The clean flavours, sheer diversity and freshness of Japanese cuisine has made it one of the most popular the world over, and KL has no shortage of restaurants offering its sumptuous spread. Whether it’s a soul-soothing bowl of ramen, a delicate roll of norimaki or a grilled yakiniku paired with a dipping sauce, the entire spectrum is covered.
While some focus on regional specialties and the seasonal dishes offered therein, others contain more widespread menus with a huge selection – but all on this list have ensured that there is no compromise on quality. Ingredients, techniques, recipes and culinary traditions all work in tandem to take you to the Land of the Rising Sun.
For many it’s the cuisine that keeps on giving – just when you think you’ve tried all it has to offer, another gastronomic delight is uncovered. Always exciting and fresh, here’s a few must-try Japanese restaurants spread throughout the capital.
On the upper end of the Japanese dining spectrum is omakase, which translates to “I leave it up to you”. In this way, the customer puts the selection of dishes for the meal entirely in the hands of the chef, who is expected to produce an innovative and exciting menu with near perfection. Sushi Ryu at Platinum Park has built a reputation as one of the best offering this fine-dining style.
Image credit: Sushi Ryu FB
A sushi counter carved of dark hinoki wood sits at the heart of this intimate, stylish restaurant, which offers two omakase menus that contain dishes including chopped otoro with caviar, white fish sashimi drizzled with truffle soyu and cold noodles with uni and caviar. You won’t find these anywhere else in KL, and they more than justify the steep price tag attached to each menu.
Paired with some of the exclusive sake from Nabeshima, Kokuryu and Kid breweries stocked in the cellar, and Sushi Ryu is the ideal place for a special occasion.
Where Unit 3.3, Level 2, Platinum Park Tower 1, 11 Persiaran KLCC, 50088 Kuala Lumpur
When 12pm-3pm, 6.30pm-10pm
Tel 03 2181 1533
Premium beef grilled tableside is the focus of this well-established eatery in bustling Desa Sri Hartamas. It’s one of the best yakiniku experiences in the Klang Valley, evidenced by the difficulty in securing a table here – get your booking in weeks ahead if possible.
This is a carnivore’s dream with only premium cuts of Australian and Japanese Wagyu (and also some lesser, but still quality kinds of beef) available here. Shortly after ordering, you’re given a personalised charcoal grill upon which you sear your preferred meats: sirloin, tenderloin, ribeye, chuck eye roll, brisket, thickly cut tongue and a few more choice cuts. There’s plenty to choose from, and it’s all elegantly presented and clearly labelled for your ease.
You can also be more adventurous and opt for umami-packed Shimacho – intestines with unique textures that lend themselves perfectly to the char of a grill. The beef sushi is also a standout here, torched and finished as it’s served.
Where 26, Jalan 24/70A, Desa Sri Hartamas, 50480 KL
Tel 03 2856 7350
Tonkatsu by Ma Maison
After his mission to find the perfectly made tonkatsu led him nowhere, Akinori Terazawa decided to do it himself and open his first restaurant specialising in the dish in 1976. A perfectionist dedicated to producing only the best, Terazawa’s empire grew over the decades and to-date he counts 16 outlets across Japan, 5 outlets in Malaysia and 9 outlets in Singapore under his umbrella.
Tonkatsu are breaded, deep-fried pork cutlets, and the ones that emerge out of the Tonkatsu by Ma Maison kitchens are tender, moist and succulent, coated with a crunchy outer layer overflowing with flavour. It’s the only dish they do here, and they do it well.
Image Credit: Tonkatsu by Ma Maison FB
Whether you opt for the hire (fillet) or the rosu (loin), each cut is of the highest quality pork. It comes served in sets that include rice, tonjiru (miso soup with pork), pickles and shredded cabbage salad with an addictive sesame dressing – all refillable for free. Along with the sweet and spicy dipping sauces, which you can customise with rock salt, there really isn’t much to fault here.
Tonkatsu by Ma Maison
Where Lot 56 & 57, Level UG, Publika, Solaris Dutamas, KL (see website for other locations)
Tel 03 6211 9399
Bari-Uma translates to ‘super tasty’ from Japanese and that’s precisely what you’re getting with these slurp-worthy savoury strands of goodness. These come served in pork bone broth that’s simmered for over 10 hours and served with thick slices of flamed, melt-in-your-mouth chashu (barbecued meat).
Image Credit: Bari Uma FB
Few soups move you like the extra-thick tonkotsu broth that’s made here. A hallmark of the Fukuoka Prefecture on the Kyushu island of Japan, its complex and intoxicating flavours instantly transport you to another place – one where you’ll want to stay for as long as possible!
Bari’s Signature bowl is masterfully presented with crisp seaweed that soaks up the broth to become umami-rich sheets of delight. Make sure to try out the wide assortment of gyoza (chicken stuffed dumplings) as well, from the negi-mayo version to pan-fried parcels with teriyaki sauce.
Where Lot L3-11, Level 3, Jaya Shopping Centre, Jalan Semangat, Petaling Jaya
When 11.30am-9.30pm (Mon-Sat), 10.30am-9.30pm (Sun and public holidays)
Tel 03 7932 2958
The Tokyo Restaurant
Situated at the top of Isetan’s The Japan Store in Lot 10, The Tokyo Restaurant is one of the five up-scale dining establishments that comprise the entirety of Level 4. While the other eateries we’ve mentioned so far offer authentic Japanese cuisine, this one strays from the pack with a fusion of Japanese and western sensibilities.
Image Credit: The Tokyo Restaurant FB
This is contemporary take is best experienced on dishes like the sushi tacos which pair perfectly with the crisp Kuro Kirishima shochu. A must try here is the Beef Hamburg Steak which comes served with rich demi-glaze sauce and sits on a sizzling hot plate. Complemented with sides of penne gratin, sunny side egg and broccoli, this is one hearty dish that will leave you satisfied for hours.
Make sure however to leave space for dessert as the famous Sixth Avenue Cheesecake which is undoubtedly one of the outlet’s star attractions. Many come here for this dish alone! And recently, a matcha version was introduced giving the whole thing the signature smoky bitterness of the green tea powder.
The Tokyo Restaurant
Where Level 4, Lot 10 Shopping Centre, 50 Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 KL
Tel 03 2119 2622
Tsukiji No 8
The Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo was the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world until it moved to the new Toyosu Market in 2018. Tsukiji No 8 in the heart of Kuala Lumpur is the namesake of that historic place and boasts some of the finest seafood you’ll find downtown. Fresh produce is air-flown thrice weekly from Toyosu Market, from buttery otoro (the fattiest part of the tuna) and amaebi (a sweet prawn) to briny-sweet uni and much more.
There’s a whole range of sushi and sashimi to put seafood lovers in ecstasy, and lunch specials are extremely affordable here. For dinner, premium omakase menus are available for a more fine dining experience.
Image Credit: Tsuiji No 8 FB
Unique to the restaurant is the kani miso, which is a soft paste made from the brains of the kani crab. It’s subtly sweet flavours and smooth texture is unlike anything your palate has come across before – don’t leave without trying it!
Tsukiji No 8
Where Lot 136/8 First Floor, Wisma Lim Foo Yong, 86, Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur
When 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6pm to 11pm
Tel 03 2143 8889