Divine Japanese

Divine Japanese

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

I’ve professed my adoration for @sushirosingapore stellar shrimp tempura before, but I just discovered that they have it in nigiri form too. The standalone version is five for five dollars, but the nigiri clocks in at a pair for $2.30++.⠀

The same commendably fresh shrimp are battered in a airy, crunchy tempura batter before being deep fried till the right shade of golden brown. The well cooked, mildly vinegary sushi rice helps to absorb some of the moderate amounts of oil that the tempura batter absorbed, and really turns the satisfaction factor up to eleven. ⠀

Dunk the shrimp in some ponzu sauce, drop a diminutive dollop of wasabi on top, and you have a simple yet stunning sushi that practically demands fourth & fifth servings. All that at just under three bucks a plate. This has been the best trade deal in the history of trade deals, maybe ever.

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@sushirosingapore occasionally do limited time promos, and this pair of thick cut unagi nigiris ($4.90++ a plate) were rolled out to celebrate Singapore’s 57th National Day. I adore unagi as is, but THICK CUT unagi? Oh yes please, I’ll take your entire stock.⠀

The naturally oily, mildly briny slices of freshwater eel were brushed with teriyaki sauce, broiled impeccably, and glazed one more time with teriyaki sauce. The result is a deeply umami slice of unagi that’s supremely satisfying in every aspect: it’s stunningly sapid, smoky, tantalisingly sweet, and fabulously fatty. The best part is the extra T H I C C cut of eel that gives so much more for your teeth to bite into, and much more substance to satisfy your gluttony.⠀

The only caveat here is the lack of consistency. My first order of unagi was divinely sublime, but my second order brought me crashing back down to earth. It was half eel flesh, half eel pin-bones. The marvellous mouthfeel was ruined by the plethora of bones in the thick slice of eel, and I was torn between trying to spit the bones out or just swallow & hope for the best.⠀

Still, don’t let my slightly subpar second serving of eel, or the fact that the promo period for these thick beauties is over, dEELete any cravings you may have to try Sushiro’s unagi offerings. They’ll have you fEELing electrified, I promise.

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If you’ve never tried raw cuttlefish before, you definitely have to. @sushirosingapore Cuttlefish with Soy Sauce ($2.90++) is a great, safe option to test the waters with, as Sushiro’s fresh sashimi grade cuttlefish is a pretty safe bet. So, what’s the difference between cuttlefish sashimi & squid sashimi?⠀

Firstly, raw cuttlefish has a hard, almost unrelenting chew as opposed to the soft, snappy bite of raw squid. Cuttlefish is great resistance training for your jaw muscles, as you do need a copious amount of chewing to break it down. Well then, why go through the arduous effort just to eat something that sounds inferior to squid? Well, the flavours of cuttlefish is worth chewing for.⠀

Squid is quite mild tasting, but cuttlefish has more complexity. It’s briny, very subtly sweet, and it’s surprisingly creamy. The cuttlefish breaks down after chewing into a creamy mass that coats your palate, making for a very interesting mouthfeel. It’s definitely an acquired taste due to the odd texture, but I quite enjoy it. One thing I didn’t enjoy was the addition of grated ginger to this. All that chewing made the ginger even spicier, and it went up my nose eventually. Yeah nah, keep the ginger off the sushi and over to the side, thanks.

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Some sushi snobs sneer at @sushirosingapore , but I find it to be a satisfactory sushi spot perfect for getting your sushi craves satiated. Two of their basic sushis ($2.30++ each) are paragons of Sushiro’s entire philosophy: simple, passable sushi that’s affordable.⠀

The Broiled Fatty Salmon Belly comes as a single nigiri, which is understandable considering the cut of salmon and the pricing. The salmon belly was indeed fatty, and blowtorching it seared some of the fat and added a little char, enhancing the flavour of this fatty fish. Next to no chewing was required, as the fat in the salmon belly starts to melt in your mouth, causing the slice of salmon belly to disintegrate. The grated ginger topping was quite weird atop the salmon belly, almost akin to finding a shark in a tree. You don’t know how it got there, but you just know that it’s not supposed to be there.⠀

The Tuna With Soy Sauce met expectations, with two nigiris sporting decently sized slices of akami (lean tuna). The tuna was nice and fresh, with an enjoyable meaty bite. Brushed down with soy sauce and garnished with scallions, all that was needed was a dollop of wasabi. Sushiro’s selection is extensive, so there’s a lot more stellar sushi than the torched salmon belly & tuna to savour.

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If you ain’t into beef, @thegyuco still has options for you. The Buta Kakuni Don is the only non deep-fried pork option on the menu, and it’s a deeply decadent dish (or bowl in this case).⠀

Four thick slices of braised pork belly are accompanied by a soft boiled egg on a bed of rice & sautéed veggies. The Gyu Co really lays the braising sauce on, and the bowl of rice was incredibly saucy & umami thanks to the soy based broth. The braised pork bellies were utterly awesome, as they had been braised low and slow till they fell apart with ease. I’m not joking, spearing one slice with a fork would cause it to fall apart quite easily. Due to that long braise in the unctuous broth, the pork belly was deeply sapid and free of its natural porky musk.⠀

Alas, I must admit, the pork belly had too much fat for me to handle. The braising process that had instilled all that flavour into the thick slabs of pork belly had rendered out a good amount of the pork fat into the broth, resulting in an indecently fatty broth. Add that to the fat still on the belly, and my arteries were squeezing in protest as I chewed on the last belly. Still incredibly delicious though, I can’t deny that.⠀

The vegetables provided really endeared themselves to me. Normally other Japanese food merchants would just slap a leaf of lettuce on their donburi & call it a day, but The Gyu Co care enough to serve a healthy amount of sautéed shredded cabbage & sliced onions beneath the meat & egg. Not only did the veg alleviate a bit of the guilt of this dish, it supplied the crucial textural variation that made this Buta Kakuni Don such a delight to devour. All the soft textures from the meat & rice balanced out by slightly crunchy veg? Oh yeah, we’ve got a winner right here.

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@thegyuco has opened a new outpost in PLQ’s foodcourt, bringing their Japanese ricebowls from the lawless wastelands of Jurong to Singapore proper. Their standard Wagyu Gyudon costs $9.90, but I was here to splash some cash. Enter the decadent Truffle Foie Gras Wagyu, retailing at a very reasonable $17.90 nett. Now that’s what I call ballin’ on a budget.⠀

The felicitously fatty wagyu shabu shabu is sliced thicker than standard, making for much better mouthfeel & a lot more satisfaction when chewing. It’s wagyu, and it simply melts in your mouth as you chew each gargantuan slice. And there are SO MANY HUMONGOUS SLICES. Absolute beatific beefy bliss, on god. The soft boiled egg is a little extra, but the eggporn man. Plus, the rich yolk mixes well with the Japanese rice that’s saturated with all that sapid beefy gravy. De-lish-ious.⠀

The beef is topped with black truffle shavings, truffle paste and a judicious squirting of truffle oil. As it is black truffle, don’t expect too much earthy truffle flavour. You really smell the truffle more than you taste it, but it’s a sublime symphony for your sense of smell. And of course, the foie gras is the crown jewel in this bowl fit for royalty.⠀

Not gonna lie, my expectations for the foie gras were pretty low, but the quality of this duck liver blew me outta the water. It’s pan seared just perfectly, as the most of the foie gras past the crust is still melting & butter-like instead of a mostly gelatinous chunk like many other places. It develops that sexily seared exterior which contains the jelly-like, still melting liver within. It’s quite literally butter, as its pure fat content just melts all over your tongue. It’s pure hedonism contained in a little wedge of duck liver, and I still have rapturous dreams about this foie gras.⠀

The fact that I paid less than twenty dollars for this stellar, scintillating bowl of pure gluttonous gratification is astounding. You’d pay at least thirty to forty bucks for a bowl of this quality elsewhere, but not me, oh no. I can’t keep getting away with it. I can’t keep getting away with daylight robbery. But goddamn it feels good, man.

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@otoko_midtown has been going strong at Midtown for quite a few years now, and it’s been a while since I’ve dined there. While their Pork Yakiniku Don ($11.90 nett) is more expensive than I remember it, it’s as delicious as it was in my memory.⠀

The thin slices of pork belly shabu shabu are stir fried over a strong flame to render out some of the fat and to get a solid sear on the pork. This important but oft-overlooked step adds more flavour to the pork before it gets simmered together with the sauce & sliced onions, and I’m satisfied that Otoko didn’t forget. The sauce itself is rather ordinary, possessing the usual umami sapidity from dashi & soy sauce, plus some sweetness from the mirin.⠀

I was pleasantly surprised that they sauced up the plain short grain rice sufficiently. Really made for a better bowl of donburi. Skip the lava egg though, it’s overcooked and is more of a rock egg than a lava egg.

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I initially confused @sukiya.singapore for the Japanese hotpot place of the same name initially, and I’ve missed out on many a bowl of gyudon (beef & rice). Fortunately, I finally realised my error, and got myself a gargantuan bowl of Triple Cheese Gyudon ($10.50 for the XL portion). Considering that Yoshinoya is the far more established Japanese rice bowl merchant in Singapore, comparisons are inevitable.⠀

Yoshinoya’s beef bowls are a good deal saucier than Sukiya’s. Most of the flavour is in the shabu shabu broth and as such Yoshinoya seems to be more flavourful. However, Sukiya absolutely blows Yoshinoya out of the water when it comes to portion sizes & variety. Sukiya has five different sizes, and what I really appreciate is that each size has a fixed proportion. For example, my XL bowl contains double the thin sliced beef and twenty five percent more rice as compared to the medium size.⠀

There are ten(!) variations of the basic beef bowl, and three are low carb options. Variety is the spice of life and it’s great, but it wouldn’t mean a thing if the beef was delicious. Fortunately, Sukiya’s beef bowls are a thing of culinary beauty. The amply sapid shabu shabu beef is given a delectable undertone of sweetness from the onions that have simmered alongside the beef. This all culminates in an unctuously umami creation that satiates the soul and leaves you wanting seconds.⠀

For an additional two bucks, you can get a green veggies set which gives you a soft drink and a side of stir-fried kangkong (water spinach). The kangkong is simple, but adequately delicious. It’s also so packed with garlic that you could probably kill a vampire from a mile away, and I love it.⠀

For just $12.50 for such a complete & scrumptious meal, Sukiya offers maximum bang for your buck and a dizzying array of choices. Hell yeah, I’m a believer in Sukiya supremacy now.

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Croquettes are a bit of a random thing for a Japanese restaurant to have on their menu, but I sure am glad that @singaporehimonoya offers it. Their Deep Fried Crab Cream Croquettes are very affordably priced at $7.80 for a pair of chunky croquettes, and they are pretty delicious too.⠀

There’s more crabmeat than what you can see on the top, and the subtly briny crustacean meat is mixed into the ultra creamy béchamel. While the béchamel is superbly salted, I did feel it needed more pepperiness to try & counterbalance the ceaseless creaminess of the crab cream within.⠀

I’m honestly still bamboozled as to how the thin, crispy shell manages to contain all that sapid crab cream within. After your teeth effortlessly perforate the crunchy, crusty shell of batter, the cream within starts to flow out like a river of creamy, luscious deliciousness. It’s a perfect contrast of textures, and it works absolutely flawlessly.⠀

This charming crab cream croquette is pretty darn rich by its lonesome, but that’s where the copious amounts of alcohol come in. Wash this luscious little slice of indulgence down with a few pints of free flow sake, and you’re well on your way to having a great night out.

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While @singaporehimonoya is definitely not a sushi place, their sushi rolls are still sublime. Out of the half dozen options, we settled for the classic salmon roll ($12.90++) and an unagi roll ($15.90++). All of Himonoya’s sushi rolls are formed around a core of avocado, tamago, cucumber & crabstick that’s been tightly wrapped in rice & seaweed, so the only real difference here is the topping.⠀

The unagi rolls were delightful due to the perfectly balanced sweet & salty teriyaki glaze painted onto the felicitously fatty slices of grilled eel. The eel was grilled excellently, and acquired a superb smokiness from the charcoal. However, I preferred the simpler salmon roll, mainly due to me chasing down my food with free flow sake. Sashimi and sake are a match made in heaven, and this was no exception. Dab some wasabi & soy sauce onto the passably fresh slices of salmon sashimi, and it’s utterly perfect.⠀

At Himonoya, while the free flowing alcohol keeps the good vibes going, you can get the good times rolling by ordering a few of these stellar sushi rolls.

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When at an izakaya, you order grilled squid. I don’t know who made this commandment, but who am I to disagree? Besides, judging your izakaya by its grilled squid is a pretty reliable yardstick. And by that metric, @singaporehimonoya is an incredible izakaya.⠀

Himonoya’s Himono Squid ($16.90++) sees a whole squid from Iwate Prefecture tossed onto a charcoal grill. It’s seasoned quite lightly with salt, instead relying heavily on the smokiness of the charcoal for flavour. It sort of works out, but you definitely require a dab or two of soy sauce on this. Or, as I am slightly embarrassed to admit, slather your slice of squid in a whole lot of Kewpie mayonnaise.⠀

The texture was absolutely impeccable though. It was charmingly chewy, and had a sublimely satisfying snapback when you bite down into it. The sweetness of the squid that’s enhanced by the smoky charcoal just confirms that this squid is fabulously fresh, and you probably need to catch it yourself if you want it any fresher. The Himono Squid is an exquisite choice for you to sink your teeth into as you drink the night away, so don’t miss out on it.

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The final member of the divine trio of mains we sampled at @fukudonsg is the Wagyu Onigiri Don. For $16.50 a serving, you get a (approximately) hundred & fifty gram wagyu flank steak all over a bed of that dressed & seasoned onigiri rice, and flanked by ajitsuke tamago (ramen egg) and some pickled cucumbers.⠀

I’m not sure if this is the normal presentation for the steak, but I found it excessively cut up. Sure, it’s a superb steak, but if it gets cut up too much the texture will be marred. However, there was no denying that the impeccably medium rare steak was seasoned spectacularly. It’s salty and seductively smoky from being kissed by the blowtorch. Beefy, salty, smoky and tremendously tender, the wagyu in this Wagyu Onigiri Don was exquisite.⠀

As for the accoutrements, the Onigiri rice was mixed with just the right amounts of mirin, salt and other secret seasonings, resulting in a rice that didn’t need the aid of any sauce to be polished off in short order. Their soy seasoned ramen eggs were boiled just right, retaining that liquid gold yolk that’s mandatory of any proper soft boiled egg. The soy sauce that the eggs had marinated in had seeped into every molecule of egg, producing a savoury, redolent ramen egg.⠀

Sixteen dollars and fifty cents isn’t too bad for a hundred & fifty grams of wagyu flank steak on a bed of redolent rice. Plus, everything in this bowl is downright delish and will satiate most appetites. Thank you for hosting us, @fukudonsg!⠀

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

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