March 12, 2019
Exactly six springs ago, we encountered chef Hideaki Oritsuki for the first time at KL's Sushi Hinata in March 2013; much has changed in many of our lives since then - chef Ori-san himself left Sushi Hinata a long time ago, moving on to launch Oribe in December 2014. While Sushi Hinata and Oribe both endure, their founding father has once again decamped to a new venue - Sushi Ori, bringing back classical Japanese cuisine to Bukit Bintang's Menara Keck Seng.
With scarcely a dozen seats here, the sushi counter is often packed, even on weeknights. Although there are private rooms within the restaurant, the counter is the place to be - chef Ori remains a charmingly genial presence whose graciousness lights up the room; after serving thousands of Malaysians, the native Nagoyan has become increasingly confident in his interactions, chatting with customers about everything from his sleeping habits (he wakes very early, thanks to his longtime custom in Japan of visiting the morning fish market) to the provenance of the produce that he consistently prepares with cheerful enthusiasm.
Omakase (RM512 for dinner; other options, like sushi-focused meals, are offered too) is the route to take, traversing the breadth of chef Ori's four decades of experience, spanning raw and cooked dishes to sushi, his shimmering centrepiece.
Seasonality is, naturally, the star of the selection; with winter barely behind us, this has been the best time for everything from tuna to yellowtail. Fresh, finely tuned flavours and full-bodied textures pop in every mouthful, from luscious Miyagi oysters to briny-sweet Toyama squid, encapsulating the essence of why Japanese seafood is so revered.
Chef Ori's sushi is delightfully distinctive, drawing its roots from Edo-style sushi - the shari (sushi rice) is mixed with red vinegar, fragrantly prepared by brewing sake lees, resulting in a flavour that's subtly deeper and more seasoned but still mellow enough to marry harmoniously with the seafood. The melt-in-the-mouth chutoro, the delicate dance of shrimp with sea urchin, the fabulously fatty engawa - it's true that each piece will have you wishing you could visit Sushi Ori once every week.
Decadent dishes like the shirako (cod milt) and ankimo (monkfish liver) and a beautifully conceived, clam-filled miso soup prompt us to ponder: Where will chef Ori be in another six springs from now? If we're fortunate, he'll still be in KL - through the most recent course of his career, he's become our city's most beloved sushi chef for so many, earning the respect of everyone who's ever enjoyed a memorable meal at Sushi Hinata, Oribe, and now, Sushi Ori.
Unit PG-01,Ground Floor, Podium Block, Menara Keck Seng, Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur.
Open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for dinner. Tel: 03-2110-0068
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