Yesterday was Malaysia Day. It was a public holiday in Malaysia, but I had to check into the office for the first half to get some work done. Naturally, it meant my foul mood has persisted.
I had not had breakfast and I was starving when I left the office at about 1.00 PM, so when I turned into the Elit Avenue (again) and parked my car, I resolved to enter the first restaurant that came across me and was open. And that was how I found myself inside Wakaba Japanese Noodle Restaurant.
This restaurant has actually been around longer than that cheap sushi joint just a couple shop lots away, but I have not had the opportunity to try this place out until now. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I found no occasion or temptation to check this place out. I don’t know, I guess it is the name of the restaurant. Wakaba, it doesn’t sound like an auspicious (or even appropriate) name for a Japanese restaurant. In fact, it doesn’t feel very Japanese at all. Wakaba, to me, sounds more closely related to Hakuna Matata than any Japanese word. I thought it must have been one of those wannabe restaurants operated by one of those wannabe engineer-entrepreneur, yet again.
Anyway, so I went in, and was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a rather comfortable and slightly classy environment.
I noticed the floor staff were all immigrant workers, which is usual in Malaysia these days. Burmese or Nepalese, I couldn’t tell, but they have all clearly been trained properly, for they all spoke decent English. No miscommunication issue here, and I was mighty glad for it. It also made me sad to think that I could be glad for something so trivial like being able to place my order in a restaurant easily in my home country.
I was given the menu. A rather classy menu at that. Then I flipped to the first page and saw some introductory notes about the chef and the noodles of this restaurant. It was like a big slap on my face reading this page. A big slap for my committing the cardinal sin of judging a book by its cover, or in my case, judging a restaurant by its name.
Hakuna Matata my ass! The chef is a properly qualified noodles chef from Japan! It seems to me now that Wakaba is indeed an appropriate name for a Japanese restaurant. I am the jakun one here for doubting it! Another big slap for me!
To atone for my sins, I quickly placed my orders. Since this is a restaurant that claims to specialize in noodles, of course I had to order a noodle dish. I went with one of Chef’s Recommended.
And then, as I flipped through the menu, I noticed that they also have some sushi on offer. Feeling unsatisfied with my meal the day before, I decided to go for another plate of sushi. As with the ramen, I went for the Chef’s Recommended.
After I placed my order, while waiting, I looked around the restaurant and observed a couple of things.
- A few of the customers that came in after me, were the ones that walked past this restaurant and then walked back after a while. I suspect the only reason they entered was because the other restaurants were either full or closed. They must have been the same type of customers as I was, the type that did not know and lacked confidence that this restaurant is any good.
- I also saw a few customers that came in after me, they basically sat down and wrote their orders on the chit immediately without waiting for the menu. Clearly they are returning customers who know absolutely what they want from here.
From this observation, I conclude that this is a restaurant that people are initially apprehensive to enter, but once they tried it once, they will become a regular. It somewhat raised my expectation a little, and made me hope that my noodles would be good.
And then my noodles came, after about 10 minutes wait.
Chasyu Shoyu Ramen – Ramen with sliced pork belly in Japanese soy sauce broth. First thing I did was take a sip of the broth. And you know what I felt? I’m by no means a Japanese food expert, so I don’t want to make sweeping statements, but… this broth, it did not taste almost like what I tasted in Tokyo. No… this broth, it tasted EXACTLY like what I tasted in that crowded ramen shop in Tokyo! And, before this, when I had ramen in Malaysia, I always get either half an egg, or no egg at all. This is the only Japanese restaurant outside of Tokyo where I get one full onsen egg in my bowl of ramen so far. But then, my ramen experience in Malaysia has been mostly Penang this past couple of years, maybe things are different in KL or other places…
I’ve only had ramen experience in two ramen shops in Tokyo, and one of them was in the airport. Based on that limited experience, I guess I can say this has been the most authentic Japanese ramen that I have come across in Malaysia.
Tunazuke Nigiri – Slightly Scorching the Tuna and served with sauce, according to the menu. In case you are not sure what does that mean, here… let me show you…
Is the sushi here any good? YES!
Is the tuna any fresh? VERY!
Will you have this Tunazuke Nigiri again? YES YES YES!!!
You know what? After my late lunch here, my foul mood was gone! This goes to prove that good food is indeed a miraculous cure for stress and bad mood. I ended up paying RM 32.65 for the meal (RM 28 + service charge and GST). It was 10 bucks more than I paid for the day before at that cheap sushi joint, but it was 10 bucks that I think was most definitely well spent.
Oh, there’s one more thing I have not mentioned, the waiter basically asked me if I wanted hot or cold green tea as I sat down, and I said cold. And he kept topping the glass up when it was half empty. I expected to pay for it, but it did not show up in the bill. Which means, the green tea here is bottomless and free of charge!
I guess I would like to close this post by telling all you who happened to came here from Google searching this restaurant: This restaurant is bloody good! Don’t be deceived by the uninspiring restaurant’s name or the lack of queue at the entrance! Give this place a chance, and I’m positive you will come back for more!