“Hi Michelle, I will see you at the lobby by 8:30pm and we will have dinner at Nagisa. See you soon.”
This was the message I received from Ervina Masduki, the Assistant Manager for Public Relations of Hyatt Regency Kinabalu, just before I left Dinawan Island. I was going to transfer to the hotel for my third night in Kota Kinabalu, and it happened to be on my birthday, May 4.
After bringing my stuff to my 10th floor sea view room, I joined Ervina for a hearty dinner in Nagisa, the sole Japanese restaurant in Kota Kinabalu that is located inside a five-star hotel. Although a bit exhausted from the island tour, I was excited to see what this award-winning restaurant has to offer. And I was not disappointed, with my expectations even exceeded.
Styled after a Japanese winter cottage, Nagisa Restaurant is neatly tucked across Tanjung Ria Kitchen inside Hyatt Regency Kinabalu. It has been awarded twice by the Malaysian Tatler as one of the best restaurants in Kota Kinabalu, thanks to its extensive menu of modern yet authentic Japanese cuisine.
In terms of design, Nagisa is a definite stand out, with dark wood panels and soft lighting complementing each other. As I was there in the evening, the restaurant looked more intimate. The spacious dining area is also maximized, with a sushi counter, two teppanyaki tables, a tatami room, and two private dining rooms perfect for meetings and special gatherings.
Nagisa is open daily, serving lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. A special dinner buffet, popular among locals and tourists, is available every third Saturday of the month.
Prior to my arrival, Ervina has already arranged our dinner. We were only asked for our drinks, to which I chose lemon mint iced tea, a refreshing take to the usual drink. You can adjust the sweetness to your liking via the small pot of syrup provided.
The dishes were then served one after another, from appetizer to main course. You may view the menu here. Here’s what we had:
We started our meal with tuna and edamame as appetizers. I didn’t have much of the tuna, although it tasted really good and fresh. The edamame was steamed well, making the removal of the beans very easy. It was also salted just right, no dusting off of salt before putting it in your mouth and letting the beans slide out in one swift pull.
The simmered spinach was cooked to perfection, with the leaves and stems still crispy at every bite. The garlic bits gave this dish the perfect balance of flavors and texture. For those who are not into eating vegetables, this might help you change your mind.
The maki lover in me was so ecstatic when this plate landed on our table. This is Nagisa’s signature dish, the Nagisa Maki. One serving is four huge slices of grilled eel (unagi), avocado, and egg rolled in sushi rice, the makings of a heavenly meal. Eating an entire piece in one go could be a bit hard due to its size, so biting it into two or three parts might be forgivable.
The mixed tempura was also a delight to the palate. The crispy breading was just of the right thickness, and complements the tenderness of the assorted seafood and vegetables perfectly. Each bite was pure tempura bliss.
Completing our main course is the mouthwatering Gindara Nabe, a hot pot dish with cod fish and vegetable broth. Each sip is a burst of various flavors in your mouth, with the occasional bite for a piece of that plump cod fish. A huge bowl is good for two persons, or one really hungry diner.
Just when I felt the weight of everything I consumed, out came the dessert – homemade green tea ice cream. When all the elements you love are combined in one frozen delight, you don’t resist it. You welcome it with open arms, grab a teaspoon, and savor every bit of ice cream that melts in your mouth. I swear, I would have asked for another scoop if I wasn’t so full.
Dining in Nagisa is something every visitor in Kota Kinabalu has to experience. Locals also have to try eating here at least once in their lives, as both the food and ambiance are a class of their own.
What even made my experience here truly unforgettable was their birthday surprise for me. Just a few hours prior, I was also surprised by the guides and my fellow guests in Dinawan Island with an improvised cake – chocolate-filled bread and a candle.
Getting two surprises and receiving two cakes (and eating them!) in one night does not happen to everyone, so this was an entirely unique experience for me.
Interested diners should not be intimidated of having to pass through the lobby of Hyatt Regency Kinabalu to get to Nagisa. All the staff are very friendly and accommodating, and will gladly lead you to Nagisa should you ask for directions.
Nagisa truly lives up to its reputation of being award winning, not mention being the only Japanese restaurant in Kota Kinabalu housed by a luxurious hotel in a strategic location. Whether planning an intimate dinner for two or organizing a family reunion, Nagisa is the best choice for your event.
Note: The dinner was sponsored by Nagisa and Hyatt Regency Kinabalu, but the opinions in this review are my own.
For more restaurant reviews, click here.