Monday, March 23, 2015

A Fusion of Japanese at Azuma

A member of the Edo Ichi, or currently known as Right Potential group of restaurants, Azuma is one Japanese specialty restaurant operating under this big umbrella, which is the parent to a range of many others.

Azuma Japanese Restaurant started its operation on the first floor of Queensbay Mall, Penang almost a decade ago, when the mall first opened its doors to public.
It was pretty popular with the locals, unsurprisingly, at a time when the flavors of Japanese food and the likes of chain outlets are making their way into the local market and contributing to the surge in the growth of these Japanese-themed food industry.

I have only been to this restaurant like a couple of times; most of the time due to the eatery being selected by my Japanese food lover friends.
Well, I am one myself, but somehow, I have always preferred other restaurants.
I blame it on my picky tastes with food, and my tendency to stick to the comfort food zone; frequenting restaurants which I have personally marked as my favorites.

It has been a long time since my last visit, and the revisit was intended to refresh my memory on the selection they have here, and probably as I was hoping to deviate a little (just a little) from my usual haunts.

I have always thought of this as one of those specialty restaurants, due to the presentation of the image of the restaurant from the outside and also that dimly lit "barely seen" environment of the interior as one walks past the entrance which gives it that factor of mystique and class.
The idea of a sushi conveyor belt, or kaiten, running around in the middle of the restaurant will not appear in my mind for a specialty restaurant.


There it was, in Azuma, right there, staring at me in the face.
To be honest, there was that little element of surprise as my impression of the restaurant was suddenly torn between the category of fast food or sushi chains and the specialty cuisine style.
Yes, and all because of the special appearance of a conveyor belt.
The kaiten did all that.
It messed up my mind in a jiffy, and after I have entered the restaurant.
I could have turned on my heels and head out I suppose, but I was a little lost in thought and dazed yet fueled by that curiosity, I simply had to find the answer to the offerings of this restaurant and uncover for myself the identity actually depicted by the place.


Oh, let's just give that benefit of doubt to the people working hard at rolling the sushi by hand, and preparing all the orders in the kitchen.

Started with an appetizer of Turban shells with Okra (Lady fingers) -MYR15.00


The turban shells are unique, and I was again curious though I was a little skeptical with the name and also the idea of having shells; partly because I am not a fan of shells despite my professed love for seafood (shells somehow never made the equation, they don't fit in) and then I was again dumbfounded by the sight of the peculiarly shaped shells when they arrived.
Obviously the plate was laden with more lady fingers than the first named specialty of the dish, though I will not say it was not a good thing either, but the peculiar shape of the shells are well grounded since they are directly named due to that shape resembling that winding cloth making up the headwear (originating from Persia) worn mostly by the men in the Sikh community.
I am not the adventurous type; I am not going to say that I was fascinated by the sight (refer back to my earlier comment on my relationship with shells).

The turban shells are not your typical species of clams, or so I almost thought, for they are a species of sea snails.
Yes, read that, Snails.
I am sticking to the lady fingers, thank you very much.

We ordered this on our own will, but I will leave these turban snails, I mean shells to the other one and just make sure I have my share of the okra, which was just stir fried before drizzling them with the pleasant and light tasting sweet sourish and thin hint of chili gravy. The natural viscid texture of the lady fingers lent and blended well to create a slightly more treacly combination in the gravy, yet not appearing too gooey at the same time.
It was a subtle mixture and is simply alluring, leaving it hard to resist as one would subconsciously take one bite after another, and another.

As for the snails, or shells, I am going to need therapy at the thought of it, so I will leave to ignore the photos or that I even ordered this before. Enough said.
Don't ask me, I have no recollection of this.


The name of the next dish; has momentarily vanished from my memory, and perhaps it was a little (too) salty to our liking.

Stir fried udon with diced chicken, assorted vegetables, one or two shrimps and a few slices (or broken tentacles from a squid) make up this.
I just remember it being salty, which was quite a pity because it definitely look really good in its appearance when it arrived (and even now in pictures), but you know what they say about high sodium in your diet, so sorry, I have to pass on this.


My regular favorite, Salmon Teriyaki (MYR20) was slightly more expensive than most of the versions I have had in other Japanese chain or specialty restaurants, and I could not help but compare this with the others I have had.


Thinner by definition, the fillet was quite frankly, not meeting what I usually would like or even what I had in mind. The sheer amount of the teriyaki sauce did not do much to give the salmon fillet the flavor it deserved, though the only thing which saved it was that it was not overcooked.
I think it was quite nicely done, but it could have been slightly better.
It is one of my personal favorites, not to mention regular, and I definitely have set slightly higher expectations for this wherever I go. Yes, even when it's homecooked.
I am perhaps a little salmon-crazed?

Anyway, our dining experience at Azuma was not too bad and do not be disheartened, it could be my personal tastes which may differ from yours.


I would say the food here displayed significant signs of the intermarrying of both the Japanese style and also a little local tastes injected into cooking and preparation of the food, making it more of a fusion rather than purely Japanese.

It is something that I have observed evident in most of the local Japanese restaurants, especially among the chains, though there are still a few outlying (and outstanding) restaurants which have differentiated in their own presentation and obedience to the authenticity of the cuisine origins.

It is creativity, perhaps innovation, but there is always something to suit everyone, isn't there?
One man's meat can always be another's poison.

After all, the charm that lies in that culinary sector is all about experimenting and getting creative with all that there is.

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