Japanese cuisine is as colourful in variety as it is in aesthetic. From modest ramen and izakaya bars to all-you-can-eat Japanese buffets and high-end omakase experiences, the cuisine offers a rich diversity of flavours, colours and nuances that make it so well-loved around the world – including Malaysia.
Though it has a long-standing history with traditions that are still held firmly until today, there’s also a progressive side to it, as with most modern culinary schools of thought. Japanese tapas, or Japas for short, is one example that is taking root in the industry, with new dining venues cropping up in the local F&B scene this year.
For the uninitiated, think of it as Japanese izakaya meets Spanish tapas. It fuses the informal, laid-back approach of the former with the sophistication in modern interpretations of the latter. Try one of these 5 Japas spots in KL for a fun chow down with friends on your next night out.
Newly opened by Chef Jeff Ramsey (of Tapas Molecular Bar, Tokyo’s 1-Michelin star fame) and the team behind the now-defunct Babe, Japas is a new concept restaurant bringing a modern, international edge to traditional izakaya fare. The menu of artistic nibbles spanning premium seafood and singed meats is curated with a passion for good food and camaraderie in mind. Marinated salmon roe is presented in an eye-catching paper-thin tartlette in one dish, octopus grilled over binchotan stands to offer a smoky kick for the senses in another. W japas.com.my
Location: 11th Floor, Work@Clearwater, Changkat Semantan, Damansara Heights, 50490 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Sundays, from 5.30pm onwards
At this casual dining establishment in TTDI, expect fun, vibrant dishes that reflect the mood emanated by its colourful setting. The menu features dishes that are designed to be shared and complemented with the clinking of sake glasses, such as deep-fried snacks (kaarage), gyoza, yakimono and sushi. It also claims to have the largest premium sake selection in the country, making it a must-visit for fans of the Japanese alcoholic beverage.
Location: 1-2, Greens Terrace, Jalan Wan Kadir 3, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: 12pm – 2.30pm, 5pm – 12am daily
Palillos Yakitori Bar
Nestled along the quaint foodie street that is Jalan Mesui, Palillos Yakitori Bar offers a warm, intimate setting for conversations over food and sake. The name itself explains a lot about what to expect: ‘Pallilos’ (translated to mean ‘sticks’) hints at its Spanish influences and ‘yakitori’ is suggestive of the menu. But there’s more to be enjoyed than just skewered meats – though that is certainly the highlight – with chef-owner Roberto Solanes’ selection of grilled meats and tapas, including Japanese Squid & Shiso Leaf Tempura, Iberico Ham and Mizuna Salad.
Location: 23, Jalan Mesui, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 4pm to 11.30pm
RokuNana Washu Bar
Right off the bat, sake aficionados will have a ball with the selection of over 180 labels at RokuNana. But even if you don’t fancy the drink, the nibbles and platters here are also worth trying. There’s a variety of grilled meats like Iberico ribs that come with a side of sweet Japanese white corn; fresh seafood options served with wasabi or other fragrant condiments; as well as yakitori and ramen noodles. The space offers a warm, modern ambience that makes for the perfect happy hour or post-work fix too.
Location: D5-G3-2, No.1, Jalan Dutamas, Solaris Dutamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 5pm to midnight
Rare The Food Company
While it calls itself a modern Japanese restaurant, Rare The Food Company features a menu that’s not unlike what you’ll find at refined tapas eateries like those listed above. There are starters, small plates and grilled selections that are made for sharing, some of which hint at Spanish influences. Then there are dons (rice bowls) and mains like dry aged meats that you’ll want to savour all by yourself. Don’t forget to pick your poison from the extensive beverage menu to complete the experience (wine, sake and Suntory draft included).
Location: Level 2, The Club@Empire Residence, Jln PJU 8/1A, Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya 47820, Malaysia
Opening hours: 6pm to 9pm daily
Photos courtesy of respective establishments
Featured image: Japas