KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — Started in January this year, Kakiya Umihiko at Solaris Mont Kiara has been on my radar for some time.
Their concept is interesting since they celebrate a bounty of Japanese fresh oysters ( Fun fact: Kakiya means oyster house in Japanese).
You also have their "Tokyo-Italian" style cuisine that stretches to pastas, risotto, appetisers, main dishes and desserts.
The flavours of the pasta is a little different from the usual spots since it's the Japanese interpretation of Italian classics, or with the utilisation of Japanese ingredients. Most of their diners are Japanese with some locals too.
The place is operated by Chef Taka, who once ran JKissa Cafe at AEON Big Subang Jaya. Regulars from the Subang Jaya cafe will recognise some of his signature dishes here like his Spicy Taco Rice and his decadent Gateau Au Chocolat.
Pair your creamy oyster with their mignonette sauce for a hit of red wine vinegar and chopped onions (left). Nibble on Oyster and Mushroom Ajillo with focaccia cubes tapas style for a starter to your meal (right).
When they first opened, they kicked off with a promotion for their Oyster and Mushroom Ajilo for a mere RM5 versus RM59 on the current menu. That certainly got the attention of diners.
Start off with one of their oyster platters. On the menu, there's a choice of three oyster sets. You will find they list the oysters' origins so maybe a little research prior to your visit is needed to figure out what type of oyster you want to try.
Personally I find it quite fun to just try the various types and make your own decision based on your tongue.
The first set features oysters from Hirota Wan at Iwate Prefecture, Uchinoumi, Naruto at Tokushima Prefecture, Onagawa at Miyagi Prefecture and Yamada Wan at Iwate Prefecture.
The second set lists down oysters from Itoshima at Fukuoka Prefecture, Matsumoto at Nagano Prefecture and Konagai at Nagasaki Prefecture.
Just before you walk in to the restaurant, you get to see what varieties of oysters they serve here.
There's also an oyster of the day. Prices range from RM15 to RM35 per piece. The platter has six pieces but you only pay for five oysters as they throw in one oyster for free.
You also have fresh scallops that are served three different ways. Select from sashimi, grilled with soy sauce butter, or cooked in a cheese gratin.
There's also the best of both worlds where you can enjoy a mix of oysters and scallops platters to share. You can get 10 pieces of oysters with a mix of varieties and two scallops for RM240.
A smaller platter has five pieces of oysters and one scallop for RM130.
I sampled the first set (RM175 for six pieces or RM35 per piece) which came with labels so eating each oyster was a great adventure to find out which one I liked the most.
The Hokkaido Sea Urchin Tomato Cream Spaghetti uses a rich, creamy tomato sauce with lobes of fresh sea urchin to give it a hit of briny flavours.
Out of the three types I sampled (they had run out of one type), I really enjoyed the Tokushima oysters for its creamy, milky texture with a nice briny taste.
You will find the Japanese oysters have a cleaner taste with just a hint of brininess that makes it a pleasant starter for the meal.
You're given three sauces (red cocktail sauce, cucumber sauce and mignonette) to pair with the oysters. My favourite is the classic red onion mignonette with just a hint of red wine vinegar to bring out the flavour of the oysters.
Purists can go for just the lemon juice squeezed from the lemon wedges served on the side.
Of course, one must try their famous Oyster and Mushroom Ajillo. It's a Japanese take on a Spanish tapas dish that uses olive oil, garlic and anchovies.
Move over cream based Carbonara pasta lovers, as this Roman style version with Kenkori egg yolk, black pepper and smoked duck is packed with flavour.
The twist is the use of soy sauce to give it a slight saltiness rather than the stronger tasting anchovies. It's a mild tasting dish that is ideal for sharing and mopping up all that olive oil with bread.
You get pops of briny flavours from the oysters and the mushrooms also go well with the whole ensemble to give it an umami kick.
I was most interested in their pasta dishes. I had to try the signature Hokkaido Sea Urchin Tomato Cream Spaghetti (RM64) which is a chef's special. Here the tangy tomatoes are muted down with cream to give it a sweeter and richer taste.
Savour the lobes of sea urchin with the pasta as it adds a hit of saltiness with each bite. Other pastas in this category include a Hairy Crab Tomato Sauce Linguine and their Special Seafood Spaghetti Umihiko Style with either olive oil or tomato sauce.
The menu offers a selection of olive oil, tomato or cream-based pastas. The types of pastas range from spaghetti, linguine, pappardelle, bucatini and penne.
From their lunch set for this week, you get a fresh tasting pasta with dill, fish flakes, fresh tomatoes and lady's fingers.
There's also three types of risotto. The pastas and risottos feature Japanese ingredients like burdock, Hamaguri clams, shungiku (edible chrysanthemum) and wasabi leaf. You also have their Japanese oysters.
Some items are classics like Penne Arrabiata, their take on Bolognese, Japanese Neapolitan or their Carbonara done Roman style.
As the place is pork free, they swapped bacon in the Carbonara for smoked duck for an umami, salty hit of flavour. As it's a Carbonara style approved by the Italians, don't expect your pasta to be drowning in cream.
Instead, the pasta gets its richness and creaminess from Kenkori egg yolk with a generous sprinkle of black pepper. It's truly happiness on a plate, if you appreciate this type of Carbonara, as you slurp down each egg slicked strand with a hit of black pepper and saltiness from the smoked duck. The pasta is priced at RM47.
Their pasta prices range from RM26 to RM88. The most basic Spaghetti Aglio Olio with Peperoncino is RM26 while the Special Seafood Spaghetti Umihiko Style is RM88.
The decadent Japanese Oyster Creamy Macaroni Gratin brings back Yoshoku vibes with that rich pasta.
Some may feel the prices are on a higher side but what I observe for my orders is the portions for the pastas are quite substantial. You can get filled up with ordering just the pasta or even share a portion with a small eater.
I will be happy to try more of their pasta items and the risotto as some flavour pairings definitely got me curious like burdock with oysters, or risotto with oysters and wasabi leaf.
If you're watching your wallet, sample their lunch set to get a feel of the Tokyo-Italian flavours and whether it suits your taste buds. It's available from Tuesday to Saturday.
They offer two special pastas. Things can be rather fluid here as earlier, it was a weekly rotation but now it seems to be on a two weeks rotation.
The pasta set is RM28 and it is served with a cup of soup and focaccia. This week, there's a choice of Fish Flakes, Fresh Tomatoes, Ladyfingers and Peperoncino with Fresh Dill, or Chicken Thigh and Colourful Capsicum Tomato Stew Spaghetti Roman Style.
Dig inside the gratin for hidden treasure in the form of briny oysters.
I tried the fish flakes one and enjoyed its fresh, clean flavours with that distinct dill flavour. If you're not a fan of the grassy flavour of dill, this may not be your cup of tea.
The lunch menu also has various dishes like the Japanese Oyster Creamy Macaroni Gratin for RM23 or the Spicy Taco Rice for RM20. There's also a Po'Boy and French potato for RM20.
You can also add on their salad plate and appetiser for RM12 that gives you a taste of their starters from the menu. There's their tangy Saba Nanbanzuke, a Fresh Mozzarella and Fruit Tomato Caprese, and Fresh Fish Carpaccio on the plate.
The lunch is served with cups of hot, yummy minestrone soup with focaccia cut into cubes.
I do love my Yoshoku food, partly due to watching anime like Restaurant From Another World, so I had to try the macaroni gratin.
You get four pieces of oysters hidden inside the creamy depths of the pasta, which gives you an umami kick. The sauce is a mild tasting milky one that is best to be eaten quickly when hot. What I liked was how it included assorted vegetables to balance out the sinfulness.
Don't forget to end your meal with the Tiramisu (RM18). This classic Italian dolce always rocks my world so I am happy to discover this is definitely one of the better versions in town.
Who can resist that coffee soaked sponge mixed with creamy mascarpone? There's also their Gateau Au Chocolat, Basque Cheesecake and ice cream too.
For lunch, you can sample their Salad and Appetizer Plate to get a feel of their starters.
When dining here, do manage your expectations though, as service tends to be quite basic here. It will be hard pressed to get recommendations from their staff though as I reckon, they themselves don't have much exposure to the menu.
However you can get by if you study the menu. Just tick off on the paper what you want to order to make it easier for the kitchen to process your order properly.
One word of caution here is they tend to cook their pasta a little softer here to suit local preferences. If you're like me and prefer the pasta to be al dente, just ask them to get the chef to cook it a little "harder."
Street parking is limited so find a space at Solaris Mont Kiara's underground parking and walk across to the restaurant.
They run various dining promotions so follow them on social media to catch the latest. For the month of March, dine-in customers get discounts depending on the number of diners.
Tiramisu here is my go-to dessert with its coffee soaked sponge and creamy mascarpone.
It ranges from 10 per cent discount for two diners, 15 per cent discount for four diners to 20 per cent discount for eight diners.
16, Jalan Solaris 3, Solaris Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur. Tel:03-62112700. Open: 11.30am to 3pm, 6pm to 11.50pm. Closed on Monday.
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