Cover Sengyo Set of Fresh Seasonal Fish (Photo: EQ)

Chef Kyohei Igarashi takes the reins as Sushi Master at Kampachi

Having discovered a passion for sushi towards the end of his teenage years, Chef Kyohei Igarashi has not looked back since. With more than 20 years of experience under his belt, the well-travelled Yamagata native has always stayed true to his Japanese roots. A great new addition to the ever-growing team at EQ's Kampachi, whose philosophy is to deliver the most authentic Japanese dining experiences, Igarashi is here to promote the art of omakase in Malaysia.

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The Japanese gastronomical journey begins with a trio of zensai, Japanese for appetisers, composed of kazunoko (cured herring roe), kurumi konago (walnut with anchovies) and take no mozuku (vinegared seaweed with octopus). The latter is laced with a hint of acidity that prepares the senses for the next course.

The constantly changing variety of fish is left to the whimsy of the sushi master, a standard practice for omakase. But it is almost certain that if he can get his hands on uni from Hokkaido, his special dish, Flounder Roll with Sea Urchin that bears visual resemblance to a blooming yellow rose, will adorn the sashimi platter. The light salinity of the flounder is wonderfully balanced by the sea urchin, with a subtle sweetness that is reminiscent of a ripe mango.

The friendly waitstaff will at this point introduce the many styles of shoyu or soy sauce that Kampachi offers, to pair with the bounties of the sea. House-made Tosa Shoyu, an umami rich soy sauce seasoned with bonito flakes, is highly recommended to further enhance the flavours of the seasonal sashimi.

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Igarashi really puts on a show when preparing his sushi. Every move that he makes, from slicing to shaping and seasoning is performed with intent, each adding a little touch to the freshly prepared nigirizushi

The long-awaited sushi portion of the meal begins with a plethora of shellfish: uni (sea urchin), akagai (ark shell), hokkigai (surf clam) and hotate (scallop) are handled with the utmost attention. Chef Igarashi mentions that both the surf clam and ark shell are still alive before placing them on the shaped vineyard rice. He proceeds to give the sushi a quick strike and the shellfish wriggles, showing signs of life. We challenge you to find sushi fresher than this. 

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Then comes the slices of premium fish: anago (conger eel), toro (tuna belly) and madai (red sea bream). Yuzu-accented conger eel, another of the chef’s signature dishes, takes the spotlight here. Charred with a flaming torch and stroked with yuzu shoyu, the anago sets itself apart from the other nigiri with its intense smoky aroma and citrus aftertaste. The toro, on the other hand, is a little more traditional, but with marbling akin to that of Wagyu and flavours as sweet as fruit, it is hard to believe that the slice of fish that sits atop the rice is actually tuna belly.

TATLER TIP: It’s always best to check twice before dipping your sushi in soy sauce; Chef Igarashi may have already seasoned it. 

Makizushis are rolled out right after, and these highlight shoots and roots that help to cleanse the palate. Cucumber, burdock root and kanpyo (dried calabash gourd) are each wrapped in a layer of rice and nori before being delicately shaped into cylindrical rolls.

"The secret to a good maki is air," says Igarashi. "There must be a good balance between the filling and the air so that the sushi isn’t too dense, otherwise it'll ruin the texture."

As tradition dictates, soup is served just before dessert at the end of the meal. Igarashi is more than happy to serve humble miso soup, but elevated with fresh succulent clams. 

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The meal is finally concluded with dessert that sees a succulent amakusi mikan (mandarin orange) painstakingly peeled and plated by the sushi master. The slices of mikan explode when bitten into, leaving behind a pool of sweet orange juice in the mouth for the perfect finish. 


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