Cafe Yamatatsu is a gem that you have to go hunting for. Originally a pop-up at Kongsi KL, the Japanese-Taiwanese eatery has since moved into permanent quarters just off Old Klang Road’s sixth mile, hidden within a quiet industrial estate.
It was a cloudy Saturday evening, and after missing the turning twice, we finally pulled into a street that looked almost deserted. As we were wondering if this was the right place, Yamatatsu’s distinctive storefront – with Japanese characters emblazoned on traditional noren (banners) – loomed into view. And even though we were early (the store opens at 6PM for dinner service; we were there at 5.45PM), there was already a queue – a testament to the place’s popularity.
We didn’t have to wait long. A waitress popped out of the shop to take down the number of people in queue, before sliding the wooden door open to reveal a Japanese-style diner, warm and cozy in hues of beige and brown. One side of the space was dedicated to the kitchen and bar, the counter lined with sake bottles; the other featured anime posters on its walls. We were quickly seated and given a QR code menu.
The menu features a plethora of Japanese and Taiwanese dishes, the likes of braised pork rice, mee suah, udon, oyakodon, and more. But aside from the popular staples, you can also get regional specialties, such as the Creamy Potato Salmon, which is a nostalgic home-cooked favourite in Hokkaido, or Tamago Kake Gohan with natto, featuring a pasteurized egg marinated over soy sauce, and fermented beans. Other unique creations include the Stewed Pork Rib with Corn, and Taiwanese Chicken Chop and Duck Rice, which pairs the iconic Taiwanese deep fried boneless chicken thigh with fatty slices of smoked duck over a bed of rice.
We ordered an appetizer of Yamatatsu fried chicken (RM11) and two of their recommended dishes: braised pork rice (RM9.50), and chicken over rice (RM9). The prices are a steal, considering the cafe’s setting. Even some kopitiams without air conditioning charge that much these days. Our orders were processed quickly and arrived to the table within minutes.
The fried chicken is made Japanese-style — that is, extremely crunchy on the outside, thanks to the use of potato starch and a double-fry method. The cuts are from the thigh, so they have a nice, juicy texture. The meat is also well-marinated in soy sauce, giving it a sweet and savoury taste. While karaage is typically served with Japanese mayonnaise, Yamatatsu pairs it with wasabi mayo, which is creamy with a pungent kick: it’ll keep you coming back for more!
The chicken over rice is a specialty in Chiayi, Taiwan. Tender pieces of shredded chicken are laid atop rice, then drizzled over with fragrant scallion oil and soy sauce. The bowl is served with pickled cucumbers and egg. Simple, but comforting food.
The star for me at Yamatatsu is their braised pork rice. While this dish is extremely common thanks to the many Taiwanese restaurants we have in the Klang Valley, some places serve the meat minced (gasp!); else, the pork belly is sliced too thickly, or they include pickled vegetables (*which to me spoils the entire bowl. the star is meant to be the pork!).
In my opinion, Yamatatsu’s is the closest you can get to authentic Taiwanese street food: the pork belly is cut into small pieces and braised until it boasts a sticky gelatinous texture. The thick, caramel-like sauce is lip smackingly good, rich and savoury. People who love rice and meat should easily be able to polish off at least two bowls of this!
For drinks, I went for the Sparkling Honey (RM7.50). It tasted exactly like the carbonated HoneyB brand from Australia; sweet and fizzy, but spruced up with some herbs. It was perfect for cutting through the greasiness of the fried chicken and braised pork.
Hubs had the Yoghurt Sake (RM20). Had a small sip. I don’t like alcohol so I can’t really judge; it tasted okay to me but not something I would drink on my own volition. The Hubs loved it though, and described it as “interesting, because you can taste both the yoghurt and sake blending together, but you also get the distinctive flavours of each”.
We left with satisfied tummies and a warm, fuzzy sense of satisfaction.
Their prices are very affordable, portions are generous, and the service is impeccable – the latter is somewhat of a rarity in many F&B outlets in Malaysia – so a big thumbs up to the Yamatatsu team. If you’re planning to stop by for your Japanese/Taiwanese food fix, I suggest coming early to avoid the queue.
CAFE YAMATATSU 山達小舖
30, Jalan 2/131A Project Jaya Industrial Estate, Batu, 6, Jln Klang Lama, 58200 Kuala Lumpur
Open Fridays to Tuesdays (12PM-3PM, 6PM-9.30PM). Closed on Weds and Thurs.