“Are you sure you want to eat there?”
“Why wouldn’t I? I hear the food’s good.”
“I have no doubt in that. It’s Hunk-san’s place after all. But it’s your birthday, wouldn’t you prefer some place fancier?”
It’s funny how quickly everybody assumes that I’m a food snob with high taste just because I write about food. Truth be told I’m easily satisfied when it comes to matters of the stomach. I can tolerate most eating environments and I consider myself quite daring when it comes to trying exotic dishes as long as the food taste good. The only thing I just can’t tolerate is BAD food. Seriously, is that too hard to ask for? A pre-requisite which hardly needs to be bestowed upon a snobbish title.
Two evenings later, after a grueling month at work, I found myself in the dark backalleys of Plaza Faber in Taman Desa with 3 other makan friends staring at Hunk-san’s new venture with wide eyes. Like an odd mirage out in the dessert, this tiny “gerai makanan” (food shack in english) was a surreal image. Its little signboard hanging out of its side was fuss-free but hardly nondescript, it spelt out exactly what the place was all about: “Gerai Makanan Japanese BBQ.”
For the uninitiated, Hunk-san is Mr. Seiji Fujimoto, who is also the owner of the most sexy udon store in the whole of KL – Sanuki Udon, which happens to be located around this neighborhood too.
Under the red lights of its iconic akach?chin lantern, all 8-tables were taken up by mostly of Japanese clients with warm sake in one hand and ice-cold Asahi beer in other, hovering patiently around a plastic fold-out table as they wait for their meat slices to cook on the shichirin grill. Our eyes were quickly drawn to another corner where a trail of flickering ember dramatically rose to the sky as a worker prepared a new batch of ogatan (traditional charcoal briquettes made from sawdust) for another table, using an electrical table fan. As we looked in disbelieve at the reality of this whole scene – felt like we warped through space and time and found ourselves in Tokyo – the patrons turned around and stared right back at us with yakuza-like dagger eyes. I think they dislike how we have just intruded their secret hideout.
Yakiniku (???), literally meaning “grilled meat”, is a Japanese term which is used in the broadest sense to refer to grilled meat dishes. But do not confused this with yakitori, which often refers to grilled chicken (and other form of meats) on skewers – which was served at last year’s birthday celebration. Once thought to be a variant of galbi dishes modified by Korean living in Japan, this style of cooking using bite-sized meat and vegetable on griddles over flame of wood charcoal is now widely accepted as Japanese BBQ.
In this yakiniku restaurant, diners could order several types of prepared raw ingredients including beef or pork r?su (loin and chuck slices), karubi or baraniku (short ribs), butabara (pork belly), offal, liver, beef tongue, chicken and a few more variants available from their singular A4 page menu. The ingredients are then cooked by the diners, several pieces at a time, on a grill placed in the middle of the table throughout the duration of the meal. You can choose to either dip the cooked pieces into a sauce mixture of Japanese soy sauce, sake, mirin, sugar, garlic and sesame or just eat it on its own, as they are typically marinated with salt.
You can also choose to start your meal with an order of Lamb Jingisukan (Japanese-style Mongolian hotplate), and savour on tender pieces of lamb which were very well-marinated. We also ordered the curious Offal Meet Soup, made mostly of tripes and innards slow cooked for hours in a radish soup with plenty of vegetables. You may also want to try the Rice & Egg bowl – Japanese rice, topped with raw egg and drown with the same delicious offal soup gravy. Down this all with a bottle of Ozeki sake, which only cost RM16!
I can now see why the other patrons were so protective of their little secret supper club.
No birthday celebrations would have been completed without a slice of Fatboybakes‘ cake, which Kenny and his Devil has kindly arranged for in their warm home. The droolsome Salted Caramel Chocolate, complimented with the Diva’s freshly brewed coffee was the perfect way to chill out for the rest of the evening. The night ended with sweet smiles, hearty laughter and a gift suited for Le (not so) Petit Prince.
No.1, No.2, and No.3 – thank you for the wonderful evening.
Gerai Makanan Japanese BBQ
Center Court, Plaza Faber,
Jalan Desa Jaya, Taman Desa off Jalan Klang Lama,
58100 Kuala Lumpur.
Business Hours: Opens everyday, from 6 p.m until whenever the last customer leaves.