Divine Japanese

Divine Japanese

For Japanese cuisine that's the bee's knees.
Russell Leong
Russell Leong

When it comes to food, I can be painfully indecisive. Fortunately, @salmonwarriorsg is here to lend aid to me in my time of need with their Three Flavours Maki ($9.90 nett). A pair each of mentaiko maki, mala mentaiko maki, and garlic mayo maki compose this mouthwatering ménage à trois. That’s right, you can have all of Salmon Warrior’s makis at one go. ⠀

All three rice rolls are wrapped around a core of crabstick & cucumber, and are adorned with a tastefully torched slice of fresh Norwegian salmon and one of the three aforementioned sauces which are also blowtorched for extra pizzazz. The garlic mayonnaise was probably the most disappointing one, as it was only really mildly garlicky and oddly watery. Plus, it’s salted far too sparingly for my tastes.⠀

The mala mentaiko is certainly the most interesting sounding, but it’s fundamentally just the usual undeniably umami mentaiko mayonnaise that packs a surprise spicy kick and the insistent tongue numbing that’s expected of mala. Pretty piquant, but the standard mentaiko mayo narrowly beats it out to be the beat sauce in the threesome.⠀

Each piece of maki is absolutely gargantuan, and the tightly packed rice rolls & ocean fresh salmon slices will satisfy even a ravenous hunger. The Three Flavours Maki offers up a superbly satisfying variety that raise the age old question: why choose when you can have it all?

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Whatcha know about value, son? Oh, we know all about value here. And @hokeypoki is all about that sweet, sweet value. They’ve got a multitude of $12.90++ Shikoku Setto for you to choose from, and all of them come with two main proteins, a bowl of chawanmushi, miso soup, short grain Japanese rice, and a lil’ salad that’s drizzled with the ubiquitous Japanese sesame sauce.⠀

I invested my money into the Teriyaki Chicken & Aburi Salmon Shikoku Setto and got a pretty princely return on my investment. Sure, the salmon sashimi is diced a touch too tiny, and can become an exercise in frustration to get it all when you’re in a hangry hurry. However, the deluge of flame seared mentaiko mayo that inundates the sashimi more than alleviates that annoyance.⠀

The teriyaki chicken is simply a chicken cutlet, deep fried and glazed with a drizzle of standard issue teriyaki sauce. However, whatever the chicken was marinated in is truly unique, as the unmistakable flavour & scent of ginger dominated each bite, and there’s what definitely smells like some floral essential oil in there too. It’s definitely odd, but not entirely unwelcome. However, the juicy piece of poultry could definitely use a more judicious application of salt.⠀

Shikoku Setto? More like SHIOKku Setto, amirite?

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If your answer to that question was ‘yes’, then boy does @tanukiraw have the perfect ricebowl for you! The Salmon Kaisen ($16.90++) is the host to an orgy of salmon, and the four participants are slices of salmon sashimi, salmon sashimi but seared with mentaiko that’s also been seared, cubed salmon sashimi tossed in a spicy mayonnaise-based sauce, and blowtorched slices of salmon belly.⠀

As Tanuki Raw is a sashimi bar, you can rest assured that they take their fishy business dead serious, and the salmon sashimi was immensely fresh. The spicy sauce that coated the salmon cubes weren’t spicy, but it was luxuriously rich & satisfyingly savoury which flavoured the mild tasting fish quite amply. The aburi salmon belly was seductively slick with all the Omega-3 supercharged oil that had been rendered out of the felicitously fatty salmon belly thanks to being competently blowtorched. And of course, the unrivalled umami creaminess of mentaiko on salmon is a proven combo that never fails.⠀

Tanuki’s signature mixed rice definitely deserves a shout as well. It was remarkably well cooked, and an absolute delight to devour. Unlike many other sashimi donburis, the rice here is most definitely not neglected and has earned its rightful, well deserved place as the cornerstone in this big bowl of fishy fabulousness.

I always roll up real cool on my targets, and @tanukiraw Truffle Winter Roll ($18.90++) is a tremendously tantalising target. The ingredients list is pretty impressive: avocado, cucumber, scallop, white tuna, tempura prawn and snow crab rolled in rice, dressed in truffle oil & scallion dressing.⠀

The crunch from the tempura prawns & the cucumber are the perfect counterbalance to the softness of the crabmeat, sushi rice, scallops, tuna & avocado. While the roll isn’t particularly large, it is surprisingly satisfying due to the incredibly gratifying chew that the meatiness of the crab & tuna demand of your jaws. Not once did the chewing get dry or annoying thanks to the slick savouriness of the truffle oil and the sprightliness of the scallion dressing. Plus, the creaminess from the avocado & the juicy, fresh scallops lube everything up even more, and enhances the sheer pleasure of this roll. ⠀

For about twenty bucks, this is a damn good dish to roll with.⠀

As for the Dashi Maki Tamago, it usually comes with crab roe paste for eight bucks (before GST & service charge), but as we were riding high from the smashing success of the sautéed togarashi, we managed to convince the chef to put the chili flakes on the omelette instead. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out due the the simple fact that the togarashi wasn’t sautéed, as making tamago requires a heat level that isn’t hot enough to sauté the Japanese chili flakes. ⠀

Still, the tamago was mildly savoury from the dashi broth added into the mix, and it possessed the delightfully pillowy & feather light characteristics that define a good Japanese omelette.⠀

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually pretty pumped to return to Nomiya for the absolutely awesome oden that will henceforth be my quick revive juice. I’m pumped for the sake too. And the rice balls. And the grilled goodies. And the seafood. And the-yeah, you get the general idea.

Normally, this would be a component of the three piece Oden ($7++), but @nomiyasg were kind enough to offer us a dainty portion as we’d been sat there from slightly before six till closing, and we were down about two & a half bottles of stellar sake. Yes, this oden broth is the perfect cleanser after a night of avaricious alcoholism.⠀

The dashi broth that’s been augmented with soy sauce is salty & undeniably umami, yet it’s still ethereally light & revitalising with just a little hint of sweetness somewhere in there. A successful trade offer has been made between the broth & the colossal chunks of radish that have been stewing in the oden pot for hours on end. The dashi stock has received sweet notes from the radish, while the radish has received some of that sublime sapidity from the simmering stock. This has been the best trade deal in the history of trade deals, maybe ever. Believe me, folks.

Even though nomiya is an izakaya that doesn’t specialise in sushi & sashimi, their Sashimi Platter ($18++) is sufficiently splendid. A three way of hamachi (Japanese amberjack), salmon & akami (lean tuna) is sliced satisfyingly thick & piled beautifully onto a plate.⠀

These fresh fillets of fish were clean tasting, and they fall apart with just a touch of effort from your teeth. Hamachi is naturally pretty bland & unremarkable, so a luxurious dip in soy sauce & wasabi is a must. The salmon was delightful as expected, and the meaty lean tuna delivered massively on satisfaction, with a delectably meaty & full flavour to it. It’s basically the steak of the ocean, and it’s every bit as wonderful as its bovine counterpart.⠀

Of course, when you’re at Nomiya, the only correct way to polish off this stellar sashimi is to wash it down with an abundance of superb sake. I’ve already made #steaksaturdays a thing, now it’s time for #sashimisaturdays to become a thing.

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These are vaguely ball shaped, but they’re definitely essential to having a ball of a time at @nomiyasg. The ikura salmon rice ball (left, $5.90++) and the uni chutoro rice ball (right, $8.90++) are actually set up like an onigiri, and they’d easily put any other onigiri competition in the dust.⠀

Expertly steamed sushi rice seats the same sublime salmon that’s utilised in the sashimi platters. However in this package, the salmon is diced up for an easier eating experience. Topped with popping ikura that squirts its deliciously briny goodness straight onto your tastebuds, this is a classic that’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s just salmon sashimi, salmon roe, rice and a seaweed strip. Yet, it is extremely exquisite, and the temptation to order a second one is quite overwhelming.⠀

As for the uni chutoro, it’s luscious, lavish luxury. Minced medium fatty tuna brings the rich, meaty, fatty deliciousness that supremely satisfies. The chutoro is topped with the sea urchin, which can only be described as an astonishingly thick, creamy and velvety briny butter. Yes, it’s ravishingly rich from beginning to end, and it’s an absolute baller.⠀

You might be thinking that these prices are pretty extortionate for onigiri, but believe me when I say that these Godzilla sized lovelies are gargantuan in flavour & gluttonous gratification too.

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How to make your day less shit: order @nomiyasg Miso Char Grilled Pork Jowl. Twelve bucks gets you a slab of hedonistically fatty pork jowl that’s magnificently marbled. The felicitously fatty pork is grilled on the binchotan charcoal grill, and is then slathered in a fermented chili miso sauce.⠀

The umami, redolent sauce is highly reminiscent of steamed black bean pork ribs, with a deeper, richer fermented flavour from the miso. There isn’t much spice from the chili that’s in the sauce, which makes it great for those who have problems with heat. As for the pork itself, it’s been grilled to perfection, and the meat is seared to melting in your mouth like ice cream on a thirty five degree day. ⠀

The fatty pork paired with the thick, unctuous sauce could’ve easily been too much of a good thing, but the pickled Granny Smith apples provided more than enough sour zest to slice through the rich redolence of the miso grilled pork jowl, and to completely cleanse the palate. All you really need is this pork jowl with a bowl of rice, complete with a bottle of sake on hand, and you’re ready to own the night.

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I normally hate edamame with violent vigour, but @nomiyasg have managed to turn said disgust into tolerance, and dare I say it, perhaps even an aloof appreciation. The togarashi (Japanese chili flakes) is the key, and pan frying is the catalyst that binds it all together.⠀

When the togarashi is sautéed together with the edamame, it crystallises into a scintillatingly salty & somewhat spicy lump. Some of the spicy sapidity gets leeched into the edamame, but the crystals that form are addictively crunchy, serving as a particularly loud flavour grenade that detonates in your mouth and leaves you shellshocked by just how stunningly sublime Japanese chili flakes can be when sautéed with a little TLC.⠀

As usual, down as much sake as you can with these peas. Thank me later.

It took all of, oh I dunno, two weeks before I was back at @nomiyasg. This time, we were going to conquer the menu and conquer it we did, along with two whole bottles of sake. Yes, my wallet’s still on fire, and my bank account has spontaneously collapsed into a black hole. Please stop asking.⠀

When it comes to appetisers at Nomiya, you’d be hard pressed to find a better choice than the Fugu Mirin Boshi ($12 before additional 10% service charge). It’s dried seasoned pufferfish, but it’s not lethal. It tastes a lot like the lot dried fish fillet jerky snacks we all loved as kids, albeit sweeter with a deeper, pleasantly fishy flavour. The texture, on the other hand, is reminiscent of bak kwa and has a thoroughly addictive bite & chew to it. It’s pure perfection to nibble on as you guzzle down the dizzying array of sakes on offer.⠀

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It took all of, oh I dunno, two weeks before I was back in Chinatown at @nomiyasg. This time, we were going to conquer the menu and conquer it we did, along with two whole bottles of sake. Yes, my wallet’s still on fire, and my bank account has spontaneously collapsed into a black hole. Please stop asking.⠀

You’d have to be absolutely mad to miss the small skewer selection that Nomiya grills on their compact charcoal grill. The king oyster mushroom ($4) and scallop ($9) are competitive choices for this category, with the juicy mushrooms stunningly seasoned & smoky from the binchotan grill. As for the scallops, they weren’t the largest, but they were definitely among the freshest shellfish in Chinatown. Seductively sweet, succulent & brilliantly bouncy, these magnificent mollusks were peak perfection just the way they are.

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Alcohol may not be good for my body, but my body is good for alcohol.

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