At last, a restaurant that I can accord a 4/5! Ladies and gentlemen, check out Umai, the latest Japanese restaurant in KK.
The restaurant boasts of a menu of over 200 items, the most extensive menu of all the Jap restaurants in town. The best thing of all is prices are reasonable, and even slightly lower (eg temaki rolls are only RM5 a piece) than most places (except for the sashimi, I think). It's obvious the new kid in town wants to stand out, in quality, variety and even in the presentation of the food. For instance, my spider (soft shell crab) sushi roll came with slices of white dragon fruit which looked like the black sesame seeds on the rice of the inside-out roll, and a generous garnish of ebiko.
Spider roll, RM11 (US$3.20)
This was superb, in taste and presentation. Definately thumbs-up item. Dragon fruit is hidden, far end.
Sashimi set lunch, RM27 (US$8)
All the Jap restaurants in KK fail, as far as I'm concerned, when it somes to sashimi. The worst one is Nagisa, Hyatt Hotel which serves soggy, no, watery tasteless sashimi that can only be swallowed with lots of wasabi and soy sauce. My sometime hairdresser, Bobby, agrees with me on this and the guy is super sensitive and knowledgeable about food. Umai's sashimi isn't watery but didn't quite make my cut.
(Talking of worsts, you'll never find me at Wagamama. I wouldn't pay for Malaysianised/local ingredients in Jap cuisine served on plastic and cheap ceramics. Somebody should tell Wagamama in London where the chain started from because I highly suspect our local Waga is not a franchise of the original restaurant.)
Teppanyaki king prawn set lunch, RM25 (US$7.30)
This was good, but a little too salty for me.
This is the first time I tried this soybean thingy and I won't be having it again. It's slimy, sticky (look at those strings) and tasteless, just like the ika it came with.
That was what Ming and I had for our lunch at Umai. Plus a plain starter of agedashi tofu (a little under-fried) and a salmon temaki. Because we raved so much about Umai, Hub took me there for lunch the next day. We both decided to have the grilled salmon don set. And this is where I'll let you in on my discovery: all the dons are priced between RM10 and 15 only and they are a steal because you'll have to pay twice that for other types of set lunches (see above) which only have an extra plate of tempura.
This was great! Unlike Hyatt, where the salmon is always overcooked and dry, Umai's grilled salmon was seared outside but tender inside, with a yummy teriyaki coating.
Kenny, the manager/proprieter of Umai, came over to chat when he saw us taking photos. A friendly chap, Kenny was very open to suggestions and comments. Ming's first comment was
"Just make sure you don't drop in your standards like most new restaurants in KK--good food when they just opened, but downhill thereafter!" With a serious face, Kenny assured us that they aim to be the best Jap restaurant in KK. I hope he keeps that promise.
Umai is located on 1st Floor, Tai Thong Building where Royal Palace is. That's first turning on the left after the Lido trafic lights on the way to KKIA. They are not officialy opened yet, but hours are 11am to 3pm and 6pm to 10pm daily.
(Mike C: did you guys have Japanese food too last week?)
Update: I brought 5 friends to Umai on 2/10/07 and was utterly disappointed.
1. The spider roll (RM11, not RM12 as I had stated before) had a small pinch of pickled ginger, no dragon fruit, two tiny pieces of lettuce. It looked totally different from the first one I had just 10 days ago. The other makis we tried tasted okay but were rolled so loosely, the filling didn't hold together.
2. Hub's tempura was soft and cold. When we complained, they took it away and came back with the same plate of tempura, now re-fried into hard shrunken pieces.
3. The chawan mushi was like water and only half full! We returned it and the replacement was only slightly firmer and the flavor was just not good.
4. The teriyaki salmon was bland, and looked and tasted like it was panfried under low heat because there was no caramelly teriyaki sauce taste and no crispy burnt edges like before.
5. Our food came slowly, at long intervals and from the maki till the set dinners it was a bad 40-minute wait.
Kenny, the proprietor, explained that the head chef was on leave and he apologized profusely but the harm was done. My friends walked out very disappointed, and so did I. It's KK restaurant syndrome (good at first, crummy after a while), but this restaurant was struck super quickly.