Chomp on chochin: Salt & Fire keeps the flame burning for kushiyaki cravings in Cheras

June 21, 2023

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Sparks fly as Salt & Fire's head chef Min tends the binchotan grill, where a lip-smacking lineup of everything from negima to nankotsu is cooked over charcoal, serving sumptuous sights and scents for kushiyaki enthusiasts.

True to the restaurant's name, salt and fire, savouriness and smokiness, can be relished in every succulent bite of Min's repertoire, a testament to his burning passion for this cuisine.

Min is Myanmar-born but has lived in Malaysia for nearly two decades, spending much of the last 10 years as sous chef under the guidance of his mentor Furukuwa-san at Solaris Dutamas' Toritama yakitori specialist.

At Salt & Fire, Min leads his own brigade to do justice to centuries of Japanese culinary traditions, showcasing one of KL's most comprehensive selections of skewers.

From crowd-favourite cuts to offbeat offal offerings, the coveted chochin to the gorgeous gyutan, iberico pork to wagyu beef, Miyagi oysters to shishito peppers, Salt & Fire whips up all the wonders we want from a kushiyaki restaurant in KL.

Beyond skewers, you'll find irresistible izakaya-style staples, spanning oden to tori karaage, often with Min's tantalising twists (lapcheong-laced gyoza, anyone?), plus customisable lunch sets that deliver delightful value and variety for donburi devotees.

Cooking with intent, integrity and impeccable instincts, Min has much more up his sleeve, with more unique skewers and special sauces imminent. But there's no reason to wait - Salt & Fire is already bustling now, especially in the evenings.

This is our second visit to Salt & Fire since it opened in April. Serving both lunch and dinner, its has fast become one of our favourite kushiyaki joints in the Klang Valley, worth travelling to in one of Cheras' calmer neighbourhoods.

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With warm, welcoming wood tones, Salt & Fire feels like a sanctuary for kushiyaki lovers. 

It's a family-friendly space, with residents from homes nearby strolling in during the evening and weekends.

Reassuringly for a grill-based kitchen, Salt & Fire has tip-top ventilation, so customers can remain comfortable throughout their meal and leave feeling clean and free of smoke.

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Before indulging in yakitori, pick a couple of poultry-based snacks and soups to start with while Min prepares your skewers.

The Tori Senbei (RM8) is a crackly treat - these resemble rice crackers, but they're chicken crackers, with a tasty meaty resonance, house-pounded and fried in Salt & Fire.

The Chicken Soup (RM12) is soothing for the soul, simmered for five hours with a rich mix of chicken feet and bones, resulting in a deep flavour and creamy texture, balanced with Japanese leeks, yellow onions, mixed vegetables, garlic and ginger for a one-of-a-kind beautiful broth.

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Every time we explore Salt & Fire, we order multiple servings of the relatively rare Chochin (RM13): Unfertilised egg yolks, still attached to fallopian tubes, as full-flavoured and luxurious-textured as their bright orange hue promises - plump, runny pleasure that bursts on the palate, skewered with chicken liver and meat for a hall-of-fame decadent classic.

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Yakitori lovers will find all the prime poultry parts for neck-to-tail eating, from addictively crunchy chicken soft bones to alluringly gelatinous boneless feet.

The selection starts at a super-reasonable RM4 for the Kawa (skin) and Hatsu (heart), climbing to RM5 for the Sunagimo (gizzard), Leba (liver), Momiji (boneless feet) and Bonjiri (tail). Also available are Sasami (fillet), Negima (thigh and leeks), Nankotsu (soft bones), Tsukune (tender, textured meatballs), Tebasaki (middle wings) and Seseri (neck).

What sets Salt & Fire apart is Min's diligence and determination to also offer intriguing cuts like the awesomely juicy Obi (RM13; a must-try), Togarashi (half-muscle) and Tokkuri (lower neck), each with its own distinctive character.

Every cut merits an order - Min ensures the produce is fabulously fresh poultry, cooked with a clean char that supplies sultriness without overpowering the purity of the protein. Salt & Fire's own roasted powder and mala powder lend a subtle spice and umami for extra seasoning.

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Beyond chicken-based yakitori, the kushiyaki choices comprise wagyu beef, plus gyutan beef tongue, iberico pork collar and belly, and lamb. Crush your carnivorous cravings here.

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From crustaceans to molluscs, Salt & Fire's seafood section spotlights firm, springy squid; luscious prawns; smooth scallops; and our two favourites, melt-in-the-mouth gindara cod fish and naturally briny-sweet Miyagi oysters (a brilliant bargain for RM12 per oyster).

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For fibre and fungi, feast on vegetables like ladies' fingers, shishito peppers, Japanese leeks, cherry tomatoes, and shiitake and eryngii mushrooms. Inari tofu pockets layered with cheese are also a fun choice.

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Customers who love Salt & Fire's kushiyaki but need a fast, fulfilling lunch can check out the Donburi Set Lunch (RM25-RM38, depending on the choice of skewers).

The donburi is blanketed with minced chicken and a customisable choice of three skewers, such as skin, heart, gizzard, liver, boneless feet, chicken fillet, thigh and leek, middle wing, soft bone, neck, iberico pork collar, iberico pork belly or pork belly with shimeji mushrooms. 

All the sets comes with a complimentary mini salad, miso soup, green tea and vanilla ice cream with a gentle soy glaze, making them a hearty deal with well-rounded nourishment. 

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Once you've had all the skewers your heart desires, the rest of Salt & Grill's menu beckons - terrific tori karaage (RM15) for fried chicken fans, oden brimming with boiled egg, daikon, konjac and fishcakes in delicate dashi broth (RM26), handmade gyoza, expertly blistered, with a surprise in the stuffing, tinged with bits of lapcheong to enhance the ground pork (RM20), and yaki onigiri, rice balls with a pronounced grilled crust, to satisfy carb cravings too (RM7).

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Salt & Fire
33, Jalan Jintan, Taman Supreme, 56100 Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.
Open Monday, Wednesday-Sunday, 11:30am-2:30pm, 6pm-11pm. 
For reservations or private functions, WhatsApp 011-6161-2828

FB: facebook.com/saltandfirekl  
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