On the lower ground floor of Kuala Lumpur’s Quill City Mall lies a restaurant whose size is a matter of envy for its neighbours.
At over 1,672 sq m, the sprawling Aragan Yokocho, a Japanese eatery which can seat over 200, certainly has a lot to be proud of.
Just to give you an inkling of how big it is: the food court at One Utama, the fourth largest mall in the world according to CNN, is 1,207 sq m.
The restaurant was designed to offer Japanophiles in Malaysia something different from the same-same Japanese offerings currently in the market.
“We wanted to start our chain out in Malaysia and make it very different from any other Japanese restaurant. That’s why we have 10 different kinds of food stations here, but all under our control.
“And with the space that we have, we decided to separate it into spring, summer, autumn and winter [themes]. You can choose where to sit, but each section has a different feel,” says Jimmy Chong, one of the directors of Aragan Yokocho.
The four seasons concept is infused in a subtle, understated way (think bamboo plants in the spring section), so some guesswork might be necessary to confirm your section.
If you’re really into Japanese culture, the restaurant also provides the opportunity to don yukatas, for Instagram-worthy shots.
What makes Aragan Yokocho different from other Japanese restaurants is the collection of 10 stations in the middle, around which the seating is ranged.
Each station features chefs whipping up fresh offerings under different categories like tempura, noodles, sushi, rice bowls, hotpots, yakitori, teppanyaki, drinks and desserts; there is even a sake section.
It’s sort of like a food court, except that it’s all under the umbrella of a single restaurant.
While this is nice in theory, it’s hard to imagine how it would work in practice.
Would people have to walk up to the stations to place orders? How will the restaurant handle the potential chaos of juggling the orders of over 200 customers, if running at full capacity?
Chong says they thought this through very carefully and decided to provide tablets on each table.
The tablets list the full range of menu items, so all diners have to do is click on their preferred choices and their selections are sent to the service kitchens – in three seconds.
Another neat feature of the tablet is that customers get updates on what orders have been delivered to their table, as well as orders that are pending.
Although the current menu is limited, Japanese director Satoshi Yushikawa estimates that within two months, the restaurant will be rolling out over 400 items on its full menu.
“Now, we want to train the staff and roll things out one at a time. I want to train them to make each thing well. I think this will also keep customers interested, because there will be new things every time they come,” says Yushikawa.
You can expect to tuck into all sorts of delicious Japanese offerings (all the seafood is imported from Japan), like the tempura moriawase (RM19) which features beautifully battered, crispy prawns and brinjals – among other offerings – served with green tea salt, curry salt and tempura sauce.
Or the delectable maguro wasabimaki (RM21) a delicate sushi laced with generous amounts of wasabi paste.
There’s also the cold noodle dish syouyu hiyashi chuka (RM19), which features lots of cucumber, bean sprouts and chicken swimming in a sweet sauce that is sensational from start to finish.
Chong says although there is plenty of good food on offer, every attempt has been made to keep prices moderate, in keeping with the demands of the time.
“There’s really no point pushing the prices too high, as the economy isn’t very good and we want our concept to reflect fair pricing,” he says.
Although the flagship restaurant just launched on Monday, there are already plans to open more Aragan Yokocho outlets, with one earmarked for the Sunway Velocity shopping mall and another three more planned in Johor Baru.
“We think we have something really special here, so we definitely want to bring it to other locations around Malaysia,” says Chong.