Must-try Japanese food in KL

From sushi to ramen, Japanese food is one of those cuisines that we can’t get enough of. While most of us already have our go-to spots for our favourite Japanese meal, we’re always game to try out new ones, especially if they serve more than our usual sushi and ramen. 

Here’s a list of restaurants in KL that serve legit Japanese food, from dry ramen noodles to homemade oden, that anyone who loves the cuisine should try. 

1. Menya Hanabi – delicious mazesoba 

Japanese Food KL - Menya Hanabi
Add in a dash of the kelp vinegar on the side when the dish starts feeling a little too heavy from the creamy egg yolk and greasy minced meat
Image credit: @alvinalphonse

It’s hard to resist a piping hot bowl of ramen, which is what makes it our go-to Japanese meal – next to sushi, of course. If you’re a fan of the traditional ramen, you’ll want to give Mazesoba (from RM21) a try as well. It’s basically Japanese dry pan mee in that it’s served with minced pork, green onions, and comes with a side of chilli flakes for an extra kick. 

You won’t see mazesoba on the menu of most Japanese restaurants, but you can get them at Menya Hanabi at Sri Petaling. The dish is also a step up from your regular bowl of Chinese pan mee as you can choose to have them with melt-in-your-mouth pork slices that have been braised, then torched for a hit of smokiness. The chewy, udon-like noodles are also topped with a runny egg yolk as well as a Hanjuku egg that oozes out golden lava in the middle. 

Japanese Food KL - Menya Hanabi gyoza
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If you’re looking for a side to go with your noodles, don’t pass up a plate of their Jikasei Yaki Gyoza (RM8). The dumplings, pan-fried on one side, has that nice crust that makes them all the more addictive. That, combined with the juicy pork and veggie filling makes this a standout dish. 

Address: No. 16, Jalan Radin Bagus 6, Sri Petaling, 57000 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: 11AM-10PM, Daily
Telephone: 03-2858 1392
Menya Hanabi Facebook

2. Aka Cafe – adorable bento boxes and equally cute drinks

Japanese Food KL - Aka Cafe
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If you’re one of those who enjoys mixing your soup with rice, you’ll love Aka’s Salmon Ochazuke (RM19). It’s served to you in a bento box which comes with 2 bowls of panda-shaped rice balls, salmon flakes and some seaweed seasoning, a pickled cucumber side dish, and a pot of tea. 

Once you’ve added in the salmon and seaweed to your rice, pour in a good amount of tea before mixing it all up. And there you have it, a perfectly comforting bowl of chazuke that we can totally imagine served at the dinner table of a Japanese home. 

Japanese Food KL - Aka Cafe Pink Lab
Pink Lab serves a mochi ball, yoghurt, and strawberry yoghurt drink in a fun set-up.
Image credit: @gchoo_low

The cafe obviously has a knack of making food look adorbs AF. Just look at some of their drinks! Their Pink Lab (RM15) comes with strawberry yoghurt drink served in a conical flask and test tubes, and a glass of ice on the side so you get to mix to your pour and mix your own drink.

Japanese Food KL - Aka Cafe interior
Their cosy space sports a clean minimalist interior with both tatami and by-the-window seating.
Image credit: @karrynnd

Address: No 21-1, Jalan 109F, Plaza Danau 2, Taman Danau Desa, 5800 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Sat – Wed 11AM-6PM (Closed on Thursdays & Fridays)
Aka Cafe Facebook

3. Menya Takeichi – collagen-rich chicken ramen

Japanese Food KL - Menya Takeichi
Each bowl comes with slices of chicken chashu, minced chicken balls, seasoned bamboo shoots, and Hanjuku eggs.
Image credit: @tohkohmakan

While you can never go wrong with a flavourful pork bone broth when ordering ramen, you shouldn’t miss out on Tokyo-based ramen chain Menya Takeichi’s Chicken Ramen (from RM22.80), which comes with a collagen-rich broth that has won over the local community there.

Japanese Food KL - Menya Takeichi takoyaki
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They also have a make-your-own Takoyaki set (RM24) for a fun, hands-on dining experience. You’ll get to take on the challenge of forming and flipping these delicious octopus balls – just like the Japanese vendors you’ve seen do while on vacation in Japan.

Address: A2, G2-02, Jalan Dutamas 1, Solaris Dutamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 12PM-2.30PM & 5.30PM-11PM | Sat & Sun 12PM-11PM
Telephone: 03-6206 4964
Menya Takeichi Facebook

4. Itsumo – deep-fried and grilled skewers

Japanese Food KL - Toridoki
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Those who love satay will be reminded of this local favourite when they come across yakitori dishes at Japanese restaurants. At Itsumo, formerly known as Toridoki, you’ll be able to get almost every ingredient you can possibly think of skewered and grilled – chicken tail, cheese meatball, and even ginkgo nuts, and of course, regular ol’ chicken breast (from RM4/skewer)

Japanese Food KL - Toridoki skewers
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Itsumo stands out from other yakitori speciality restaurants because it also serves Kushikatsu (from RM4/skewer) – skewers that are essentially breaded and fried, much like tempura. If you’ve been to Japan or watch excessive amounts of food vlogs on Youtube, then you’d probably need no introduction to this Osaka speciality. 

Everything from lotus root slices to even quail eggs are thrown into the fryer. The batter is light and airy, so you won’t have to deal with that nauseating feeling in your tummy that you’d usually get after wolfing down deep-fried food. 

Address: No. 40, Jalan 24/70a, Desa Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 5.30PM-11.30PM | Sat & Sun 12PM-3PM & 5.30PM-11.30PM
Itsumo Facebook

5. Uokatsu – fluffy rice topped with tamago and mentai

Japanese Food KL - Uokatsu
The Japanese rice is sprinkled with seaweed strips and topped with a slab of sweet tamago that has a generous layer of mentai blanketed over
Image credit: @ourlittlehop

Malaysians flock to Uokatsu just for their Mentai Rice (RM19), a simple rice bowl that consists of only 3 ingredients. The soft pollack roe in the mentai bursts in your mouth, imparting notes of umami that complement the sweet tamago, which has an egg custard-like texture. Paired with the sticky short-grained rice, this dish makes for a pretty fulfilling, yet fuss-free meal. 

Japanese Food KL - Uokatsu mentai rice
Image credit: @spicy_mamacita

Grilled seafood-wise, the Salt Grilled Saba (RM6.50) is always a favourite, having only been lightly seasoned to really allow its rich and creamy flavour to come through. You can also go for Grilled Whole Japan Squid (RM24) or Ocean Trout Sashimi (RM19.50)

Address: 7, Ground Floor Plaza Damas 3, B-0, 63, Jalan Sri Hartamas 1, Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Mon – Sat 9.30AM-2.30PM & 6PM-9.30PM | Sun 11.30AM-2.30PM & 6PM-9.15PM
Telephone: 03-6201 0339
Uokatsu Facebook

6. Sunbather Coffee – trendy Japanese fusion food

Japanese Food KL - Sunbather Coffee
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Hamburg steaks are actually pretty popular in Japan and Korea, though most of us would find it strange to be ordering a burger patty at a Japanese restaurant. Try having Sunbather’s Beef Hambagu (RM28) though and you’ll see what the hype is all about. 

The Australian beef used to make the patty completely places the dish in a new league, making it incomparable to the average burger patty you’re probably thinking about. The “steak” is loaded with flavour from the seasoning – onion, nutmeg, black pepper – while the demi-glace sauce complements the rich meat with a slight tartness. 

Japanese Food KL - Sunbather Coffee Yaki Imo
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For desserts, opt for the not-to-be-missed Yaki Imo (RM15) – a slow-roasted sweet potato that’s served whole and still steaming, with little pockets of nectarous honey dotting the root vegetable and 2 scoops of housemade sweet potato ice-cream.

The food at Sunbather is not traditionally Japanese, but you can’t deny the strong influences from just looking at the menu. We can totally imagine the food here being served in trendy cafes over in Japan, where the youths there are probably as much into the cafe culture as we are over here. 

Japanese Food KL - Sunbather Coffee interior
Their woodsy interior is complemented by the bright pops of white from the ceiling fixtures and chairs
Image credit: @mielifestyle

Address: UG-12 Upper Ground The Sphere, 8, Jalan Kerinchi, Bangsar South, 59200 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: 10AM-10PM, Daily
Telephone: 018-2299 986
Sunbather Coffee Facebook

7. Curee – healthy Hokkaido-style curry

Japanese Food KL - Curee
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Japanese curry is one of those ubiquitous Japanese dishes, its sweet and fragrant curry sauce making for a perfect pairing with a slab of freshly fried tonkatsu. If you’re a fan, give Curee’s Japanese Curry with Katsu Chicken (RM16.50) a try. Each plate comes with lotus, potatoes, carrots, rice, and you can choose to have it with either chicken katsu or natto. Compared to other similar joints, the dish here is considered more affordably priced. 

Japanese Food KL - Curee Hokkaido-style Soup Curry
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But it’s Curee’s Hokkaido-style Soup Curry (from RM15.50) that has earned them a spot on this list. For most of us who grew up eating thick curry, this soup curry dish may raise some eyebrows, but a few sips of the slightly spicy, fragrant tomato soup will win you over. The set comes with a bowl of Japanese rice, and an assortment of roasted vegetables, such as eggplant, mushrooms, pumpkin, and okra.

Japanese Food KL - Curee interior
Curee’s interiors have a minimalist vibe and monochromatic palette, and rattan furniture adds interest to the space.
Image credit: @mokja

Address: 40, Jalan 1/77A Off Jalan Imbi, Changkat Thambi Dollah, 55100 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Thu – Tue 12PM-8PM (Closed on Wednesdays)
Telephone: 011-1888 7987
Curee Facebook

8. Butaya Izakaya – grilled skewers made to go with drinks

Japanese Food KL - Butaya Izakaya
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Butaya Izakaya

Anyone who enjoys the occasional after-work drinks will know just how important bar food is. For those who’d like a change from the usual basket of fries or hot wings, plan your next gathering at Butaya Izakaya instead. One glance at their menu and you’ll know that most of their food are meant to be paired with beer. 

Japanese Food KL - Butaya Izakaya yakitori
You can find everything from tongue, heart, liver, and gizzard here.
Image credit: Butaya Izakaya

Their Yakitori meat skewers go from RM4 a pop while the veggie ones are only RM2.50 each, which places Butaya on the inexpensive end of izakayas. The charcoal-grilled skewers have an aromatic smokiness to them, while the sweet marinade will please all types of palates. You can also find everything, from XX tongue, heart, liver, and gizzard here. 

Japanese Food KL - Butaya Izakaya interior
Their traditional izakaya set-up looks like it could be a scene from a Japanese anime.
Image credit: Butaya Izakaya

Address: 14, Jalan Sri Hartamas 8, Taman Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Mon – Sat 1PM-3PM & 5PM-11.30PM (Closed on Sundays)
Telephone: 03-2389 4172
Butaya Izakaya Facebook

9. Saisai Japanese Restaurant – home-cooked soul food

Saisai could very well be one of the most obscure Japanese restaurants in the city, as it occupies only half a shop lot and comes without a signboard. Once you’re past their doors though, the first thing you’ll see is a Japanese aunty busily putting out food from the kitchen. 

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Unless you’re flying out to the specific city of Akashi in Japan, you probably won’t be able to try Akashiyaki (RM15) anywhere else. It’s a round dumpling that’s made with eggy batter and octopus – think takoyaki but doughier. These dumplings are a must-get just for how fluffy they are, offering a nice contrast to the slightly chewy octopus tentacles. 

Japanese Food KL - Saisai Japanese Restaurant oden
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You can’t miss out on the Oden (RM12) either. Most Malaysians were first introduced to this dish when FamilyMart came about, and while we can all agree that it’s the best convenience store food hands down, you’ll want to try the legit, home-cooked version at Saisai. Rainy weather or not, this bowl of oden is bound to satisfy those looking for a delicious snack. 

Address: F-0-9, Plaza Damas, Jalan Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Thu – Mon 6PM-10PM (Closed Tuesdays & Wednesdays)
Telephone: 017-223 7683
Saisai Japanese Restaurant Facebook

Japanese food in KL

We’ll always have tummy space for Japanese food. And if you’re looking to add some variety to your usual sushi or ramen meal, just make a short detour to any one of these places. Jio the gang out to discover these underrated Japanese food haunts together, so that way, you get to order more dishes to try. 

Here are some ideas on how to spend your weekend once you’re done with lunch:

Cover image adapted from: @weiipengg & @cassheweats

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