Kizuna

Special thanks to Kizuna for extending this food review invitation.

Tucked within one of the intermediate rows of Bay Avenue is Kizuna Japanese Restaurant (絆). The Japanese kanji "絆" means "to bond", which was coined in the wake of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake which caused a sense of togetherness within the island nation.
At Kizuna, meals are presented à la russe, which means that each course is served sequentially. The restaurant places strong emphasis on taste, quality and presentation, making Kizuna one of the few upscale Japanese restaurants in Bayan Lepas.
The food menu covers over 300 different dishes, including over 20 choices of teishoku (定食, set meal). Set lunch is also available on weekdays, and the number of choices total to 30 different types. Most restaurants do not offer such many choices for set lunch due to costing considerations.
It is customary to start a Japanese meal with cold dishes. The Sashimi Salad (刺身サラダ, RM25.90) contains raw slices of salmon (サーモン), surf clams (ホッキ貝), octopus (たこ) and squid (いか). Before eating, black sesame dressing (胡麻ドレッシング) is gently poured over the sashimi salad.
Another popular alternative is the Soft Kani Karaage & Shake Kawa Salad (ソフトカニから揚げと鮭皮サラダ, RM23.90). This appetizer features Japanese blue crabs which were harvested during shell renewal. As the new shell has yet to harden, the entire crab is edible.
In addition, scrumptious flakes of deep-fried salmon skin is included to enhance the lovely mouthfeel of this salad. This dish is served with Wafu dressing (和風ドレッシング), a vinaigrette made from soy sauce, vinegar and vegetable oil.
As for sashimi (刺身), Hokkikai Sashimi (ホッキ貝刺身, RM35.00) is one of the favorite ones. An order includes six pieces of surf clams, which have leathery yet delightfully tender texture. Surf clams are usually harvested from saltwater farms in Hokkaido (北海道).
Another delicacy from the cool seas of Hokkaido are scallops, which are also farmed to meet increasing demand. An order of Hokkaido Scallop Sashimi (北海道帆立刺身, RM40.00) comes in four juicy slices, each topped with lovely salmon roe.
Shake Sashimi (サーモン刺身, RM30.00) is a crowd favorite owing to salmon's oily and tender flesh. Served as five slices per order, this sashimi uses Norwegian salmon which are usually raised in aquaculture farms. Compared to Pacific salmon, salmons from the Atlantic Ocean tend to have more fat content, which is a desired attribute for sashimi.
For orders of two or more, sashimi is presented elaborately at no extra charge. Real seashells are specially procured merely to serve as garnish. On the other hand, mock flowers are used to avoid pollen allergy among some customers.
The next dish is nothing short of gratification too. The Ikura Sashimi (いくら刺身, RM45.00) features juicy pearls of salmon roe, resting on a nest of shredded daikon (大根), which is in turn placed within slices of cucumber. Cucumber serves to balance the saltiness of roe. This is not the usual presentation; salmon roe is normally served on a single large piece of cucumber like a vessel.
Maguro Tataki (鮪たたき, RM23.90) is made from fresh tuna fish from Maldives. First, tuna is pan-seared very briefly so that it is only slightly cooked. The fish is then cut into thin slices and then seasoned with ginger to remove fishy odor. Tuna slices are then topped with ponzu (ポン酢) sauce, which is made from rice vinegar (酢), mirin (味醂, rice wine), katsuobushi (鰹節, smoked skipjack tuna) and kombu (昆布, seaweed).
One of the most eye-captivating dish today is the Caterpillar Maki (キャタピラー巻き, RM25.90). As the name implies, this maki sushi (巻き寿司) is made in the likeness of caterpillar. Scallion (spring onion) forms the "feelers", spicy sriracha sauce (ซอสศรีราชา) resembles its "legs", and uniformly-cut pieces look like "body segments".
Cooked shrimp serves as centerpiece of this sushi roll. Sushi rice is topped with avocado, mayonnaise and drops of sriracha sauce. Besides aesthetic appeal, this dish is also quite delectable due to the cooling effect of avocado topping.
Next on the line is Sayori California Roll (サヨリカリフォルニアロール). Sayori, also known as halfbeak, is a silvery fish with an elongated body and a lower jaw which protrudes significantly longer than its upper jaw. A handful of salmon roe is placed on top of each sayori slice as icing on the cake.
The roll itself contains tamago (玉子, sweetened omelette), crabstick (カニカマ), mushroom and cucumber. Shrimp roe (えびこ) serves as outer coating, giving slight saltiness and provides visual appeal. The roll and toppings are meant to be eaten separately.
Prepared in aburi (炙り) style, the next sushi is Unagi Cheese Roll (鰻チーズロール, RM25.90). Here, thin slices of freshwater eel and cheese on top the roll are roasted using a blowtorch. White and black sesame seeds are showered on top, while wasabi (山葵) and pickled ginger (ガリ) are provided on the side.
As far as noodles are concerned, Kizuna places emphasis on ramen (ラーメン). Among the most popular choice is Kizuna Kyushu Ramen (絆九州ラーメン, RM19.90). Hailing from the southern island of Kyushu (九州), the tonkotsu (豚骨) broth is made by stewing pork bones for several hours so that it becomes rich and savory.
Other ingredients that are used with ramen are sliced pork (チャーシュー), onsen tamago (温泉卵, soft-boiled egg), narutomaki (鳴門まき, fish cake), menma (メンマ, fermented bamboo shoots), hijiki (鹿尾菜, Japanese sea vegetable), nori (海苔, seaweed sheet), sweet corn, bean sprouts and chopped scallion.

The Kizuna Tobanjan Nibuta Ramen (絆豆板醤煮豚ラーメン, RM20.90) uses the same tonkotsu broth and similar ingredients as the previous dish, but also includes doubanjiang. Doubanjiang is made from fermented beans and has salty and spicy taste. The ingredients are mixed thoroughly such that the soup acquires moderate spiciness.
For even spicier experience, try the Kizuna Spicy Pork Mayo Miso Ramen (絆スパイシーポークマヨ味噌ラーメン, RM19.90). Popularized in Hokkaido, miso broth is made from fermented soy beans and is inherently salty. To spice things up, minced pork and broth are both made spicy too. While I do enjoy this dish, I feel that the level of spiciness may be excessive for people who are not acquainted with it.
Moving on to more exotic dishes, the Hokkaido Scallop To Caviar (北海道帆立とキャビア, RM60.00) is a delicacy specifically crafted for the heavens. While scallops release their lovely juices within each bite, the yolk of lumpfish caviar stimulates the savory senses of my palate. Traditionally, the term caviar is used for sturgeon roe exclusively. But today, caviar also refers to roe from other fish such as salmon, trout and lumpfish.
From the teppanyaki (鉄板焼き) section of the menu, the Teppan Jumbo Prawn (鉄板ジャンボエビ, RM50.00) is an interesting choice indeed. Scrumptious shrimps are grilled on an iron griddle, then elegantly presented in a cocktail glass. Spicy ginger sauce (生姜醤油) is provided to enhance the flavor of shrimps.
Foie Gras And Black Cod (フォアグラと銀鱈, RM95.00) is one of the most exquisite dishes at Kizuna. Foie gras, which means "fat liver" in French, is made from livers of geese which have been deliberately fattened. Preparing foie gras is one of the most taxing tasks in the kitchen because it requires undivided attention. The amount of heat must be perfect in order not to melt delicate fats in the liver. If prepared nicely, foie gras has butter-like texture and a unique, refined flavor.
Foie gras is served over a succulent fillet of black cod, which is in turn rested on several slices of radish. Special sauce is poured over the dish to accentuate the overall flavor.

Moving on, Enoki To Tenderloin Beef With Truffle Oil In Garlic Sauce (榎とテンダーロインビーフとトリュフオイルとニンニク醤油) is one of Kizuna's specialties that are not included in the regular menu, but are only prepared upon customers' requests. Premium grade Australian tenderloin beef and juicy enokidake (榎茸) mushrooms are stacked on top of each other in alternating fashion. Tenderloin is the tenderest section of the cattle, therefore it is highly-sought by fine dining restaurants.
As for sauces, truffle oil and garlic sauce are used to provide complementing flavors. Although the beef is almost rare, heat from sauces makes the meat slightly done. Meanwhile, plump shiitake (椎茸) mushrooms are presented on the side to raise gastronomical indulgence to greater heights. It is worthwhile to note that fatty oil released from beef dissolves in neither truffle oil nor garlic sauce, therefore it appears as distinct jus on the plate.
Soup is served as finale of our meal. Salmon Kabuto Nabe (鮭の兜鍋, RM29.90) is an ideal choice here. The soup is made from the same tonkotsu broth as several ramen dishes, but is also simmered with one-half salmon head to acquire sweetness from the fish. The resulting soup is very rich in taste, just the perfect way to conclude a satisfying meal. Meanwhile, basil leaves and scallion are used to serve as counter-balance to this savory dish.
"Kabuto" refers to helmets worn by samurai warriors during feudal Japan. While sushi and sashimi only use the body of salmon, this soup is traditionally intended to put salmon head to good use. However at Kizuna, this soup has become so popular that salmon head is occasionally in short supply, and needs to be sourced separately.
Despite the elaborate food menu, the beverage menu and desserts menu are deliberately crafted to be simple. Nevertheless, the restaurant provides several types of sake (酒) and shochu (焼酎) as requested by Japanese customers. As a wine enthusiast, there are also red and white wines from the owner's personal collection.
Name: Kizuna Japanese Restaurant (絆)
Address: C-9-1, Lorong Bayan Indah 3, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-638-3491
Business hours: 11:30am-10:30pm (Monday-Friday), 12:00pm-10:30pm (Saturday-Sunday)
Website: https://www.facebook.com/KizunaPenang
Coordinates: 5.33760 N, 100.30736 E
Directions: Kizuna is located at Bay Avenue, in the middle of an intermediate row of shops. The restaurant faces Lolipot directly, and is on the same row as My Voice Cafe and Journey 2 Life. Although Bay Avenue has ample parking spaces, finding a vacant spot can be challenging on weekends. Fortunately, Kizuna customers may double-park and borrow a contact card to be placed on the dashboard.

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