Wakaba

Special thanks to Wakaba for extending this food review invitation.

This is my third visit to Wakaba Japanese Noodle Restaurant (若葉日本料理) at Elit Avenue. During this visit, I learned that Wakaba used to operate in Cenang Beach, Langkawi several years ago. However in 2015, the restaurant relocated to Penang and embarked on a journey to specialize in homemade noodles.
Since my previous visit, Wakaba has made incremental changes to its menu. The revised menu still revolves around its signature udon, soba and ramen noodles, which are made fresh in the kitchen. In addition, the menu also includes nabemono (鍋物), donburi (丼), curry rice (カレーライス), sushi (寿司), sashimi (刺身) and set meals (セット).
One of the new dishes is Hiyashi Chuka (冷し中華, RM18.00), which is similar to Zaru Soba (ざるそば) except for the fact that it uses ramen (ラーメン) instead of soba (そば). To prepare this dish, ramen noodle is first boiled till cooked. Then, ramen is chilled in ice to bring the temperature down so that it attains some degree of springiness. This dish is appealing indeed.
Ramen is served with other ingredients namely poached egg (温泉卵), crab stick (カニカマ), seaweed (海苔), beni shoga (紅生姜, pickled ginger) and shredded cucumber. Meanwhile, the accompanying sauce has a combination of sweet and sour components, which really helps to draw appetite. The sauce is refrigerated for one day to allow its taste to develop fully.

Kurobuta Toubanyaki (黒豚陶板焼き, RM45.00) is another new dish on the menu. The centerpiece is kurobuta pork, one of the most prized pork selections in Japanese cookbooks. This exquisite pork is taken from Black Berkshire, a unique swine breed from England. Taken from the shoulders, kurobuta pork is very expensive because it has to be specially imported from Spain.
Raw kurobuta pork is served in a ceramic pot called touban (陶板). Similar to nabemono, the pot is heated by a gas-powered stove. As kurobuta pork is renowned for unusually high fat content, the flesh remains juicy and tender despite being cooked for nearly 10 minutes. As soon as the succulent pork starts to cook, it emits buttery aroma to the immediate surroundings.
Once cooked, the pork is best enjoyed with specially-formulated dipping sauce based on vinegar. The sauce carries sharp tanginess which helps to accentuate savoriness of pork. Meanwhile, shimeji mushrooms (占地), bell pepper and onion provide natural sweetness that complements well with flavor-rich pork.
Kurobuta Toubanyaki comes as a set which also includes an appetizer, miso soup (味噌汁), rice and fruit. The actual appetizer varies from day to day. Today, the appetizer is potato croquette (コロッケ) infused with milk. I think the croquette is nicely-prepared overall.
Besides pork, there are other versions of toubanyaki on Wakaba's new menu. Beef (ビーフ) and seafood (シーフード) are popular options. For something lighter, try pork cutlet (ヒレカツ) or fried shrimp (海老カツ) toubanyaki instead; raw egg is included.
Wakaba's ice cream menu has been expanded too. Besides the sesame version which I tried before, Yuzu Ice Cream (ゆずアイスクリーム, RM4.00) has proven to be very popular. This homemade ice cream is made from yuzu (柚子), a citrus fruit originally grown in East Asia. I love the ice cream's pleasant sweetness and creamy consistency. The ice cream is also littered with occasional bits of yuzu fruit.
Although Wakaba's menu appears to be more expensive than the average Japanese restaurant in Penang, its selection of premium ingredients justifies marginally higher pricing. To truly enjoy Japanese food, why go for localized ones that cut corners when you can enjoy authentic dishes that are prepared by an experienced chef from Japan?
Name: Wakaba Japanese Noodle Restaurant (若葉日本料理)
Address: 1-1-31, Elit Avenue, Jalan Mayang Pasir 3, 11950 Bayan Baru, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-637-1122
Business hours: 11:30am-2:30pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm, closed on Mondays
Website: https://www.facebook.com/wakabapg
Coordinates: 5.32277 N, 100.28198 E
Directions: Wakaba is located at the western side of Elit Avenue in Bayan Baru. Roadside and garage parking are available.

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