Amongst the plethora of new restaurant openings in the Sanur area is another little gem. It is in fact two restaurants in one. By day it is an all encompassing Japanese restaurant, entrees and snacks, sushi and sashimi, and a variety of mains from many different styles.
By night an extra dimension is added. The restaurant has two sections; inside is a small air-conditioned room booths with floor seating for the nimble loose-limbed Asians along the left hand wall and a row of wooden stools for eating at the bar bench, behind which the sushi is prepared. Whilst outside on the front street-side terrace becomes the Robatayaki grill area; prepared skewers of different meat, seafood and vegetables are presented in a glass-fronted refrigerated showcase, and your selections are cooked on the open grill beside.
Among the great variety of appetizing snacks is one that I find very special. Like many great tastes in life it is also so simple! A bowl of pickled quail eggs tempts me on every visit. A dish not to be shared as one serve, devoured piece by piece throughout the meal, is just about perfect!
Imo Dango is very popular here, simple grilled potato cakes or the newer version with cheese added. Dasimaki is a solid omelette cut into finger pieces. Ebi Age is dumplings stuffed with minced prawn meat and then deep-fried. The Braised Pork Belly is very good but I have become so used to pork belly coming with a crisp skin that I found the original form a little strange with the raw fat, even though the actual meat strips, soaked in soy, were excellent. As with all Asian foods the selection of pure vegetarian options is numerous. Select from Boiled Green Soybeans, Green Beans with sesame sauce, Sauteed Potato with miso mayonnaise or salads of greens, potato or tomato.
But whatever you order do not forget the Uzura Kaori Zuke, pickled quail eggs!
Sushi has become an International standard almost overnight. 30 years ago only the very adventurous would venture into raw fish of any description, now it is readily accepted by all but the most hung-up! Even apart from its now well-known cholesterol fighting Omega 3 acid content. Kokoya offers all the standard combinations [prawn, tuna, snapper and eel] plus a few nice new creations such as their Chicken Teriyaki Sushi. An inside-out maki roll has grilled chicken strips wrapped in seaweed then bound with sushi rice in a square shape, studded on the outside with sesame seeds and drizzled over the top with teryaki sauce. It is quite a large serve of 8 pieces, a good one for sharing. So tasty!
For those who like a bit of everything assorted sushi and sashimi plates are also available, and a Rp.55,000++ for 9-10 pieces at a very reasonable cost, always made fresh to order.
Mains can be curries [Karee Nabe, chicken and vegetables], Deep-Fries [Tempura with seafood and vegetables in that crunchy ever-so-light rice flour batter], a large range of Soba, Udon or Ramen Noodle dishes or that classic beef stew Japanese style, Sukiyaki.
The evening Robatayaki should start with the most famous of all; Yakitori. Originally done with small birds expediency has won over the Japanese world and this dish is now universally served using chicken pieces, nice big juicy lumps unlike many local sates. Like many robatayaki offerings a tare sauce is often proffered for dipping [a blend of mirin, sake, soy and sugar], although often in Japan just a pinch of local natural salt is used instead.
Tsukune has always been one of my favourite robatayaki dishes, balls of minced chicken usually covered with a tare sauce but sometimes a pleasant covering of sweet soy, or kecap manis as we know it. Amongst the many different varieties of skewered tastes you can order are Negima [alternate strips of chicken meat and leek], Kimo [chicken livers], Shiitake [those wonderful mushrooms], Ebi [prawns] or an unusual one in Ninniku, just a skewer full of grilled garlic clove bunches. For the more adventurous there are always Kokoro [chicken heart] or Zuri [assorted chicken gizzards].
It is not always necessary to eat rice with Robatayaki, although it is quite acceptable, but a serve of Onigiri [rice balls soaked in teryaki sauce then grilled] is a normal dish to finish the meal with. Robatayaki is a great choice for a small group who want to continually snack over a long period. Just order 2-3 dishes at a time, a couple more drinks, then another round of snacks.
Desserts are always a bit of a problem with Asian cuisines for westerners unless you like ice cream, and who doesn't? At Kokoya that can even be green tea flavoured, [but also vanilla and chocolate, alone or as parfaits]. Kurogome Purin is ice cream with black rice pudding. A different style is their Rice Dumplings with sweet soybean sauce.
A simple eatery, friendly if a bit boisterous in the best Japanese style, fresh food with taste and all at a very reasonable cost. The slowly changing face of Sanur! What a contrast to 10 years ago with seemingly a hundred local warungs all with identical menus of 'International' food, the way they thought you wanted it?
For good value ethnic cuisines Sanur is almost leading the way in 2010.