Sakana

Special thanks to Sakana Sushi Bar & Cuisine for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

My previous visit to Sakana Sushi Bar & Cuisine has unequivocally convinced me that the new management is completely different from before. The dining experience here has improved by leaps and bounds, drastically more rewarding than ever.
Not contented to settle for the status quo, Sakana has been introducing new menu items from time to time. My visit to Sakana today is to sample its "burgers" which were introduced a fortnight ago.
How exactly do burgers fit in a Japanese restaurant, one might ask. Let's talk a look at one of the two available choices: the Ramen Burger (ラーメンバーガー, RM18.90).
Unlike a typical burger, the "bun" layers are made from ramen (ラーメン) noodle made in pancake form. To achieve this, ramen noodle is first boiled until it is cooked, then kept frozen in a cylindrical mold to set the shape in place. Upon ordering, the frozen block of ramen is drenched with beaten eggs and grilled with intense heat until it is golden brown. The eggs serve as a form of adhesion to hold loose noodle strands in place.

The "patty" of this burger is the main highlight of this dish. In my humble opinion, this piece of minced pork is seasoned to scrumptious perfection; I can hardly imagine how something can be better when it is already ideal. I think Sakana can go far with this delicious meat patty; just have to be creative in using it.
The patty is paired with a slice of cheddar cheese, tomato and cucumber slices, lettuce leaves and salad cream.

On the flip side of the coin, the ramen noodle pales in comparison to the patty. Considering the fact that no seasoning is used, the ramen is rather bland in taste. If ramen is eaten with the patty, this is a non-issue. But this question remains inevitable because the entire stack cannot be consumed in a single bite. I believe some flavoring, such as ground pepper, can add some flavor so that the ramen stands on its own right.
In terms of texture, the ramen is slightly moist as it is cooked by boiling in hot water. I prefer the ramen to be drier when it is served as part of the burger, and if possible, with some degree of crisp. This is a case of Catch-22 because boiled ramen requires sufficient moisture to be soft enough and set in shape. It is also difficult to eliminate moisture during the grilling process, since too much heat will cause the shape to disintegrate.

Unfortunately, I do not have an answer to this problem. On a positive note, Sakana's chefs have a real mission to work on.

The other new burger on Sakana's menu is the Soba Burger (蕎麦バーガー, RM20.90), which I feel is the better among the two. Instead of ramen, the "bun" layers are made from soba (蕎麦). Soba is made from buckwheat instead of regular wheat, therefore it has coarser texture and has certain degree of gastronomical appeal. This explains why soba is typically used for cold Japanese noodle dishes, but not the case for ramen.
The "patty" and other sandwiched ingredients in this Soba Burger are identical to that in the Ramen Burger, so I shall spare you the "agony" of listening to my endless plaudits - which I feel is well-deserved anyway.
Nevertheless, the issue regarding lack of taste and excessive moisture in the soba lingers on, just as in the case of ramen. Sakana needs to address this problem to pull this dish through.

Since my previous visit, Sakana has revised its main food menu several times. One of the many dishes which I did not encounter before is the Sakana Kushi Pizza (サカナ串ピザ, RM18.90).
Instead of dough, the crust is made from grilled sushi rice, which is then given a crispy layer of batter coating in hot oil. Each order of Sakana Kushi Pizza comes in two pieces; using diced raw salmon (サーモン) and diced raw tuna (マグロ) respectively as toppings. Cheese is also added on top and briefly molten using a blow torch. The pizza is then topped with scallion and seaweed (海苔) strips for aesthetic appeal.
The taste of this pizza is significantly dominated by the rice crust. Don't get me wrong: The crust itself is light on the mouth and has a distinctively lovely composition. However, the presence of raw fish on top is virtually unnoticeable. This makes the pizza taste more like a rice cake than anything else.
I believe more cheese should do the trick. Or perhaps with a light layer of wasabi (山葵) cream spread. Or anything which makes the toppings more pronounced than the crust below.

Venturing into adventurous territory, the Beef Tataki (牛肉たたき, RM19.90) is another delicacy during my visit today. How does eating raw beef sound to you? If you are skeptical about this, welcome to the club.
At Sakana, the beef is first marinated with salt and pepper, then allowed to set for a couple of hours. Next, the marinated slab of beef is "cooked" by freezing. When ordered, the beef is allowed to thaw slightly, then cut into thin slices using a meat slicer. The thin slices and semi-frozen state suppress any "raw" sensation which people associate with raw meat.
The beef slices are surprisingly delectable. With each bite, meat juice is released to provide a nice sense of savory appeal. The beef also pairs well with dipping sauce made from coriander (コリアンダー). The refreshing mint flavor adds a different level of enjoyment to this dish of raw meat.
Like before, Sakana provides free parking for 2 hours at the multi-level building across Hutton Lane. Bring along your parking ticket to be validated at Sakana.

Name: Sakana Sushi Bar & Cuisine
Address: 252, Jalan Penang, 10000 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 013-946-9796
Business hours: 12:00pm-11:00pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sakana-sushi-bar-and-cuisine/147047928794150
Coordinates: 5.41887 N, 100.33156 E
Directions: Drive along the one-way Jalan Hutton towards Jalan Penang. Located halfway between the intersection with Jalan Transfer and with Jalan Penang, car park is available in the green multi-storey building on the left. Sakana at the intersection with Jalan Penang, on the right side of Jalan Hutton.

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