We’ve waxed lyrical about the wonders of Sumika and we’re not afraid to do it again. The chicken breast with yuzu throws shade to all the basic breasts out there, the fat on the pork belly melts on the tongue upon contact, and the baked rice ball is buttery and crusty all at the same time. But it’s the purple sweet potato we go back for – warm, fork-tender, and doused in a flood of hot butter.
There’s a touch of premium to everything Fukuda puts out, from the stellar service to the deliberation of the beer pours. We’re absolutely smitten with the house-made bacon, about 2:4 in the ratio of fat to guilt. But it’s the waygu tenderloin that bowls us over, minimally seasoned and grilled over charcoal with utmost care. Also worth trying is anything with chicken, as Chef Yasunori Doi only believes in the kampung variety.
Kushiyaki Kuni is an under-the-radar yakitori house that’s been quietly going about its business for the past few years. The Japanese salarymen that gather here to knock back a few sakés after work are testament to the good work this little joint has been putting out year after year. The pork with mentaiko, ox tongue and chicken gizzard sticks are some of our favourites – all of which can be easily consumed within minutes.
Torii is the sleekest of all the yakitori restaurants in KL, where you might go to mark a special occasion. The main agenda here is Japanese whisky, and boy, do they have a whole lot of ‘em. Sip a glass next to signatures like unagi and foie gras, baked avocado with miso and cheese, and wagyu sliders with caramelised onions and spinach. In the midst of all the glam, you’ll hardly notice the absence of pork.
Tabe Tomo – which translates into 'eating buddies' – is all about fostering a jovial atmosphere where you can have a good time with friends over a few drinks and bar bites. Go for their signature dish, the rosuto bifu – roast beef with mashed potato topped with softboiled egg yolk. The dish is quite creatively presented like a volcano, with the yolk on top meant to be broken to flow down and coat the meat.
The team behind Toridoki only skewers the chicken or vegetables over the fire. At this yakitori bar, the chefs combine the different parts of the chicken on one skewer, such as the chicken thigh or breast wrapped in skin. Off the yakitori menu, the konsai salad showcases a different take on the Japanese root vegetables, where they are covered in mayonnaise and then topped with grated parmesan. Don’t fret with the limited options because with the way the yakitori is done, you’ll definitely be back for more.
Moku, meaning ‘wood’ in Japanese, stays true to its name and keeps to the theme of wooden furniture and complementing brick walls that provide a cosy, homey vibe. Young chef Mike Wong has five years of culinary experience in Japanese cuisine and he and his partner have concocted a menu of Japanese and French flavours. You can keep things simple and go with your usual chicken thigh or wing, but Mike recommends the cheese tsukune, minced chicken stuffed with cheddar cheese, and the mixed mushrooms cooked in butter, lemon and chicken stock. For pork lovers, the pork belly with sliced tomatoes is a perfect blend of salty and sweet. Moku also saves the hassle of you prepping your own barbecue pit as they can set up a personal grill at your table (only for outside seating).
For date nights, Ri-Yakitori has lavish hotel ambience and the added bonus of extended opening hours. Though the restaurant is pork-free, the signature chicken meatball will temporarily make you forget it; the marinated chicken meat is expertly grilled and served with an egg yolk dip. Never question your dining options the next time you’re in Mid Valley.
The enterprising Seiji Fujimoto is taking over Taman Desa, one izakaya at a time. His smoky bar is a favourite in our books, if only for its noisy, densely packed space – the closest thing in KL to Shinjuku’s yakitori alley experience. Grilled meats arrive hot and oily, oyakodon bowls spill over with pork, and beer is served cheap – what more could you want, really?