This is perhaps the most celebrated unit at Orchard Central.
With each visit, we observed an ever growing legion of fans queuing outside the restaurant - mostly young folks and stylish working adults. Not to say that this is just a place to be seen or plain happening. The food here is homely good, in my opinion. On our third visit (within the span of 2 weeks) somewhere in July, the waiting list got too long for us and we resorted to a nearby restaurant for dinner instead. It’s now October and if the trend is true, then the waiting list must have gotten even longer and the crowd may have just spilled to the nearby escalator.
It was everything Japanese about this imported teishoku (set meal) chain. Not in a classy Ginza-Roppongi kind of way but it’s what most Japanese eat on a daily basis. Restaurants such as this can be found everywhere in Japan – subway stations, shopping malls, villages, etc. Not on top of Mount Fuji though. Generally, I like them because the food is delicious (disregarding the use of Japan’s national treasure – MSG), the servings are substantial, there’s free drinking water and service is prompt. And we've not begun on the many varieties of condiments! As a foreigner in Japan, the installation of vending machines to ticket orders is helpful in lowering the language barrier. Fun too! No such machine here though.
In comparison, Ootoya is definitely more upscale than the other famous chains like Yoshinoya or Matsuya (a perennial favourite of mine!). In fact, I wouldn’t even put them in the same category. Their dining experience includes a well decorated interior, comfortable seats and attractive utensils. But it doesn't translate to exorbitant prices. Looking at the online menu on their Japanese website, prices are relatively average.
The food. Well, where should I start? My favourite - the fried chicken with sweet and sour sauce. I know what’s on everyone’s mind. Aiyer, Chinese also got sweet and sour dishes like that la. So different meh? Well, yes. The typical tomato-based sauce was replaced with a kurozu sauce made of black vinegar. So, it was sour without being fruity. Got to like the interesting choice of vegetables that went with the meat like lotus roots too. I chose the sweet and sour chicken because it was rated as the top favourite dish (genki) among customers on their Japanese website. The grilled fish was not far behind. We've tried both the atka mackerel and the Alaskan red snapper. The atka mackerel, to us, was more flavourful and firm. By the way, don't underestimate the size of the fish. It's rather huge, even to me. On our second visit, I had the other dish where the picture was superimposed in the menu - the Ootoya Special Dish, which consisted of a piece of croquette, deep-fried chicken and a sunny side up for a smoother bite, I guess. The desserts in the menu looked tempting but luck was never on our side as the bestsellers were always sold out by the time we placed our order. The only dessert we managed to grab was the green tea ice cream parfait. The combination of Japanese sweet potato and matcha ice cream worked well.
Definitely money well-spent, for the quality and quantity of food that we’ve got. It’s good to know that there’s a dependable, reasonably-priced restaurant that serves a slice of tasty, regular Japan that’s nothing of pretense and mediocrity. Now, please expand! And make more desserts!
Fried chicken with sweet and sour kurozu sauce (black vinegar)
Charcoal grilled minced chicken and herb
Charbroiled Alaskan red snapper
Ootoya Special Dish - croquette/deep-fried chicken/sunny side up
Green tea parfait