Contrary to popular belief Watanabe is not an ancient Japanese term meaning “delicious” or “food” or any other gastronomic Asian term rather the chef and owner, Ted’s, last name. I have received numerous requests to write a restaurant review on Watanabe which have mostly been something along the lines of “Yeah! I love that place!” or “Oh yeah, I go there all the time!”
This Japanese restaurant, located directly across the street from Bozeman High School and sharing a wall with Enterprise Car Rental, is exactly what you would imagine an American depiction of a Japanese restaurant to look like: about 12 to 14 tables with an oriental paper divider and a window to the kitchen farthest from the door. Upon entering, the first question my friend and I had was whether or not we seat ourselves and why the atmosphere was so quiet (granted, it was 5 p.m. on a Saturday). A waitress finally guided us to a table asking if we wanted to sit there. She gave us menus and a little later returned with water. Glancing over the menu I noticed typical Japanese fare that I’ve experienced, which isn’t saying too much as I am not an adventurous eater but have had some sushi, tempura, soups and other commonplace Japanese food before.
I like trying new foods to expand my immature palette but I’ve already tried many variations of the menu items, so both my friend and I resorted to closing our eyes and choosing at random.
She ended up with Gyoza (a fried dumpling mixture of chicken/pork, similar to a potsticker) and Udon Noodles (a Japanese soup with long, ropy wheat noodles in a broth with chives). After my careless selection I found the Spider Roll (a standard nori sushi roll with deep-fried softshell crab, cucumber, avocado, lettuce and wasabi mayo) and an Unagi-Q Roll (broiled eel, unagi and unagi sauce).
My friend received her order before I did and after various attempts at getting her wheat noodles in her mouth, she gave up and sipped the broth that her and I both agreed was comparable to that of Top Ramen. The Udon could have been better received if either one of us had a better understood of the use of chopsticks. Her and I both tried her Gyoza which would have been fairly marginal if we hadn’t made use of the sauces provided (the hotter sauce proved to be the most successful accompaniment).
After our samplings my order had arrived and after trying both rolls the Spider Roll proved to be the best, with the Unagi-Q yielding a less-than-appealing and overly powerful fish taste.
After sipping the remainder of water in our cups and continuing our fulfilling conversation we got the check which came out to exactly $26. For a sampling of food that wasn’t exactly a large meal and was on par with any other American portrayal of a traditional Japanese restaurant, I wouldn’t say $13 for a small sampling of food is worth it. I can only speak to what I ordered and the menu did provide quite a few other options so if I were to return I would probably try something more complete, perhaps a meal that came with rice or soup.
All things considered, I would only recommend this restaurant to someone that knew the menu well enough to be able to pick out a meal option that could potentially save them some money. For most college students, myself included, being able to afford spending over ten dollars for food that doesn’t quite satisfy isn’t possible. This is not to say the food was bad, it was just not enough to fulfill what I had an appetite for.