Tsubohachi seeks to offer the full spectrum of an izakaya-inspired experience in KL, striving to blend a kaleidoscope of Japanese flavours with courteous hospitality in a casual, exuberant setting. The restaurant has its roots in Hokkaido, with a parent company that reputedly spearheaded some 300 outlets in Japan, Thailand & Singapore over the past four decades.
Soul food to share is the cornerstone of the sweeping menu; snack on a few dishes first, then keep ordering more. Start with meat & carbs - crispy-juicy, flavoursome cuts of chicken thigh, impeccably deep-fried (RM13.90) & a thick-&-tender, teppanyaki-cooked minced chicken patty, topped with a creamy onsen egg (RM12.90), plus potatoes, sliced & served sizzling on a savoury hot-plate with mozzarella, mayo & mentaiko (RM13.90) or mashed into sticky-starchy mochi cakes (RM8.90).
No lack of yakitori, of course - the staples are accounted for, with neck-to-tail fowl dining. 'Seseri' skewers (RM7.80 for two) are a should-try, with neck muscle meat that supplies a bite straddling the line between succulent & crunchy. You'll also find everything from liver (RM7.80) to thigh with leeks (RM7.80) but our heart belongs to 'bonjiri' (RM7.80) with its fulfilling fattiness.
We're also fans of the fried flounder, triumphantly executed with beautiful, delicate flesh & brittle-enough-to-chew bones (RM42.50). The grilled atka mackerel (RM52.90) offers plenty of meat too, simultaneously firm & supple; its stronger, saltier-fishier flavour might make it a little less crowd-pleasing, but it's effective enough if you partner it with an abundance of alcohol.
Traditional 'kamameshi' is also available - rice cooked at the table in oven pots, ideally consumed communally. There's a 20-minute wait before you can eat this, but the result is steaming-hot comfort fare, with smoky-fragrant rice crowned with, say, a seafood mix of king crab legs, scallops & salmon (RM36.90), or with unagi, chicken or assorted mushrooms. But if you prefer to enjoy the lusciously fresh purity of the king crab on its own, you can have it steamed instead, claypot-style (RM52.90).
Stomach-warming stews & soups - pork belly & Chinese cabbage, layered to evoke mille-feuille, will feed at least two to three patrons (RM29.90), while the salmon soup is intended to invoke Hokkaido traditions, with a miso-based butteriness (RM19.90).
There's absolutely something for everyone - veggie acolytes can graze on a bowl of fermented soybeans, ladies' fingers & pickled radish, with a raw egg & squid for a wholesome protein punch (RM18.90) or a bountiful ramen salad, its noodles heaped with lettuce, leeks, onions, cucumber, carrots, cherry tomatoes, eggs, bacon & sesame dressing (RM16.90). Seafood disciples may wade into a selection of grilled sting ray (RM12.90) & squid tentacles tempura with okonomi sauce (RM15.90).
Here's one for the children & the young-at-heart - nagashi somen, the summertime treat of thin, wheat-flour noodles, plopped into a fast-moving circular flow of icy water with vegetables. The playful point is to pluck them out of the swirl with your chopsticks (which can be trickier than expected) in order to eat them, dipped at the final stage in shoyu on the side. RM27.90.
Desserts furnish a refreshing chill; our favourite's the vanilla & green tea ice cream with red beans hidden under thin rice cakes (RM14.90). Other temptations include the yuzu sorbet (RM9.90) & frozen cream rolls wrapped in green tea crepes (RM14.90).
And what's an izakaya without thirst-quenchers? Tsubohachi meets the mark for intoxication, with an array that spans Asahi 'sub-zero' beer (RM25.80 for 1/2 pint), lots of sake (which can be served in masu boxes) & fun cocktails (check out the Grapefruit Sour, a combo of shochu, soda & fresh grapefruit for RM17.80). Many thanks to Tsubohachi for having us here.
A2-UG1-9, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur. Outside Publika, above Ante. Daily, 1130am-3pm, 530pm-late. Tel: 03-6206-5526
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