If you love atmospheric Japanese restaurants, Yakitori Haki offers a colourful homage to everything from samurais and sumo wrestlers to Hello Kitty and Kamen Rider - take a table by the crimson chochin lanterns to be transported from Cheras to Chiba for a feast of familiar favourites, from sushi to yakitori, ramen to donburi.
Yakitori Haki's chef-founder Leong spent nearly 30 years honing his craft in Japanese cuisine, including in restaurants in Odawara, Japan and Wellington in New Zealand.
This restaurant is a labour of love that includes intricate decorative flourishes by Leong himself - it's interesting to explore every corner of this venue, admiring the kendo swordsmanship training-inspired outfits and oni masks on the wall, the geisha dolls on the counter, and the manga art that lines every available space, with sake bottles popping up wherever you look.
The sushi counter also catches the eye, with a boatload of freshly flown sashimi - ruby-red slabs of tuna and glistening-like-gold Murasaki uni from Hokkaido. From fish and oysters to ebi, tako and hotate, it's sufficient raw seafood to warm the sushi lover's heart.
Sashimi and sushi platters provide a substantial start to a meal here. The Sushi Moriawase (RM45) includes something for everyone, made to order each time.
We love the classic Saba Ichiya (RM38) - Yakitori Haki does justice to this delicacy, salted and air-dried for a day, bringing a concentrated umami to the mackerel, which remains perfectly juicy and crisp-skinned after grilling.
In the evenings, customers flock to Yakitori Haki for its namesake speciality, comprising not only charcoal-cooked chicken but other meat, seafood and vegetables. Munch on smoky, slicked-up skewers of Yakitori Negima (RM5; chicken with scallions), Sunagimo (RM3, chicken gizzard), Chicken Soft Bone (RM7), Buta Leba (RM3; pork liver), Salmon Bara Bara (RM7), Okura (RM2.50; okra) and many more, hot from the grill.
For individual a la carte meals, the Chicken Yakitori Set (RM24) and Chicken Yakitori Don (RM22) are recommended especially for a fuss-free, fulfilling lunch, complemented perhaps by a side of Tempura Moriawase (RM22).
For fans of pork bone-broth ramen, Yakitori Haki promises soulful varieties with slow-cooked soups, from the traditional original of Tonkotsu Ramen (RM22) to the spicier, chilli-fuelled Geki Kara Ramen (RM21), all at reasonable prices.
Yakitori Haki also serves all the essential Japanese alcoholic beverages to round out your experience, with sakes like the Kubota Senjyu recommended for yakitori, Kubota Jyunmai Daiginjyo for sashimi and the Sawanotsuru Deluxe that should prove versatile enough for every occasion.
Many thanks to Yakitori Haki for having us here.
34G, Jalan 5/101C, Off Jalan Kaskas, 56100 Cheras, Kuala Lumpur. Daily, 12pm-11pm. Tel: 03-2856-8230