August 5, 2011

After opening over 600 outlets in Japan, China, Singapore & Taiwan, Watami has landed on Malaysian soil, promising what it calls a "casual Japanese restaurant" experience.

A staggering selection is offered; it's not fine dining, but some interesting items are available, such as this crispy capellini pasta (nope, it's not part of the table decoration). A bar snack with a Japanese twist, boasting an infusion of umami, possibly thanks to some seaweed. Be careful while chewing these; they're sharp enough to poke a hole through your gums!

Salmon, cream cheese & veggies in rice paper. Look mom, no carbs! Well, almost anyway.

Another relatively healthy option: Sapporo Miso Ramen, filled purely with veggies, no meat. Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, is supposed to be the birthplace of miso ramen; this subtly sweet preparation stuck close to the authentic recipe, topped with sweet corn & bean sprouts.

On the other side of the eat-healthy spectrum: chicken katsu, partnered with a raw egg poured on a sizzling plate. Watami offers plenty of DIY dishes that are potentially fun for families.

Tofu with cheese & mentaiko. Prices here are lower than expected; this one cost about RM15, including service charge. We predict Watami will be packed at peak hours in the weeks ahead, even though the restaurant is spacious enough to fit more than 100 customers.

A yakitori set of beef with spring onions & asparagus, chicken wings, thigh & soft bones. Not as smoky or succulent as the best ones out there, but for below RM20, we can't complain.

Okonomiyaki with a difference, stuffed with mochi for a sticky surprise. A well-executed version of this oft-abused pancake; thick and aromatic without being sickeningly greasy.

A reasonable range of booze is available at heartening rates. From sake to Suntory beer...

... black whiskey soda to yuzu soda ...

... umeshu with grapefruit to shochu on the rocks.

Watami Malaysia @ Pavilion,
Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant,
Level 4, Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2141-6671