This is the second branch of Watami to open in Singapore, the first being at ION Orchard. This is the restaurant that closed their queue at 8.40 one evening, forcing us to go to Aoba Ramen next door instead. When we found out that a second outlet had recently opened at Central, we were quite psyched to try it. Finally, we thought, a chance to try it without the horrendous queue at ION.
Alas, there was also about a half hour wait at Central, but we put our name down and explored the rest of Central in the meantime. It was with considerable anticipation that we finally took our seats, placed our order and waited for the food to arrive.
Given the hype of the endless queues and P’s recommendation, this fell sorely short of expectations. We ordered quite a wide range of food, and none of the dishes made any impact whatsoever.
The Sushi Grandeur was a selection of their ‘premium’ sushi – teriyaki eel, scallop topped with mango, and salmon. This was pretty boring and lacklustre, and at $10.80, it wasn’t very cheap given the standard.
The grilled scallop and mushroom fared slightly better, but really, you can’t cock up scallops and mushrooms tossed with butter and bacon.
We tried the seafood garlic rice in a stone bowl. This looked promising, what with the sizzling sounds of rice being nicely charred to a crisp on a hot stone. While the rice did get nice and burnt, the dish on a whole was completely under seasoned. We had to add quite a bit of soy sauce before there was any semblance of flavour.
There were 2 good dishes, though I don’t think they were enough to redeem the others. The mentai cheese tamago yaki – omelette filled with cheese and mentaiko and lightly grilled – was light and well-balanced between the savoury filling and the sweet egg.
Another pretty good (but very filling) dish was the okonomiyaki. This was filled with cabbage, sliced pork and noodles. This tasted really good when it first arrived piping hot, and my first mouthful yielded a wonderfully fatty slice of pork. Unfortunately once it cools down it gets a bit heavy and stodgy.
Service isn’t horrendous but I think they just can’t cope with the crowds. We had to ask time and again for soy sauce and serviettes, though to give them some credit, they did look like they were trying.
The Watami Group is a Japanese chain which is apparently quite popular in Japan. I can only guess that they’ve franchised their operations outside Japan to a completely independent franchisee, because I can’t imagine that food of this standard can ever attain a loyal following amongst the Japanese with their discerning palates.
It’s not bad but I really don’t see what the fuss is about. There are some standout dishes (like the scallops) but I definitely wouldn’t queue up for it.
Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant
6 Eu Tong Sen Street, The Central
Open daily: 11.30 am to 11 pm