Tokyo Fried House, which blends the cuisine and ambience of Nipponese restaurants and “izakaya”, is a new kid on the St. Julians block. And the owner is on a mission: to set the record straight about Japanese culinary culture in Malta. The desire to change awareness towards Japanese cuisine, along with “washoku” (Japanese food) inscribing itself on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO) a few years back, are what inspired the birth of Tokyo Fried House on Maltese fertile ground.
Due to the original kitchen setup, the owner’s resolution was to emphasize Japanese fried food at first. The original main menu included a slew of “teishoku” (Japanese set dishes) with the entrees being “karaage” (fried tender chicken), “katsu” (fried pork), “Hirekatsu” (fried pork cutlet), and “tofu katsu” (breaded fried tofu).
Returning to the widespread “izakaya” concept, it expands upon the idea of a bar by typically offering long lists of “otsumami” – the Japanese equivalent of tapas. Adopting this, Tokyo Fried House’s menu is packed with small dishes of tofu – served fresh or lightly fried – Japanese seaweed, pickled cucumbers and other seasoned vegetables, marinated spinach, “hijiki”, Japanese potato salad, and many more.
The “izakaya” influence is felt in the setup and atmosphere of the restaurant as much as in the food. From the moment you push aside the izakaya curtains and step onto the patio until you are seated within view of the central bar, boasting genuine Japanese beverages, you are in for a wholesale Japanese experience. Everything from the waves of contemporary Japanese music, social events, the staff’s unassuming yet effable treatment (known in Japan as “omotenashi”), all the way to the Japanese washlet (Japanese-styled toilet!), work in harmony to fashion your encounter with Japanese culture.
The ingredients wrapping up every dish with an air of authenticity are shipped over from Japan. And since inauguration, Tokyo Fried House has spruced up its menu with several more dishes, the likes of ramen, sushi, gyuudon, kaisendon and other donburi (meat, fish, vegetables, etc. on a bed of rice in a bowl). This came by way of modular kitchen installments also brought over from Japan. The most recent culmination is two “yakiniku” (Japanese BBQ) grill sets, and this has been setting things, so to speak, on fire!
“Yakiniku” needs plenty of time to prepare. The highlights are an array of finely sliced prime meats, vegetables, and sometimes seafood. These are accosted by white rice, Japanese cabbage, Korean “kimchi”, and a selection of sauces (recommended with a chilled Japanese beer!). Patrons will sit around the grill and cook the food at their own leisurely pace.
This type of cuisine exalts a social element pervasive in Japanese cuisine, in that many Japanese enjoy sharing food in good company. There are similar plans to include “nabe” (Japanese potluck), “shabu shabu”, “sukiyaki”, and more. A caveat though, as, just like many other aspects of Japanese life, most of these dishes are closely tied with their respective seasons.