In Japan, izakayas are popular after-work haunts that serve alcoholic drinks and snacks, such as grilled items on skewers and small appetiser plates, finished off with a more filling portion of rice or noodles. Unlike traditional restaurants that serve course-meals, you order as you eat and the chefs prepare it a la minute – so expect to spend a substantial amount of time when dining in.
Japanese restos are a dime a dozen in the Klang Valley, but izakaya-style eateries that serve food on skewers are rare. In Puchong, there’s Minato Yakitori, a cosy establishment located above a steamboat restaurant. I’ve only been to an authentic izakaya once (in Nagoya), and Minato recreates the atmosphere well – the open kitchen where you can watch the chefs in action, the smoke, smells and sounds coming from the grill – even the bustle of diners chatting and enjoying their meals.
Technically, though, Minato Yakitori is not a pure izakaya – as it also serves dishes like Ebi Tempura Don, Curry Rice, katsu and even sashimi. This is good news for big eaters, as the yakitori items aren’t really filling, and you can rack up a hefty bill if you’re only eating skewers.
For starters, we got a bowl of thinly sliced, cold marinated jellyfish. It was marinated well and had a salty, sour tang, with a crunchy texture.
Pops had the Ebi Tempura (fried shrimp) set, which came with rice, miso soup and salad. Portions were generous for the price, as he had a good five pieces of largish shrimp, fried in a crispy batter with moist and springy insides. The Bro had a Chicken Katsu Don.
Moo and I ordered skewers and steamed rice. They took a pretty long time to come since everything is grilled to order. The skewers average about RM3 – RM10, depending on what you’re ordering.
I was actually kinda disappointed with the size. I know they’re meant to be snacks, but the squid, for example, looked small and shriveled. Even the dollop of mayo that was served on the side was super tiny. Although, I can’t fault the flavour and the quality of the food – the squid tasted fresh, and I liked that it had a slight char on the edges.
Moo’s Pork with Spring Onions. The meat had a nice sweet taste, like glazed soy sauce and sugar, which complemented the natural sweetness of the spring onions.
I also ordered: bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms, scallops and chicken liver. The latter two were the best of the lot: the scallops were plump and juicy, while the chicken liver was intense and gamey – not for those who don’t like the taste of offal. The bacon-wrapped mushrooms were good too, just the portion was small and the bacon slice was so thin I could have used it as a ring around my finger lol.
Our bill for 4 came up to just under RM100. If you’re looking for a tasty, filling meal, go for the sets. If you want the izakaya experience, order the skewers. Expect a wait as they grill the items to order. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.