Taste Of Nippon

Taste Of Nippon

Japanese fare that everyone loves. Curry Don, Sushi and everything else; you name it, we have it!
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

The North-West hadn’t really been the area that has seen much when it comes to cafes or indie F&B establishments, so it was pretty surprising when we first heard from a friend that a new cafe had sprouted up in Sunshine Place at Choa Chu Kang. Located right beside the outlet of Oh My Mango there, Coffee & Chirashi is a pretty recent opening — while the name of the F&B establishment suggests that they do have a focus on Donburi, the spot does serve up different menus in the morning and from mid afternoon onwards; the “Breakfast” menu runs from opening till 2pm and comprises of items such as the Classic Benedict, and Sando Sandwich while available only from 12pm to 8:30pm would be their sides, Japanese Rice Bowl and Japanese Udon offerings. Those looking for dessert will be glad to know that Coffee & Chirashi also do serve up cakes, as well as waffles and gelato. The list of beverages available here includes specialty coffee and tea (from both Roji Tea and Gryphon Tea Company) amongst a few other non-coffee options. The space isn’t particularly big — the indoor dining space, which is decked rather simply where function seems to be the emphasis over form, features four tables of four, while the outdoor dining space features another two tables of four.

Having tried a couple of dishes which included the Tamago Mentai Yaki, and the Chirashi Don, our favourite for the lot of dishes that we have ordered for the evening was probably the Mentaiko Salmon Don. Offering no surprises of its own, the Mentaiko Salmon Don is priced at $15.80, and does come with quite a decently-sized slab of salmon over a bed of short-grain rice along with pickled cucumber, cherry tomato and tamago. They were pretty generous with the Mentaiko sauce here — the drizzling of the sauce coats the slab of salmon in entirety, which was lightly torched before being served to the table; itself adding that slightly smoky, umami note to that characteristic flavour of salmon while the fish itself was also pretty flaky. The bed of rice that sits beneath it comes with a light drizzle of Teriyaki sauce for a good flavour, while the other elements attempt to add a more wholesome touch — the Tamago being soft and added a slight sweetness, while the pickled cucumbers providing more of a crunch and carried a slight tanginess; both providing a break in between all that Mentai goodness and the carbs.

There isn’t many of such eateries around this corner of the island so the opening of Coffee & Chirashi around Sunshine Place is likely to get residents around the area to get pretty excited. No doubt Coffee & Chirashi isn’t that must-go spot that is of the likes of probably say, Omoté — that being said, it does feel that Coffee & Chirashi is positioned to provide the residents in the area a full-service cafe with hot food options without having them travel all the way out of the neighbourhood to hang out. The location may be a little far out for most considering the effort needed for them to head here, but I do think that Coffee & Chirashi will likely be a favourite with the residents around the area for some reasonably-priced Japanese Rice Bowls just round the corner in their neighbourhood.

Kimoto Gastro Bar is a place that has been in the list for me for quite a while to check out — set in its own space within The [email protected] Bay, Kimoto Gastro Bar occupies a ground level unit in the building. Wasn’t really aware about this, but Kimoto Gastro Bar is operated by the same folks behind The Drug Store as well as Three Hands Coffee; all three establishments being situated within the same building. By far, the facade of Kimoto Gastro Bar is probably the most aesthetic of the lot — the dark blue walls on the exterior is a big contrast to the largely grey colour scheme of the building; the shopfront also bears foldable windows above its windows that can be opened up and used as a bar table when the restaurant is open for the day. Serving up two different menus throughout the day, Kimoto Gastro Bar serves up a variety of Kushiyaki, Sashimi, Tempura alongside salads, Donburi and small plates during dinner service — they have also streamlined their offerings during lunch service to better serve the office folks in the area where a menu that focuses more on Donburi offerings.

One of the items that was making it rounds around social media when Kimoto Gastro Bar had first started its operations was their Tempura Don — their Tempura Don comes with elements such as prawns, chicken breast and vegetables as described in their menu. Each Donburi also comes served with a side salad, as well as a bowl of Miso Soup — the former being a refreshing break from the Tempura Don if one chooses to have it mid-meal; comprises of leafy greens drizzled in goma dressing and crispy tempura bits, while the latter comes with cubes of tofu and kelp. In actuality, the Tempura Don does come with vegetables such as corn, eggplant and carrot — there is also the inclusion of the tempura egg here which isn’t actually listed in their menu as well. Digging into the Tempura Don, it is noticeable how their rendition doesn’t carry as much sauce as some other Tendons which we have had at other locations before — that being said, we did find their variant still pretty palatable at the least; didn’t feel that their Tempura Don was too dry, and the fluffy short-grain rice was actually pretty flavourful on its own with the inclusion of shredded strips of seaweed. The tempura pieces here are freshly-fried upon order — those seated at the bar counter facing their food preparation area will be able to watch how they deep-fry the tempura and grill the kushiyaki behind a glass wall. Thought the tempura pieces were actually pretty well-executed; the golden-brown batter was light yet crispy — the various produce being quite fresh such as the prawns that carried a good bite whilst being naturally sweet, while the tempura egg deserves a mention for how it comes with molten egg white and egg yolk that can be mixed around the bowl of rice. At $16.80 before service charge and GST, the Tempura Don here is one that comes at a decent quality that would most certainly match those served at other Tendon specialty stores around.

Aside from the Tempura Don, Kimoto Gastro Bar does serve up some other Donburi items for lunch that also piqued our interest — think items such as their Kushiyaki Don, as well as the Kimoto Chirashi Don, though the latter is slightly higher priced in comparison at $25.90 before service charge and GST. Sure, the prices of the food at Kimoto Gastro Bar does suggest that it is a spot more for the occasional splurge during lunch, but with food of a good quality and at a relatively decent price, they do make for a worthy destination for a wind-down after an intensive work week with drinks and delicious Japanese cuisine for the office folks and expats in the area.

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A little late to join the game to check out Tempura Tendon Tenya but finally had given them a try at their ION Orchard outlet since we thought we should try out something new instead of sticking to the usual favourite all the time (i.e. Tenjin at Shaw Centre). While there is no longer a mad queue to dine at Tempura Tendon Tenya as compared to the days when they had just opened their doors, diners should still expect a short waiting time in order to dine here — we made our visit on a weekend afternoon for lunch, and the staff did take down our particulars to ring us up once there was a seat available. Whilst we were informed that there was going to be a 20mins to 30mins wait for it, the wait did seem to be a little bit closer to 15mins in reality for us. One thing interesting with Tempura Tenya Tendon is how their menu works — whilst most other Tendon specialists offer their Tendon without many variations apart from the ones that sees a combination of various types of tempura pieces in a single bowl, Tempura Tenya Tendon does offer Tendons that would suit certain patron’s taste buds more — case in point would be the Prawn Tendon that comes with three tempura prawns, as well as the Seafood Tendon that features tempura prawn, Anago, scallop and red fish amongst other ingredients as well. Patrons also do get to opt for more rice or less rice as well — which the former is charged at 50 cents more and the latter sees a deduction of 50 cents off the standard price of the tendon in the menu.

Being our very first visit to Tempura Tendon Tenya, we found ourselves going for the the Tenya Tendon; pretty much their most basic offering that features Tempura Prawn, Red Fish, Squid, Pumpkin and French Beans. At $8.90, the Tenya Tendon can also be said as one of the most affordable ones around as well; we opted for less rice for our order since we usually find difficulty in finishing the tendons served up at other establishments — this reduced the price of our order to $8.40. Going through all the tempura pieces, we did feel that the tempura batter is rather interesting here — whilst it is not quite as airy as compared to the tempura batter of the usual spot that we visit, the tempura batter is still considerably light; almost light a fusion of tempura batter and panko crumbs if one may put it that way. The tempura pieces here does offer a bit more crunch, but still remained light and crisp as compared to other forms of fried fare. The various elements are considerably fresh for the price point; only felt that the red fish was a little muddy but wasn’t too much of a deal breaker for me — liked how the various elements still managed to retain its own moisture despite being deep-fried. Going down to the rice, the short-grain rice were pearly and a little sticky like how they should be; all that drizzled with an ample amount of sweet-savoury sauce that gave it a pretty good flavour whilst also ensured that the rice wasn’t too dry to down. Chili flakes are provided on the side; patrons who wish for some spiciness can choose to add it to their tendon as they wish.

Whilst we did come to an agreement that Tenjin does serve the better Tendon between the two, we can’t deny how the offerings at Tempura Tendon Tenya are pretty affordable especially for those who are tight on a budget — the Tenya Tendon costing almost pretty close to a meal at a fast food restaurant. The quality of their Tendon also does match pretty well for the price — there wasn’t much to complain about the Tenya Tendon, and could even be said as a better offering as compared to some attempts of tendons served up by food court stalls elsewhere. This pretty much explains the popularity of Tempura Tendon Tenya even till this day — sure, there isn’t a crazy queue for it these days; not that we would do that either. That being said, with a minimal wait, Tempura Tendon Tenya is a pretty decent fuss-free dining choice for a decent Japanese Tendon eatery for the masses at a wallet-friendly price point; though we would still probably heading to Tenjin considering its proximity to the other Tempura Tendon Tenya outlets around the island.

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Got pretty excited when the news of Reiwa Soba opening a new outlet at Trengganu Street had first been announced on their social media account — have been very much a convert ever since we tried their buckwheat soba that is made from scratch ever since their days as a coffeeshop stall at Kelantan Lane. The folks behind the stall had since expanded to operate several standalone outlets, including Reiwa Soba Honten at Bedok Reservoir Road, as well as the new Soba Kappo Reiwa that is located within Hotel Calmo. Whilst the address is stated as 25 Trengganu Street, the main entrance to Soba Kappo Reiwa is actually situated at the neighbouring Smith Street just opposite the now-defunct Chinatown Food Street, and also several doors away from Ah Pui Tiong Bahru Satay towards Chinatown Complex Market. Their new space is decked in a simplistic style similar to that of their Bedok Reservoir Road outlet though smaller; reservations are recommended before making a visit. Offering their signature Reiwa Pork Soba and Reiwa Chicken Soba that has been a mainstay on the menu since their days as a coffeeshop stall at Kelantan Lane, Soba Kappo Reiwa also serves up other soba dishes including a small variety of hot soba, side dishes and appetisers, rice dishes such as Donburi and a Maki that is dubbed the Reiwa Roll, Agemono — Deep Fried items and Sushi. Being fairly similar to Reiwa Soba Honten, Soba Kappo Reiwa serves up a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages — their signature for the former being the Homemade Umeshi, whilst those who are looking for a non-alcoholic variant can opt for the Honey Ume Soda.

Going straight for the chef’s recommendation, we found ourselves trying out a new item after having mostly only ordered the Reiwa Pork Soba and Reiwa Chicken Soba during our previous visits to both Reiwa Soba at Kelantan Lane and Reiwa Soba Honten at Bedok Reservoir Road. The Sea Bream Kake Soba (Hot) is an item that features the same 100% handmade buckwheat soba that is pretty much the icon of Reiwa Soba since Day One; all that with slices of sea bream that seems to be cooked in the same broth that it comes with. This was a refreshing change from the usual Reiwa Pork Soba and Reiwa Chicken Soba which we were used to having — a bit of a lighter and more refreshing item against the one that we are familiar with which was more of an item created with a fusion approach. We were told to have the item fast, and for a good reason — the buckwheat soba noodles actually soak up that broth pretty quickly; to have it fast is to avoid the buckwheat soba noodles from turning too soft after absorbing the broth for an extended period of time. What we really liked in this broth is how light it was — that slight touch of umami from what seems to be a bonito stock with the addition of kelp, made with a slight refreshing zing coming from the yuzu zest that they had included. Whilst the sea bream is added to this one, we were pretty glad how the entire bowl didn’t taste particularly fishy — the slices of fish also being pretty fresh and flaky as well. Would say that the Sea Bream Kake Soba (Hot) is an item that would work even for those days that one is feeling under the water — the hot soup not only is particularly heartwarming, but also feels gentle to the gut without being lacking in flavour; the item also is best to paired with their Homemade Umeshi that adds a slightly dreamy touch.

Reiwa Soba has been a favourite of ours even since we had tried them during their initial days at Kelantan Lane; their effort in making buckwheat soba from scratch and their fusion approach makes them a standout from the dining scene in Singapore; one that is all about skill and execution of the craft, whilst tuning it to the preferences of local diners to bring the dish closer to the masses. It is also pretty amazing to see how they have grown over time; from just a coffeeshop stall offering a limited menu to a full-fledged restaurant that had expanded to serving other forms of Japanese cuisine using some locally-sourced ingredients, they have also been consistent in their quality all this while. Perhaps it is this reason that makes them still pretty popular especially amongst Japanese expats. Seating is fairly limited in this outlet, so reservations are recommended — that being said, looking forward to what the folks of Reiwa Soba would be able to put out in the future; also hoping that we would be able to move on from their soba offerings and try the Reiwa Tendon the next round, which features a tempura pieces with a buckwheat flour that sounds pretty appetising!

Was skimming though Instagram for lunch ideas and came across this Japanese curry house named Maji Curry that has recently opened its doors in Square2 at Novena — the establishment hails from Japan, with three outlets there and two others overseas; the outlet at Square2 is their very first in Singapore. Being the champion of the Tokyo Curry Grand Prix 2018, Maji Curry is known for their Japanese Curry that features a chicken bouillon base with 10 spices simmered over 100 hours (no beef is being used in the making of their curry here) — or at least that is what is being claimed on their local Facebook page. Patrons can expect a range of Japanese curry available here — this includes the Cheese Sauce Curry Rice, the Omelette Curry Rice and the Maji Original Curry Rice (i.e. the usual Japanese curry rice); patrons can actually select between two sizes being the Medium (220gm rice, 180gm sauce) or the Large (320gm rice, 250gm sauce), and pair them up with the toppings (i.e. meat options) of their choice. Spiciness level is also customisable here from Levels 1 to 3. For those looking for side dishes to share across the table, they do offer simple sides such as salads, fries and Karaage, while dessert options include a few flavours of ice-cream to choose from. One can also make their order of their Japanese curry rice as a set by topping up between $4 to $7 to include a beverage and salad, with the $7 add-on option coming with dessert as well.

Going for the Hamburger Steak Cheese Sauce Curry Rice, it is noted that each aka-carte order does come with a side of pickles and fried shallots; the latter of which could be added in to the curry rice if one so chooses to do so — the cheese sauce curry rice also sees a serving of the cheese sauce being provided on the side where patrons can pour in the desired amount as they wish. Digging into the Japanese curry as it is, we opted for the spiciness level at Level 2; thought this is pretty much a sweet spot considering the spices and chicken bouillon base is prominent despite the fiery kick that it gives — pretty manageable for those tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness. The Japanese curry here is noticeably missing of gaminess considering the lack of beef in the preparation process here — but it remains of a good sweet-savoury balance that is as thick or even more flavourful then its counterparts that are prepared in the usual manner; something which would definitely appeal to non-beef eaters especially who find proper Japanese curry carrying a sort of gaminess that they do not fancy. The three-cheese cheese fondue is pretty much one would expect out of having a creamy béchamel sauce typically found in a Japanese Doria; savoury and gives an extra touch to the entire dish. The Hamburg party here features a mix of beef and pork; there wasn’t an evident hint of gaminess in this one considering the mix of meats, but it is certainly meaty without being overly salty — almost akin to a well-seasoned breakfast sausage patty that was easy to eat.

While we are usually more sceptical about Japanese curry specialists such as Coco Ichibanya and Monster Curry/Planet, Maji Curry definitely offers a rendition of Japanese curry that showcases the dish in a more artisanal light — not just a generic item to appeal to the taste buds of the general public. With much attention and detail being placed in the Japanese curry base, it does show in the product, and it is little wonder how they are able to clinch the champion title in the Tokyo Curry Grand Prix 2018. Whilst we would not be able to make any comparisons with their outlets in Japan, this is one place we would really be thinking of if the craving for Japanese curry hits again!

Spotted yet another new offering at the favourite place whilst being there for the weekend cuppa the other day; and it goes without saying what we are going to order to accompany the cuppa.

Available alongside their line of loaf cakes, which includes the Carrot & Walnut Slice and the Chocolate Banana Slice, the Soy Osthmanthus Tea Cake with Yuzu Frosting is something that offers a twist to the more conventional loaf cakes that they have to offer. The tea cake was actually pretty comforting; bearing the same density as their usual loaf cakes, they are also pretty generous with how big the slices are here. It is sufficiently moist, but I especially loved how the cake itself carried light notes of soy — almost akin to that of soy milk. Whilst the Osthmantus could admittedly be a little stronger for a floral note, the Yuzu Frosting came with a slight zing and wasn’t particularly sweet; overall a pretty fitting and comforting combination. Best paired with an iced long black, especially given the current heatwave of the late.

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Had heard some stuff about Ichi Umai before making the visit to Junction Nine at Yishun for it — this Japanese establishment has taken over the former premises of the now-defunct Folding Rice (a previous concept by the folks behind Arteastiq serving up Nasi Lemak). For those who are unfamiliar with the mixed-use development, the same building also houses other F&B establishments such as Chao Yue Xuan Dim Sum, Overscoop and even an upcoming outlet of Refuel Cafe (yes, the same Refuel Cafe from Bedok Reservoir, that also runs Refuel II and Fuel Plus). Decked out in a style of an Izakaya establishment, the concept is a rare find in a neighbourhood, and serves up quite a good variety of Japanese fare ranging from appetisers, salads, sashimi, sushi rolls, deep-fried/grilled/pan-fried items, rice bowl and noodles, amongst others.

While all of the other dishes were also pretty commendable for an establishment inspired by an Izakaya that is located in the heartlands, it is the Bara Chirashi Don that we were the most impressed with. Described as “Soy marinade sashimi cubes & sweet shrimp on furikake sushi rice”, the Bara Chirashi Don is fairly well-portioned and also well-executed at $15.90. While the portion of rice here appears to be slightly more abundant than other establishments that serve well-proportioned variations of the same dish, we utterly enjoyed how the Bara Chirashi Don comes with pretty well-sized cubes of raw fish that fits great with every spoonful of rice for the best of both worlds. The soy marinade also provided a slight hint of sweet-savouriness for the cubes of sashimi, while the rice came aptly sweetened and chilled — exactly to our preferences for how it is consistent to the cubes of sashimi above. The cubes of raw fish were also pretty fresh as well, and the furikake adds that umami touch to the Bara Chirashi Don.

As far as it goes, Ichi Umai is a pretty decent spot for Japanese food in the heartlands — one that just isn’t that particularly easy to find especially in the northern end of the island. Considering how they aren’t located too far from where I am, I wouldn’t mind making the trip back here for some satisfying Bara Chirashi Don without the queue (for now), since the food here is actually pretty respectable in quality and reasonably priced too. Yishun residents have probably found out about this hidden gem in their neighbourhood considering how they do seem to be near full capacity during meal times, though they are still worth a visit overall depending on where one is located.

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Checked out Kumamoto Ramen at Blk 11 Jalan Bukit Merah; a fairly new establishment which is located beside Nature Cafe — whilst the concept isn’t entirely new with outlets situated at Serangoon North and at Ang Mo Kio, those other outlets are situated within coffeeshops, while the Bukit Merah outlet is a standalone shop space. Run by the same folks behind You Ma You La Mala Xiang Guo, Kumamoto Ramen serves up quite a decent range of ramen at pretty affordable prices — most of them feature a Tonkotsu broth, and prices do start from $6.80, with nothing going above the price of $10. For those who are not into ramen, Kumamoto Ramen also serves up a small variety of rice dishes — think Stewed Pork/Beef Don, and Spicy Minced Pork Don, as well as a range of Zosui (i.e. Japanese Rice Soup). They also do offer quite a variety of beverages, such as a Milk & Milk Tea series, Brown Sugar series and Fruit Tea series apart from a rather standard selection of canned soft drinks.

The Hot Tan Tan Noodles features their Tonkotsu broth, and comes served with spicy minced pork, Ajitama, Spring Onion and Beansprouts — also do come with a slice of fish cake which isn’t mentioned in the item’s description on the menu. There isn’t really much to pick on for the broth especially at the price point; its a rather competent one especially when compared against other coffeeshop-based Ramen establishments at similar price points — sufficiently rich and creamy, without being particularly greasy even with the addition of the spicy minced pork. Even though the minced pork bits were suggested to be spicy, we found that the level of spiciness here is rather mild and works more as a savoury addition that should do well even for those with lower tolerance of spiciness. Liked how the spicy minced pork bits did provide a chew that works well with the black fungus added; did not carry any undesirable porky stench, while the noodles is done just right for my preference, carrying a good bite. The Ajitama does come with a somewhat molten egg yolk; a crowd pleaser on its own. Overall, a pretty wholesome bowl packed with sufficient ingredients that was especially well-priced at $6.80.

Kumamoto Ramen adds to the growing list of names that are poised to provide the masses Japanese Ramen at affordable prices in a neighbourhood setting; pretty much in the likes of Takagi Ramen and Ramen King, to just name a few. In its own right, Kumamoto Ramen has nailed down pretty much the details of serving up a value-for-money bowl of ramen — one that could easily rival that of some commercial renditions that can be found in malls almost everywhere. Noticed that while the location itself was pretty quiet when we made our visit, they can turn quite busy here when there is a influx of delivery orders being made. For those looking for spots serving up some decently-priced ramen in the neighbourhood, this is one spot that should not be missed.

Had been trying to revisit some of the lunch spots that we hadn’t been visiting for quite a while since the default arrangement of work-from-home started — and that was how we found ourselves ending up at UOUO at Sunshine Plaza again after a good period of almost two years since the last when a trip to office is required.

UOUO seems to serve up a different menu during lunch service and dinner service; the latter is more focused on their sashimi offerings, but the former comprises of a set menu that features Japanese Ramen, Japanese Curry Rice, Donburi and even sets that seemingly cater to the office crowd (most items do not exceed $10 before taxes). A favourite to order for me here would be the Cheese Curry Rice (Salmon) — reasonably priced at $7.80 before taxes, the Cheese Curry Rice (Salmon) is essentially what it is, where a bed of short-grain pearl rice is drenched with Japanese curry over the top, whilst also featuring melted cheese and topped off with chunks of salmon. Simple as it is, I really loved how this is their twist to the western baked rice without the “baked” component — what you get here is that thick and flavourful Japanese curry to pair up with the rice beneath; all that whilst having stringy, melted cheese atop that gives that “instagrammable” cheese pull. The chunks of salmon are pretty decent; nothing much to shout about here but they do carrying that usual note of the fish that we all come to know — decent in terms of freshness as well. All orders of the Cheese Curry Rice (also available as-is without the Salmon, or with other choices of meat such as beef, pork and interestingly, Ajitama) also do come with a bowl of Miso Soup on the side as well.

There was a period of time where the standards seemed to have slipped for the lunch menu items here which was why we stopped visiting here for quite a while. But quite glad to find that they have since returned to the standards as they were when they had first opened (at least for this dish; though cheese was baked back then), which I remembered them for — that being said, do give them some time for the food here as there will be some waiting time involved. Still a very decent lunch treat for something special without breaking the bank!

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It’s been pretty much a thing that it is a must that the dining partner and I must have items from Wok With Man whenever we hit Culture Spoon during the weekend; the favourite dish usually being the Thai Crabmeat Fried Rice, if not the Tom Yum Seafood Soup. That being said, we found ourselves switching up to order the Truffle Ribeye Donburi during our latest visit there off Craft’B’s menu instead in a rare attempt to try something new — the menu only being available for lunch on Sundays, and for dinner from Thursday to Saturday.

Strange enough, the Truffle Ribeye Donburi comes served on a plate instead of being served in a bowl like how one would have expected of a typical Donburi — each order off Craft’B’s menu will also come with a small bowl of miso soup on the side. Looking past the aesthetics, the Donburi here does seem rather wholesome though nothing too unexpected; it comes with a good portion of beef and rice, whilst also served with a sous-vide egg and garden salad on the side — a pretty wholesome affair. Digging into the rice, the rice did seem more flavoursome than it actually tasted — the rice is actually pretty well-executed here where it was sufficiently moist, yet coming with Shimeiji Mushrooms for a bouncy bite; the wobbly sous-vide egg gives it a creamy texture when it is mixed in. That being said, I am guessing that the rice’s mellow savoury flavour is intentionally done here — was pretty surprised how well it tasted when one portions out some rice to be had with the ribeye; just savoury enough with a hint of truffle aroma that keeps one going. We especially loved how the beef is executed here — had one Donburi too many where there are often veiny or fatty parts that are difficult to chew but this didn’t require any effort to chew; pretty much needless to say that the dining partner, despite being one who doesn’t like red meat, actually found it pretty acceptable. The garden salad is nothing much to shout about; though provided a refreshing crunch from the carbs and the meat for a good balance.

Have always found Culture Spoon’s concept pretty exciting where different tenants operate out of their kitchen during different hours — there is always something different to experienced with every visit here. Also, do check out the bakes from Cultured Bakeyard whilst at it; well-executed bakes and cakes that is totally worth making the trip here for. There’s still quite a number of concepts that I have yet to try here — let’s just see when we get adventurous again when we head here the next time!

Heard about the new Ramen King; a new coffeeshop stall that serves Japanese ramen and gyoza that had recently sprouted up in the 509 Coffeeshop at Blk 829 Tampines Street 81 — the same coffeeshop also houses tenants such as the new outpost of Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice which has been awarded with a Michelin Bib Gourmand, an outlet of the Tanjong Rhu Wanton Noodles and Habibie Seafood. Said to be helmed by a former chef of Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, the menu at Ramen King features different variations of Tonkotsu Ramen and Miso Ramen, whilst also offering two different types of gyoza that works great to share around the table.

The Char Siu Spicy Miso Ramen may not be an item that is considered pocket-friendly in coffeeshop standards, but it is certainly more than reasonably-priced for a bowl of restaurant-style Japanese ramen at $9.50. It features a spicy Tonkotsu Miso broth; the stall claims that the Tonkotsu broth is boiled for 16 hours and “aged to perfection” — it’s sufficiently thick and rich, but not overly salty and comes with a level of spiciness that is suitable for those with moderate tolerance to the heat; pretty manageable. The ramen also comes with some vegetables, half of an Onsen Egg and Char Siu; the noodles featuring two types of wheat which was springy and carried quite a good bite. While the Char Siu is sliced fairly thin here (reasonably so though, considering the price), it was undoubtedly tender and melt-in-the-mouth, while the Onsen Egg features a creamy and smooth yolk that could easily rival that of proper Japanese Ramen establishments elsewhere; the vegetables within the broth providing for a good crunch.

Hadn’t tried Hokkaido Ramen Santouka previously, but a friend who did mentioned that the broth and noodles from the ramen at Ramen King closely resembles that of Hokkaido Ramen Santouka — the Char Siu being that of its own class and is pretty good in its own right. Ramen King does serve up some really legit Japanese Ramen that is comparable to the ones served at restaurants elsewhere — all for a lower price in a coffeeshop environment. The queues and waiting time is rather manageable at the current stage; we waited for around 20 minutes for our order — somewhere that is worth checking out before the crowd starts to form!

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Omoté is a spot that has a place in my heart — still pretty stoked about how they had started off as Sushiro (not to be confused with the sushi chain from Japan that are conveniently located in malls these days) occupying just a kiosk stall with minimal seating at Thomson Plaza just right in front of the food court, serving up affordable Barachirashi bowls to the masses — now taking up quite a large shop area in another corner of Thomson Plaza as Omoté that serves up a whole range of Barachirashi bowls including some which are really inventive, as well as a full menu of appetisers, sashimi and cooked dishes (including Donburi and Udon), with a fully-fitted bar counter that offers a selection of cocktails. One could indeed say Omoté has come a long way indeed.

While the Sanshoku Don and the Upsized Barachirashi would be my usual go-tos if I am looking for something either spicy or more conventional (so I can experience Omoté in its purest form, just like in the good old days), I have always been excited about the more inventive bowls whenever they release a new flavour — had also previously given their Truffle Roasted Garlic Chirashi and Wasabi Power Chirashi a go as well. The Tom Yum Goong Chirashi is one that sounded weird on first mention but it’s a pretty genius combination after further thought — how could have one not thought about this when Tom Yum Seafood Soup is an actual dish anyway? This Thai-Japanese fusion of a Barachirashi Don is just like what one would expect of the usual from Omoté — the usual mix of diced raw seafood served atop lightly sweetened, slightly cool Japanese pearl rice — the same stuff that is also served in the Omoté Chirashi (with the exception of the whole prawn), coming with a different marinade that carries a light hint of spiciness with that zippy tang that one would expect out Red Tom Yum soup — especially intriguing, yet a fitting combination with the various raw items such as the salmon, tuna , squid etc.; the dish turns into a oh-so-shiok affair especially when one ends up getting a little of that wasabi and have it with the Tom Yum Goong marinade that has gone over the rice — it all turns into a teary, sweaty, drink-glugging affair real quick.

Have always found Omoté’s Barachirashi offerings to be a little controversial — purists will always pass their Barachirashi as one that is “excessive” and over-the-top; perhaps one that features unnecessary elements and undermines the true meaning of the Barachirashi where the freshness of the seafood is the main focus of the dish. That being said, Omoté does cater to their own demographic, and brings creativity to a dish in their very own ways — and it is us diners who ultimately benefit from all of that with more choices to go for!

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