The very first time I stepped into Watami was at their 1-Utama outlet and that was for a hurried lunch. I had a bowl of ramen and I was good to go. I believe I do have some photos of that meal somewhere but I haven’t had a chance to blog about it. I told myself I’d blog about it when I have revisited the place to try out more of their dishes. That was like almost 4 months ago and this was during the time when the Old Wing of 1-Utama was undergoing some massive renovations which resulted in many new dining outlets and I was madly busy…busy with the year-end, beginning-of-2012 and of course trying out the many new food outlets there!
Anyway, to cut a long story short, recently I had the privilege of tasting more of Watami’s offerings but this time it was at their Pavilion Kuala Lumpur outlet. Watami is the original creator of the “Ishokuya” dining concept in Japan – one that features delightful modern Japanese cuisine which are evident in all of Watami’s original dishes and signature beverages.
With over 700 outlets in Japan and 50 across Asia-Pacific, Watami has now reached the Malaysian shore with the 2 outlets: one in Pavilion and one in 1-Utama. The Malaysian franchise-holder for Watami here, ChasWood Resources is excited and poised to pamper Malaysians with Watami’s tantalising array of Nippon fares.
Miki Watanabe, the founder of the Watami Group, conceived the concept of “casual restaurant” – a lively, pleasant tavern offering an extensive menu and of course, a comfortable environment. If you can’t already guess it, WATAMI comes from the name of the founder, WATAnabe MIki. In Japanese Kanji, “Wa” means “harmony” and “tami” means “people” therefore, “WATAMI” comes together with a most apt meaning “gather people to dine in harmony”!
Watami’s Anago Tempura Maki sets it apart from most other similar makis by using unagi done tempura-style. This gives the sushi roll a nice crunch, a contrast of textures from the soft rice.
As elaborated by Amritpal Singh (Watami’s Director of Operations), the food philosophy at Watami includes involving their guests in the whole experience of eating there. By this, he meant that some of the dishes are cooked at the table and guests are invited to participate in this. Take for example, their Gomoku Kamameshi. This is a traditional pot rice whereby a steel pot is placed on the table, filled with rice, bonito, carrots, shimeji mushrooms, tofu pouches, root vegetables and topped with salmon, shrimps, scallops, chicken and flying fish roe and all these are cooked in broth for 20 minutes. This is something like having a Chinese-style claypot rice done at your table but in Watami, the pot is made of steel and the ingredients are all different! I love it that after 20 minutes (and in between that, the most appetizing aroma wafting out from the pot), I get to enjoy piping hot flavoursome rice right from the pot!
A Watami signature dish – oven-baked scallops and shimeji mushrooms served on a sizzling hotplate, topped with butter (RM14.90) … is it surprising at all that this was a big hit with all of us? Scallops, mushrooms, butter – that’s really the best combination, ever!
The Beef Sukiyaki is another tableside-cooked dish. This pot of bubbling broth is filled with nage negi (Japanese mushrooms), tofu, enoki mushrooms, carrots, garland chrysanthemum leaves, cabbage and of course, thin beef slices. I was careful to dip the beef in for just 20 seconds only so that it’s not overcooked and I was rewarded with deliciously tender beef.
The Chicken Katsu Tamagotoji came in a claypot on a stove and an egg by the side. What we had to do was break the egg, beat it up and pour it gently over the sides of the claypot and let the egg omelette slowly cook and encase the chicken cutlets. The chicken cutlets remained crispy even though the bottom part of it was covered with smooth omelette – nice!
Now my favourite for that evening is the Tompeiyaki. This speciality dish from Osaka had beef, shredded cabbage, tempura flakes and spring onions stuffed inside a wobbly cheese-filled omelette and drizzled with mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce and mustard. Even before I took a slice, the good people at Watami assured me that I would love this and they were so right! This will definitely be a must-order item for me at Watami and you shouldn’t miss this either
For desserts, we tried the Matcha Tiramisu – tiramisu with a twist with green tea! We also had their Strawberry Parfait and I was told there’d be a surprise inside the parfait. As I dug my spoon right into the centre, it came up with a dollop of creamy cheese! What an interesting twist and definitely a delicious one.
Looking at the Grand Menu, there are lots of other dishes that I want to try in my next visit. The BBQ skewers look darn good, so do the various stone-pot rice and if you love ramen and udon, there’s a good selection too. And of course, sashimi as well as some carpaccio items.
Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant
C4.04.00 Level 4
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur
Lot F355/356/357, 1st Floor
1-Utama Shopping Centre