Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Brunei Restaurant Review: Ikura Japanese Restaurant

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Ikura Restaurant is located at Gadong Central, just right opposite Yugo BBQ and Shabu Shabu and AP Ayam Penyet. Recently, Ikura introduced us their new sushi chef and let us tried their signature dishes.

 

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Frequent visitors of Japanese food around Brunei might recognise the chef ~~~ say hello to the new sushi chef of Ikura!

 

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Here are some pictures of the ambience ~~ dimmer lighting and comfortable settings.

 

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From another angle in the restaurant ~~

 

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They have VIP rooms for special occasions and more privacy

 

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To start your meal, I always prefer to begin with lighter items such as sashimi or sashimi salads, this is the sashimi salad which features a combination of sashimi slices served with their in house salad dressing.

 

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This is their Sake (salmon) carpaccio, sliced salmon sashimi served with Japanese dressing

 

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Now on to the specials - this is their signature Scallop Cheese Maki, which is fried battered scallops, topped with in house creamy sauce, cheese and sushi rice. People with big mouths like me love to just have this in one bite! Ladies might have to take smaller bites ~~ haha ~~ A dish that is unique to Ikura and one of my favourites in this restaurant.

 

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Another yummy scallop dish which is their hotate cheese yaki ~~ grilled scallops on shell with a cheesy sauce.

 

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This is their Ika Sugatayaki – grilled squid in their special marinate – to me it’s good on its own and doesn’t need the dipping sauce ~~ good texture and flavour.

 

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Ebi Cheese Maki – tempura prawns maki drizzled with cheese sauce. For those who love cheese ~~ this is the sushi for you!

 

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This is their Sake Nagai, which is salmon nigri sushi but with a longer tail ~~ reminded me of Japanese style fish lanterns ~~ beautiful ~~

 

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Chicken Karoke – mashed potatoes with chicken shaped, breaded and fried ~~ mmmmmn

 

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Their Volcano Maki resembles a volcano sushi oozing out saucy lava goodness ~~~ a sweet tangy sauce to go with the maki sushi.

 

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One of their top sellers is the Tokyo Maki – which is crispy salmon makis topped with sliced unagi ~~ *Swoons* who can resist salmon and unagi together?? ITADAKIMASU!!

 

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Ami-yaki which means "net grilling" is a popular Japanese style cooking method in which meat, fish, or vegetables are grilled on a wire net over a high flame or red-hot coals. Check out this Lamb Chop Amiyaki from Ikura Restaurant ~~

 

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Drools ~~ gotta love grilled lamb chops ~~~ they also have Wagyu Amiyaki but I didn’t get to try it yet. Do give other amiyakis a shot.

 

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This is their Ebi Tokyo Cheese – but I jokingly tell the boss this should be called Angry Bird – Doesn’t it look a bit like angry birds to you?

 

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Ebi Tokyo Cheese is a bit like the chicken karoke but stuffed with cheese and prawn ~~

 

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There’s just something pleasing about Omu-rice ~~~ I saw this on the menu and had to try it ~~ OmuRice with Curry and Soft Shell Crab ~~~ how can you resist?

 

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Ikura management is quite confident with their ramens and udon noodles and recommended this Tori Katsu Curry Udon to me since I am a big fan of Curry Katsu. Yummy breaded chicken chop served with a soupy Japanese curry broth. I quite like the taste but my friend prefers it thicker just like the curry rice but this is a good change of pace for me. Do give their ramens a shot if you dine in here.

 

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They have two types of Japanese Pancake (Okonomiyaki) – Plain and Salmon one ~~ I probably will try the salmon one next time ~~~ looked good ~~ mmmmmm

 

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For those who love the kick of wasabi – try out their ebi wasai mayo – fried crispy prawns drenched in a wasabi mayo sauce with a strong kick!

 

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For their drinks and desserts – they do have quite a Western influence ~~ such as slushies and smoothies. This is the macha mango slushie ~~ a very interesting combination ~~

 

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Chocolate brownie with ice cream ~~~ what a way to end your Japanese meal ~~ but wait ~~ the most epic dessert is about to come ~~

 

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In all my culinary years of makan makan – I’ve never been so happy to be served such an ice cream – one you would never believe to be seen in a Japanese restaurant – the Durian Kuning Ice Cream – so epic – any durian lover will go nuts over it ~~~ naturally we all voted this dish of the night! LOL ~~~ *oits it’s a Japanese restaurant – focus on the Japanese food pls!*

 

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Do pop by Ikura and give their new sushi chef’s Japanese food a try. This is your friendly neigbourhood foodie signing off ~~~

Monday, October 13, 2014

Brunei Events: Healthy Pop Up Dinner at The Energy Kitchen

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The Collective Arts Events recently joined forces with The Energy Kitchen to organize a healthy pop up dinner just for last Sunday night.

 

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Wu Chun, the co-owner himself was there to offer his support for this event – focusing on healthy eating and living.

 

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Lovely artistic decor by The Collective Arts Events ~~

 

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You gotta love the decor and the chalkboard work drawn by @mujahidjohar & @cristina_nance

 

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The table settings have calligraphies of the guests on envelopes, to put our payment for the dinner, it’s more of a donation basis and you can give more if you want to.

 

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I did what the food paparazzi would do and snuck into the kitchen to get the chefs for a group photo in the kitchen before the main event. Ready to go! Here we have @theenergykitchen @hip_and_healthy @pandachu and@prontobrunei so please follow then on Instagram!

 

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The menu for the night ~~~

 

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My dining companions for the night – SocMed group at the centre – it' was good to catch up and share our views on the dining experience. @emmagoodegg @maurina and @marul69 Big Social Influencers in Brunei. Be sure to follow them on IG if you haven’t yet!

 

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Pictures of some of the guests during the healthy pop up dinner – quite a diverse crowd we got here!

 

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The first two Amouse Bouche – in front of you is the Umai, an Asian ceviche by @hip_and_healthy which has a strong kick but lovely tasting fish to start our meal. Some might feel it’s acid too overpowering but I’m fine with it. The vegan zoodles and coodles by @pandachu are actually zucchini and carrot strings tossed with a sesame dressing and I enjoyed the good crunch to it – I have to say I like this and I’m tempted to buy the tool to make my own versions in future. A good start to the dinner.

 

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Chefs making their rounds and introducing their dishes while asking feedback from the diners

 

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For appetizers, we started with the sesame wholewheat flatbreads with pistachio and parmesan crisp, we liked this for its sharp crisp flavours and textures but one thing we felt could improve was the temperature – it felt like it was prepared in advanced and not warmed up properly before it was served. A good appetizer despite that but could had been better.

 

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These colourful  sweet potato and potato gnocchis are baked and served with a Thai basil pesto and lime aioli. It has a good crisp outer texture but again – the let down is the temperature of the dish – same reason as the previous one  which can be improved with better warming up of this dish– the aioli while it does have the pesto flavours, doesn’t reflect the texture of a creamy aioli.

 

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Last of the appetizers were these buckwheat pumpkin ravioli which were supposed to be slightly seared in coriander oil but to me I think it’s not executed properly and the chefs did apologized for it. I couldn’t taste the coriander and the texture is slightly rubbery – though the pumpkin filling is alright but due to the way the ravioli’s cooked, was a tad too oily. This was my least favourite of the three.

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The appetizers for this event is prepared by @prontobrunei – they have good ideas for the appetizers and I think that to cater for the huge crowd, the appetizers were prepared beforehand and when it was sent out from the kitchen, wasn’t warmed up properly. It will be a good lesson to take in for these talented home chefs.

 

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The Energy Kitchen presented a reinvented a healthier version of our iconic dish the Nasi Lemak! They replaced the coconut rice with a coconut milk infused cauliflower 'rice", made a healthier miso sambal, cashew nut crusted baked chicken breasts, and replaced the acar n nuts with a mango ginger flower salad and walnuts! It was very good daring effort to make a traditionally unhealthy comfort food to a guilt free main meal!

 

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For me – I think one common opinion was the temperature of the food again – which is more on the lukewarm side – I think if it came out hotter – this dish would taste a lot better. The chicken breasts were slightly dry to me, lacking the juicy goodness of a good fried chicken but I do enjoy the cashew crust (which would be better of course if it was hot). The coconut infused rice had a slight hint of coconut scent but it needs an extra oomph to it .. though I quite like the idea of not having guilty sinful carbs and I think this ‘rice’ has promise if executed well. Some didn’t like the ginger flower in the mango salad while some liked it while the miso sambal lacked the punch of the traditional sambal for me. Overall – it’s definitely a healthy meal – it has promise in terms of taste – which can be improved in my opinion – and I’m looking forward to version 2.0 of this dish after this feedback.

 

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I didn’t realize we looked dead serious while taking food pics ~~ LOL ~ now on to the desserts!

 

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For desserts, @hip_and_healthy presented a refreshing lemongrass calamansi sorbet which would go well at parties with some added oomph.. wink wink – if you know what I mean. The sorbet was semi melted when it arrived at our table and we had to shoot the pic quickly. It was a shame that it ended up becoming icy shots but we enjoyed the taste and kick! This is something that can be improved upon in future when it comes to serving a big crowd from a hot kitchen.

 

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@pandachu presented these spoonfuls of jasmine and honey tea jelly served with a dragon fruit puree. For me – the tea jelly despite having honey in it, the bitterness was too evident to complement the dragon fruit puree. Something just doesn’t work here for me – and my dining companions agreed,

 

DSCF7550 . @pandachu made amends with a very delicious durian panna cotta with almond crisp and I remembered she was looking for fresh durian on FB before. Good points for a yummy dessert using a local fruit. I wouldn’t mind more of these~~ picky critics might say how does this fit the healthy theme though but forgave it because it tasted yummy ~~ unless you’re not fond of durian

 

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Last but not least is a rich dessert from @hip_and_healthy these healthy vegan coconut hazelnut crunch.. without flour, dairy and sugar but made from coconut cream and cashew butter and sweetness from dates!!! Texture and taste wise, I really enjoyed it - *confession* I actually had two of these (stole it from Marul ~ lol) but I think these are an acquired taste for some who might not like it but it’s a thumbs up to this dessert for me.

 

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Overall, I quite enjoyed the night and I look forward to more events like these in the future. I think it’s understandable that it’s the first time these home chefs worked together in a kitchen to produce a four course meal for about 50 guests – there are some things that can be improved – especially with the execution of the food, which obviously must work well during trials for smaller numbers but difficult to replicate to a big crowd. However, it’s easy to be on the table, tasting and commenting but cooking for a big group can be a challenging process and I do take in the fact that they’re not experienced chefs working day in and day out in the kitchen and I think they will learn a very valuable life lesson from this and improve!

 

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I must say well done to the organizers and chefs for the night and give yourselves a pat on the back! It’s good to have something like this from time to time and it is a refreshing dining experience from the usual we have.

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