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Japanese Oishii!

Japanese Oishii!

Ranging from the "yay-it's-payday" to the "can-indulge-on-a-budget" cost brackets, here are Japanese dishes I've tried and liked.
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua

I paid $51.10 for this table-ful of food for two persons. Easy to see why this eatery is my go-to whenever I feel like having grilled fish, right?
Because it is always large, fleshy and has an appetising smokiness and lightly salty taste, the Shima Hokke (dried mackerel) tends to be my usual pick for fish. It is served beautifully grilled, with a salad, rice, miso soup, pickles and an appetiser. Japanese tea is complimentary too if I am not mistaken.
As substantial and thoughtfully balanced as the set meal is, I rarely stop at it, preferring to add on whatever else catches my eye at the ordering station. They always have random types of fresh produce on display in the chiller (I saw plump oysters and huge prawns today) as well as other popular Japanese items. In the above spread, you should be able to make out the grilled Eringi (King Oyster Mushroom, $3.50), cups of Chawanmushi in mushroom and crab flavours and the Natto (fermented soya beans) I had to get as part of our meal.

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Like the Beyoncé of fish porridges, this bowl of Aji Ochazuke commandeered eyes effortlessly. A full-bodied beauty, its quiet but charismatic presence drew everyone in like a magnet. Spending a few seconds (in my friend Szeliang‘s case, about a minute at least) devoted to simply inhaling its “breath” and marveling at its existence was the least we could do before plunging in to savour one flavourful slurp and bite after another.

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At Esora, what goes between the two halves of the airy-light Monaka wafer changes with the season. This summer, it’s a creamy disc of foie gras tourchon in port wine reduction, given a lift by seasonal fruit and a salad. So when you bite through the delicate crispness, you will be met by sweet Japanese fig in jam and fresh form along with aromatic myoga (young ginger flower), kinome and the fragrant zest of kaffir lime. Lovely!

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My foodie friend Szeliang was so sweet to treat me to a belated birthday lunch here. He has sung its praises more than once, so you can imagine my excitement when the day arrived.
First things first. If you think, upon entering, that the space is beautiful, wait till you see the food. Each course in Chef-owner Koizumi’s Summer Menu, especially the Hassun (“expression of the season”) which is presented as a large tray arranged with immaculately-prepared bites and petite bowls of deliciousness amongst bouquets of blooms, is so achingly beautiful it renders most diners speechless. But I digress. Let me rewind...
So once seated, we were welcomed with a glass of complimentary sparkling white wine. Then we sipped, using both hands to lift the charming bowl, Chef Koizumi’s zest-tinged special Dashi with all the reverence it deserved.
The Monaka followed, its airy-light wafer shells sandwiching foie gras tourchon in port wine reduction, Japanese fig jam, fresh figs, a salad of Myoga (young ginger flower), Kinome and kaffir lime. This flavour combination was sublime to say the least.
Next, the aforementioned Hassun in all its splendour. Every item on that tray was as refined in taste as its exquisite looks hinted at. I loved each one of them but the Saba Bozushi (mackerel rice roll) and the multi-cut Ika (squid) topped with smoked caviar reigned supreme for me.
Summer’s bounty of vegetables took to the stage at this point. A selection was grilled and served with a rich hairy crab sauce and corn purée. The level of natural sweetness of them together was unbelievable.
Our main course was a ridiculously buttery Omi Wagyu sirloin. Hot off the charcoal, the beef was served simply with white Maitake mushroom and a sauce of aged Akazu (Japanese vinegar made from sake lees). Understandably, Szeliang and I didn’t talk much as we were lost in our own worlds of pleasure.
What he’s long considered the highlight of the meal arrived then. It’s Chef Koizumi’s Ochazuke with grilled Aji and a fish broth. Without a doubt, it is pure comfort food at its peak.
Before I was surprised with a Mont Blanc birthday cake made by Chef Sebastian, he also prepared our dessert - a swoon-worthy creation of thinly-sliced Japanese white peach from Yamanashi prefecture with Taiwanese oolong tea jelly, a yogurt and cream cheese ice-cream, and a cold peach soup.
Chef Koizumi’s lovely wife who runs the front-of-house, Maasa Kageura, brought our petit fours, a row of delightful fruity gems of which the honeydew mochi ice-cream proved to be my favourite.

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At $22.80++, I feel the “Toku-Jo” (Premium Donburi) is really good value with a generous amount of tempura heaped on the rice. You can find anago (sea eel), a crab leg, prawn, fish, a couple of different vegetables and a fried freedom range egg on there.
For the Tare (sauce), I chose the spicy over the regular version because my tastebuds prefer to have a kick of heat. A little oomph is always welcome in my opinion.
Also included in the price is a serving of shredded cabbage salad and bowl of miso soup. See what I mean about it being good value?

C H E F’ S I N V I T A T I O N
I think it was clear even from amongst the stellar sashimi we were served by Head Chef Taro Takayama, the Blue Fin Tuna Belly was a hot favourite (my niece couldn’t stop grinning when they got to have seconds). Delectably fatty, the slices of the melt-in-the-mouth fish came topped with frozen marinated egg yolk and a housemade kombu soya sauce (I liked how complex its rich and rounded saltiness was).
Like the rest of this special meal, the Kid Sake selected to pair with the sashimi was served in an elegant @kimoto_glass_tokyo sake glass, which I believe, contributed to the drinking pleasure.

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Charcoal fire seems to bring out the best in everything. Not just for meats but also vegetables. Like the ones on this platter I encountered recently here.
The four kinds of seasonal vegetables from Japan - a very succulent bamboo shoot, juicy red-heart radish, yam and broad bean (soramame) had been grilled over bincho-tan (a type of high quality Japanese charcoal), and came with their own housemade miso or sauce. Yes, each was of a unique recipe so that that particular vegetable’s natural flavour could be enhanced.

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H O S T E D
Sandwiches don’t get more ridiculously indulgent than this. Limited to only 3 of 4 portions per day, the Fat Cow Wagyu Sandwich features a no-holds-barred gigantic slab of Miyazaki Wagyu that’s been coated in a thin layer of breading and fried, between thin slices of toasted and buttered bread. I almost had to unhinge my jaw to take a bite (yes, it was THAT THICK) but I was handsomely rewarded by the fantastic combo of ultra-smooth, buttery soft, fat-laced beef dressed with a hint of a tangy-sweet sauce and the light crunchiness of the toast.
Here’s a tip: Go during lunch and you can enjoy this massive sandwich for $88++. That’s $20 less than the stated price of $108++ in the a la carte menu.

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H O S T E D

Answer: You now get 3 types of Wagyu to choose from, namely Australian Wagyu MB8 ($98++), Kagoshima A4 Tenderloin ($148++) and Nagasaki A5 Striploin ($158++).
Whichever beef is chosen, it is grilled over charcoal then sliced into neat pieces that are then arranged on a bowl of Japanese rice. The other lavish toppings alongside the smoky beef are large cubes of pan-fried foie gras, uni, caviar, ikura and freshly shaved black truffle. An onsen egg and a drizzle of truffle oil add the finishing touch to this bowl of ultra decadence.

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H O S T E D
Pescatarians, this should be of interest to you.
The award-winning Fat Cow that’s famous for their impressive range of premium Wagyu beef, has added a few new cooked fish dishes to their menu that are jaw-droppingly tasty. In particular, the “Karasu Karei Nitsuke” ($48++) or Simmered Japanese Halibut with Seasonal Vegetables sat extremely well with me.
The piece of Halibut I had, was large and very fresh. It was also devoid of bones which made the slightly oily, soft flesh easier to savour. The sweetish sauce it absorbed in the cooking process was a wonderful complement to the fish’s natural flavour.
Eric Low, Fat Cow’s manager, cleverly served me a small bowl of plain rice to enjoy it with. Together, they formed the kind of comfort food that instantly warms the belly and the soul.

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H O S T E D
Yup, it’s basically a meat pizza.
A very decadent one as the base is composed of thinly-sliced raw pieces of A5 Nagasaki Wagyu beef and the toppings are uni, black truffle, pickled shiso flowers and Japanese chrysanthemum petals. A drizzle of ponzu sauce is added as a finishing touch, and it is precisely because of this that the dish tastes rather light on the palate.
I would recommend starting your meal with this before moving on to the more flavourful cooked items.

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If you aren’t too fond of fish or chicken, or are simply open to trying something unique to “Charcoal Grill And Salad Bar Keisuke”, the fish cake is what you should get.
Made in-house, it is prepared in the Southern Japanese style, so the texture is cottony-soft and fluffy. What I love is that kernels of corn and chopped up pieces of edamame are mixed in for extra textural excitement. These also enhance the fish cake with a delicious sweetness and mild nuttiness.
It comes in a set with rice, a soft-cooked egg, pickles and a bowl of miso soup for just $10.90++. Which effectively makes it the second least expensive thing on the menu here after the $9.90++ grilled chicken with rock salt set meal.

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Can't cook to save my life but boy, can I eat! 😄 (I pay for all my meals unless otherwise stated)

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