Autumn is the best time to have the saury pike or sanma as it swims from the warmer south to the cold north of Japan, feeding a lot and acquiring a nice balance of fat. The oil in its body makes it ideal for sashimi.
Autumn is also the season for matsutake or king of mushrooms, persimmons, nashi pears and chestnuts.
All these from the golden season were in our sumptuous dinner at Kampachi in Plaza 33, Petaling Jaya. All of seven courses, it had Chef Yusuke Ishigami finishing and plating each creation from his special niche in the private room. It began with a long platter of five starters. We tasted them, beginning from the left with the delicate Kaki Siraae or persimmon with mashed tofu. Then it was the Tofu Miso Zuke Karasumi or marinated tofu with miso and dried mullet roe, and the Sake Kaki Sushi or sliced salmon over vinegared rice.
Arriving at the Sanma Kogane Yaki or grilled saury pike with egg yolk sauce, I loved the velvety texture and sweetness of the fish, and the subtle sauce. The Nishoku Chakin Shibori or two types of mashed potato was the sweet ending to the exquisite starters.
Our gastronomic journey through autumn was ably led by Chiharu Yabe, Kampachi’s director and general manager, who offered delicious morsels of information throughout.
The royal matsutake made its debut, this earthy mushroom with its distinctive aroma was in our soup – Matsutake Kani Siratama Sumasi. Stems of the mushroom sweetly flavoured the clear soup, with the sticky smooth dumplings filled with crabmeat. The mushroom was lush and sweet and slivers of yuzu rind expressed their fragrance in the subtle soup.
Toro, Botanebi and Sanma or tuna belly sashimi, sweet prawn and saury pike were served in the Tsukuri course. The lightly seared sanma was fatty and excellent – only a touch of ginger and spring onion were needed. Toro is always a treat; and I saved this for the last. “Radish is chuma, which means wife and fish is man,” explained Chiharu of the significance of shredded radish that’s always served with sashimi.
Heat from lava stones grilled the prawns, beef, sea bream and ginkgo nuts on the stone plate in the Yakimono course. I loved the juiciness of the roasted ginkgo nuts and their sweetness with a tinge of bitterness. The beef, touched with a little miso, stayed moist and luscious. The sea bream was a tad overcooked. Perhaps we had delayed in lifting the fish off the hot stones, the prawns too.
It was a medley of autumn vegetables in the Nimono course. I delighted in the sweetness and delicacy of ach vegetable – gobo or burdock, eringi mushroom, lotus root, carrot, eggplant, snow pea, pumpkin and chestnut. The eggplant stood out for its flavourful creaminess but the lovely chestnut crowned the dish.
The umami of matsutake was in every grain of rice in the Matsutake Gohan. Slices of the exquisite mushroom were embedded in the rice, as well as plump ginkgo nuts. I was wowed by the rice, savouring it slowly and not leaving any grain behind.
The fragrant and juicy Nashi pear from Japan ended a superb dinner on a perfect note.
This Taste of Autumn menu costs RM400 nett.
Weekends are for buffet lunches at Kampachi, on both Saturday and Sunday. It’s an a la carte buffet where you place your order, sit back and have it served to you. New on this buffet menu is Kushige or deepfried mushrooms, prawn, chicken and other delicacies on a stick. It’s RM148 nett for the lunch buffet at Kampachi Plaza33.
Call 03 7931 6938 for reservations.