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These doors are made to open.

imageIt gotten pretty late at the office and I just had finished one of the last yoga sessions of the day realising that way past 9 p.m. healthy dinner options thin out. I remembered that six months old Japanese restaurant next door which I had recognised first during its’ opening week when all the flower bouquets were lined up in front. I pushed aside the little sliding door at the entrance, it was still open, SCORE! It was totally empty and everyone was already cleaning up but they waved me in with a smile and guided me to take a seat.

Sitting at their bar it felt like ages ago that I had proper sushi and it suddenly turned out that I had missed it a lot actually. Therefore I ordered me a generous portion of delicious Maguro Sashimi (tuna), soft and chill, unfortunately a bit stringy at bits as well.

imageProteins done but I still had to secure my carbo intake and it seemed like that Tekka Don could do a great job. The fish was from the same cut as my sashimi just shortly marinated in a special soy mix, fresh and softly sharp because of all the finely chopped scallions. The sticky Japanese rice was amazing especially with the vinaigrette and all in all a proper after workout choice.

imageAs a palette cleanser in between all that fish, I ordered the Oshinki Maki (pickles) which I had expected to be that yellow pickled radish. To my surprise I received something green and super crunchy instead which one of the chefs told me was pickled turnip stem. Never had this but it was great and funny because of its’ scrunch with just a hint of sour.

I really liked it here and felt a bit special tonight with me as the only guest getting all the  attention. The chefs host like gentlemen and entertainers and aren’t shy to have a conversation with you, give  a recommendation or suggest customization of the menu items. I’ll come back here anytime if I feel like a treat and don’t mind to pay it as such as ‘Shinzo’ is also not the cheapest of places. Very nice.

Shinzo Japanese Cuisine
17 Carpenter Street
#01-01
Singapore 059906
Tel: +65 6438 2921
http://www.shinzo.com.sg/

Raw fish from around the corner.

imageThe night before our holidays we wanted to have some quick Japanese without too much traveling involved so we went ‘Rakuichi’ at the Oasia Hotel in Novena.

The ‘Akami Tuna‘ looked flawless and had a beautiful clean taste, unfortunately was also a lil streaky at bits. The ‘Ebi Sushi‘ also was close to perfect, fresh and with an outstanding snappy texture. Snappy is also the right word for the ‘Assorted Pickles‘ we had which were a brilliant combination of radish, gherkins, cucumber etc. with only one weirdly tasting purple something that I didn’t find too appealing.

imageWe also had their ‘Agedashi Tofu‘ which was kind of boring compared to others that I had and a big slice of ‘Wagyu‘ that had a nice nutty flavour but was nearly too buttery to eat too much of and sadly quite chewy as well. Last but not least we had one of their special spicy makis with prawn that I forgot the name of. The taste wasn’t bad but completely different to any other maki I had before as it was rolled in chilli flakes and topped with a lot of thinly sliced and flame touched sharpish onions. Not bad, not bad at all.

I like how the place is setup, clean, stylish and minimalistic, they put a lot of effort into their presentation, the service was good and the food was too but for the higher price tag I was just expecting a little more “wow” for our dinner so ‘Rakuichi’ will probably not become my first go to address for my regular Japanese fix.

Rakuichi Japanese Restaurant
8 Sinaran Drive
#01-05/09 Oasia Hotel
Singapore 307470
Tel: +65 6659 6683
http://rakuichi.com.sg/

Foreign countries, foreign choices

imageI was going on a business trip to Manila and would normally look for some local food options when traveling but since there was no Filipino restaurant anywhere to be found in or just around the hotel, I tried ‘UMU’ the Japanese restaurant in the lobby. I started with a slap of ‘Maguro Sashimi‘ (tuna) which was soft, tasted fantastically pure and drizzled with calamansi juice just became something else. A good start.

imageI don’t know why but I really like ‘Ebi Sushi‘ (cooked prawn), no specifically extraordinary taste but the perfect texture makes me order these nearly every time I’m in a Japanese restaurant and the ones at ‘UMU’ where some of the best I have ever had. They were clean, huge with a great bite and stuck to the rice perfectly. I loved them.

imageI wanted to keep it a tad healthier so I resisted my desire to order the ‘Agedashi Tofu‘ and ordered the ‘Hiyayakko‘, a cold tofu dish, instead. It was a lot but the beancurd tasted nicely milky and mixed with the chopped scallions, grated ginger and dipped into tempura sauce it honestly was really really nice.

‘UMU’ is a stylish setup place with Japanese interiors and designs, very friendly waiters and some fantastic dishes that will probably make me return here in case I should come back to the Philippines anytime soon.

UMU
Dusit Thani Manila
Ayala Centre
1223 Makati City
Metro Manila
Philippines
Tel: +63 (2) 238 8888

Getting my textures on!

imageI finally managed to catch up with some lovely friends, including my very reliable Nippon food consultant, at Cuppage Plaza  over some quite interesting dishes. We met at ‘Kaiho’s’ a mid sized sushi bar on the third floor and to my surprise ended up having a multi course omakase set. The dinner kicked off with some starters like ‘Edamame‘, funny looking ‘Fish Crackers‘ and a delicious somehow cured ‘Cuttlefish‘. I was really skeptical as all these dried squid things are totally not mine but this was amazing, not too fishy with a soft elastic consistency. Best thing was the roe mayonnaise to dip it in.

imageNext was a fat slice of ‘Otoro‘ (fatty tuna belly). The rose meat melted between the otherwise rather hard and extremely chunky white bits which were really difficult to chew down all followed by an equally weird undefinable piece of chunky fat underneath. Taste wise good but texture, oh my.

imageThis was followed by a nice selection of small dishes like fried fish cubes, a selection of good quality sushi and sashimi, sweet crab legs, maguro soup (tuna), a wonderfully surprising ‘Agedashi Eal‘ and some sweet and creamy ‘Uni Handrolls‘ (sea urchin).

imageMy favorite dish of the night was a lightly seared ‘Beef Sushi‘. It had such a strong beefy flavor and even though cut fairly thick didn’t require any chewing at all. No teeth needed. Simply amazing.

imageAfter the official menu had finished we kept on ordering sushi variations and ended it all with above ‘Sardine Sushi‘ which was expectedly fishy but in a great way with something that seemed like a fermented bean and sambal paste on top that spiced it up properly.

For dessert we had a juicy yet a bit watery ‘Momo‘ (Japanese peach) and a brilliant ‘Wasabi Ice Cream’. To my delight the sharp wasabi taste and the light sweetness worked very well together but the awesome thing about this really was that with every spoon the heat grew on me so much that at the end I had to hang my tongue out of my mouth to give it some fresh air.

‘Kaiho Sushi’ is a nice little new place for my list and has a lot to offer. Maybe just the price and the variety of challenging textures here will make me choose places like ‘Nagomi‘ over this for my next omakase run.

http://bernardtang.com/

Kaiho Sushi
5 Koek Road
#03-01/02 Cuppage Plaza
Singapore 228796
Tel: +65 6738 1315

Homecook Style Omakase!

imageAfter returning from our short trip I had planned a treat for my visitors by booking a table at one of my favorite special occasions Japanese restaurant, ‘Nagomi’ at Cuppage Plaza. It’s difficult to tell if you’re at the right place until you stick your head through the noren at the entrance and realize you just found a little piece of Japan in the middle of Singapore. ‘Nagomi’ is very small with only four tables and a bar and had a traditional yet modern Japanese interior. Light is dimmed and urn like pottery filled with aging ‘Shochu‘ of regular customers is covering the shelves. They import their ingredients directly from Japan and change their a la carte menu very regularly depending on what’s in season and currently available. Since this is only available in Japanese we decided for the eight course ‘Omakase‘ (chef’s menu).

My friends started up with some massive oysters which they said to be fresh and tasty. I can’t eat them cause first I don’t really like them and second the consistency grosses me out. Chef Nada Satoru always asks what you don’t eat before he starts preparing the first course and so my oyster substitute today was a Japanese tomato. I know, just a tomato, but always having these red tasteless water balls you get in the supermarket, this one was pure and intense tomato taste. And yet again “Simplicity.”

The second course was a fabulous sashimi platter with ‘Uni‘ (sea urchin), ‘Hotate‘ (scallop), ‘Maguro‘ or ‘Toro‘ (tuna/tuna belly) – I didn’t ask but it was definitely a fattier piece – as well as three other fishes I forgot the names but each one of them was super fresh and had a soft texture which I prefer so much to tough bites.

imageI asked at the beginning if they had their amazing ‘Slow Braised Pork Belly‘ and was rather disappointed when I heard it was not on the menu but only until I found out what took it’s place: ‘King Crab‘. This portion was humongous and the flesh was so sweet and needed nothing more to it to make it truly amazing.

imageNext up were two whole ‘Kinki‘ fish in a light and superior broth. The fillets fell off the bones and were nice and soft. There weren’t too many bones in it but the few were tiny dangerous and difficult to separate from the fish once in your mouth. We continued with big fried ‘Deepwater Fish‘ (similar to sardines) which, except the heads, were still completely intact and covered in a nice Japanese batter   with dipping salt aside. Once I got over the thought that the first bite included the tiny innards of the fish, it tasted delicious and was  nicely juicy.

imageFollowing the fish we did get ‘Grilled Wagyu Beef‘ together with a sweet dipping sauce and wrapping lettuce drizzled with a wafu vinaigrette. It tasted great but the meat had some thin tough parts which made it difficult to bite pieces off. The seventh course was ‘Japanese Porridge‘ which tasted nicely simple but delicate and was nearly a bit too much after all the other dishes. We took a bit of a break before closing our menu with some lovely sweet ‘Japanese Strawberries’. 

Of course this is not a place for everyday dining, mainly because of the over one hundred dollars per head (not including drinks), but for special occasions or if you just want to take your time (around 2 hours++) and celebrate great quality food, this is the place. Domo Arigato Gozaimas.

Nagomi Restaurant
5 Koek Road
#02-22 Cuppage Plaza
Singapore 228796
Tel: +65 6732 4300
http://www.nagomirestaurant.com.sg/

Quality Sushi No Cost No Fortune!

imageKoh Grill & Sushi Bar in the Food Republic in Wisma is probably my favorite go to casual Japanese dining place in Singapore. Generally I do come here at least once a week as the food is great in quality and taste and when they created the menu they obviously were looking to offer something different. And on top of that prices are moderate and make it possible to pay regular visits.

They offer nearly the whole span of Japanese foods like Sushi, Sashimi, Yakitory, Tempura, Ramen and other cooked dishes but during my many visits I have established a list of all star dishes which by default are put on every order with a few items changing depending on what I feel like.

This time as always we ordered our standards; ‘Maguro Sashimi’ which was lean, sweet, of lovely dark red color and tasted so fresh that it made clear why it is my all-time-favorite of stars. We also had their signature ‘Shiok Maki‘ which is a roll filled with Unagi, wrapped with Salmon and that all topped with Japanese Mayo, Fish Roe and slightly charred. This dish tastes great and different, creamy and the roe crunches between your teeth but when you’re only a party of two the mayo becomes a bit overwhelming after the third piece. My regular sushi selection is a trio of ‘Ebi‘, ‘Slighty Grilled Salmon‘ and ‘Slight Grilled Shuro Maguro‘. The first two never disappoint but the Shuro Maguro stands out as I also never saw it anywhere else.  It is not a type of tuna as the name might imply but a white fish which they marinate in Shochu. They have it also as a raw version but my favorite is still the one that touched fire as it changes consistency and melts in your mouth and you will be happy that you gave it a try. The last arrivals of the standard order were two small pieces of grilled tuna in a light lemony pepper vinaigrette which were perfectly charred on 5 sides and work together fantastically with the thinly chopped spring onions and cracked peppercorns.

On top of this already generous meal we ordered their ‘Tropical Maki‘ which was the only slight downer as there was nothing really tropical about them. I assumed mango being part of it but a quick analysis of the menu picture clarified that it was what it was – Surimi, Avocado and Cucumber. Not bad but just not what I had hoped for. A second extra were the ‘Pan Fried Udon‘. I love this dish as it combines so many different flavors. The plate is filled up with fried udon and fresh vegetables like spring onion and carrots that have the perfect bite to them, sprinkled with tuna flakes and a sweet sauce that reminds me of Okonomiyaki.

It’s good to know there are places like Koh and New Garo out there, serving up high quality Japanese food to moderate prices. I’ll be back soon.

Koh Grill & Sushi Bar                                                                                                                                          435 Orchard Road                                                                                                                                             #04-21 Wisma Atria Shopping Center                                                                                                 Singapore 238877