacific saury) is served au natural, save for shoyu jelly and two types of ginger – torch and nama (fresh). This was another winner. The sanma’s natural oiliness and fatty qualities are pretty pungent, but the use of shoyu jelly and ginger to control such boldness in the mouth is both a genius move and enhances the fish. The intensity of the shoyu jelly is strong but quickly retreats, never overshadowing the main silver star. What a refreshing dish.

Grilled Hokkaido Scallops & Karei Fish On Houba Leaf

This was another tasty entry, showcasing the restaurant‘s mastery of the grill. The scallop itself, the obvious highlight of the dish, was deliciously meaty with a buttery quality that hit first. So prominent is the effects of the grill on the shellfish that even after swallowing its charred aromas lingers in the nostrils. Shimeji mushrooms add earthiness to the overall profile, karei (Japanese flat fish) as an additional protein that plays second fiddle to the scallop, and awafu (a doughy byproduct created by adding millet to namafu). These ingredients are all bound together by a bold salted green onion sauce, with freshly cut thin slices of leek and lemon to add zest.

Japanese Octopus & Mussel Wasabi

If I were to plot this dish on a graph relative to the progression of the meal, this is where things plateaued instead of continuing to climb.

The octopus and mussel used for the dish were incredibly fresh, with a bouncy texture and a clean, oceanic taste balanced by the heat of wasabi, the greenness of shiso, and the salty-umami duality of shio konbu. While I could appreciate the quality of the ingredients and the natural flavours presented on the plate, the overall flavour combination didn’t go well with me.

Wagyu Mince With Shiitake, Broccoli, Potatoes, Corn & Tomato

Wagyu from Kagoshima is minced, perfectly cooked to ensure its juices and slightly crumbly texture remain intact and then glazed with a red wine and dashi sauce with a medley of roasted vegetables on the side. This was easy to love, the earthiness of the shiitake and the red wine-dashi glaze acting as the counterbalance to the meaty, rich wagyu. While the vegetables were also quite the treat, the star was obviously the beef.

Sea Urchin, Dried Sardines & Shishitou Tempura

Unfortunately, this dish didn’t progress the meal higher for me, although I could see how it would appeal to many here. On paper, it’s got the goods – a double dose of fried uni tempura topped with fresh uni, shishitou pepper tempura for heat and bitterness, and dried sardine dashi for an umami-charged finish. In reality, I found the quantity of uni to be too generous, its decadence overshadowing the balancing agents – shishitou and dashi – and resulting in disharmony on my palate.

Tai (Sea Bream) Shiogama

Chef Akira doing the honours

I‘m told that this is a particularly noteworthy entry. Why? Salt-baked tai is a dish tied to celebrations! So naturally, having it for a meal makes it a somewhat special occasion, or so the thinking goes. When in Rome, I guess.

Served with radish sprouts, Chinese cabbage, and two types of mushrooms, this was a very clean dish. The sea bream was flaky, perfectly juicy and slightly salty. So too were the accompanying vegetables, minus the salt quantity found in the fish. The dashi itself was somewhat thick, or toro toro as the Japanese would describe it, which may or may not put some people off. I was perfectly fine with it and could respect the sudden shift in seasoning, going from bold to au naturel.

Hanasaki Crab Porridge

Feast your eyes on that bowl of golden shimmering goodness

Hanasaki crab, so named because its shiny red shell resembles that of a blooming red flower after it’s boiled, is prized for its high meat ratio, firm, succulent texture, and sweet flavour. Turning such a catch into a porridge is easy to win hearts and stomachs, and Akira delivered in spades.

The broth was light, with a fragrant sweet shellfish aroma permeating my immediate airspace upon arrival. The use of egg cleverly adds a sultry savoury element to complement the crab-rich taste of the dish. Fresh spring onion and pickled celery help to add springiness and balance.

Simple and wholesome, this seemingly simplistic dish solidifies the kitchen team’s proficiency with quality seafood. I loved it so much when the waiter asked if I would like seconds, I happily nodded.

Here’s a handy Japanese word you can dish out the next time you want seconds at a Japanese restaurant. Okawari, meaning a second helping.

Kuri (Chestnut) Mont Blanc

Twas the season of chestnuts when I dined at Sachi. The timing was fortunate for me since I love eating chestnuts. What you see above is chestnut paste, cream, ice cream and the actual nut itself resting on a biscuit crumble.

I wasn’t expecting dessert to wow me so much after such a stellar rich dish, but I’m glad I was proven wrong, for this was easily my favourite dish of the night. Although it slightly edges out the crab porridge by just a fraction, this was delightful. The chestnut was masterfully presented in numerous ways here, with adequate sweetness and a flaky, crumbly base to seal the deal. What more can a chestnut fan ask for?

Simply superb.

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