Kintsugi Robatayaki @ Petaling Jaya

April 15, 2018

At our favourite new Japanese restaurant of 2018, a combustible combination of passion and prowess lights the spark for something invigoratingly special. Chef Yau and his energised team take the traditional barbecue-style craft of robatayaki and make it their own, serving creative contemporary concoctions cooked over Malaysian mangrove charcoal. From succulent tuna belly with wakame to smoky bacon with timur berries, this is a meal that's meant to be sumptuously shared and savoured.

Before the grilling gets going, check out Kintsugi's ever-evolving selection of specials to start for the evening. You might uncover broad-ranging specialities such as Japanese red prawns, delicately complemented with grapes and sake jelly (RM32), and house-made bacon, thick-cut and terrific-tasting, sprinkled with Sarawak pepper, completed with unexpected choices of vivacious dips that may comprise plum chutney and Hungarian honey (RM20).

From the main menu, Kintsugi shines brightest for full-bodied meat - the grilled chicken thigh roulade with truffle sauce, leeks, charred cauliflower and broccoli is a sure-fire winner that the entire table will enjoy (RM18), while the the Iberian pork collar may be one of the pricier offerings, but it merits the expense, executed to irreproachable juiciness, made elaborately nuanced with companions of umami-rich dried miso dust, pecorino cheese, cabbage and Hungarian honeycomb (RM52).

Overall, Kintsugi keeps costs reasonable, in line with its location at one of PJ's older neighbourhoods. Even a typically budget-busting order of unagi won't break the bank here - grilled eel, its richness balanced with the crisp tang of kimchi and apples, clocks in at RM27. Assorted seafood also proves wallet-friendly, from white prawns with ponzu, spring onions and grated maple radish (RM25) to squid in a sultry sauce (RM20) - small plates that score substantial points for freshness and flavour.

Vegetables are far from an afterthought at Kintsugi - we ended up ordering every available meat-free recipe, simply because each one sounded unmissable. Gallons of thought, care and effort are poured into the grilled eggplant with yogurt, miso soil and extra virgin olive oil (RM13), pumpkin with feta cheese, kaiware sprouted radish seeds, onions and pine nuts (RM19), buttery potatoes with garlic and Japanese herbs (RM8), sweet corn with caramelised mushrooms and Korean chilli miso (RM10) and baby romaine lettuce with shimeji and creme fraiche (RM14), the rare sort of rabbit food that's fulfilling on multiple levels.

Even rice bowls convey distinctively unconventional dynamics; one delicious don on the recent shortlist of specials came topped with tako and ohba leaves, well-proportioned for both the grains and octopus, rounded out with burdock roots and miso soup for an elegantly soulful ensemble (RM28). 

A hot dessert bowl of sweet potatoes with grass jelly, plus glutinous rice cakes on the side (RM15), ensures that dinner concludes on a consistent high note. While chef Yau is Malaysian, he brings the full force of his extensive experience to Kintsugi, which includes a yearlong stint of professional cooking in Japan, so his kitchen does uncompromising justice to the culinary benchmarks set by his peers in the Land of the Rising Sun, fuelled by equally solid produce and technique.

Service is affable and attentive throughout, targeting a casually pleasant experience for patrons. Wine and sake are expected to be in stock within weeks; the upcoming bar is also working on a shochu mix or two. All in all, Kintsugi Robatayaki feels like a labour of love that deserves immediate recognition, despite its discreet first-floor locale (currently without a clearly noticeable signboard) on this less-travelled shop-house street.

Kintsugi Robatayaki
9A, First Floor, Jalan SS4C/5, Taman Rasa Sayang, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. 
Open Thursday-Tuesday, 6pm-11pm (closed Wednesday). Tel: 03-7887-8298

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