If you're looking for a Japanese meal without the porcine factor, we show you the best places to go for pork-free dishes. From fine dining restaurants to casual establishments serving sushi, donburi, noodles and yakitori, there's a Japanese restaurant in KL for you.
RECOMMENDED: The best Japanese restaurants in KL
Uroko has a bit of everything. It’s a party box of choices – nigiri and maki rolls, sashimi platters, noodles, tempura, yakitori, nabe and donburi, all packed into a massive hardbound menu that requires ample table space to flip through and about 15 minutes to grasp from cover to cover. So far, it’s not unlike Sushi Zanmai, but an affluent man’s version, if you will. Commonly, a large menu can come across as unfocused or lacking of speciality dishes, but Uroko turns out to be an exception. Case in point: the salmon ball salad (RM22). Salmon sashimi slices finished with salmon roe are draped around a zesty, crunchy mound of watercress. It’s all the things a salad wants to be – bright, sprightly and textural. Many of the entries at Uroko are similarly exciting and sometimes, original. While it may be tempting to opt for a sushi moriawase, it’s far more rewarding to try the more out-of-the-box rolls swathed in flavoured mayo, roe and badassery. For instance, the Uroko Maki (RM38) is a glitzy display of salmon, crab sticks, avocado, mentaiko and caviar – it’s about as much as fun as you can have in Seksyen 17. Look out for the page in the menu titled ‘Chef’s Specialities’ where most of the restaurant’s playful items reside. As its name suggests, the baked oyster with cod roe and cheese (RM12) does no wrong. The prawn stick (RM24) – marked as a recommended dish – is skewered prawns slathered in a mysterious creamy, enigmatic garlic sauce and liberally topped with cod roe. The p
The pared-down eatery features a thrift-minded menu for diners with a slightly thinner wallet. Fresh fish takes centre stage here – all painstakingly handpicked by owner Masamichi Tomono, who hails from a Hokkaido-based family of fishermen. The sashimi are fastidiously prepared – just slivers of sea bream, sea bass and amberjack served au naturel with an occasional sprinkling of chopped green onion.
The restaurant’s vibe is pretty chill, and you may coax a conversation out of the owner himself who’ll gladly educate you on the variety of seafood. When in doubt, order the mentai rice and a comforting cup of hot roasted barley tea – they’ll help ease your way back into the outside world.
Strictly speaking, Mei by Fat Spoon is not a Japanese diner, but their Japanese-inspired comfort food is good enough for us. If you only order one thing, go for the rice bowls – there’s the summer bara chirashi topped with a mound of colourful chopped sashimi, the tender ox tongue rice with a runny egg and garlic flakes, and the creamy torched salmon rice bowl with bunga kantan – where the Pong sisters’ instinctive understanding of textures and flavours is evident.
Chef Ori upholds a standard of unyielding perfection – he rocks the compulsories (nigiri and sashimi) but aces seasonal ingredients, from Seiko snow crabs and shirako (cod sperm sacs) to the freshest Hiroshima oysters. The Japanese maestro knows his onions (and wasabi too), which probably explains the lunch and dinner menus available in preordained multi-course sets – you only have to sit back and submit to the will of the chef. The most affordable set lunch, seto (RM88), for example, is a carnival of colours, showcasing an appetiser, eight pieces of sushi, one sushi roll, steamed egg custard, miso soup and dessert. Oribe is making triple axels in a Japanese-saturated dining scene: technically sound, classy, with a polished culinary sensibility.
Kampachi’s delicate buckwheat noodles are handmade daily in-house. Here, the silky threads of soba (pick from a choice of hot dashi broth, cold seiro soba in dipping sauce, cha soba or plain zaru soba) are thin and light with a springy texture. We recommend that you go with the cold soba: crack the quail egg into the dipping broth, add chopped scallions, and swirl the soba in the soy-based sauce before slurping it up. Soba, so good.
You can’t go wrong with Zipangu for the simplest fact that they don’t stray far from tradition. The space is classic Japanese, with interiors dominated by wood, featuring rock gardens and water features. Aside from the main dining hall, there are also separate sushi and teppanyaki counters.
The menu ticks all major cooking styles and preparations, so yes, there are sashimi, sushi, teppanyaki, grilled items, tempura, rice dishes, hot and cold noodles as well as a small vegetarian selection. Fresh seafood is flown in twice a week, so you can be sure of the quality – plus the sashimi come in thick cuts.
If you plan on getting more bang for your buck, come for the Saturday Sushi Brunch Buffet (RM105nett per person). Selections include hand rolls, teppan grill sushi, extra spicy sushi and even dessert sushi, as well as sashimi, noodles and miso soups.
One of the best yakitori joints in town, Torii has opened a new outlet in the revamped Jalan Batai strip. The restaurant sits on the ground floor while a bar occupies the first floor. This new upgraded space at Batai is a showcase of their newfound confidence. The bar looks very masculine, much like an upmarket gentlemen’s club, what with the handsome leather sofas, wooden flooring and an impressive walk-in whisky ‘closet’. The bar has its own menu of snacks and skewers, and they range from the common (deep fried cheese with homemade strawberry dip) to the bizarre (air-dried sting ray) to the seriously addictive (the fried chicken wings with sea salt are simple but outstanding). However, we suggest you order from the restaurant menu, where Torii’s claim-to-fame – yakitori – is made using premium ingredients. Then, finish off with either the Whiskey-NRaisin or Yuzu Umeshu ice cream. Torii is also a bar for serious whisky connoisseurs. The list is one of the most extensive we’ve seen in KL, focusing mainly on premium Japanese and Scotch single malt; the latter is further categorised according to region. Go for the Islay whiskies if you like them peaty, or the Highlands if you prefer something more floral. While the priciest bottle on the list, the Macallan 25 years, sells for an eye-watering RM9,150, you can also order your whisky by the glass for most labels, with prices starting at an affordable RM24. There’s a limited selection of wines, sakes and sochus, but we’d skip th
Nobu is known for its take on Japanese-Peruvian cuisine, of which the apotheosis is the famed black cod with miso. This iconic dish has spawned countless imitations elsewhere, but here is where it originated.
At Nobu, you can expect every course to be executed perfectly, where traditional Japanese preparations and fare are elevated with Latin American-inspired spice and heat. Some of the most well-loved dishes include yellowtail sashimi jalapeño, Chilean sea bass with red jalapeño miso, and the Matsuhisa sliders, among others. Admittedly, the prices are on the high side, but with it you’ll also get a gorgeous view from the restaurant’s lofty height on the 56th floor of Menara 3 Petronas. Perfect for those special occasions.
With Japanese chef Fujiwara Toru’s French culinary background, you can expect some contemporary Japanese cuisine (such as kingfish carpaccio with jalapeño and calamansi lime dressing, foie gras dishes, and a peach and tofu parfait) on the menu, along with the usual sushi, shabu-shabu, tempura and sukiyaki offerings. The seafood is flown in from Kyushu Island, Hokkaido and Tsukiji – so no question about the freshness and quality of the fish and produce here.
This discreet sushi bar, which seats only 12 people, is where you go for the true omakase experience. While there are set meals, the omakase is where Chef Hiroyuki Murakami demonstrates his expertise in the best seasonal produce. Fish and seafood are flown in directly from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market, and they’re treated with the utmost respect, favouring only the lightest marinade or homemade sauce when absolutely necessary. And that explains the eyewatering prices: omakase starts from RM580 for lunch while it’s RM930 onwards for dinner. Some of the most memorable dishes in the past include rice topped with (heaps of) uni, the fugu fish terrine and the cod milt tempura.
For an ultimate crash course on Japanese cuisine, Aoki-tei’s à la carte buffet is a good place to start – you can sample everything at one go, from yakitori, tempura, maki rolls and nigiri sushi to sukiyaki and hot plates. Free-flow of ocha and beer (by the jug or mug) are included, and for saké lovers, come by during dinner as there’s unlimited hot or cold saké available. Note that there are lunch and dinner sessions (with different menus) for the buffet. Reservations are recommended as it gets crowded on weekends.