Watami boasts an extensive menu and is one of our go-to places for quick and decent Japanese food at a moderate price. They have an impressive number of branches located all around Singapore (eight, to be precise). We’ve tried two of them so far and here’s our verdict: (1) the outlet at ION Orchard is usually packed during lunch and dinner (tip: have your meal during non-peak hours), (2) the outlet at The Central is much quieter, offering a considerably more pleasant dining experience. The restaurant overlooks the Singapore River and is vastly spacious, occupying six units on the third floor of the shopping mall.
For a casual Japanese restaurant, Watami’s mind-bogglingly large menu presents a very diverse selection of Japanese food. A massive drinks menu greets you with options ranging from alcoholic (beer, sake, shochu, whisky, cocktails, plum liqueurs), to healthy fruit juices (pineapple, grapefruit, orange, mango), to everything in between (just to name a few unique ones: purple sweet potato vanilla shake, kiwi tea with agar, green citrus yuzu marmalade soda). Moving on from the drinks, you are then thrown into a world of difficult choices (the menu offers at least a hundred different food items). The 15-paged menu has sections dedicated to appetisers, tofu dishes, salads, sushi, sashimi, deep-fried items, okonomiyaki, egg dishes, meat, tempura, seafood, hot pots, skewers, rice dishes, ramen, udon and soba, plus 12 different desserts to choose from. Clearly a menu of epic proportions.
Chicken Katsu Tamago Toji (SGD$11.80)
Their katsu tamago toji is quite a unique take on a popular Japanese dish. The breaded, deep-fried chicken cutlets are served on a sizzling hotplate, doused in a bubbling salty-sweet sauce. It is then entirely up to you to crack the raw egg provided into the mixture, and watch as it cooks and coats the katsu. While the sauce is a touch too salty for our tastes, this dish is one we’d definitely order again.
Ishiyaki Gyu Steak Don (SGD$13.80)
Served in a deep stone bowl to keep the rice piping hot, Watami’s ishiyaki gyu steak don is both flavoursome and hearty. It arrives, sizzling, with tender strips of raw beef and plenty of greens piled on top, which you cook by burying deep in the hot fluffy rice. Add a good dash of soy sauce to the steaming concoction and give the contents a good toss. The wafting aroma and umami notes of the soy sauce will be enough to send you to heaven. And when you’re done with the stuff on top, you get to diligently scrape at the charred rice stuck to the bottom of the bowl and savour its crispy-chewy texture. While not quite as complex in flavour compared to the kimchee-flavoured ishiyaki bibimbap (SGD$10.80, not pictured), the ishiyaki gyu steak don still manages to play its role as a majorly filling and utterly satisfying meal.
Ishiyaki Gutsugutsu Agedashi Tofu (SGD$8.80)
Deep-fried tofu squares in a sweet-salty tentsuyu broth, topped with a refreshing ball of grated radish, seaweed strips and spring onion. Served extremely hot, with the broth still bubbling in its little stone pot. While the addition of the grated radish makes for a generous touch, I felt that the sauce and the fried tofu were both fairly one-note. I have yet to come across a restaurant that does agedashi tofu better than Uchouten.
Maccha Parfait (SGD$6.80)
Three pearly white spheres of gooey, chewy, glutinous rice balls; a generous scoop of green tea ice cream; some earthy red bean paste; plenty of crunchy cornflakes for that added texture; a dollop of whipped cream; a chocolate wafer roll embedded in the mix. Need I say more? This maccha parfait makes for the perfect after-dinner dessert!
WATAMI JAPANESE RESTAURANT
The Central, 6 Eu Tong Sen Street
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 10:00pm (daily)