It’s three years old now, but the wonderful Sion Dining and Bar remains modestly under the radar. Regulars who come to enjoy the restaurant’s unique, intriguing kitchen vision seem quite happy of the fact – sorry guys, can’t keep the lid on something this good forever though.
That something is chef and co-owner Masamichi Shiomi’s classic European cuisine draped with a Japanese veil. Shiomi’s a classically-trained chef who gained a following at Akane in Desa Sri Hartamas before opening Sion Dining in Ara Damansara. Prior to Akane, he was personal chef to the Japanese ambassador to Papua New Guinea, and has also worked in Australia and Indonesia.
Shiomi is also a certified sommelier, who decks the shelves of his walk-in wine cellar with his latest finds – and is happy to recommend pairings.
At Sion Dining, flavours are fresh, light and bold – with a special nod to the world of Spanish tapas, as well as French and Italian influences – and cooking is generally precise and just-so.
The result? A menu on which you’ll find it hard to make any wrong turns. Or go completely off-road and ask the chef to prepare a personalised omakase, or even source hard-to-find Japanese produce; both options require pre-booking.
We started the meal with a single tomato. If you haven’t tried it before, a Japanese Kochi tomato at RM23 apiece may seem a bit of a puzzler; but Japan’s warm, coastal Kochi Prefecture is fabled for its high quality produce.
The sweetness and gentle acidity of the skinned, umami-rich tomato will immediately remind you of its true nature as a fruit; in fact, the small, thick-skinned tomatoes from this prefecture are usually known as “fruit tomatoes” and often used for gifting in Japan.
The tomato is served on slivered onions, with a drizzle of olive oil and a small mound of herb salt with a hint of celery, for beautifully balanced mouthfuls. And it plays its role very well, whetting the appetite for the next course – a simple, perfect dish of uber-fresh Hokkaido scallop carpaccio (RM76).
Thick slices of uber-fresh scallops melt with briny languor in the mouth. They’re lightly sprinkled with the house special dressing of soy sauce and mirin spiked with grated green apple; a bright, verdant flavour is contributed by herbs like shiso leaf.
Bouncy little chicken gizzard slices (RM25) arrive in a bright green pool of sweet basil sauce, with toasted breadcrumbs and balsamic. They’ve been lightly sautéed with garlic, capers and tomatoes, and crisp garlic chips finish off a dish I could happily have several times over.
Another light appetiser for sharing, the springy Japanese whelk (tsubugai) ajillo (RM68). This is one of the robustly-flavoured dishes that would look most at home on a tapas menu, with the whelk and chunky mushrooms cooked with olive oil and garlic, olives and bay leaves.
Falling on the other side of the luxe spectrum, creamy-centred foie gras which finds its complementary partner in a sweet Japanese pumpkin puree and a lusciously sweet-sour balsamic reduction. It’s both moreish and pretty good value at RM76 for two large pieces, RM98 for three.
Shiomi has a predilection for smoothly-marbled Iberico pork, and you’ll find it in various incarnations here. If the spare, pared-down style is what you’re after, the grilled Iberico neck (RM62) comes with a mound of yuzukoshou, fragrant with green chillies and yuzu rind, a dipping sauce of mirin, dashi and soy sauce, herb salt and a lime wedge for squeezing.
But my choice will always be the vibrant flavours and deceptive richness of the tender stewed Iberico spare ribs in a piquant salsa sauce (RM58). The sweetness of the tomato-rich sauce is balanced by the addition of capers, and the slow-cooked pork falls quite wantonly into it.
Sweets have a decidedly more European edge, with the chocolate gateaux (RM18) having an interior texture somewhere between a fluffy cake and a moist, soft-centred lava cake, and a slightly crisp exterior. It’s served with a berry compote and vanilla ice cream.
But … smoother than Bruno Mars’ funky falsetto, Sion’s creme brulee (RM15) effortlessly stands front and centre in a city-wide dessert scan.
It’s paradoxically light and substantial, with a slight runniness and that luscious freshness on the palate that you only get with fresh, rich cream. And that’s roofed with a fragile layer of bittersweet spun sugar that shatters at a touch. Quite glorious.
Tucked into a quiet residential enclave – and hidden upstairs to boot – Sion Dining is a welcome haven of great produce, culinary vision and execution … and delicious and welcome proof that exciting dining places exist beyond the city!
Sion Dining and Bar
B-16, Block B
1, Jalan PJU 1a/20a
Dataran Ara Damansara
Tel: 03-7840 0632
Open Mondays to Saturdays, 6.30pm to 11.30pm