KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — Sautéed slices of tender pork, redolent with ginger and onions. Hot, steamed short grain rice. A single wobbly onsen egg, snowy white and waiting to be pierced to reveal molten gold.

This is a bowl of comfort food, albeit one not cooked by a maternal forebear.

Instead it’s the Pork Shogayaki Don at Sanzaru Izakaya & Bar, a Japanese eatery located in the relatively quiet Arked Esplanad enclave of Bukit Jalil.

The shop is spacious enough that one wouldn’t confuse it for the cramped confines of an authentic izakaya in Japan. Yet, as we understand it, Sanzaru becomes just as crowded in the evenings as residents drop by for their grilled skewers and cold beers.


Sanzaru Izakaya & Bar’s colourful exterior and interior.
Sanzaru Izakaya & Bar’s colourful exterior and interior.

We are here during midday, when there are no throngs of customers craving their tebasaki (Nagoya style deep-fried chicken wings) or tsukune mentai yaki (chicken meatball skewers topped with cured pollock roe).

It’s easy to see the attraction. Sanzaru’s colourful exterior and interior can be quite a draw for those eschewing more conservative décor typical of traditional Japanese restaurants.

Yet for all the kooky, cartoonish noren curtains above the bar or the murals of psychedelic blue primates guarding the entrance, this is still a place where you can get a decent platter of pan fried gyoza.


The menu isn’t that far out, and this is not a bad thing.

The familiar can be a relief after a long day, and we are famished. Which is where Sanzaru’s donburi (rice bowl) menu comes in — a hearty and satiating meal is what we need.

Pan fried 'gyoza'.
Pan fried 'gyoza'.

Of course, were we to visit after nightfall, we would certainly hanker for more standard izakaya fare.

Certainly whenever we travelled in Japan, we would look out for rows of small shops, each with their own hand-painted akachochin (red lantern).

Our favourite sort of izakaya is one that is manned by a solitary cook. With a curt greeting of "Irasshaimase!”, one might receive a cursory nod as to where to sit along the counter as the owner continues to prepare food for other patrons.

Despite how many connect most izakayas in Malaysia with yakitori and other forms of grilled proteins, there are an abundance of menu options (even if the diner is indeed operated by just one person).

For a little bit of everything, try the Sanzaru Chirashi Don.
For a little bit of everything, try the Sanzaru Chirashi Don.

There might be tempura, an assortment of seasonal vegetables barely coated with lace-like, light as air batter. Warm tamagoyaki (sweet egg omelette), rolled in front of us in a rectangular pan, and korokke (Japanese croquettes) filled with mashed potatoes and white sauce, the fine panko breadcrumbs glistening from the fryer.

Here at Sanzaru, one can have either koebi karaage (deep fried baby shrimp) or kaki furai (deep fried oysters) or — why not? — both. The choices of grilled skewers seem endless: from pork belly and bacon enoki to chicken gizzards and wagyu kushiyaki.

Perhaps next time. Today we need sustenance, not skewers.

Back to the donburi, then.

For a little bit of everything, try the Sanzaru Chirashi Don. With maguro (tuna), ika (squid), ebi (prawn), sake (salmon) and ikura (salmon roe), this bowl promises to be a sumptuous feast for one.

The casual vibes evoke those of authentic 'izakayas' in Japan.
The casual vibes evoke those of authentic 'izakayas' in Japan.

The other toppings aren’t too shabby either: sliced avocado, beni shoga (red ginger pickles), takuan (crunchy yellow daikon pickles) and chunks of chilled tamagoyaki.

Served with a side of miso soup, a small salad and a wedge of cold watermelon, it’s a classic lunch set found in any lunchtime restaurant in Japan.

Again, the vibrant furnishing and casual vibes remind us that we are dining in an izakaya, albeit during midday.

But the time of day shouldn’t really matter when you are appeasing your hunger pangs. As the creamy yolk oozes from the onsen egg to "sauce” a bowl of Chicken Teriyaki Don, what matters is that you get to eat and eat well at that.

Chicken Teriyaki Don.
Chicken Teriyaki Don.

Sanzaru Izakaya & Bar 三猿酒廠

12-22-G, Jalan Jalil Perkasa 13, Arked Esplanad, Bukit Jalil, KL

Open daily 11:30am-2:30pm, 5-11pm

Phone: 03-8999 0268

FB: https://www.facebook.com/SanzaruMY/

IG: https://www.instagram.com/sanzaruizakayabar/

*This is an independent review where the writer paid for the meal.

*Follow us on Instagram @eatdrinkmm for more food gems.


1. Pork Shogayaki Don, redolent with ginger and onions.

2. Sanzaru Izakaya & Bar’s colourful exterior and interior.

3. Pan fried 'gyoza'.

4. For a little bit of everything, try the Sanzaru Chirashi Don.

5. The casual vibes evoke those of authentic 'izakayas' in Japan.

6. Chicken Teriyaki Don.