For someone who frequents Plaza Batai almost everyday, I missed out Tabe Tomo on many occasions. Its bright red sign is only noticeable if you’re walking around Ekkamai or Shangri-La. Otherwise, it is easy to miss.
But I’m glad it caught my eye and my attention long enough to step in for a review one evening. It was a Saturday evening at 6PM and we were the first ones there, being the super early eaters we are.
But of course, by the time we left at 9PM the place was bustling with activity and many had just walked in for a late dinner.
We were greeted with three small starters which included a shoyu tofu, quail’s eggs and some beautiful cream cheese that we couldn’t get enough of. We were then promptly won over by their other starter - the fried sweet potato strips.
We started off the meal with a very gentle avocado salad (RM20). The fresh avocado salad is served with a generous helping of lettuce and strips of seaweed, giving it that Japanese flavour that we love so much.
One of my favourite dishes that came after that was their roasted beef sushi (RM25). What is so special about this dish is that the "sushi" doesn't come with a rice base. Instead, the perfectly grilled, tender slices of beef are paired with mashed potato! A foodie's dream come true! It is also served with a small side dish of raw egg should you choose to dip your food in.
One of the more interesting dishes we tried was their Japanese yam cake (RM14). Though it doesn't look like much, these stringy yam cakes pack a punch with its spiciness! We didn't expect it to be quite so spicy, but it was a good way to get our appetites going.
The next dish, as the manager of the restaurant explained, is a classic Japanese appetiser that isn't usually found in restaurants outside Japan. Though it may seem like a simple fried fish cake to us, to the Japanese, this is a symbol of home. The Satsumaage (RM14), is indeed a basic Japanese fish cake served with grated ginger and shoyu. The fish paste is incredibly soft and smooth and it has a hint of sweetness to it.
For our next starter, we tried their Takigawa Dou Hu (RM10), which is a generous serving of homemade tofu with soba sauce. The deep fried tofu was paired with a lovely boutique brand of sake directly imported from Japan by the owners of Tabe Tomo. They are also distributors of the sake and own the nearby sake bar, Nomi Tomo.
Of course, since Tabe Tomo is a modern izakaya, yakitori is one of their specialties here. Upon entering the restaurant, you will see the chefs expertly grilling meats above charcoal through their open kitchen. Though it is an open kitchen situation, we actually didn't walk out of there smelling of food and oil. The ventilation was quite sufficient but we also did sit quite far away from the smokiness of the grill.
Some of the must try yakitori here include their pork belly with lettuce (RM10), pork shoulder (RM10), pork tongue (RM8) and my personal favourite, their home made smoked cheese drizzled with honey (RM8.50).
For something a little on the heavier side, we would recommend trying their homemade meatball with egg (RM25). I loved how well seasoned this was and how juicy the meatball patty is.
We also had our fair share of carbs. We tried their yakisoba (RM20), which is easily one of the best yakisoba dishes I have ever tried. The flavour was just right and not too salty. The bonito flakes pulled the whole dish together and I couldn't get enough of it.
If you're a rice bowl lover, then you will also love the rice bowls here. We tried the oyakodon (RM20). I love the fluffy egg scramble and chicken combination which makes the rice so moist and flavourful.
They also have ramen here. The karamen soup (RM20) is a pretty spicy version of the broth. I found it a little too spicy for my liking. But for Malaysians who love spicy food, this will suit your palates just fine.
I did, however, very much enjoy their tonkotsu ramen (RM20), which features a porky broth, packed with strong flavours in every spoonful.
Finally, for desserts, we had a really great time enjoying their raisin butter (RM16), which is exactly what its name suggests. The raisins are mixed into the butter. The slabs of butter are drizzled with honey and served with a side of Meiji crackers. I had to have an extra serving of crackers to enjoy this dessert! It was incredibly addictive. Hint: Order it as an appetiser, too.
After trying the raisin butter, I didn't think anything could top that. But then I tried their coffee blancmange (RM16), which is essentially their take on a tiramisu. The creamy coffee base was smooth and silky, which went well with the chocolate shavings on top, giving it a bit of added texture. This is definitely a must-try when at Tabe Tomo.
Overall, our experience at Tabe Tomo reignited a passion for Japanese food that we thought we had lost. Their modern and daring take on Japanese cuisine proves that there are so many dimensions to Japanese food we have yet to experience.
This is one restaurant we would happily return to time and time again.