Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tenji Japanese Buffet Review

First of all, what happened to these items?

Unagi missing in action

Mouthwatering specialty; Singapore Chili Crab: not in sight


clams in Chinese superior stock; didn't see this

Vietnamese style prawns also missing

And I thought these were SUPPOSED to be BIGGER:

From top to bottom: cod and white pomfret steamed, scallop, abalone supposed to come fresh in a shell like a jewel, a WIDE variety of Haagan Daz ice cream, oyster

Our cod turned out so miniature in comparison to this plus they gave us the part with loads of fork-like bones. As for the pomfret, we were given a black pomfret; a poor choice of a fish for steaming.

Fresh succulent scallops that is suppose to pop in your mouth; mine wasn't that fresh

Gigantic strips of abalone!!! What happened to ours?!?

A wide selection of Haagan Daz flavours...instead of our 2 pathetic flavours

The oysters weren't all that huge, smaller than my palm's size.

Since it was CNY eve, my family and I decided to head down to Solaris Mont Kiara to try the Tenji Japanese buffet. Since I was a first-timer, I had quite high expectations of the place since both my parents raved that they served a wide variety of food that was definitely up to standards in terms of taste, quality and freshness. I was quite eager to try their specialities: grilled unagi, steamed cod, steamed white pomfret, deep fried soft shell crab, roast lamb roll, clams in superior stock, scallops, oysters, abalone, Singapore Chilli crab and sashimi. On the previous night, I did a bit of research and read that most of the food blogs praised the succulent, tender grilled eel, the extremely large sized oysters that you can wonderfully slurp on, the melt-in-the-mouth cod fish with the flavourful seasoned sauce and the juicy roast lamb roll seared to perfection that must be immediately seized upon arrival as once it's finished will be replaced by a not so glamorous seafood pizza. We booked our table for the supper session and got there around 9:10pm. We waited for about 15 minutes before finally being ushered to a cosy corner table indoors.

On first sight of the place, I was quite impressed that they did the atmosphere quite extravagantly with slightly dim patio lights admist a pebbled walkway lined with a few attractive potted plants that led to the main entrance. The indoor setup equally matched the outdoor arena and was bursting with a hazy purplish glaze that was rather welcoming. The food presentation was quite appetising on sight and the food were delicately placed on poreclain plates and some on wooden boats such as the sushi section carefully laid upon a rack of ice to seal its freshness. It was basically divided into a few main sections; Japanese, Chinese, Western, outdoor BBQ and grill, desserts and drinks. There was ample space to walk around which allowed the diner to roam freely while scouring for food. The crowd was small and totally unlike the bustling queue with hoards of people swarming over every single food section proclaimed from other food blogs. After being shown our seats, I went for a walk around to peek at the dishes eagerly hoping to discover the 'famous' and 'recommended' dishes I heard about from my parents and cited by many food bloggers.

To my utter dismay I COULDN'T find a SINGLE MORSEL OF UNAGI, SINGAPORE CHILLI CRAB and GRILLED LAMB ROLL. On questioning the staff they replied that they didn't have these food items even for the dinner crowd. I was quite fustrated that the restaurant decided to cut down on their expenses but what infuriated me the most was that the lack of UNAGI. I mean, the only place you can actually find unagi is in a Japanese restaurant so a Japanese restaurant without unagi is just like Mcdonalds without burger and fries. I cannot believe they actually decided to skip out on a MAIN AND ESSENTIAL dish that is although pricey, defines the exquisite taste of Japanese cuisine. My hopes for this place was rapidly dissipating.

Anyway I told myself, leave out those items and sample the rest of the other dishes; who knows they may turn out extremely delicious. And I was not proven wrong over many of the recommended dishes especially the steamed cod, pomfret, crispy deep-fried soft shell crab and abalone. My parents on the other hand stated that the steamed cod was not as scrumptious as compared to their last visit and came up with a hypothesis that most of the foods were leftovers from the dinner session which probably explained their lower degree of 'freshness' and 'quality'. However, the highlight of the evening for me was cheese baked escargot. Now, I have never tried, once in my life, escargot, but one bite of the sticky cheesy mollusc that popped out of it's shell oh-so-ever-easily with a dab of your chopsticks sent me literally to heaven. Mum, on the other hand said the cheese was a bit hard and solidified probably due to air-conditioning and not replacing with fresh ones. I thought it was rather good and probably whacked one plate of the slimy molluscs (who knew that creepy crawly snails that produced gelatinous amounts of yucky slime could actually send your tastebuds to cloud 9). The guy at the Western section gave me a little smile each time I took a spoonful of the escargot.

The rest of the other Japanese food like the abalone was plump and juicy to the bite (in comparison to the not-so-fresh scallops), the oysters wobbly in its goodness and taste, the tempura prawn and soft shell crab tasty and deep-fried to a crispy crunch and the salmon sashimi tender and fresh. I didn't bother wasting my time popping a clip for the teriyaki chicken as I read it only faired average. Moving on to the grilled section, the lamb was rather flavourful in terms of seasoning but it was a bit tough and after a few bites you kind of feel you are chewing on rubber. The same goes for the roast duck. The chicken wings sauce was slightly tangy, sweet with a hint of saltiness and would deserve a lavish amount of praise but unfortunately the piece I took was a bit undercooked as there were still bloody red juices evident in some parts of the flesh. (Still cannot compare to Wong Ah Wah grilled chicken wings). The Chinese section fared so-so only with the cod fish being one of the better prized dishes. The pomfret they cooked was a black pomfret which is not ideal for steaming (according to dad) and the piece they served was miniscule in size which greatly differed from one that I read about. The chinese yee mee (or was it longevity noodles?) was surprisingly above average compared to the local coffee-shops in the sense that the sauce deliciously clung to the noodles and not drowned or smothered it and the noodles were still springy despsite being laden for a few hours with sauce. The worst dish in my opinion was probably the sweet and sour chicken (bleh, and I thought my home-cooked sweet and sour chicken was actually a level above theirs considering that it's not that great in the first place). The chicken pieces were solid rock hard, the sauce was bland and the dish basically resembled tasteless chicken with tomato ketchup hastily smeared on top. There weren't even the tradtional onions, pineapple pieces or green capscicums to compliment it. The Western section served pan-fried salmon belly which was not bad but the roast lamb and beef were utterly horrendous. It was just too tough to chew on; my teeth were literally breaking into it. (It just a giant slab of meat that couldn't be torn apart even with the aid of a fork and knife). I took a bit of the fettucini in cream sauce to try and I found it to be merely average. It didn't have any bacon or any sort of meat in it nor mushrooms which is typical of fettucini carbonara and I suspected that the chef was very stingy with the cream sauce. I didn't bother about the dessert section as I am not fond of desserts but I could clearly see that dad enjoyed the Baskin Robbins ice-cream which so happened to be conveniently located next door to our table.

Overall, I would give this place a 6.5/10. There were some good and not so good items but this could be attributed because we went for the supper session which meant that we were having the left-overs from the earlier diners. The standards would probably be higher if you go for the afternoon/dinner session. And also the fact that they didn't serve unagi, chili crab and grilled lamb roll which are supposedly their top dishes. I cannot stress how insanely ricdiculous and illogical it is for a popular Japanese buffet restaurant to fore-go on unagi. Would i go there again? Probably only if they start serving back their unagi, grilled lamb roll and Singapore chili crabs (all I got was singapore chili clams which were puny). After all, the customers deserve their money's worth. Oh and did I mention they only had two Haagan Daz ice-cream flavours? Clearly another cut down on their prized selection. Luckily for me I'm not all that much of an ice-cream lover.

Taste: 6.5/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Service: 6/10


Note: All pictures officially taken from Tenji Japanese Buffet food review from several Malaysian food blogs

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