To Kai Ya

Special thanks to To Kai Ya for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

The former location of Sakana Sushi Bar & Cuisine is now being operated by To Kai Ya (渡海家). This new Japanese restaurant is located at the intersection between Penang Road (Jalan Penang) and Hutton Lane (Jalan Hutton).
For most part, the dining section of To Kai Ya remains similar to its predecessor. However, the kitchen section has been sealed off, which means that To Kai Ya has discontinued the open kitchen concept.
To Kai Ya is operated by an enthusiastic entrepreneur whose family loves Japanese food. His business partner, who is also the Executive Chef, has several decades of experience in this line. Although his area of expertise is sushi (寿司), the menu at To Kai Ya includes mainstream dishes such as bento (弁当), teppanyaki (鉄板焼き) and donburi (丼物).

The Extreme Roll (極度なロール, RM25.00) is one of the chef's signature creation. While a typical maki roll only contains one or two fillings, the Extreme Roll has six: tempura prawn, salmon, butterfish, egg (玉子, tamago), crab stick (カニカマ, kanikama) and cucumber.
The Extreme Roll is coated with shrimp roe (えびこ, ebiko). Shrimp roe is preferred over fish roe (とびこ, tobiko) when preparing sushi because the former is not so salty.
Another not-so-mainstream sushi at To Kai Ya is the Volcano Roll (ボルケーノロール, RM18.00). This delicacy is made from rice balls (おにぎり, onigiri) with salmon and tuna flakes on top. The rice balls are then covered with Japanese #1 Sauce and reheated with a torch. This gives the appearance of lava flowing down the slopes of an erupting volcano.
On top the "volcano" are leek strips. Leek is fried such that its appearance resembles katsuobushi (鰹節). Some preserved ginger (ガリ, gari) is provided on the side.

If sashimi (刺身) is your cup of tea, To Kai Ya has a wide selection to satisfy your appetite. For today's review, we are presented with an assorted platter of salmon (鮭, sake), butterfish (白鮪, shiro maguro), tuna (鮪, maguro) and scallops (帆立, hotate).
I particularly enjoy the fatty salmon slices. This is Norwegian (Atlantic) salmon as opposed to Pacific salmon. The former lives in colder waters, therefore has a fatty mouthfeel which is preferred when preparing sashimi.

Next on the dining table is a plate of Soft-Shell Crab & Salmon Skin Salad (ワタリガニと鮭の皮サラダ, RM19.00). Soft-shell crab is deep-fried so that its crust becomes crispy and edible. The crab is best enjoyed while it is still hot.
Since To Kai Ya purchases entire salmons and does the cutting in-house, salmon skin is often a by-product. Instead of discarding outright, To Kai Ya reuses the salmon skin for this salad dish. I must say that I love the delightful crisp with each bite! In fact, I find the salmon skin more gratifying than the soft-shell crab!

The salad base consists of iceberg lettuce, cucumber and tomato. The tangy salad dressing is Wafu dressing (和風ドレッシング) mixed with mayonnaise (マヨネーズ).

The next dish to be featured is Saba Shioyaki (鯖の塩焼き, RM43.00). The unique texture of mackerel (鯖, saba) makes it a popular fish for Japanese teppanyaki (鉄板焼き); the other being mackerel pike (秋刀魚, sanma). For better flavor, the mackerel is cooked using sea salt in lieu of mineral salt.
As a maritime country, Japan is blessed with an abundance of exotic seafood, such as the Pacific flying squid. Surume Ika Maruyaki (スルメイカ丸焼き, RM28.00) is a delicacy featuring this squid.
First, the squid is seasoned with teriyaki sauce, then grilled to golden perfection. When done, the body is cut into manageable pieces and seasoned with more teriyaki sauce. The texture of the cooked squid is just right: not too rubbery nor soggy.
Ebi Tempura (海老天ぷら, RM22.00) is an obvious crowd pleaser. Fresh shrimp is coated with batter, then briefly dipped into a wok of hot oil to cook. Timed properly, the batter forms a layer of light crisp without feeling too greasy.
To Kai Ya provides two types of dipping sauces for the tempura. The lighter one is slightly sweet, but I personally prefer the other one with richer soy flavor.

Moving on to rice dishes, Takana Chahan (高菜チャーハン, RM13.00) is a dish of fried rice featuring two types of pickled mustard (高菜). Short grain rice is cooked one day ahead and is left overnight to allow the rice to "set". Upon order, rice is wok-fried in individual portion to produce the desired "wok" aroma.
Meanwhile, Ninniku Chahan (大蒜チャーハン, RM8.00) another fried rice dish which uses lots of garlic. This explains its lovely fragrance when served. In fact, I enjoy this fried rice dish appreciably more than the previous one.
In the near future, To Kai Ya is planning to carry a number of alcoholic beverages, such as shochu (焼酎) and sake (酒). The management is also exploring new concepts such as limited-time sushi bonanza. These promotions will be announced in due course.
The entire upper floor above the restaurant is an apartment suite available for rent. There are 5 bedrooms with a double bed in each. This allows around 10 people to live comfortably here.
The common area consists of a large living hall with a comfortable couch, coffee table, television, mini library, board games and a partitioned smoking area. In addition, there are also two bathrooms, a wet and dry kitchen and washing machine for the convenience of vacationers.
This fully air-conditioned unit is available for RM500.00 per night for check-ins on Friday and Saturday, and RM450.00 per night for other days of the week. Reservation can be made through Airbnb. Guests can enjoy special discount when dining at To Kai Ya.
Name: To Kai Ya (渡海家)
Address: 252, Jalan Penang, 10000 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-261-2801
Business hours: 11:30am-2:30pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm, closed on Mondays
Coordinates: 5.41889 N, 100.33156 E
Directions: To Kai Ya is located at the intersection between Penang Road (Jalan Penang) and Hutton Lane (Jalan Hutton). Street parking is available along Hutton Lane and Dickens Street (Lebuh Dickens), but parking spaces are very limited. Alternatively, customers can park at the multilevel parking on Hutton Lane. Remember to bring the parking ticket to To Kai Ya for 2-hour rebate when paying the bill.


  1. a bit expensive le

    1. Haha, let's try once first to decide whether the quality and taste justify the price. :-)