Finding a great-quality Japanese restaurant to dine at, and one that your wallet agrees with you, is quite difficult these days, what with the fluctuating petrol prices in Malaysia.
Before you sigh and walk away, there is a cozy little place in Bangsar that might change your mind. Of course, do remember that anything can induce a gut-wrenching total bill if you don’t practise the ‘moderation is key’ mantra. It’s still worth paying them a visit.
My parents and I, my husband, my sister and her husband took a trip to Hana Tei, a snug little eatery in Lucky Garden located on the same row as Nam Chun Restaurant (Kedai Makanan Nam Chun) and Sun Huat Kee Restaurant (Kedai Makanan Sun Huat Kee). Both Chinese hawker restaurants are on either end of that row.
It’s easy to find seeing as they have a huge sign on the front that says, ‘HANA TEI’, all lit up at night. You really can’t miss it.
The place was a little packed that Sunday night and the only available tables were those that seated four. The waiters offered to combine both tables for the six of us. As a result, families of four who came in either had to wait for a table to be freed up or potentially leave to find another restaurant.
Service was a little slower compared to the two nights ago when my dad had gone there for his dinner. But the wait was, again, worth it. Each of us were given a menu that was unbearably thick (think of your college reference textbooks!) and filled with pages of various authentic Japanese items on both sides.
The food arrived fresh and cold (the latter for certain dishes), hand-made and prepared upon ordering, the slices of raw sashimi were nice and thick (as shown in the menu), the two bowls of beef udon noodle soup arriving hot and steaming in front of my husband and my sister’s other half.
Here, let me give your tastebuds a nudge in the right direction and show you what the six of us had that night for dinner.
We kicked off our epicurean adventure with some mixed greens tossed in wooden bowls. The avocado salad (top) and the salmon sashimi salad (bottom).
Both came with two types of dressings each — apple cider vinegar and roasted sesame — pink radish, cherry tomatoes, leafy greens, cucumber slices, seaweed, salmon sashimi, and avocado.
It was certainly a refreshing touch for the senses.
Normally, I’d order a chirashi don (a bowl of rice with mixed raw sashimi) or a serving of cha soba (cold green tea buckwheat noodles). That night, I decided to go for something different.
A stone plate of salmon rolls with omelette cubes, avocado and seaweed. Thin slices of cold, fresh salmon were neatly placed on top of the rice cubes, complemented with a small dab of mayonnaise and a sprinkle of ebiko (shrimp roe).
It was so good I could have gone for seconds!
For the rest of us to share, my dad ordered a trio of raw sashimi. Five thick slices of tuna (maguro), yellowtail (hamachi) and salmon (can be spelled as sake or shake, depending on which restaurant you go to).
Apparently, there is a difference in the spelling and pronunciation of the word sake as one can mean either salmon or Japanese wine. One thing is for sure, though, is that the menu didn’t lie! Each slice was as thick as what you’d see on the page for raw sashimi.
Grilled squids aren’t our regular orders when we’re on our sushi excursions as some restaurants tend to overdo the grilling, resulting in a rubbery and chewy cephalopod.
That night, my mum thought otherwise. Grilled squid drenched in sweet teriyaki sauce. We took a ring each and bit into it. It broke off easily and the act of masticating was a delightful sensation!
Needless to say, the squid was a grill well done!
There is nothing more that would please my dad than a plate of perfectly grilled beef. He hadn’t wanted to join the temaki (Japanese hand roll) crowd so he chose this for himself. Grilled beef to medium with a pour-over of teriyaki sauce and a side of fried garlic.
We usually have this at Rakuzen, another Japanese restaurant in Bangsar, and it had been the best place to eat it. But Hana Tei one-upped them by preparing this really well. Each cube wasn’t too chunky, juicy and succulent with each bite, and it wasn’t tough or chewy!
Most places tend to overdo the medium bit and would often result in a scene where you could chew over a hundred times and still not be able to cut through the meat. Hana Tei was different. Even my sister agreed that it was better!
Our last order for the meal was the softshell crab temaki or hand roll. Well, at least this was for my husband and I, while my mum, my sister and her husband had the California hand roll.
Ever wondered how the California roll got its name? Discover its origin here.
The seaweed wrapper was fresh and crunchy, breaking off with each bite we took. Again, not every restaurant respects the crunch in the seaweed. Some places can have such weak seaweed that you’ll end up in a wrestling match with your hand roll!
That Sunday night was my first visit to Hana Tei and it didn’t disappoint. A good and solid first impression which I hope it would replicate if I ever went back for a second round.
The delivery of the orders was slow only because of the crowd. Otherwise, the staff was polite and professional, alert whenever we needed a refill of hot water for the teapot. Since the place tends to fill up at peak periods, you may want to call in advance and make a reservation. By the time you arrive, your table is ready and you’re all set to order!
Hana Tei also has branches in Cheras South (Selatan) and Kajang. If you live within proximity or in those areas, just know that Hana Tei has your back when it comes to satisfying your cravings for Japanese food!