[编辑 Editor 吕大人 英译 Translator 刘大人 摄影 Photographer 刘大人]
Nowadays, “Find Dining” in Johor Bahru is no easy task, with food fads popping up so quickly and it’s quite hard to keep track of all of them. When we first published our inaugural foodie guide and subsequently revisited and revised our《MENU》a year ago, diners in 2018 not only said “hello” to new restaurants but also bid “farewell” to those that closed. An inevitable occurrence in the highly competitive and unpredictable food and beverage industry, we really salute these restaurants who have quietly going about their business and serving good quality over the decades, some even generations!
Since young, we have already know the existence of this eatery on the second level of Crystal Crown hotel along Jalan Tebrau, but Kirishima Shuzou (established since October 1998) which has been serving traditional Japanese cuisine is a place not many locals have visited in their entire lives. It’s not that the restaurant is faring poorly in any manner, but just that the name just doesn’t come naturally first to mind when we think of Japanese food due to its slightly pricier menu, or so we thought. Moreover, it is not every day that we need to sit down for a lavish and aristocratic Japanese meal. It was not until a lunch with a group of Japanese visitors, who insisted on dining at this hugely popular eatery among the early Japanese settlers that we finally got the opportunity to savour what many of us have been missing out – over 21 years of serving authentic Japanese cuisine, and an expanded menu that carry on the izakaya culture that originated in Japan that brings together tradition and timelessness.
Izakaya is derived from the words ‘I’ (to stay) and ‘sakaya’ (sake shop), and are usually affordable to mid-range, depending on the quality of the food and establishments. Even without setting foot to Japan, one could envisage the local izakaya scenes from the popular Japanese manga – Shinya Shokudō (also known as “Midnight Diner”) by Yaro Abe. Revolving about a small late night pub which is opened from midnight to dawn and the stories of its odd-ball patrons, the izakaya culture today is well and alive with everyone, from students to salarymen, men and women gather for an after work drink among colleagues or a party with friends until the end of the night. All seems too reminiscent and surreal of the wine and dine scenes at Kirishima Shuzou.
For many of us, izakaya restaurants are a fun, casual blend of a restaurant and a bar, or the Japanese equivalent of the international “gastropub”. Although some izakaya in Japan are nomi-hodai (all you can drink) and tabe-hodai (all you can eat) styles, most izakaya allows drinkers to order as they go along, with the drinks and eats being totalled up at the end of the evening. According to Yoshiko-san, our friend who hailed from Ibaraki (north-east of Tokyo), many Japanese feel that after work parties are an essential way to enhance relationships and making casual talks in a relaxed atmosphere outside work. With the wooden interior and small tables, fresh, delicious food and beverages at Kirishima Shuzou, we’d be forgiven for thinking we’d been transported (atmosphere-wise) to a little izakaya in some back alley in Tokyo! Whether it’s an ice-cold beer you crave after work or just hot delicious food over lunch, there’s something for everyone, starting from RM24!
For your benefit, the history of Kirishima Shuzo begins with a culture of shochu deeply rooted in the lands of Southern Kyushu. Founder Kichisuke Enatsu begins manufacturing Honkaku Shochu in Kawahigashi, Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture under the Kawahigashi Enatsu Shoten name before Junkichi Enatsu takes over the family business In 1949 and reorganises the company as Kirishima Shuzo Co., Ltd. In May of 2016, Kirishima Shuzo marked the 100th anniversary of the brand that made shochu a national drink. As shochu is best enjoyed and accompanied by food, be sure to pair a Kirishima Shuzo’s shochu with some of their delicious cuisines.
Not only does Kirishima Shuzou has a vast collection of imported sakes and shochu from Japan, but they also feature a library of books, magazines and manga that gives us sheer joy and quite possibly a slice of Japan. If you’re addicted to Japanese foods and drinks, this Japanese eatery will surely leave you spellbound and coming back for more.
When in Kirishima Shuzou which can comfortably accommodate 85 to 100 diners, we recommend grabbing seats in any of the six available private rooms so we won’t be forced to eavesdrop on our neighbour’s conversation. No prior reservations required, and one of the rooms comes with traditional Japanese tatami where we can sit “seiza” and savour our meal. Otherwise, regular seats are also available. The place can be packed full of people, which makes getting seats difficult, so do head down early to snag a seat!
Like all other great Japanese restaurants, Kirishima Shuzou is all about the freshest, air-flown ingredients all the way from Japan. In the words of Ishigaki-san, chef-owner and a resident expat who has been living in JB since the early nineties and comfortably settled, locals and visiting Singaporeans typically fancy sashimi such as salmon, tuna and hamachi (yellow-tail) over the otsumami (beer snacks) favoured by the Japanese community to complement their beer and alcohol. Such is the popularity among the locals that the restaurant now imports hamachi in whole while the tuna are air-flown straight from the Indian Ocean weekly. Apart from regularly sourcing for only the best quality ingredients, a significant part of Ishigaki-san day in the restaurant also goes to fine-tuning the menu for continuous improvement, and to create new dishes to keep the regulars and new customers flowing. Imagine doing this routine over for so many years, we can be assured of only the most excellent cuisine prepared upon order that made it to our table!
いただきます Itadakimasu! 🙏
Soft Shell Salmon Skin Salada
A popular pick combining two local’s favourite ingredients, the Soft Shell Salmon Skin Salada transforms our regular salad starter into something both visually and on the palate. The soft shell crab was crispy and delicate while the flaky salmon skin was grilled to perfection and made every bite super crunchy. Add to the well-marinated and fresh Japan mizuna vegetables and egg roe, this well-executed, but straightforward appetiser definitely whets our appetite and made us ready for the next dish!
Nikujaga Mayo Yaki Teppan
Nikujaga is a traditional family favourite dish and a recipe that Japanese mothers pass down from generation to generation. Made primarily from two main ingredients, meat (niku) and potatoes (jagaimo), and braised together with other ingredients in liquid, pretty much like our home-cook ABC vegetable soup that many Chinese children have grown up with and is one of our family’s favourite soups. Add some mayonnaise and torched to perfection, the Nikujaga Mayo Yaki Teppan has now become one of our favourites, both young and old as well!
Ishiyaki Champon is a regional cuisine of Nagasaki, which was inspired by the cuisine of China and first served by Shikairo to suit the palates of hundreds of Chinese students who came to Japan for school. Unlike all the other ramen, Champon uses special noodles that are cooked in the soup itself and served with a stir-fried mix of minced pork, seafood, cabbage and many other ingredients. The most delightful things were the seafood of prawn, squid and clam, while the thick noodles still managed to pick up the creamy broth, indulging every slurp with the impeccable broth. Being served on a hot stone bowl has its perks — for one, our dish will always be piping hot and the flavours are more pronounced.
While obnoxious elsewhere, it is entirely acceptable to slurp the noodles loudly to send our compliments to the chef as a sign that we are enjoying your bowl of ramen. Just like the other hot stone bowl dishes, we could pick between the noodles or rice dishes such as the Ishiyaki Stamina Don which comes highly recommended.
There is always something very comforting about eating from a Bento box, with different combinations of side dishes brought together into one hearty, varied and tasty box which reminded of the warmth and sincerity of the Japanese people. Now, this Kirishima Bento is an extremely affordable lunch option if we need a hearty meal. For only RM38, our bento is a generous serving of soba, sushi, tempura assortment with Japanese pearl rice, chawanmushi, miso soup, fruits and a side salad. No, Kirishima Shuzou does not scrimp on the quality but uses only the freshest of ingredients. For RM48, we could also opt for the Kirishima Gozen, all full to the brim with even more traditional Japanese food goodness! How’s that for taking a breather from work, yes?
We often gripe about the lack of affordable yet authentic Japanese restaurants in JB, but our recent meal at Kirishima Shuzou fits the bill exactly as more often than not what we seek is comfort food that is tasty and inexpensive. Reasonably priced food and drinks the Best. Combo. Ever. Kirishima Shuzou serves up some pretty attractive promotions that’ll make us come back again and again.
For us, an izakaya has to be experienced while in Japan, but thanks to Ishigaki-san we can now enjoy the unique atmosphere of these Japanese bars, without setting foot outside of JB!
ごちそうさま Gochisou sama deshita! 🙏
霧島酒藏 Kirishima Shuzou Japanese Restaurant
📍 1st floor, Crystal Crown Hotel, 117 Jalan Tebrau, Taman Century, 80250 Johor Bahru, Johor
📞 +607-276 2838
🕛 12.00am to 2.30pm & 6.30pm to 10.30pm Daily.
📱 霧島酒藏 Kirishima Shuzou JB
🍽️ NON HALAL