Katanashi Japanese Tapas Bar serves up some truly original Japanese tapas that fuse flavours from Asia, Europe and Latin America. Words by Erin Hale; photography by Lucas Veuve.

Street 51’s Katanashi Japanese Tapas Bar is not your ordinary Japanese joint. It serves up a combination of classic Japanese culinary principles and Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Spanish and other international dishes to create a varied menu of some truly unique tastes.

Manager Hidetaka Yokoyama says this kind of cuisine is already popular in Japan, but many people outside the country are unfamiliar with Japan’s creative culinary side. “Everyone knows Japanese cuisine is delicious, but a lot of Japanese restaurants just have sushi and yakitori, common traditional food. But Japan has more fusion style restaurants, so I want to show [this] cuisine not only the traditional one,” says Yokoyama.

Open since November, Katanashi brings previous experience from Singapore and Japan, where other branches of the restaurant have perfected the menu. While not exactly a chain, these prior establishments mean Katanashi can serve a complete menu without the quirks of a soft opening.

The menu, presented on a large board, can feel a bit intimidating at first but the reasonable price of most of the tapas means it’s easy to tuck into several options. A great place to start is the Japanese ahijo, Katanashi’s take on the classic Spanish gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) served with small slices of bread.

The prawn and tomato ahijo ($3.90) strongly resembles its Spanish cousin although it’s served with a Japanese shiokara brown sauce made from anchovies to give give it a strongly unique flavour.

The Katanashi beef steak ($3.90/100g) is also noteworthy and one of the most traditional things on the menu. The steak is served in small chopstick-friendly slices on a clay grill and comes with three homemade dipping sauces: teriyaki, wasabi butter and lemon butter. It comes medium rare and is fairly chewy but that is offset by the overall juiciness of the meat. Fish-lovers should try the saba tartar ($2.90). It’s simple compared to some of Katanashi’s other tapas – but it retains a seafood taste as it’s made from fried mackerel.

Katanashi’s paper-thin pizzas are an interesting fusion between Japanese and Italian cooking that works surprisingly well. The MMM pizza ($3.90) combines a tomato sauce base with a mozzarella topping plus seasoned cod roe and mochi (glutinous rice cake). While fish eggs on a pizza might sound odd, the flavour bakes into a nice salty topping, although some of the dollops of roe might be too large for some. The mochi, while not as flavoursome as the roe, adds a crunchy texture to give the pizza some edge.

Besides snacking on tapas, try the signature cocktails ($3.50). The sake sparkling cocktail is bubbly and sweet enough without being overbearing. The maccha mojito is a nice blend of the classic mojito with green tea, while the yuzu sunrise is a Japanese take on a tequila sunrise, replacing the tequila with sake.

So whether it’s drinks or food, Katanashi caters to all.

Corner of Street 51 and 288, Phnom Penh.
Tel: 023 987 701.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 6pm to 11pm.