After reading many favorable reviews of Watami, I finally visited the restaurant during my first trip to Ion.
I visited the restaurant at noon on a Monday and was ushered in by the very courteous waiter within a few minutes. The polite staff repeatedly apologised for the slightly longer wait for the food which we were going to face as they were trying out a new PDA ordering system. Well, we certainly didn't know what we were up for...
15 minutes after placing our orders, we were each served a small portion of salad. The simple combination of fresh lettuce, julienned carrots and corn kernels was livened up by the refreshing dressing.
Our drinks were then served. My Pineapple Yakult (add $2 to upgrade the free drink included in every lunch set) was served with a slice of orange. It was okay I guess... Oddly tea was only served then.
Another 10 minutes later, our appetizer was served. Tako Satsuma Age ($5.80) is basically a crispy fish patty with octopus, and was listed as a signature dish on the menu. It was served with a small mound of minced ginger. There was a rather generous serving of octopus studded inside. However, it was a tad tough so I probably won't order this again.
Yet another 10 minutes later, one of the main courses finally appeared. Torinegi Teishoku ($9.80) is described on the menu to be crispy fried chicken with spicy sauce. The chicken tori was not bad-being crispy on the outside and tender inside. However it would have been even better if it was juicier. The leek slices served with the dish did the perfect job of mopping up the yummy sauce. Like the other lunch sets, this was served with a small bowl of rice, pickles and miso soup.
The Sukiyaki Teishoku ($12.80) then made its appearance. The waitress served up a metal bowl filled with a fresh assortment of vegetables, tofu and large slices of raw beef, all immersed in stock. The bowl is placed on a hotpot and is then cooked in front of you. You can control how long you want your food to be cooked. The stock was intensely flavourful and was r addictive. The onion slices caramelized wonderfully inside the broth, and the leek simply melted in my mouth. The small serving of tang-oh included in the hotpot was also very delicious. The beef was pretty good, it's similar to the beef bowl from Yoshinoya- tender and chewy, full of the essence of the broth. There was also enoki, cabbage, a shitake mushroom and carrot slices.
However, after a while, one does get sick of the very sweet broth. Perhaps the chefs could cut down on the mirin? (However I may not be a good judge here as this is my first time eating sukiyaki)
One of my dining companions was left waiting for her main course- the Kimchi Nave Teishoku ($9.80), which happened to be the daily special. Despite repeatedly enquiring about the dish, we were told that it was "being prepared"! Finally only when I pointed out that the other two diners were on the verge of finishing their meals did the dish finally surface- a whopping 32 minutes after the previous dish was served! The waiter claimed that it was due to the deluge of orders for that dish, but seriously, how long does it take to place a bunch of veggies, pork slices and broth in a metal bowl? Similar to the beef sukiyaki, the dish came with a lot of veggies, tofu and generous pork slices, along with a mound of kimchi.
Watami's got affordable food and polite service. What it desperately needs to improve on is the time taken for the food to be served. My unfortunate experience was probably due to miscommunication between the kitchen staff.