Monday, September 24, 2007

Eat With Us: Umai


At last, a restaurant that I can accord a 4/5! Ladies and gentlemen, check out Umai, the latest Japanese restaurant in KK.

The restaurant boasts of a menu of over 200 items, the most extensive menu of all the Jap restaurants in town. The best thing of all is prices are reasonable, and even slightly lower (eg temaki rolls are only RM5 a piece) than most places (except for the sashimi, I think). It's obvious the new kid in town wants to stand out, in quality, variety and even in the presentation of the food. For instance, my spider (soft shell crab) sushi roll came with slices of white dragon fruit which looked like the black sesame seeds on the rice of the inside-out roll, and a generous garnish of ebiko.
Spider roll, RM11 (US$3.20)

This was superb, in taste and presentation. Definately thumbs-up item. Dragon fruit is hidden, far end.

Sashimi set lunch, RM27 (US$8)

All the Jap restaurants in KK fail, as far as I'm concerned, when it somes to sashimi. The worst one is Nagisa, Hyatt Hotel which serves soggy, no, watery tasteless sashimi that can only be swallowed with lots of wasabi and soy sauce. My sometime hairdresser, Bobby, agrees with me on this and the guy is super sensitive and knowledgeable about food. Umai's sashimi isn't watery but didn't quite make my cut.

(Talking of worsts, you'll never find me at Wagamama. I wouldn't pay for Malaysianised/local ingredients in Jap cuisine served on plastic and cheap ceramics. Somebody should tell Wagamama in London where the chain started from because I highly suspect our local Waga is not a franchise of the original restaurant.)

Teppanyaki king prawn set lunch, RM25 (US$7.30)

This was good, but a little too salty for me.

Natto starter, RM7 (US$2)

This is the first time I tried this soybean thingy and I won't be having it again. It's slimy, sticky (look at those strings) and tasteless, just like the ika it came with.

That was what Ming and I had for our lunch at Umai. Plus a plain starter of agedashi tofu (a little under-fried) and a salmon temaki. Because we raved so much about Umai, Hub took me there for lunch the next day. We both decided to have the grilled salmon don set. And this is where I'll let you in on my discovery: all the dons are priced between RM10 and 15 only and they are a steal because you'll have to pay twice that for other types of set lunches (see above) which only have an extra plate of tempura.

Grilled salmon don set, RM12 (US$3.50)

This was great! Unlike Hyatt, where the salmon is always overcooked and dry, Umai's grilled salmon was seared outside but tender inside, with a yummy teriyaki coating.

Kenny, the manager/proprieter of Umai, came over to chat when he saw us taking photos. A friendly chap, Kenny was very open to suggestions and comments. Ming's first comment was
"Just make sure you don't drop in your standards like most new restaurants in KK--good food when they just opened, but downhill thereafter!" With a serious face, Kenny assured us that they aim to be the best Jap restaurant in KK. I hope he keeps that promise.

Umai is located on 1st Floor, Tai Thong Building where Royal Palace is. That's first turning on the left after the Lido trafic lights on the way to KKIA. They are not officialy opened yet, but hours are 11am to 3pm and 6pm to 10pm daily.

(Mike C: did you guys have Japanese food too last week?)

Update: I brought 5 friends to Umai on 2/10/07 and was utterly disappointed.

1. The spider roll (RM11, not RM12 as I had stated before) had a small pinch of pickled ginger, no dragon fruit, two tiny pieces of lettuce. It looked totally different from the first one I had just 10 days ago. The other makis we tried tasted okay but were rolled so loosely, the filling didn't hold together.
2. Hub's tempura was soft and cold. When we complained, they took it away and came back with the same plate of tempura, now re-fried into hard shrunken pieces.
3. The chawan mushi was like water and only half full! We returned it and the replacement was only slightly firmer and the flavor was just not good.
4. The teriyaki salmon was bland, and looked and tasted like it was panfried under low heat because there was no caramelly teriyaki sauce taste and no crispy burnt edges like before.
5. Our food came slowly, at long intervals and from the maki till the set dinners it was a bad 40-minute wait.

Kenny, the proprietor, explained that the head chef was on leave and he apologized profusely but the harm was done. My friends walked out very disappointed, and so did I. It's KK restaurant syndrome (good at first, crummy after a while), but this restaurant was struck super quickly.


Fooman said...

Finally, a decent Japanese restaurant in KK. Thanks for the review Terri. Will check it out soon.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you on Wagamama. Went there once (2 yrs ago?) and never went back. Will check out Umai soon.

Greg Wee said...

NEE: hmmm..we know where to go for jap next time in kk. cant resist jap...your soft shell crab rolls looks soooooo good..

Bento Pet said...

Spider rolls @ 12 bucks!! Fly me to KK now!!!

Anonymous said...

wow, the grilled salmon don set is so cheap, with chawamushi somemore..

Fooman said...

After laying off Wagamama, I gave their new outlet in Grace Point a try. Ugh. Regret. And yet, they have their fans. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

The staff at Umai was friendly and very helpful. Enjoyed the food but was surprised that their Tempura prawn noodle came with one single prawn.

Would be interesting to see how many go to Umai based on your blog/recommendation :)

MeatballOnline said...

i can't wait to go! thanks terri!

to b, i'm sure there'll be many of us rushing to Umai! there's so many fans of terri out there..

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

fooman:hope u like d food at umai. well, even pizza hut has its customers, another profound mystery!

raina:c fooman's comment? we're not alone.we go umai after kids' final exams?saw ur mom, she looks d same & good!

gregwee: keep up on ur blog, getting better each day!

bento: yes, very affordable. time to visir kk...hey, check out bluelotus on my link; good jap recipes too.

b & meatball:i shall c u all there..

bryan said...

Next chance I get I'll make a trip there. I not much of an appreciater of Japanese food but at least I'll have some sort of benchmark now.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

n u bryan!

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's go eat.. early November would be good.

Anonymous said...

U ain't gonna Blive it. No, we didn't have Jap food last week. WE HAD IT JUST NOW, B4 I signed on !!! 2 hot 2day 2 cook. It was 31°C !!! SO We'd bento box take out dinner(Chcken teriyaki w/ rice + 2 each of tempura shrip & sweet potato + 6 califonia rolls & 6 salmom sushi). K's asking why am I surprise... she's telepathic! She reiterated that the Jap dinner U prepared 4 us was still the best!

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

k surely IS telepathic! n i love her for tt compliment!but if u ever eat greek, don't expect me to follow.

MeatballOnline said...

oh terri... thank you so much! it's been long that i've felt so energetic after lunch.. Lunch at umai today was very good... so good that i can smile while doing my work for the rest of the afternoon... very satisfying lunch indeed.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

glad u like it!

Deana E said...

terri, read your blog about umai recently and thought of telling my colleague it..i must have missed it buy where is the exact location?

(there's a joke about umai-will post it after this..)btw,love reading your blog

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

dena e:i have changed my review after eating there last night! read my edited post. To go to umai, turn into the DJunction entrance at the Lido traffic lights but go straight on to the new building behind that has a big sign tt says 'Royal Palace'.

MeatballOnline said...

i went on the same nite too.. saw u & ur hb and ur friends.. wanted to say hi but a bit shy as u were talking to ur group of frens.

i missed u when u were leaving.. think i might be concentrating eating/talking.. i saw ur hb passed by our table then i realised u r gone... sigh..

surprisingly the food that we ordered was not so bad.. only the dessert i cannot tahan.. yucks!

Fooman said...

I've been there twice for dinner already and I noticed that they're having problems coping with the crowd surge. Orders were getting delayed and missed. Had to keep on reminding them to bring the rice before we finished the dishes. Food still ok. Will be going again on Sunday. We'll see.
Ate at Shinkei in Asia City Mall. Great pork ribs and duck was pretty juicy and meaty.

Fooman said...

I was at Umai again last night. Table of 10. I ordered a few of the Maki's to start and was quite disappointed. The rice was overly dry and they somehow lacked flavour. Even the Spider Maki. :(
Everyone ordered sets which came out quite alright. The beef Teppanyaki was quite tender. Chicken Katsudon normal lah. Sigh...

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

*sigh* i better get to shinkei b4 they also get the kk restaurant syndrome. one of my friends also think it's very good, so tq for d tip.

Anonymous said...

angie: went to umai yesterday for lunch for the second time.. this time i tired the grilled salmon don set.. wow what a bargain indeed, the salmon with the teriyaki sause taste so heavenly, i cant believe its only RM12!!! Tried the spider maki for the second time too, but i think this time no so good as compared to my first.. the sushi quite soggy and the soft shell crab is not cripsy.. hmmmmmm..:O

Anonymous said...

angie: i forgot to mentioned.. YUP, there is NO dragon fruit anymore in the spider rolls, but a few pieces of pickled ginger.. and the chawa mushi is only like 3/4 full, which is same as ur lunch teri.. so dissapointed..

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