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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 left it to Chef Issey to decide on which salad we should have. This was the one he chose and we enjoyed it a lot. I liked the beancurd in particular as it’s the soft, creamy-ish type with a strong soya bean taste. Would never have imagine it would pair well with pickles but herein lies the proof.

On my first trip here, the Pork Keema Curry Risotto managed to wow me even though it was the very last course and I was stuffed to the gills by that point.
However, according to a recent post by @alanloveshisboys, the level of peppery heat in it had been reduced since my visit. So when I ordered this again on my second trip, I asked Chef Issey to make it as spicy as the original version. It was superb.
So if you like your food with a stronger kick, be sure to ask for yours to be cooked “extra spicy”.

Although I think this wasn’t as crispy as the name implied, there‘s no doubt it is still very tasty and worth a try.

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Think of this as your favourite chicken soup but better. Well, if you are like me and appreciate things spicier that is.
The differentiation is the irresistible fragrant heat due to the addition of yuzu pepper. It really takes the boiling hot soup up a few notches. The pieces of chicken are also very tender and juicy.
I need to order one portion to enjoy all to myself the next time I’m here. It’s too good to share 😆

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Love how the ratio of protein to carb is flipped in this “burger” with the big pieces of fresh-off-the-grill unagi sandwiching a small portion of Japanese rice. All held together within a large sheet of crisp seaweed. It can be a bit hot to hold but juggle it you must, for it it loveliest eaten quickly. At least that’s what I feel 😄

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H O S T E D
Above are the #SameSameButDifferent pieces of Osaka-style tempura I had.
The first is a triangle of Camembert cheese that’s basically been reduced to molten creaminess after it was coated in batter and dropped into boiling hot safflower oil.
The second is Shirako or sperm sac that’s also gone through the same preparation steps. If you have ever eaten this, you’ll know it is innately creamy. So with the intense heat from being tempura-ed, it got even more liquid-y. But I feel it managed to hold on to its structure just a wee bit stronger, which is more than what I can say about the cheese 😆

The bottom line though is I enjoyed both immensely and would order them again without hesitation.

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The first item you’re encouraged to pick up and savour from Esora’s gorgeous autumnal “Hassan” is the Barracuda. A thick slice of the fish hugs the neat little block of seasoned rice. The roll is placed on a sheet of crisp seaweed that you are to use first in a practical way, kind of like a napkin, to hold and lift the sushi. It then quietly transitions into the role of an ingredient as it becomes part of the roll. This was so utterly delicious I found myself wishing there was a half dozen more.

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The first item you’re encouraged to pick up and savour from Esora’s gorgeous autumnal “Hassan” is the Barracuda. A thick slice of the fish hugs the neat little block of seasoned rice. The roll is placed on a sheet of crisp seaweed that you are to use first in a practical way, kind of like a napkin, to hold and lift the sushi. It then quietly transitions into the role of an ingredient as it becomes part of the roll. This was so utterly delicious I found myself wishing there was a half dozen more.

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This was the last savoury course by Chef-owner Shigeru Koizumi from our dinner last night.

A simple yet stunning dish, it featured Sanma (Pacific Saury) cooked with ginger and spring onions. After being presented to us as shown in my photo above, one of the chefs went promptly to work, breaking up the grilled pieces of Sanma to mix them in (rather aggressively I might add but not that I mind - aggression is sexy...) with the rice. By the time the contents of the pot was scooped into the waiting wooden bowls, the fish had become so fine and well-integrated with the rice grains, it was nigh impossible to tell them apart.

Fresh (not chilled, nor farmed) ikura was spooned on as the last touch. The taste was truly sublime. Of course I had to have seconds.

H O S T E D

Only until 15th November 2019 is the Aki Matsuri Omakase Dinner Menu available at Fat Cow. It is one designed for Wagyu lovers as Head Chef Shigeru Kasama and his team (including Chef Nigel Loh who served us when we visited) have flexed their creative muscles to develop a menu that showcases the best of Kumamoto beef in various preparation styles. Priced at $250++ per pax, the 12-course set is sheer indulgence as it comprises of:

1. Aki Chinmi Moriawase - this platter has a glass of Fat Cow’s own sake warmed up, shark soft bone, abalone liver, koji miso on Wagyu, cream cheese miso yaki and tsubugai umani.

2. Snow Crab Chawanmushi with kani miso sauce: the rich sauce is marvelous with the egg.

3. Shimofuri Wagyu Sashimi Negimaki: we found the raw slices of beef with leek, gold leaf and three sauces very delicious.

4. Kaki Ume Wan: comforting seafood soup with an oyster.

5. Seiro Mushi: one of my two favourites from the menu, the extremely soft beef tastes incredibly refine as it’s steamed with pure spring water from Kyoto.

6. Sukiyaki: the other favourite of mine is this course with beef simmered briefly in a sweetish sauce and served with raw egg and freshly shaved truffle.

7. Aki Tempura Moriawasi: this delectable assortment of battered ingredients include shiso leaf-wrapped Wagyu tenderloin, large, sweet chestnuts, gingko nuts and shimeji mushroom, sprinkled in some sea salt flakes.

8. Zabuton Grill: sinking my teeth into the thick, juicy slices of charcoal-grilled Wagyu chuck flap left me in a state of bliss.

9. The Fat Cow Wagyu Sandwich: the very soft toasted buttery brioche and breaded Miyazaki A4 chateaubriand tastes even better swiped through the accompanying tangy sauce.

10. Wagyu Striploin Aburi Nigiri Sushi: served in a glass bowl and topped with Bafun uni, this is “surf & turf” in premium form.

11. Chef’s Special Donabe Truffle Meshi: cooked using pure spring water from Kyoto, the supremely fragrant and appetising Japanese claypot rice has truffle shaved on right in front of you. If you decide to skip second helpings, Chef will pack the remainder in a box with more truffle for you to take home.

12. Musk Melon and Yuzu Ice-cream: ending the decadence with sweet fruit and citrus coldness is lovely.

Every guest is given an elegant sake cup as a souvenir too. I like the design a lot because to me, it looks like Mount Fuji when it’s upside-down.

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M E D I A T A S T I N G

The two things I noticed immediately about @MAI_by_marusaya when I walked in were: firstly, how spacious the place is, and secondly, that the customers (I could hear their happy chatter despite them being mostly out of sight) were Japanese, thereby immediately vouching for the restaurant’s authenticity.
I was there (courtesy of @brandcellar) to have the $128++ Omakase Dinner Menu by Group Executive Chef Shinji and Head Chef Ono. And although everything they served was fine (I found the “Dobinmushi with Shrimp, Shimeji and Maitake Mushroom”, and the “Grilled Matsutake Mushroom Rolled with Seared Wagyu Beef” especially enjoyable), there‘s no doubt in my mind the highlight of the meal was their new range of Japanese Donabe (claypot) Rice featuring the brand’s specialty dashi made from 2-year aged katsuobushi and seasonal produce air-flown from Japan twice a week.
Cooked to order over a slow fire, each Donabe Rice took about 30 to 40 minutes to be ready but the wait was worth it. The aromas and flavours were distinctly richer and deeper than if an ordinary pot had been used.
Of the four I got to try, the “Seared Sliced Wagyu Donabe Rice” ($58++) was my favourite as it’s the most flavourful and indulgent with butter and an egg yolk mixed in (thanks to Chef Ono, I even got riceballs of this to take home at the end of the night). Tying for second place were the pretty and tasty “Japanese Barracuda with Chrysanthemums Donabe Rice”, and the “MAI Style Chicken Donabe Rice” which is an oishii (Japanese for “delicious”) take on our local chicken rice complete with its own packs-a-punch chilli sauce ($38++ each). Those who desire something very clean in taste can pick the “Matsutake Mushroom Donabe Rice”.
Do note that you do not get a whole pot of Donabe Rice with the $128++ omakase menu. It would be just a bowl of your chosen variant. I guess after consuming all the courses preceding and the dessert that comes after (I was presented with a slice of housemade sweet potato cake, matcha ice-cream and azuki red beans), it would be enough for most.

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M E D I A T A S T I N G
“YES, YES, YES" is only answer when an invitation to Esora comes your way (thank you Annette!).
When I entered the restaurant, it was apparent Autumn had arrived with beauty and grace in their beautiful space. Framed by the updated floral centrepiece behind the open kitchen, Chef-owner Koizumi and his team worked quietly, as though in deep reverence of the fine ingredients they handle.
Our menu, curated by Chef himself, comprised of lunch and dinner items. We also got to try the tea-pairing as well. A few people had told me it elevates the dining experience - they‘re right. The five teas, of which only one was served hot, complemented the dishes very well, adding new flavour dimensions of floral, smoky, milky and vanilla-sweetened, to each deliciousness.
We began with Chef Koizumi's special dashi, an opener-of-appetite made of two kinds of kombu and a touch of yuzu. An airy-light monaka wafer sandwiching foie gras terrine, Japanese persimmon and a myoga salad was next. Then came the inevitably-breathtaking Esora Hassun, a tableau on a tray with the splendour of the season captured in six edibles nestled in fall’s vivid foliage. We enjoyed them in the recommended sequence, starting with the barracuda sushi in nori wrap and ending with the Shiitake mushroom flan adorned in abalone before cleansing our palate with a Japanese gooseberry. Chef’s wife Maasa arrived at this point, bearing a pot with a stunningly presented pigeon prepared in two ways, and plated with lime kosho. The closing carb of hairy crab donabe was exceptional - so comforting and sweet with plenty of shredded crab meat.
For dessert, we had a pretty pear sorbet that reminded Annette of her favourite Solero popsicle. After that was the magnificent wasanbon caramel ice-cream served with housemade kuromitso and an avalanche of finely grated Tokushima white truffle. It was ambrosial! Autumn’s petit fours tasted as lovely as summer’s (the melon ice-cream mochi was for me, the best of the lot).

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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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