KUALA LUMPUR, June 4 – Let’s say you’ve been wanting some of that famed cheesecake from The Tokyo Restaurant, but also want to indulge in something a little more Italian for the rest of your meal.
Well then, Taverna by The Tokyo Restaurant is the place for you.
Here, you can expect to find a blend of Italian cooking with Japanese ingredients as well as classic Italian staples on the pork-free menu.
The tiling on the walls and the central column are gorgeous.
Located inside Isetan The Gardens, Taverna’s small and intimate space is striking, with tessellated tiles on the turquoise walls and monochrome flooring that are incredibly easy on the eye.
Oh, and the mirrored ceiling doesn’t hurt either.
A view of the dining area inside. where it has that mid-century look to it.
The dinner menu is divided into hot and cold antipasti, primi and secondi piatti, with Japanese influences in the form of a ponzu dressing here and Japanese Wagyu there scattered throughout.
First to arrive was Homemade Gnocchi With Gorgonzola (RM40), looking like little white cushions coated in a luxurious, decadent cream sauce that smelled funky as hell.
Fair warning: gorgonzola piccante, a stronger and more pungent variant of the already notoriously potent cheese, is used here and is definitely an acquired taste.
A few satisfying dumplings later, I found myself licking the plate clean.
The next dish tasted better than it looked, and offered a glimpse into Taverna’s merging of these two culinary heavyweight nations.
From the left: Saba Potato – Sicilian Style and a seriously good Homemade Gnocchi With Gorgonzola.
Reminiscent of the classic pesce al forno con patate (baked fish with potatoes), the Saba Potato – Sicilia Style (RM35) here uses Japanese saba mackerel to great effect.
Oily, bold and considerably meaty, the little morsels of saba leave a lasting impression, which the slightly sweet medallions of potato benefit from.
One of the simplest, most surprising standouts of the night: White Asparagus Milanese.
The last of the antipasti, White Asparagus Milanese (RM45) was a triumphant display of simplicity.
A typical Milanese dish, this version here consists of delicate, slightly sweet poached white asparagus, the traditional sunny-side-up topped with Parmesan and a less traditional sauce of browned butter, capers and parsley. Che bello!
Plump Japanese oysters feature in the Squid Ink Tagliolini, with a dusting of grated bottarga.
Moving onto something more substantial, the Aglio Olio Squid Ink Tagliolini With Japanese Oyster (RM55) was sublime. A lightly sauced affair, the pasta slipped into the mouth with ease, and the plump oysters provided a pleasant sweetness, topped off with gratings of salty bottarga.
The best dish of the night was the TTR Ossobuco (RM120 for 200 to 300 grams), a heap of fork-tender meat and fat, soaked in its braising liquid and laid on a bed of mashed potatoes.
A healthy dollop of gremolata on the TTR Ossobuco keeps you coming back for more.
The traditional accompaniment of gremolata was a fresh and citrusy addition, necessary to balance out the richness of the rest of the dish.
Instead of the traditional veal shank, oxtail is used, but there is still the eponymous buco (hole), and with it, the prized marrow.
And of course, no visit to any place associated with The Tokyo Restaurant is complete without the signature cheesecake.
As we tucked into the unfailingly delicious signature cheesecake (RM21), I found myself left more impressed by their interpretation of the classics than some of the more inventive dishes.
Yes, there’s a rather gimmicky A5 Wagyu beef ragu pappardelle on the menu, but with the best dishes coming in the form of the Asparagus Milanese and Ossobuco I feel the Italian classics are probably their forte.
Taverna by The Tokyo Restaurant
3rd Floor, Isetan The Gardens Mall, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur
Open daily, 11am to 11pm
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