Suki Desu (I like) Watanabe!!

Thursday Feb. 25th, 2010

Samantha Fleming

There is something to be said about those quiet, under the radar type of restaurants. The kind of places that pride themselves upon personal interaction with customers, and providing delicious, fresh food. These are my favorite locations to frequent. Not only are you supporting local business people, but you are tasting what hard work and dedication can create. Many times they will know your name or what you tend to order. They make you feel much appreciated for coming in. Watanabe Japanese Restaurant is definitely one of these.
You may be asking at this point, “What and where is Watanabe?” Watanabe is the sole purveyor of authentic Japanese food in the area. What I mean by authentic is that the owners are from Kumamoto Japan, and strive to bring the taste and flavors of the country to the table. It is tucked in the development across from Bozeman High School. The Watanabe family owns and operates the restaurant. They serve a variety of dishes from noodle and rice bowls to many options of tempura. Now is the part where I get to explain what my favorite fact about Watanabe is… They make excellent sushi! I may have vocalized this before, but I am really infatuated with sushi. At last, a place in this town where I can quietly get my fix, in a friendly, cozy atmosphere, without breaking the bank!
My proclamation to my daughter that we would be dining at Watanabe one recent evening was met with a fist pump and shout of pure excitement. As we entered the restaurant, we parted through the door beads and heard the bird door alarm softly chirping. After only putting one foot inside the door, we were immediately greeted by a voice saying “Come in, Welcome!” The Watanabe’s are some of the friendliest restaurateurs I have ever encountered. As soon as we sat down, an energetic server quickly approached with water and menus. We perused the sushi selection under the dim glow of red Japanese lanterns. They offer all the standard sushi items; California Rolls, Spicy Tuna, Spider Rolls, Sashimi, and Nigiri as well as a vast array of specialty rolls. For example, the Bobcat Roll is a California Roll topped with Ahi Tuna, onions, and drizzled in hot butter. The BHS Hawks Roll is Tuna, Salmon, avocado, tobiko and spicy mayonnaise. The Ocean Roll consists of cream cheese, cucumber, avocado and Salmon. I am constantly impressed by how amazing the Hamachi tastes. Hamachi (Yellowtail) has the tendency to get fishy quickly. I have never encountered this at Watanabe. It is always fresh and delicious. They have a long list of vegetarian rolls, and tofu creations such as the Komachi Roll which combines Agedashi Tofu with scallions. For the rookie sushi connoisseur, they create a Karaage roll which is Japanese Chicken, Lettuce, and Wasabi mayonnaise. After some intense discussing of what we would be consuming that evening, we decided upon Flaky Rolls (spicy tuna with bits of tempura), Tsukiji Roll (Tuna with cucumber and avocado), Super California Rolls (tobiko on top) and a Hama-Peno Roll (Yellowtail, jalapeno, and cream cheese).
As we waited for our creations to come to the table, I noticed a good friend dining with his brother in the corner. My friend’s brother is a very talented chef in Bozeman. I approached the table, and he began to rave about how much he was enjoying his sushi. It is always nice to see other people who obsess over food dining in the same locations. After sitting back down, our selections were brought out promptly, and beautifully arranged on the plate. In a quick flurry of starving excitement, we began to attack the display. The fish was, as always fresh and delightful. I smiled with amusement gazing at my child expertly handle her chopsticks. She even slowed down towards the end and kindly offered me the last roll. A memorable evening, company and food wise.
Watanabe is open Monday through Saturday for lunch from 11:00am to 2:30pm, and for dinner from 4:30pm to 8:30pm. They are not open Sundays. They do not deliver, but offer take out. Alcohol is not served as they are located across the street from a high school. They offer party platters if you want sushi for a family or office gathering. The Party in California option is 60 pieces of California rolls for $42.00. The Party in Bozeman platter is 30 pieces of California rolls and 30 pieces of UnaQ (eel and cucumber) for $45.00. You can also design your own specialty platter with various sushi options with one day advance notification.
I enjoy eating food that is not heavy, yet still satisfies. I have never had a meal that I didn’t enjoy at Watanabe. I am proud to support them, excited to eat there, and truly impressed by the level of service and quality they provide on a consistent basis. Landlocked as we are in the Gallatin Valley, fresh, expertly prepared fish and sushi is not something encountered often. I can only hope that as you are reading this article, you are already mentally planning a trip to this establishment. Stop in, and experience some wonderful, locally prepared Japanese cuisine. Enjoy!