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Edo Ichi Japanese Cuisine
by Marcia Howard

Surprise! Auntie Marcia is still alive and well. She has come out of semi-retirement as a restaurant reviewer to tell you about a newish Japanese restaurant called Edo Ichi Japanese Cuisine. "Oh, no!" she can hear you say, "Yet another Japanese restaurant in Penang." Yep, another Japanese restaurant, and a pretty good one, too, despite the lack of a real Japanese chef.

Edo Ichi is located on the ground floor of Island Plaza. The restaurant opened last December and seems to be quite popular as there is often a short wait to be seated in one of the several sections of the restaurant or at the small sushi bar. The decor is simple but attractive, with one wall covered in genuine-sppearing bamboo trees. Two illluminated tropical fish tanks block out the view of the parking lot and busy road outside. Openwork hanging lamps sway gently in the air currents and cast moving shadows. The premises are somewhat too brightly lighted, but that is generally true in Japan as well.

Uncle Doug and Auntie Marcia lived in Japan for four years in the 1990's and were eager to dig into some of the dishes they used to order back then. First, though, they consumed the free appetizer, a dish of crispy bean sprouts (shoots) and something that looked rather alarming but which the waitress said were crabs, really, really miniscule ones. Auntie and Uncle were glad to be given short, wooden chopsticks instead of those long, slippery ones you get in Chinese restaurants.

While they eagerrly awaited the sukiyaki they had ordered from the very extensive menu, Auntie and Uncle reminisced about how in Japan sukiyaki is usually prepared in front of you on a hot grill-table. They were surprised, therrefore, that at Edo Ichi sukiyaki is served as a soup. It contained the same basic ingredients, though, and was quite good.

Another dish A & U used to order very frequently was gyoza (or gyuza, as it is spelled at Edo Ichi.) Gyoza are small dumplings filled with a minced chicken mixture and first steamed and then fried in sesame oil. That makes them crispy on the outside and soft inside. They always come five to an order, which makes sharing an order a little tricky, and are served with a slightly sweet dipping sauce similar to teriyaki sauce. The gyoza at Edo Ichi definitely lived up to Auntie's expectations.

In Iwakuni, Japan, Uncle and Auntie used to order Kaki Furai (fried oysters) every week after teaching an evening English conversation class. At Edo Ichi the closest thing to Kaki Furai is Ebi Furai (fried prawns), so Auntie ordered that. They were very nice, two whole king prawns delicately coated with Japanese panko bread crumbs and then quickly fried and served with a separate dipping sauce. Auntie wonders how they got those prawns to be so straight and not curled?

Finally, no Japanese dinner is complete without sake, right? In Japan during the summer months sake is often served cold, but Aluntie and Uncle prefer hot sake. Edo Ichi offers a selection of sakes, the most expensive costing RM380 a bottle, the cheapest a 250 m. pottery carafe at RM25. Guess which one A & U chose. (That way they could have two.) The sake arrived in a pretty two-piece container candle-lit from below to keep the sake hot and with a collar around the neck of the carafe to prevent burned fingers when one pours out the hot liquid; good ideas, both.

As far as prices are concerned, they are about what one would expect at a place of this kind in a shopping mall. If anything, costs at Edo Ichi are on the low side. Two examples are the gyoza at RM8 per order and the fried prawns at RM22. And, fellow Food Friends members, if you patronize Edo Ichi before December of 2010, the 5% government tax is waived. So go, go, go to Edo Ichi Japanese Cuisine. Auntie Marcia recommends it!

Edo Ichi is open seven days a week for both lunch and dinner. Monday through Thursday the hours are 11:30-3:00 and from 6:00-10:30. Friday through Sunday the restaurant is open continuously from 11:30 a.m -10:30 p.m.

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