Yoshinoya Hanamaru

Special thanks to Yoshinoya Hanamaru for extending this food review invitation.

Since the opening of Yoshinoya Hanamaru in Sunway Carnival Mall 4 months ago, this Japanese quick service restaurant has opened a second outlet in Gurney Plaza. The restaurant concept is an amalgam of Hanamaru Udon (はなまるうどん) and Yoshinoya Japanese Kitchen (吉野家), which are independent restaurant chains in Japan.
This colocation concept allows customers to purchase food from both menus on a single receipt. The Malaysian franchise holder of both brands is Texchem, the very same company which also operates Sushi King chain restaurants.
To streamline the ordering process, customers are asked to place their orders at the start of the queue. Most dishes are prepared in a matter of minutes, so customers can wait in line to collect their orders. Along the way to the cash register is the tempura (天ぷら) station where customers can pick their favorite deep-fried items.
In Japan, Hanamaru is a popular udon (うどん) chain restaurant. For this Gurney Plaza outlet, udon is made at the central kitchen in Sunway Carnival Mall. Hanamaru's udon is made from scratch using special wheat flour that is imported from Japan.

One of Hanamaru's bestsellers is Ontama Beef Bukkake (温玉牛肉ぶっかけ, RM14.80). This is the cold version, where cooked udon is chilled in iced water for several seconds before serving. The result is springy noodle with unique cooling effect on the lips. The word "bukkake" (ぶっかけ) refers to the blanching of udon with hot broth; In Japan, this word does not carry sexual connotations.
Apart from udon, the main appeal of this dish is the beef. Cut into thin slices, the beef is tender and juicy, culminating in pleasant mouthfeel that makes it quite enjoyable. Also included is onsen tamago (温泉玉子), where the egg is cooked in simmering water such that the yolk remains runny. According to the staff, Japanese customers are fond of adding grated ginger to udon. Ginger is provided upon request and without extra charge.
Customers who prefer heavier flavoring should check out the Spicy Miso Udon (辛肉味噌鶏だしうどん, RM12.80). This dish uses miso broth which is prepared from fermented beans and chicken stock and kelp (昆布). Meanwhile, spicy ground chicken is too salty if eaten directly, but works well when mixed thoroughly in miso broth. The level of spiciness is moderate by Malaysian standards.
Like the previous bowl of udon, this dish also includes an onsen tamago. Customers who fancy crispiness can also help themselves with tempura flakes at the condiments station.
Udon is often enjoyed with tempura (天ぷら). Deep-fried items in Hanamaru's menu are karaage (からあげ, RM3.80), prawn (えび天, RM4.80), squid (いか天ぷら, RM4.80), enoki mushroom (えのき, RM2.80), fishcake (かまぼこ, RM3.80), chikuwa (ちくわ, RM3.80) and sausage (ソーセージ, RM3.80).
Kakiage (かき揚げ, RM4.80) is made from julienned pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato, long bean and onion. A soft-boiled egg forms the finishing touch. I enjoy the natural sweetness of these vegetables and the fact that its crispiness does not feel greasy in any way.

As for Yoshinoya, the menu largely includes teishoku (定食) and curry rice (カレーライス). Nevertheless, Yoshinoya's iconic dish is the Beef Bowl (牛丼, RM11.80). The bowl of rice is topped with succulent beef slices and onions. Flavored with sweet sauce made from dashi (fish and kelp stock), the overall taste is pleasant indeed.
The Beef Bowl includes an onsen tamago. I like to mix the runny egg with rice. As suggested by the staff, it is advisable to add beni shoga (紅生姜, pickled ginger) and a light sprinkle of shichimi togarashi (七味唐辛子) - a suggestion which I agree. In fact, this is how people enjoy Beef Bowl in the Land of the Rising Sun.
As for teishoku, Ontama Spicy Chicken Katsu Set (温玉スパイシーチキンカツセット, RM18.80) appears to strike a chord with the local palate. This dish features is a piece of deep-fried chicken cutlet, flavored with sweet-savory sauce with moderate degree of spiciness. Onsen tamago is added to the top. This set meal comes with shredded cabbage, rice and miso soup (味噌汁).
As for drinks, free-flow Green Tea (お茶, RM1.50) is available. Hot and iced versions are available at the dining area. Overall, I feel that Yoshinoya Hanamaru's menu is quite varied and appeals to my palate. Last but not least, it is important to note that Yoshinoya Hanamaru is a pork-free restaurant.
Name: Yoshinoya Hanamaru
Address: 170-B1-37, Plaza Gurney, Persiaran Gurney, 10250 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: N/A
Business hours: 10:00am-10:00pm
Website: http://www.yhmalaysia.com
Coordinates: 5.43794 N, 100.31000 E
Directions: Yoshinoya Hanamaru is located at the Basement level of Gurney Plaza, next to Seoul Garden and Sangkaya. Gurney Plaza has basement and multi-level parking garages.

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