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Meet the 3 new chefs bringing their own flair to KL’s Japanese restaurants

When it comes to Japanese cuisine, attention to detail is everything. The chefs are typically fussy and critical when it comes to the selection of ingredients and the way Japanese food has to be served.

They are required to be creative, innovative and extremely skilful to present something unique and stunning at the same time. Whether it is a sushi bar or omakase dining, every serving should come with finesse in presentation and flair in flavours.

It is something that you’d definitely want to look out for when travelling to different cities in Japan because every city (and chef) offers its own distinctive take on the menu based on seasonal ingredients.

The sushi omakase features seven to ten courses that reveal, in a steadily intensifying arpeggio, the many nuances of raw fish. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

While one may think that omakase dining is a platform for chefs to flex their culinary talents, Japanese chefs, in fact, have to train for years (sometimes over a decade) in order to be skillful enough to handle the delicate craft in Japanese cuisine; from slicing the fish to applying the right pressure to shape rice balls.

Closer to home, three new chefs are bringing their own flair to KL’s food scene. Sushi Hibiki may be the most enticing with its own Japanese-native chef-cum-owner. But expect nothing less from the new chefs of Nobu KL and Enju, Pullman KLCC either. Check out our reviews on these three restaurants.

Sushi Hibiki, Shoppes at Four Seasons Place
If you’ve done the Atlas Pizzeria on the same level or Bar Trigona upstairs, try placing a booking for an exquisite sushi omakase in Sushi Hibiki. The cosy dining space – hidden somewhere behind Kind Kones — is the newest Japanese restaurant in the city, located in one of the most happening places in Kuala Lumpur, Four Seasons Place.

Chef Makoto Saito Sam breaking down a fresh piece of fish. (Credit: Sushi Hibiki)

Owner and Head Chef Makoto Saito Sam had his first connection to sushi as a part-time staff at a traditional counter sushi restaurant in Tokyo. He decided to specialise in sushi making after training for 20 years in the same restaurant where he picked up the classic Edo-style techniques of preparing sushi.

He was in his mid-30s when he finally decided to explore his craft outside Japan. It was when he realised there were other skills that a sushi chef must have including the ability to converse with diners as well as to make sushi according to the customers’ feelings and preferences.

The intimate dining space in Sushi Hibiki. (Credit: Sushi Hibiki)
The intimate dining space in Sushi Hibiki. (Credit: Sushi Hibiki)

Dining in Sushi Hibiki feels like home. Chef Sam is quick to ensure his guests are comfortable and well taken care of as they begin their specially curated dining courses of choice. For starters, try the Hibiki Course (RM240) that comes with seasonal appetisers, seven pieces of sushi, a roll of the day and dessert.

Another must-try is the Rin Course (RM480) that comes with an extra seasonal hot and cold dish. If you’re up for a splurge, go directly to the Miyabi Course (RM720), which is a premium sushi omakase featuring seasonal fresh produce and catches of the day.

Every piece is fresh and flavourful — showcasing a high level of finesse. (Credit: Sushi Hibiki)

“When I prepare a sushi course, I think about a perfect balance, timing and the individual palate,” the Japanese chef shares.

He continues to stay true to the conventional sushi-making technique that he’d learned in Japan as he brings this special sushi omakase to Malaysia. With Sushi Hibiki, he serves one of the most unique dining experiences equivalent to a traditional sushi bar in Japan. Tip: Dining is by reservation only, so place your booking in advance right here.

Sushi Hibiki, Lot B1-04(A), Basement 1 Shoppes at Four Seasons Place KL No 145, Jalan Ampang 50450 Kuala Lumpur, +603 2391 9008 

Enju, Pullman KLCC
Chef John Widdy joins Enju, Pullman KLCC as their new Japanese head chef. His first assignment: a la minute sushi buffet featuring over 40 types of sushi, maki, hand rolls and other complementing dishes like seaweed, rice and noodles typical to the cuisine. And with over 20 years experience cutting his teeth in various Japanese restaurants under AccorHotels, the Sabah-born chef doesn’t disappoint.

Chef John Widdy
Chef John Widdy. (Credit: Pullman KLCC)

Sample the array of classic sushi including crowd favourites like salmon, shrimp, octopus and roe. Diners can practically order as much as they want from several categories including nigiri (seafood on rice) with a choice of yellowtail, tuna and cuttlefish; and gunkan (nori-wrapped rice) topped with jellyfish, octopus and seaweed.

Chef also offers some interesting flavours with his makimono creations, comprise bite-size rolled sushi with bang-on combinations of prawn and avocado, white radish and pickle, as well as soft shell crab with spices.

The Dynamite Maki comes highly recommended. It is a roll of tempura shrimp with its crispy batter, avocado and cucumber, which is wrapped with fresh salmon and enveloped in a sheet of nori. The garlic fried rice and handmade soba noodles are also flavourful. Wash it all down with a delicious homemade matcha and black sesame ice creams.

An assortment of sushi creations at Enju. (Credit: Pullman KLCC)

The all-you-can-eat buffet is priced at an affordable RM88 nett per person, and is available every Thursday, Friday and Saturday between 6.00pm to 10.30pm from 2 August 2018 to 29 September 2018. Chef Widdy is also coming up with a special wagyu beef sushi menu that will feature the premium beef cooked different ways – from charred to grilled, and served medium rare. If you’re dining there in the coming weeks, you can put your money on the wagyu beef sushi with wafu and miso dressing, which can be ordered separately from their ala carte menu.

Enju, Pullman Kuala Lumpur City Centre Hotel & Residence, 4 Jalan Conlay, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, +603 2170 8888

Nobu Kuala Lumpur
Fret not, Chef Philip Leong has not gone anywhere. Nobu Kuala Lumpur welcomes a new Head Sushi Chef Micheole Anung Dator. Nicknamed ‘Chico’, the Philippines-born chef has 11 years of work experience in Japanese cuisine, including nine with Nobu.

He started in Nobu Lanai, Hawaii for five years before training under the tutelage of Head Sushi Chef Toshiyuki Shiramizu of Nobu Malibu for the last four years. And for the next two years (at least), he will be stationed in the highest Nobu restaurant in the world, right here in Kuala Lumpur.

Chef Chico
Chef Chico is spearheading the sushi department in Nobu KL. (Credit: Nobu KL)

Nobu KL celebrates the arrival of Chef Chico with a special ‘Sushi Bar Omakase’, a vintage Nobu-style omakase with a touch of his exuberant flair and amiable personality. This one-of-a-kind dining will allow diners and fellow gourmands to get up close and personal with this super animated chef as he makes everything on the menu from scratch right in front of you.

Prepare yourself to be entertained and blown away by the flair and finesse showcased through the 10-course sushi omakase menu (RM388++). The dinner is now available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at a specially crafted sushi bar, which is limited to only 11 guests per session.

Tuna tataki dish with Peruvian-inspired dressing and flavours.
Tuna tataki dish with Peruvian-inspired dressing and flavours. (Credit: Nobu KL)

Expect nothing less than impeccably fresh and premium ingredients including scallop, kinmedai (golden eye snapper), sea urchin, yellowtail and o-toro. Shiso leaf is also used to base the sushi and add a touch of saltiness.

Sink your teeth into a trio of yellowtail jalapeno with garlic puree and yuzu soy sauce, kinmedai with miso and garlic, and bluefin tuna with wasabi salsa and konbu sauce. Another sensational dish is the seared kampachi, sweet shrimp (with its crispy head), charred baby corn and rolled daikon with veggies.

Toro tartar with caviar is one of Nobu KL’s signature dishes but with the sushi omakase, you don’t know what you’re going to get. (Credit: Nobu KL)

“Nobu is known for our signature contrast between Japanese and Peruvian flavours,” Chico explains as he plates up the Hokkaido scallop sushi, which is served tiradito style, with dehydrated soy sauce, yuzu and a piquant Peruvian pepper paste. Next, he demonstrates (with a blowtorch) the charring of the bluefin toro, topped with caviar and finished with mizu yuzu dressing. Watching the diners enjoy his creations, Chico quips: “That’s how I like my toro too.”

Nobu Kuala Lumpur, Menara 3 Petronas, Persiaran KLCC, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur, +603 2164 5084

Meet the 3 new chefs bringing their own flair to KL’s Japanese restaurants

Martin Teo


Martin has a bent for history and food culture, especially of the Peranakan heritage. Since the pandemic, he finds joy in plant parenting and continues to expand his collection of Philodendrons, Anthuriums, and Syngoniums. On his free time, he finds time scouring through the latest cafes in search for the best croissant in the city.


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