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A Charming ‘Chawan’ Christmas @ Tenmaya

The crab revealed. And it’s juicy yum-yum. The ‘orangey’ pearls you see are Ikura or Salmon Roe.

We were in Nexus, Bangsar South having a family Christmas dinner but the restaurant we were in didn’t serve sweet nothings that were unique enough for an occasion like this.  And then I thought: Tenmaya! They serve Black Sesame Ice Cream. Now you know that black sesame seeds are good for you healthwise ─ you get to save your hair, your heart, your skin and bones not to mention reap other nourishing benefits but most important of all ─ you don’t find these acquired tastes around very often and especially on a night like this.

Two Black Sesame Ice Creams and one Chocolate.
Light, cold, healthy and black.

But at Tenmaya Japanese Restaurant, that’s where the nutty, toasted but frozen sweet course could be had, and only for RM5.00 a scoop before GST.

The family was game to try. And  since Tenmaya was only a floor up from where we were, what was a little traipsing upstairs for an epicurean adventure that was going to benefit us in more ways than one?

Tenmaya serves a refrigerator-full of cool, sweet delights including Green Tea Ice Cream as well as White and Black Sesame Ice Cream and other usual flavours such as Vanilla, Chocolate and so on. Japanese ice creams are always light and sorbet-like with minimum use of dairy (if any) and at Tenmaya, it was no different.  We enjoyed our ice creams thoroughly.

Rich and Compact ‘Tea Cup Steam’

Actually, the real reason I wanted to go to Tenmaya was to re-eat their Chawan Mushi creations. They are to die for, at least to me. Serious!  It’s good to the point that it made an indelible imprint on my tastebuds the last time I ate it. And that’s saying something for a foodie like me.

Served in a clay cup complete with clay spoon.
When you open the lid, here is what you will find.

In case you don’t know what Chawan Mushi is, it’s actually a steamed savoury egg custard dish traditionally served in Japanese cuisine as a side dish for a main meal. Chawan Mushi, according to Wikipedia, literally means “tea cup steam” or “steamed in a tea bowl”. (The Chinese have their version of steamed egg too but trust the Japanese to make theirs more daintily).

A page off the menu on Chawan Mushis.

Chawan Mushi can be cooked plain with egg alone or added with loads of other ingredients such as mushrooms, gingko, shrimps and so on. Imagination’s the limit, actually.

Even so, what makes Tenmaya’s  Chawan Mushi so special is that it is a move away from even that norm, not to mention that upon first sup past the lips, it’s gorgeously silken smooth on the tongue, and so light that it melts in your mouth but yet audacious enough as to include “forbidden foods”.

A view from the inside of Tenmaya. Right: If you come with a big group, you could dine privately in the rooms.

Egg-straordinary Egg-stravaganza

Well the additions are not forbidden per se, but it’s for the brave nonetheless as of the three Chawan Mushi varieties served ─ one is with Foie Gras (gasp) and Shark’s Fin sauce. It is called Foie Gras Chawan Mushi and it is priced at RM28.00.

The Edamame we ordered. These soy bean pods are a must-eat in all Japanese restaurants. Tenmaya’s Edamame are served dry, warm and flavourfully-salted.

The other is plain steamed egg custard priced at RM10.00 but the one that got me going gaga was the Kani Chawan Mushi ─ Steamed Crab Meat Egg Custard with Ikura  (Salmon fish eggs).

Apart from the gentle richness of the Chawan Mushi itself, there is a generous juicy leg of crab peeled and steamed inside the tea cup ─ you will be delighted when you pull it out, it’s almost like an unexpected treasure find.  The crab leg meat is done to perfection too. We believe it takes precise timing as overcooked seafood almost always turns out rubbery. However, Kani Chawan Mushi ─ and I’ve eaten it twice now ─ is steamed to just the right level of “cookness”, thus ensuring that the crab remains ever so slightly rare and enticingly succulent. More crab meat pieces can be found inside the Chawan Mushi as one digs in.

The creative inclusion of several  pearls of Ikura at the top adds a complementary flavour to the dish. Delicate like the rest of the Chawan Mushi, the roe with its tang of the sea encapsulated within each golden pearl augments and completes the seafood symphony of the Kani Chawan Mushi. All in all ─ a masterpiece. And all packed inside a tiny bowl for only RM25.00.

Of course, serving the Kani Chawan Mushi in a clay tea cup complete with a clay teaspoon only enhances the experience for the palate and makes it all the more memorable.  I’d definitely come back and eat it again.

In a prior visit to the restaurant, I tried their Sashimi Moriawase (RM75.00). Quite an oceanic orchestra of flavours this was!

Tenmaya of course serves a whole range of other dishes.  The usual suspects include snacks like the ever-popular  Edamame (steamed and salted unripened green soybeans inside the pod), salads, Sushi, Sashimi, grilled and deepfried dishes like Tempura, Teppanyaki,  and broth-based ones like Hot Pots, Sautees, and Sets. And then there are the ‘off-the-beaten-track’ creations like Chilli Padi with Salmon Carpaccio and Grilled Lamb Rack with Ginger Sauce. They all come exquisitely presented. One day, I shall try them all.

Tenmaya is in Nexus, Bangsar South 1st Floor, Jalan Kerinchi. Call them to feast off a sea-inspired smorgasbord: 03-2242-3268.

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