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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

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 virus, travel is now out of the question (if you are still planning to, DON’T! It is not worth the risk to yourself, your loved ones and everyone in your community). So since a trip to Japan is not about to happen anytime soon, a meal at @sgtakayama can help satisfy that craving for Kappo-style cuisine should you have one.
Set in the heart of Singapore, the restaurant is helmed by Executive Chef Taro who use to be the Master Chef at the residence of the Japanese Ambassador to Singapore. I am a big fan of his food; specifically his Omakase Menus. The 8-course Seasonal Lunch ($130/150++ depending on your choice of main) was what I had most recently. It comprises of a fantastically delicious parade of dishes that included Hokkaido scallop sashimi covered in turnip and Szechuan peppercorn leaf, crunchy Katsu of steamed Japanese abalone and asparagus with “green pea soup”, a series of fresh sashimi accompanied by Chef Taro’s creative housemade condiments, an airy-light Monaka wafer filled with foie gras, Japanese bayberry and pickled watermelon rind, a palate-cleansing sea salt ice-cream with Oscetra caviar and sakura flower dashi stock sauce, and finally, grilled A5 Wagyu (shown above) with Japanese onions and local micro herbs served with a bowl of fish and Japanese lotus root rice. The dessert was Japanese pomelo and strawberry from Kumamoto.
For an even more indulgent feast, I recommend the Monthly Omakase Dinner ($280++). Seasonal ingredients feature in both menus and are prepared in a variety of ways that run the gamut from raw to different ways of cooking. What I also love about dining at this elegant restaurant is the peaceful ambience it offers, whether you choose to sit at the counter or in one of their two private rooms.

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@kengengkee (also known as "KEK Seafood") is a MICHELIN Plate Restaurant I am familiar with as it’s one of my family favourites for “zi char”. Seeing forever-cheerful Paul, his brother, Head Wayne and the rest of their family never fails to spark joy.
Having dined at KEK Seafood several times, I obviously have my must-haves, of which the Claypot Liver is tops. It is imperative to be enjoyed in the unique KEK style, that is with plain white rice popped in and given a good stir. Trust me, you do not know how sublime liver can be until you‘ve tried this.
Apart from having a very good supplier because the liver tastes really fresh, the kitchen team treats the cooking of the liver like a science to ensure it arrives perfectly cooked (it has to be soft!) on the customer’s table. So if the customer is seated in the air-conditioned area, which happens to be twice as far from the kitchen as a customer seated in the al fresco section, cooking time is halved. This is because they take into consideration that the liver will continue to cook in the claypot as it’s being carried all the way there by the wait staff. Honestly, I was so impressed when I heard this.

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S P O N S O R E D
Cultivated in Japan’s Sado Island, Toki-Mai Rice has a seal of approval and can be sold as a brand of "Toki-Mai Rice from the Land of Ibis" because it fulfills the six conditions of being produced by Niigata Province-certified "Eco Farmers", using environmentally-supportive methods, employing less pesticides and chemical fertilisers, and conducting biological research twice a year to nurture optimal sustainability.
When cooked, the rice has a unique stickiness and umami which gets amplified as you chew. I got to try this for myself at @nokasg where Head Chef Takuma Seki put together a special menu showcasing the #TokiMaiRice prepared in a few ways.
The first was the gorgeous sushi and chirashi platter pictured above, where freshest fish and seafood (Noka receives four shipments of seafood a week) were arranged on the pearly grains of seasoned Toki-Mai Rice. I enjoyed every bite immensely with freshly grated wasabi.

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Hand on my heart, I don’t recall having tasted a more exquisite roast beef than this. Chef Akane said it is because she uses the rump which is more tender. Well, she knows best because I couldn’t get enough of those velvety-soft slices, especially when they were presented on steaming hot, fluffy kombu-cooked rice (imported from Nagano prefecture), and smothered in a superb sweetish, slightly viscous egg dashi sauce. Truly oishii in my opinion.

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Located on the second level of the same building as the Intercontinental Hotel in Robertson Quay, Ichigo Ichie seats 10 comfortably along an L-shaped counter that faces an open kitchen, and very soon, will have a table for 6 guests in a screened-off section.
When I visited for lunch, I ordered the 6-course $128++ Tasting Menu and Chef Akane Eno’s take on our local hawker dish of prawn noodles was one of my favourites from all the courses.
Served chilled, the slippery-smooth al dente somen came in a sauce made from Japanese tiger prawn stock, and topped with fresh, perfectly-cooked prawns. What propelled this to “OH WOW” status was the housemade Yuzu Chilli, a paste of salty and zesty heat. What a stunner.

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Chef Akane Eno’s identity is everywhere in this restaurant of hers. Not only are her Tasting Menus (2 for lunch, 2 for dinner) christened after shades of red because her first name, “Akane”, means “deep red” in Japanese, but some of the crockery she presents her food on are pieces she has been collecting for years. Like the one seen in the above photo which is a dish shaped like a traditional Japanese string instrument. It appeared in the second course of my $128++ Lunch Tasting Menu, featuring an assortment of cold appetisers: baby bluefin tuna and flounder sashimi, Spanish mackarel marinated in miso to be eaten with a kumquat, Hokkaido scallop cooked in a sauce then smoked in Sakura chips, a mix of blanched seasonal vegetables, and broad beans.

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Literally translated, “Ichigo Ichie” means “One Life, One Moment” and is meant to indicate an experience to cherish. And although it is suppose to be written as 一期一会, there is clever wordplay here with Chef @akane.eno’s phonetically-similar family name replacing the last character. Hence: 一期一江.
I visited within a week of the restaurant’s official opening and from what I experienced, everything seems to be in a tip-top state already.
At $128++, the 6-course Tasting Menu I chose was the less expensive of the two (the other is $188++), and I enjoyed it very much. Not only were the ingredients of high quality but Chef Akane’s culinary skills ensured they were showcased to their best. When you watch her and her team in action, you can tell the food here is prepared with so much heart.
Shown above is the Chawanmushi with Baby Sea Eel, Bamboo Shoot and Ume. I learned from my foodie friends @szeliang888 and @alanloveshisboys that this seasonal fish is also known as “Noresore”. Besides being amazed at how Chef Akane managed to retain its smoothness in the steamed egg custard (because once cooked, the fish becomes flaky), I was impressed by the extreme liquid-like texture of her Chawanmushi. A stunning start to a very satisfying Kappo meal.

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In this age of Tinder and hook-ups, the relationship I have with @sgtakayama is considered old-fashioned because it’s been a long and sweet courtship. It began with a lunch shortly after they opened almost two years ago, then an dinner event held in conjunction with a Japanese glass artisan company, and late last year, I attended a 4-hands pop-up with Executive Chef Taro’s friends from Osaka. This slow and steady pace of discovering what he and his team are capable of, has finally led to me declaring that my heart is well and truly won. Sealing the deal with a kiss was the Omakase dinner I had a few days ago. Here is what was served:

- A stunning cold appetiser of Japanese hairy crabmeat with yuzu zest and chopped Japanese yam, crowned in marinated Oscetra caviar and served with Japanese yam ice-cream.

- Deepfried spring roll filled with creamy #Shirako (cod sperm sac) that proved a dazzling study in contrasts.

- A parade of different sublime Sashimi including raw Snow Crab leg (a first for me), each given a little extra kick in flavour with housemade condiments such as cured red fish roe, soya sauce, radish with ponzu sauce, cured egg yolk.

- Airy-light Monaka Wafer (Japanese rice biscuit) sandwiching a marvelous combo of foie gras ice-cream, turnip with yuzu skin, pickled watermelon rind, chopped ginger flower and roasted chilli.

- A huge boiled Japanese abalone sliced and plated with plump tempura-style Tottori shiitake mushrooms, abalone liver cream and abalone stock sauce.

- Palate-cleansing Somen in clear dashi (seasoned with a pinch of salt) and served with juicy, sweet Japanese pear and a splash of matcha-infused oil.

- A fantastic beef course showcasing A5 Wagyu poached in a dashi flooded with Japanese leeks, then dressed in a housemade sauce of sesame, vinegar and soya milk, plus a dash of chilli oil. Two helpings were absolutely necessary.

- Superb Snow Crab and Uni Claypot Rice that was exceedingly fragrant, fluffy and sweet-in-seafood-flavour. It was accompanied by a bowl of miso soup with clams and some assorted pickles.

- Dessert of Japanese pomelo with housemade orange ice-cream and orange bits (with rind still attached) mixed in honey wine jelly. This was paired with a Mikan-flavoured Sake for maximum enjoyment.

- Piping hot Houjicha financiers that was simply mind-blowing.

Profoundly delicious, this was a meal that has made an indelible impression, and has me pining for more.

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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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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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