Perhaps it was only natural, in a slightly warped way, that a childhood delight of visiting aquariums would translate later on in life to unabashed glee when presented with a chilled wooden box starring the “catch of the day” by the itamae-san of any good sushi-ya. The itamae-san, literally translated as “in front of the board”, that is, the board upon which fish is sliced before it anoints a piece of perfectly vinegared sushi rice known as shari, has several roles: artist and artisan, host, educator and the reason gourmets will happily shell out anywhere from RM300 to upwards of a cool thousand ringgit for a few pieces of what is, essentially, raw fish on rice.
The Klang Valley offers several good spots where one can indulge, so those missing an early morning meal after soaking up the vibes on market day at Toyosu — aka the new Tsukiji — or a three Michelin-starred experience at a Tokyo establishment may be comforted somewhat by this. One of the newest kids on the block is Sushi Takumi, part of the great rollout of fancy dining rooms under the Curate umbrella, owned by Chryseis Tan, daughter of Berjaya Group’s Tan Sri Vincent Tan.
Unusually located in the quiet but food-centric suburb of Damansara Kim, Petaling Jaya, where the Extra Super Tanker legend was born alongside good hawker stalls and Chris Chew’s empire of restaurants which include UoVo Asador, Farm to Plate and Les Sense, Takumi (which means “artisan” in Japanese) occupies a minimalist-looking corner lot, with a Vietnamese restaurant, a local-style café and a fish noodle joint as its immediate neighbours. Its décor is equally sparse, save for a backdrop that evokes a solar eclipse. The counter usually seats 12 but, to adhere to social distancing rules, only eight at a time are allowed presently. If privacy is of utmost priority, there is also a room for six to eight pax.
The youthful chef Khong Chan Chuan, 29, formerly of Sushi Ryu, helms Takumi. It is a treat watching him perform manual ninjutsu with the rice and seafood. The shari here is noticeably darker, due to the preference for kurozu (black vinegar) from Kyushu, but no less delicious owing to its acidic tang and hint of sweetness. Purists would appreciate knowing that the kurozu from Kyushu’s Kagoshima Prefecture is especially famous.
If it is not a birthday blowout or if you are feeling frugal, come in the afternoon as its lunch deal will not make your eyes water. For RM288++, you may expect to begin with sweet, fruit-like tomatoes sprinkled lightly with sea salt and small dishes of firefly squid topped with vinegar miso and smoked bonito slices and vinegar jelly before moving on to a selection of sashimi, foie gras chawanmushi and seven pieces of nigiri zushi.
There is, of course, a premium omakase menu (RM588++) available for both lunch and dinner but that will get you just one extra type of sashimi, one more seasonal hot dish (currently, it is shiso leaf tempura topped with toro cubes) and eight pieces of sushi, but with caviar and gold leaf thrown in for good measure. However, if you want value, or if it is not going onto your entertainment tab, stick to our advice and come while the sun’s still blazing.
On another note, I had spotted Wagyu Katsu Sando (RM180) on the menu too. Alas, there was no bread supply that day. Instead, a piece of A5 Miyazaki wagyu was sweetly suggested (RM300) and it proved excellent. Seared with brown sugar, it had a lip-smacking caramelised coating that quickly gave way to melt-in-your-mouth flesh that virtually guarantees a spike in anandamide, the bliss-inducing chemical (hence its etymology from the Sanskrit word ananda), when you consume it.
Chef Khong is also good-natured and did not bat an eyelid when I asked him to place a few pieces of beef atop more shari, resulting in wagyu sushi that I would return for any time. And since it is a restaurant under the Curate group or if you simply cannot resist gilding the lily, luxe add-ons like caviar (RM450) by Kaluga Queen and truffles (market price) are always available to add a golden glow to every course.
Sushi Takumi, 81, Jalan SS20/11, Damansara Kim, PJ. Tue-Sun, Noon to 3pm; 6pm to 10pm. Call 018 356 6725.
This article first appeared on Mar 15, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.