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

G I F T
Hand on my heart, my jaw met the floor when I saw the meal Chef-owner @topdoghatch and @eatmefabulous had arranged for delivery. It was without question, a spread of stupendous presentation, taste and quality. Not only did it showcase the best of seasonal Japanese produce but also the skills of the talented team at @hashida.sg.
The Chirashi ($150) and Futomaki ($130) were heavyweights in every sense of the word as they practically burst with the top-notch seafood and other ingredients.
Packed neatly in an all-natural box, the former held chunky cuts of incredibly fresh sea bream, amberjack, chutoro, anago and cooked prawns. On them were uni and ikura galore. Crunchy kampyo, cucumber and some sweetish braised shiitake mushrooms joined the party on the bed of deliciously seasoned rice as well. Every bite was unadulterated pleasure.
So too it was with the fantastic fat bolster of Futomaki that strained at its seaweed seams with the goodness of chutoro, steamed uni, seabream, anago, amberjack, prawns, denbu, tamagoyaki, shiitake mushrooms, kampyo, cucumber, mistsuba leaf (Japanese parsley) and sesame seeds. Super oishii!

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G I F T
What a privilege to be sent the Ozaki Wagyu “Sameer Special” Curry Rice by none other than the man himself. Clearly a possessor of the most discerning taste, @sameer.sain’s namesake one-dish-meal was nothing short of swoon-worthiness.
In the luscious curry of mild spiciness were large pieces of fork-tender @ozakibeef. Now, this is a Wagyu of a different league as the Japanese Black Cattle are bred and raised on a farm owned and managed by Mr. Muhenaru Ozaki in Miyazaki Prefecture. He employs only the most advanced techniques, such as giving his cattle a special feed made from 13 kinds of grains and avoiding use of antibiotics and steroids. He also raises them well beyond the average age to allow richer flavour to develop in the meat and greater evenness in fat distribution.
To complement the fragrant #OzakiWagyu Beef Curry, Chef-owner @nobu_hiro added a croquette and some burdock root pickles, both of which were lovely.
The simple looking Sugar Sticks proved a terrific sweet ending. Coated in ultra fine sugar, they had a firm crunchiness and a surprising richness. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were fried in beef fat 😋

Thanks so much again for the amazing surprise, Sameer.

It was love at first bite for me when I had a plate of @chef_y.doi_bistrot’s Red Wine Beef Tongue Curry Rice at @bistrotetroit. And that was AFTER gobbling up a multi-course dinner of fine French fare also prepared by him. Am thankful he decided to offer it as a takeaway item during this period when dining-in is put on hold.
Priced at $30, the portion is decent in size. More importantly, it travels well and tastes as fabulous as I recall. The red wine curry with its “secret ingredient” of coffee powder, has a slightly thick consistency that boasts a lovely nuance and subtle heat. Those tender chunks of beef tongue are pleasantly soft chew and deeply flavourful (I felt compelled to close my eyes as I slowly relished each piece). Providing an ideal cut-through, crunchy purple slaw with a modulated acidity.

Verdict: This is one of those one-dish meals that looks plain but can knock your socks off.

If you want to order, do note Chef Doi is sold out until this Saturday, 29th May. He is able to accept orders for after that date. To submit yours, please Whatsapp 8869 8477. It must be done in the following format:

NAME
PICK-UP DATE & TIME
ORDER DETAIL
CONTACT NUMBER

My curiousity was piqued by the name: “Cold Soupless Dan Dan Noodles” but it wasn’t at all what we expected.
While @heyrozz picked up the scent of licorice and my niece @linosaur tasted sweetness in the noodles, I was surprised by the absence of a creamy nut-based sauce which I thought was the fundamental of Dan Dan Noodles.
Nonetheless, it was quite fragrant overall and I didn’t mind the touch of “mala” spiciness. Plentiful fresh coriander and bits of chicken meat contributed extra flavour.

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On our recent ladies night, @heyrozz, @linosaur and I managed to cut quite a swathe through @yatagarasu72’s menu, ending with a respectable 24 skewers, and this is on top of the food that didn’t come on skewers. Frankly, everything at this Japanese izakaya is so tasty, I could have kept on going but fortunately, sensibility prevailed.
We started with an appetiser of Seasonal Bamboo Shoot ($3.30) that packed a lovely succulent crunch. And because we are such fiends for coriander, two bowls of Coriander Salad ($6.50 each) with different dressings of a light Japanese ponzu sauce and creamy Sesame (my preferred) were necessary.
Being a greedy bunch, we practiced a no-sharing policy, so nearly every grilled-food-on-stick item was ordered in threes. They included:
* Pork Belly with Snap Garden Peas ($3.85 each) - Loved the contrast between the perky veg and smoky, salty meat.
* Pork Belly with Shiso ($3.85 each) - Still my favourite thing here, and that night’s was extra juicy and tasty. Lin and I couldn’t resist seconds.
* Chicken Fillet ($2.75 each) - I learnt from Roz that @iamjaynedoe had introduced @yatagarasu72 to her and this was a favourite of Jayne’s. The pale-coloured, very tender chicken which came dotted with yuzu kosho, was different from the grilled items as it tasted much cleaner. If you’re ordering this, I’d recommend eating it first so as to better appreciate its lighter flavour profile.
* Chicken Hearts and Chicken Liver ($2.75 each) - Only Lin and I went for these “spare parts”. Both were grilled perfectly but the skewer of chicken hearts was the one that stole ours.
* Pork Belly with Asparagus ($3.85 each) - It is impossible for me to walk into a Yakitori place and not order this because asparagus and pork belly is a tried and tested success.
* Grilled Chicken Wings - They do it really well here. I wouldn’t have minded a few more - haha.
* Pork Belly with Spring Onions - Decent but not something I’d repeat.
* Pork Belly with Yakisoba / Fried Noodles ($6.60) - Embellished in mayo and a tangy sauce (the kind you get with your Tonkatsu), this was interesting for want of a better word. But not an item I’d have again either.
* Grilled Onigiri ($7.70 each) - The triangles of pressed rice were tastier than I’d imagined plus they were accompanied by a wasabi-seasoned miso and pickles.

My second visit to @singapore_enishi was with first-timers @liltune and @lannybudiman. I had been dreaming of this eatery’s ferociously tasty, award-winning noodles ever since I slurped it up earlier this month. As hard as it is to believe, I was even more blown away by the noodles this time around! Reasons being I opted for the “extra spicy” version (the hotness was actually really manageable) plus I knew the importance of taking my time to mix everything in the bowl extremely thoroughly before eating (please don’t neglect this step as it makes a big difference). The outcome was shockingly mouthwatering with the creamy sauce (it’s made using cashew nuts and sesame) and all the other seasonings blending together seamlessly, to coat every surface area of the thick “meepok”-like noodles and the toppings of minced pork, tender smoked duck, torched cubes of juicy chashu, raw and fried Japanese onions, fresh mizuna and pickles. When I’d gobbled up the noodles, I requested for a portion of rice (it’s free!) to throw in. Those fluffy grains were the perfect vehicle to mop up whatever leftover sauce there was. Fantastic! 😋😋😋

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After learning that @singapore_enishi is Chef Ashino’s (@ashino_at_chijmes_) favourite ramen joint, I was eager to try it.
This nook of an eatery with an L-shaped counter on level two of International Plaza is the first local branch of the MICHELIN Bib Gourmand-awarded ramen restaurant in Kobe, Japan. There are only two noodles on their menu - a signature Dashi Ramen (Chef Ashino’s go-to) and a Dan-Dan Ramen that I swear, beats every other Dan-Dan I’ve ever eaten, flat!
All ingredients used at Enishi is imported from Japan, which is the reason for the fixed number of 100 servings per day (#yousnoozeyoulose). Hence, I made sure we were standing outside the little restaurant at 5.50pm the evening of our first visit.
Custom-made to their specifications, Enishi’s noodles are gluten-free and resemble a thicker version of “mee pok”. The buckwheat in it creates a rougher surface that helps the sauce to grip better. And what a sauce it is! A mouthwatering amalgamation of creamy sesame sauce with assorted condiments, it is thick, rich and very fragrant. I watched as Chef mix the noodles with it, taking care to ensure very even distribution, so each strand was well coated.
Blanketing all of it was a generous amount of chashu and smoked duck cut into cubes, minced pork, chunks of raw white onions (FYI - these are about ten times the price of onions found locally), fresh mizuna, fried onions and Japanese purple pickles. On the side, a soft-boiled egg destined to join the noodles, plus a bowl of dashi-based soup. Another thing I love about Enishi’s Dan Dan Noodles is the three types of vinegar in kelp, orange and spicy variants, that you can splash on to your heart’s content.
Whichever item you pick, a printed guide is given to you. On it are step-by-step instructions on how to get the most enjoyment out of your order.
As light as it appears, @singapore_enishi’s dashi-based ramen more than held its own in terms of flavour too. The MSG-free savoury soup was not heavy but beautifully complex and it had a lift from a lilting note of yuzu. This would be perfect if you are in the mood for something soupy.

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Initially, @vk_pillai had suggested sushi for our dinner but I’m glad he changed it to Shabu Shabu Gen when he observed that I hadn’t visited any shabu shabu place of late. It worked out perfectly because despite hearing so much about this Japanese restaurant at Shaw Centre, I had never been.
Cosy and quiet, the restaurant is dimly-lot, elegant and comfortable. I think it is most ideal for dates or meals with family and close friends. The quality of the food is unquestionably supreme. Vijay did the ordering for us and spoiled T.H. and I with platters of premium Wagyu and Pork Belly to cook in the hotpot of fish-based broth. He and his wife don’t consume beef so they had different cuts of pork. What got me really excited was the variety of dipping sauces. There were three, one with ponzu, another with lemon juice and last but not least, a goma (creamy sesame). To customise these, grated radish and spring onions were provided for the former two, and finely-minced raw garlic and chilli oil, for the sesame sauce. I had a lot of fun trying out the different meats with every one.
After we had eaten our fill of the incredible beef and pork, our server cooked a truckload of mixed vegetables and mushrooms in the hotpot for us to enjoy. We were meant to finish with ramen but because it was decided on the spur of the moment to go elsewhere for dessert, that got cancelled. I am sure it would have been a wonderful way to end the already fantastic dinner.

Thanks so much again, Vijay and Valerie, for the marvelous meal and a really fun evening.

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This popular larger-than-life Japanese Chef has teamed up with OUE Restaurants for his latest venture - @hashidaprivatedining. Temporarily located at Social Kitchen at OUE Downtown, Chef @topdoghatch and his team (@yujisato77 @atsushi_k_rocky) are rumoured to be moving to Amoy Street sometime later this year or early next.
Clearly relishing his freedom and opportunity to create, Chef Hatch is on an inspired rampage, even managing to change up his Menus fortnightly. No surprise given how he struck me as an irrepressible bundle of ideas when I visited last Friday with my friend.
Our sumptuous meal kicked off with two very tasty snacks: a ball of Sawara (Japanese mackerel) with burdock root and chrysanthemum, and a skewer of crunchy-fried Maitake mushroom and Japanese yam.
The Australian truffle-finished Chawanmushi which followed, had chestnuts which gave it a delightful sweetness, and water chestnuts for crunch.
Next, the Mackerel “Head To Tail” which enthralled to no end. While its flesh was pressed with rice into a roll, Chef told us that he used the mackerel head and bones for the broth.
The Sashimi course may have looked stunning with colourful fall foliage but I had eyes only for the sexy Chutoro and Shima Aji.
Then came an Abalone dish which included squid and steamed uni. The luscious sauce of cashew nut miso, seaweed and butter, combined tastily with the grated raw cashew nuts. We were instructed by Chef to give everything a vigorous mix before tucking in.
A bowl of melt-in-the-mouth beef arrived at this point. The two ponzus, a soy sauce version and a white soy jelly, provided a welcome cut-through for the meat.
Prior to the parade of Sushi, we sipped on an excellent Essence of Abalone.
The raw seafood followed, and all of it impressed the hell out of us. Chef formed them individually, very sensuously I might add, and presented in this order - Snapper, Kanpachi, Botan Ebi with Blue Roe (this was truly wow), Kinmedai Aburi, Hokigai or Surf Clam Aburi (it’s intensely umami-sweet), Nodoguro (am always thrilled to enjoy this oily fish), a mesmerising Zuke with hot Shari and finally, Japanese Barracuda Aburi.
On a separate note: I was thoroughly charmed by Chef Hatch’s sharing that each fish is linked to a memory of his childhood. For eg. as a young child living in Tsukiji, Tokyo, he and his father would hold speed-eating contests whenever he returned from school. The dried form of the Japanese Barracuda was the fish they would race to finish.
Circling back to the meal itself, we were then served a mini Uni and Ikura Don before @atsushi_k_rocky brought us Prawn Miso Soup with a prawn and chilli powder to warm our bellies.
I thought we’d reached the end of dinner but Chef had other ideas, presenting us with a Grilled Kani (crab) Hand-roll, and his signature multi-draped style of Fatty Tuna Sushi. Both were outrageously delicious.
By looking to the past, centuries in fact, the dessert platter came across, quite ironically, as original, not to mention, utterly scrumptious. There was a Japanese Sweet Potato Mochi that pleasantly shocked with the aromatic heat from tomato pepper, a purple blob of Uiro (traditional sweet from the Kanagawa Prefecture) and delicate wedges of steamed sponge cake with cheese sauce that had a touch of salt.

Do take note that this place requires reservation to be made well in advance to avoid disappointment.

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G I F T
Due to COVID, certain businesses have had to pivot to pursuing something completely different. @suguruhomedining was born from that situation. @hengdesmond and his staff who were previously in Human Resource, have switched to preparing and delivering Japanese meals featuring premium ingredients from Tokyo’s Toyosu Market.
Last Saturday, he kindly arranged for my family and I to try his offerings by sending over lunch. Such decadence it turned out to be!
The meal comprised of four sets of Somen lavished in truffle oil (each had generous double twirls of the silky-soft Japanese noodles) covered with fresh Bafun Uni (sea urchin) and large raw Hotate (scallops). A single portion is priced at $48 but it‘s worth it as I found the seafood plentiful and the serving, truly substantial.

Orders can be placed through WhatsApp:
8893 0902.

But please remember to do it at least one day in advance.

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M E D I A D R O P
Just when I was feeling like having soup noodles (blame it on the rainy weather), IPPUDO’s brand new D.I.Y. Meal Kit got teleported to me (ok, it actually arrived the conventional way 😆). Didn’t waste any time preparing both the Hakata-style Shiromaru Motoaji ($15.30 a pack) and Akamaru Shinaji ($16.35 a pack) Ramen for lunch.
Definitely not to be mistaken as instant noodles, these have the signature creamy-rich, full-bodied tonkotsu broth arriving in frozen form. After following the clear, simple instructions to simmer it for about 15 minutes, the concentrated block, the result of an 18-hour cooking process prior, became exactly like the broth one would taste if dining at an Ippudo restaurant. When the lusciously smooth umami pork-based liquid met the al dente ramen (these noodles are meant to be cooked for only 30secs in boiling water), the combination went beyond my expectations. It was enhanced by the slices of pork belly chashu and marinated black fungus that were also packed in the D.I.Y. Meal Kit.
I might try my hand next time at making Onsen Tamago eggs and chopping spring onions to pimp up the ramen and take it to another level. But for today, it already qualified as a happy meal.

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As immaculately prepared as I expect of @taro.chef’s food, his #GuerillaBento this week was infinitely more WOW than I could imagine, especially since it cost only $38! The #Barachirashi Takayama-style boasted much bigger-than-normal cuts of fish, scallop and seafood and they were all superb in quality and taste. There was a freshly-baked mini Burnt Matcha Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce for dessert as well. You bet I was wreathed in smiles as I ravished my set meal.

For the benefit of those who DM-ed me, Chef Taro’s “Guerilla Bento” is available only on Saturdays and it changes every time. He prepares only 20 sets, and you never know what is going to be in there until he shares a snippet of what’s coming in his Instagram Stories, sometime in the middle of the week. These meals are inspired by moments in his life, such as a favourite childhood dish or something he recalls enjoying at a point in his travels. Therefore, his Guerilla Bentos are really quite special because of that emotional connection you’ll have to him.

To book one for yourself, please follow @taro.chef on Instagram since ordering is only via DM to him (not @sgtakayama restaurant).

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