Gekko Dining Gives You The Best Night Out With Charcoal-Kissed Omakase And Exquisite Cocktails

As far as dream teams go, it doesn’t get much better than at Gekko Dining, where head chef Ryusuke Higuchi and bartender Sam Kinugawa preside over the victuals and libations on offer, all with an expert eye and deft, meticulous hands. At the front of the restaurant, Kinugawa infuses bananas in bourbon and jackfruit in Japanese whisky, shaking up those signature fruit sakétinis that have won him a loyal following ever since he began mixing cocktails in Malaysia.

In a separate dining room towards the back of Gekko Dining, which overlooks the quieter side of Jalan Kasah in Medan Damansara, Higuchi skilfully slices, smokes, and sears his way along the 18-course omakase menu (priced from RM580). It bears mentioning that his expertise with sharp Japanese knives may be due, in part, to his ancestry: Higuchi hails from an old samurai family, and his Ken Katabami crest is proudly displayed on Gekko Dining’s placemats. (“He’s swapped his samurai sword for a chef’s knife!” jokes Kinugawa, who often pops in to tempt diners with another drink).

But this isn’t the place for flashy knife-work and blowtorch-wielding bravado. Instead, before one large circular window (a nod to the Japanese word gekko, which means ‘moonlight’) and behind an eight-seat sushi counter – which is about as intimate as it gets for an omakase experience – Higuchi works with calmness and precision. At most, he might lift up a tray of fish that he’s painstakingly drained of blood and then aged over seven to 14 days, gleaming like beaten silver or pink garnets, and ready to be transformed into 10 types of sushi.

As with the best omakase chefs, Higuchi lets the ingredients and their seasonal influences speak for themselves, adding only the subtlest touches. A sliver of skipjack is deliberately notched along the edges with clean, forensic movements, then smoked with pecan wood in a bell jar. A green-eyed mehikari fish is served deep-fried with a wedge of sudachi lime, curry salt, and spicy mayonnaise, its flesh flaky and delicate like piping hot snow. Even the simplicity of his pudding-like tamagoyaki omelette – the penultimate course – belies an hour-long, labour intensive cooking process.

Most of all, it is Higuchi’s mastery of charcoal that leaves the biggest impression during Gekko Dining’s omakase dinner. As Kinugawa remarks, “His cooking style takes a lot of work,” and it is more than apparent when witnessing Higuchi searing sushi from above using binchōtan charcoal pieces balanced atop a piece of mesh, applying just the right intensity of heat. With it, he coaxes out the butteriness of engawa flounder, the meatiness of toro tuna, and the saké-like hints of sweetness from his signature anago sea eel sushi, flown the full distance from Tokyo Bay.

Charcoal lends them a depth of flavour that a blowtorch never could – and paired with Kinugawa’s flawlessly constructed Japanese cocktails, the omakase experience at Gekko Dining is one that promises to take you to the moon and back.

Gekko Dining

Photos: Law Soo Phye

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