Shunjuu Izakaya – Defining Sumiyaki

26 09 2012

Shunjuu Izakaya is a sake dining bar specializing in sumiyaki, and carries over 40 types of sake. Having discovered it over summer thanks to one of my NUS law friends (who had been frequenting this place during her law internship at the expense of her associates, jealous max…), I decided to organize a friend’s birthday dinner here given that my virgin experience had been a positive one.

I have mentioned this before in one of my previous posts but I think now’s the perfect time for a refresher course on Grilled Japanese foods 101, whose terms we are so guilty of mixing up. Sumiyaki means “Charcoal Grilled” (Sumi meaning charcoal and Yaki meaning grilled). Kushiyaki means “Grilled on a Stick” (Kushi meaning Stick), in short Japanese Satay. Yakitori means “Grilled Chicken”, so it is more specific than Kushiyaki or Sumiyaki which can be used to refer to other types of grilled meats or seafood too. Robatayaki (meaning fire-side cooking) refers specifically to a method of cooking; hearthside grilling.

Hope this clarifies things a bit.

Shunjuu doesn’t seem to receive much publicity nowadays but back in the heyday, it used to be a major contender for dining awards, evident from its wall of fame. I guess extra publicity is redundant now anyways, since a full house during weekends is more or less assured for this sumiyaki heavyweight. So, reservations are recommended. The general consensus is that dinners here can work up to quite a fair bit but I believe that with strategic orders and abstinence from booze, dinners under $40 are still very possible, which in my view is reasonable given the quality of the food.

We took up a very friendly auntie staff’s suggestion and got the Tofu with Century Egg Sauce topped with Ebiko. It was a great opener to the meal and on hindsight, we should have gotten individual portions and not go through the pains of having to share something so tasty.  A similar one can be found at Fukuichi Japanese Dining at TripleOne Somerset, which happens to be one of their signatures.

For first timers to the restaurant, it’s really easy to get lost on what to order so I would suggest going for the prix fixe sets which comprise of an assortment of 5 grilled items, and further supplementing the meal with additional orders. There are 3 different sets available, of which Set A and B are meant for 1 pax, while Set C is meant for 2 pax.

For Set A ($20++), you get a stick of Beef Short Ribs, Asparagus rolled with Pork, Chicken Meat Ball, Golden Mushroom rolled with Beef, and Pork Belly.

The Golden Mushroom should have been rolled in beef but due to its unavailability, we got ours rolled in pork instead, which turned out great and is definitely one of the highlights from Set A. My other favourites from the set are the Chicken Meat Balls and the Beef Short Ribs. I usually scoff at meat balls but the ones here are clearly legit, hands down best chicken balls I have had the pleasure of eating.

from left: Chicken Meat Ball, Pork Belly, Asparagus rolled with Pork

Golden Mushroom rolled with Pork, Beef Short Ribs

For Set B ($28++), you get a stick of Grilled Ribeye, Scallop rolled with Pork, Rice Cake rolled with Pork, Chicken Wing, and Goose Liver. The star would be the Goose Liver, whose wobbly interior is encased by a smoky lightly charred surface. Less memorable items included the Scallop rolled in Pork. I could hardly discern the bland scallops whose flavour was overpowered by the savoury marinade from the pork. The Grilled Ribeye was also slightly too chewy for my liking and was not as tasty as the Beef Short Ribs from Set A.

from left: Chicken Wing, Scallop rolled with Pork

From left: Goose Liver, Ribeye, Rice Cake rolled with Pork

Apart from the grilled items, Shunjuu does their staples amazing well too. The Udon with Sesame Sauce ($7++) is served chilled which contrasts with spicy sesame sauce it is served in, causing a tingling sensation to the throat as one slurps it down. The spiciness of the sauce is of a right level which makes the dish super addictive.

The Garlic Fried Rice ($8++) is worth ordering too, as the pearly grains are evenly cooked with bits of aromatic crisp garlic bits garnishing the dish.

My favourite staple though is the hearty Fish Porridge ($12++), which is on a totally different league from what is available from hawker stalls. It has a naturally sweet flavour and creamy consistency, with very generous chunks of Salmon and Mackerel.

Instead of having desserts at Shunjuu, I would recommend heading to Laurent Bernard’s Chocolate Bar just opposite for their ice creams there chocolate tart.

Al Fresco area of Laurent Bernard’s with Shunjuu in the backdrop

Another enjoyable dinner at Shunjuu Izakaya cements Shunjuu’s status as one of the best sumiyaki restaurants around. Competition is stiff however, so next stop for sumiyaki will be Kazu at Cuppage Plaza, where we learn who defines sumiyaki best.

Shunjuu Izakaya

30 Robertson Quay, #01-15 Riverside View

Tel: +65 6887 3577





RamenPlay’s Seasonal Summer Menu

20 07 2012

I found myself heading back to RamenPlay at Nex to sample their Seasonal Summer Menu which will be available from 23 July till 30 September 2012. My previous tasting at RamenPlay last year had been positive one, where I discovered that chain restaurants can surprisingly offer quality rivaling standalone “authentic” ramen-yas.

For their summer menu, RamenPlay has introduced 3 new mains, 2 desserts and 2 drinks. Before digging into the new items however, we tried out some of their existing appetizers.

For fried chicken fans, do order the Mustard Chicken Salad. It’s a generous slab of chicken thigh that is fried to perfection, crisp on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside and yet doesn’t give off an excessively oily feel.

My favourite appetizer here is the Okura Mentai. Poached ladies fingers topped with mayo, cheese and cod roe and subsequently seared lightly for that nice char. Tiffany, one of the hosts for lunch, started raving on about how awesome mentaiko is. Her tip of the day: Go to Ikea, buy their Mentaiko paste which is sold in a tube form and squeeze onto bread as a spread.

The Bamboo Chicken is pretty good as well. Tender minced chicken is compacted into bamboo sticks and grilled to a lovely shade of golden brown. While some might cringe at using the raw egg yolk as a dip, I personally think that the creamy yolk goes really well with the chicken.

New Summer Menu Items

A slight deviation from the usual Tonkotsu, RamenPlay has come up with the Herbal Infused Tonkotsu Ramen. As the name suggests, herbs such as wolfberries, fennel seeds and dang gui (aka Chinese Angelica) are boiled with RamenPlay’s signature Tonkotsu broth to impart a mild herbal flavour. Garnished with Honshimeiji Mushrooms, Eringi Mushrooms, King Oyster Mushrooms, Cabbage, Braised Pork and a Prawn, this light tasting ramen is something I would desire when I’m down with a cold.

RamenPlay’s 2 other new mains are identical as they both employ the use of Umani Seafood Gravy. For the Umani Crispy Ramen Ishinabe, the Umani Seafood Gravy is poured over ramen that is flash-fried and for the Umani Rice Ishinabe, the Umani Gravy is poured over premium Nigata rice. The gravy is influenced by Chinese cooking styles and tastes somewhat similar to the oyster sauce gravy you would get in a claypot tofu dish. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very taken by these 2 mains as the gravy comes across as unexciting for us Chinese folks who have been eating zi char for a good part of our lives.

There are also 2 new desserts available, the Niigata Original Rice Ice Cream and Niigata Brown Rice Ice Cream. If you are into plain Vanilla Ice Cream, stick with the Original Rice Ice Cream which comes dotted with broken bits of rice in the ice cream.  But if you like a slightly grainier taste and coarser texture like how Pulau Hitam tastes like, the Brown Rice Ice Cream is for you.

The 2 new drinks available from the summer menu are the Yuzu Mojito and Lychee Mojito. The Lychee Mojito was a little too sweet for my liking but it seemed to be quite popular amongst the other guests at my table. I preferred the Yuzu Mojito because it was really refreshing with a citrus tang and light carbonation. There is also the option of spiking the drinks with soju for an extra kick.

It’s great that RamenPlay is innovating their dishes but overall, I still very much prefer the items on RamenPlay’s existing menu such as the Toroniku Double Soup Ramen, the Cha Shu Tonkotsu Ramen and the various appetizers.

Special Thanks to RamenPlay for the lunch invitation!

RamenPlay

23 Serangoon Central, #B2-58 Nex Mall

Tel: +65 6634 4089





Hanayoshi – A Lesson on Wagyu that I didn’t get to Eat

26 06 2012

It has been almost a year since I last met up with E but as they always say, better late than never. It was a friendship fostered in the days when revelry was the in thing, where both of us had the luxury of time and energy to groove on the mambo dance floor, a hobby that we used to share.

I picked Hanayoshi as our dinner spot. After all, online reviews were promising and the ability to survive in the competitive dining district of Tanjong Pagar/Outram already says quite a bit in itself. It was surprisingly quiet on this Saturday night though, with only 2 other tables being occupied excluding E and myself.

A word of advice from me. Make reservations to sit at the counter on the ground floor rather than on the 2nd floor. Firstly, you get a great view of the chef’s masterful cutting techniques and will probably get the chance to interact with the master during the meal, but most importantly, you also get to avoid the cramped 2nd level. The tables are packed so awfully close to one another in an enclosed area such that private conversations aren’t at all private. So there goes all the socially inappropriate jokes you could have cracked during the course of the meal, making one feel constipated holding so much crap in.

“Age” literally means deep-fried while “dashi” is a japanese soup stock, often made by simmering ingredients such as kelp, fish parts or mushrooms. Put together, an Agedashi Tofu simply refers to Fried Tofu in Dashi Sauce. No complaints about the ones here, but no glowing comments either. It’s just too standard fare that you already know what to expect.

We shared a serving of the Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab too which was decent but not amazing, as the crab meat tasted a bit flat, while the seasoning was on the salty side.

I really wanted to try the Wagyu and Sashimi Set but found out that they do not serve set meals during dinner. Dang, it would have been quite a steal for $42++. Yea, there’s the option of ordering a grilled piece of Wagyu but at $90 (if I recall correctly), it’s not quite as tempting. Why the stark difference in price you ask? Well, not all Wagyu are equal, some are more equal than others and I postulate that the $90 ones are just a tad more equal. So lesson to learn is not to swoon straight away when you see the words Wagyu and probe a little deeper into its marble score. Wagyu originated from Japan and just like every other Asian country, Asians love competition, scores and grades. As such, Wagyu is scored with a number between 1 to 12 based on factors such as the extent of marbling and colour of the meat, with 12 being the most premium. As a general guide, scores of 6 and above are already considered to be relatively good cuts of Wagyu. For the $90 cut of Wagyu here, the menu states it scores a 12. Time to swoon folks.

However, still being a student does have its limitations and I had to rein myself in, ordering the Chirashi ($45++) instead. Quite a good spread of fresh seafood like salmon, tuna, kingfish, swordfish, shrimp, uni and ikura but missing my favourite scallops 😦

E got herself the Udon Noodles in Hotpot and commented she could make it at home. There wasn’t any reason to doubt her. After all, she’s one of the 2 co-founders of Strictly Pancakes, Singapore’s first dedicated pancake cafe. Go support her shop if you can! Simple as it might seem, I have had some hotpots that would be difficult to replicate at home given the flavourful stock used. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t say that this is one of them as it fades into mediocrity.

Given all the hype from the online community, I admit I expected better. The Chirashi is also giving me an Aoki craving.

Hanayoshi

21 Duxton Road

Tel: +65 6225 5567





San Sui Contemporary Japanese Dining & Bar – Expensive Food for a Cheap Experience

13 05 2012

If you have been to Butter Factory, you might have noticed San Sui’s flagship outlet at One Fullerton, which specializes in Sumiyaki. I tend to mix up the various terms of Grilled Japanese foods and I’m guessing quite a few of us are quite guilty of that as well, so I’m just going to list a few terms to clear the air once and for all. Sumiyaki means “Charcoal Grilled” (Sumi meaning charcoal and Yaki meaning grilled). Kushiyaki means “Grilled on a Stick” (Kushi meaning Stick), in short Japanese Satay. Yakitori means “Grilled Chicken”, so it is more specific than Kushiyaki or Sumiyaki which can be used to refer to other types of grilled meats or seafood too. Hope this clarifies things a bit.

San Sui has now opened its second outlet at Clarke Quay, choosing this time to specialize in modern Japanese Dining. I attended their restaurant launch last week and got the opportunity to tour the restaurant and sample some of its food offerings. This is the second restaurant launch that I have attended and based on experiences, it’s usually not very interesting unless you bother to mingle with random guests there (which we did today by mingling with some Japanese magazine journalists). Food and booze were free flow, though not review worthy since it was geared towards atas catering, rather than a preview of what’s actually available on the restaurant menu. Anyway, here’s some pics from that event.

Open Kitchen Area

As we left, we were given a nice little goodie bag as a memento, which had a nice little wooden box-cup for drinking sake in and some $50 dining vouchers for use at their restaurants (subject to a minimum spending of $100).

So instead of just blogging about the restaurant launch, I thought it would be a great idea to include what San Sui Contemporary Japanese Dining actually serves so I decided to make a reservation there for a Friday 7pm dinner.

Over the phone, I thought it was unusual when the staff asked if I was going to use any vouchers (apparently there’s also a Groupon deal going on). When I said yes, I was then told that it was full house at 7pm and 8.30pm was the next available time slot which I readily took up. Based on pure conjecture, I hypothesized that they might have implemented a policy dictating a limit to the number of voucher users the restaurant can take during peak timeslots (so as not to risk turning away full-paying customers). I only say this because when I was already around the area at 7pm, I decided to try my luck at the restaurant and see if there was sufficient space to accomodate G and me and true enough, the restaurant was pretty empty and we were allowed in immediately. Personally I don’t believe in discriminating between diners with dining vouchers vs regular paying customers but I guess Goldman Sachs was right in saying Groupon is food stamps for the middle class (source: GSElevator Gossip on Twitter).

I received a message from the management of San Sui shortly after this post was posted so I will be including their comments in purple as tastes are subjective and my palate might not be refined enough to appreciate the subtleties of the few dishes that I tried. Hopefully, this allows for a more balanced and objective blog post. The management have also assured me that they do not discriminate between diners with or without vouchers. From a business point of view, our main aim when participating in group purchase programs is to attract more diners at non-peak hours.

Before I start on the food though, I’m going to make one thing clear. I found the food horrendous and the fact that it costs a bomb just adds oil to the fire. I won’t be back even with a dining voucher. The only thing that is laudable is the plating.

The Warm Foie Gras Bamboo Sushi ($18++) was meh. The flavour combination of Foie Gras, Ikura and Cucumber was actually good but my qualms were that the foie gras wasn’t fatty enough, tasted flat and it was almost at room temperature when it was served, making me question if it had been cooked beforehand and just left at a corner. And considering that I (and most presumably most other people) bought into this dish almost entirely for the foie gras, its imperfections were just amplified further.

The Grilled Colorado Lamb Ribs ($18++) was very disappointing. It’s a great specimen that can be used to highlight the difference between nice marbling and just having a lump of fats and there was an unforgivable “chao ta” burnt taste. I wouldn’t be far off in saying you can get something better off Giant Hypermart’s Grilled Meat section.

Management comments: “The Colorado Lamb Ribs is different from the Lamb Rack, which is a more common cut of meat available at most restaurants. We selected this particular cut for its prized marbling and the ‘chao ta’ flavour you picked up is due to the use of Binchotan charcoal from Japan which imparts to grilled foods a characteristic charred but not burnt aroma and taste. The virtue of this charcoal is that it burns at higher temperature, which seals in the juices during the cooking process.”

I ordered the Kurotara ($40++) aka Pan Roasted Black Cod Fillet with Sakura Pesto, Honshimeji Mushrooms & Wakame Salad for main, thinking that nothing could ever go wrong with Black Cod and San Sui is the first restaurant to prove me wrong. The fish was slightly fishy and almost entirely bland so I didn’t finish it just to drop a hint of my displeasure. I couldn’t detect any Sakura in the Pesto, but that was inconsequential since the pesto sauce wasn’t a good complement to the fish anyway. The best thing about the dish was the salad because I like seaweed.

Management comments: “The Sakura leaf used for the Kurotara possesses a very light and delicate flavour while the homemade pesto sauce is quite different from traditional pesto as besides omitting garlic and Parmesan cheese, we used almonds instead of the usual pine nuts. This renders a mild pesto which does not overpower the light Sakura flavour. We are sorry that you felt it was bland.”

Somen ($38++) is a Japanese Noodle made from Wheat Flour and Salt. It is usually served cold with a dipping sauce on the side but the one here is served warm. Topped with Hokkaido Bay Scallops, Lobster Claw and a Prawn & Shiso Dumpling, I joked to G that it was a high class Wonton Mee and tasted as such. It was better than the Black Cod, though a little too simplistic in both its taste and preparation to pay a premium for.

Management comments: “The highlight of the Somen is to showcase the clean and natural flavours of each ingredient, an elemental virtue of Japanese cooking. The base of the soup is definitely meant to be more broth-like.”

Given the limited number of dishes we managed to try, it won’t be fair of me to say that the restaurant sucks entirely. So I’m just going to say that I’m not going to take my chances there again though I am appreciative that the management took the time to care about my feedback.

San Sui Contemporary Japanese Dining & Bar

3B River Valley Road, #01-06

Tel: +65 6336 7737





Shin Yuu Japanese Restaurant II – Higher Expectations, Lower Standards

11 02 2012

The last time I visited Shin Yuu was 2 years back. In my view at that time, it was one of the best ala-carte Japanese Buffets around for its price range of about $50. I knew of some friends who loved it so much that they visited it on three consecutive weeks after discovering it. My lastest visit though, confirmed rumours that standards have since fallen.

However, I wouldn’t consider it a wasted trip since this was a SMU Gourmet Club event and I only paid $20 for the lunch buffet, the remainder being subsidized by school/club funds. The usual price for Lunch Buffet is $36.90++, while Dinner Buffet is priced at $49.90++. The buffet menu is essentially the same for lunch and dinner and the only difference would be the one-time only (premium) orders that are served at the start of the meal.

Personally, I’m not really the buffet sort. I hate having to sieve through mounds and mounds of dishes just to find a few semi-decent ones, not to mention most non ala-carte buffets have their dishes being left out for god knows how long, compromising on quality and freshness. Fortunately for us, such problems wasn’t faced at Shin Yuu since it’s an ala-carte buffet and dishes are freshly prepared upon order.

We first had a one-time only order of Seared Minced Tuna Belly Sushi and Smoked Duck (seen in background). The tuna sushi is pretty good and I would have ordered seconds if it wasn’t a premium item, but don’t go expecting to taste much of the tuna belly though as the savoury sauce more or less conceals its taste. The Shin Yuu Special Aburi Special (in foreground, multiple orders allowed) is in essence a seared salmon sushi coated with a layer of mentaiko sauce. This combination works and I had multiple orders. I have to say the minced tuna sushi and salmon aburi sushis are probably my Shin Yuu favourites.

Just a meme that I made to complement this post. We know this is too true.

The Sashimi Moriawase aka Mixed Sashimi Platter included slices of Salmon, Tuna, Swordfish, Kingfish and Octopus Sashimi. The sashimi tasted rather muted and barely thawed (especially the swordfish), but this is to be expected of buffet standards.

Tamago Nigiri Sushi

Had I not been so full already, I would have probably enjoyed the Shin Yuu Special Sakana Chiizu (“Dory Fish topped with Cheese”) a whole lot more. I had a few rich dishes and by the time I reached this dish, the excessive cheese coating came across as much too cloying. The dory is fried well though with a nice light crispy batter.

The Ika Sugatayaki (“Squid with Sweet Soy Sauce”) suffered a case of over-grilling, such that it became too tough to chew in some areas. You can probably skip this.

While friend C commented that the Buta Misoyaki (Pork Loin with Miso Sauce) had an overly porky taste, I thought it was fine as the thick miso sauce helped to mask the gamey scent she had mentioned. I’m a sucker for fatty pork dishes anyways.

One of the better dishes from Shin Yuu, I found the Hotate Mentaiyaki (Grilled Scallops with Cod Roe Sauce) pretty fresh, with the scallops having a nice springy texture.

The Saba Shioyaki (Mackerel with Salt) comes across as very average to me, probably not much different from what you can get at a nice Japanese food court stall. The one at Kaiho Sushi, ah that’s one to be remembered.

The Ebi Tempura is something worth ordering too. The prawns aren’t as sweet as I would have liked but it’s fried nicely, with the batter remaining crisp for a noticeably lengthy period when it was left on my table.

The Shin Yuu Special Ebi Miso Mayo Yaki (“Prawns with Miso and Mayonnaise Sauce”, left of picture) is one of my favourite items on the menu. It arrives looking like an orh lua (oyster omelette) with a slight outer crisp of fried cheesy mayo that is really yummy. On the other hand, the Tebasaki (“Grilled Chicken Wing”) is glazed in a sweet sauce and proves to be simple comfort food.

The most disappointing dish today was the Kuruma Ebi Teriyaki (“Tiger Prawn with Sweet Soy Sauce”). The prawns had a fishy odour, so much so that I left it untouched after a small nibble.

The Wafu Tenderloin Steak (left) is forgettable as well. The beef isn’t marbled, nor is the sauce remarkable enough to warrant an extra order. I liked the Spare Ribs Teriyaki (right) though, the pork is well marinated, tender and falls off the bone easily. As for the Grilled Salmon Head (background), you can just give it a miss as well.

I really love Kani Karaage (Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab) but the ones here lack flavour. The crabs lack its natural sweetness and I tasted more batter than crab.

The Shin Yuu Speicial Chawanmushi with Salmon Roe is competently done here, exceeding expectations. The egg is light and smooth, lacking any discernable air bubbles. The Shin Yuu Special Makimono (“Unagi with Avocado Sushi”) would have been better if they were more generous with the eel.

One of my grouses here was that the sushi tends to have less ingredients and more rice as lunch progresses on. All in all, compared to the time I last visited 2 years ago, I’m now finding it hard to think of a good reason to come back and at the lunch price of around $45, I’d rather settle for a simple lunch set at reputable Japanese restaurants elsewhere. For buffet lovers however, it might possibly be worthwhile to drop by Shin Yuu if you are around the area.

Bon Appetit!

Shin Yuu Japanese Restaurant

16 Greenwood Avenue, Hillcrest Park

Tel: +65 6763 4939





Chikuwa Tei II – A Much Awaited Revisit

23 10 2011

After finally ending 2 hectic weeks in preparing for our CFA competition (explaining my lack of blog updates), I finally had the opportunity to eat a proper meal once more. Hence, I suggested that my friends and I head down to one of my favourite hang out spots in Singapore – Robertson Quay. While it used to bustle with a crowd ranging from expats sipping their wine at wine connection, revelers making merry and families on a night out, the younger crowd has diminished somewhat now, with the relocation of Butter Factory and Double O.

My last visit to Chikuwa Tei was most memorable and despite its popularity, we were fortunate enough to snag a table today without prior reservations on a Friday night. We were served complimentary Otoshi, an appetizer served prior to the main course, in this case it was a chilled Potato Salad.

I ordered the Saba Set ($12++), which comes with miso soup and a mango pudding for dessert. The Saba was pretty decent with a nice smokey charring, though I would be lying if I said I haven’t had better. One awesome Grilled Saba that comes to mind would be the one at Kaiho Sushi at Cuppage Plaza.

Friend A had the Salmon Don ($15++). Somehow the salmon sashimi is exceptionally awesome here, with a nice pearly surface and smooth fatty texture. However, if you prefer more sashimi variety, the Chirashi Set ($25++) does seem to be the most popular item here, whose popularity is followed closely by the Cod Fish Claypot Set ($24++).

As a side, we also ordered a Sashimi Platter for 4 pax ($108++), comprising 7 types of sashimi with 4 slices each. The salmon, scallops and snapper were good but I was really disappointed about the otoro which was served in a frozen state. Well, the server did warn us about it but still, I thought it would have been better if the chef had substituted the otoro with something of similar value.

My other friends ordered sets as well, ranging from Tempura, Salmon Teriyaki, and Beef Teriyaki, which all comes with Miso Soup and Mango Pudding.

I believe everyone enjoyed their dinner and it won’t be long before we return again.

Bon Appetit!

CHIKUWA TEI

9 MOHAMED SULTAN ROAD, #01-01

TEL: +65 6738 9395






Coco Ichibanya – New Japanese Curry Joint in Town!

30 09 2011

*This was an invited tasting by Coco Ichibanya

You know whenever Japanese cuisine is mentioned, one immediately thinks of sushi and sashimi, and maybe to a lesser extent, ramen, soba and udon. But did you know that based on a survey done in 2005, it was found that the Japanese eat curry 125 times a year? Quite surprising huh?

Given Japan’s rich heritage, it’s fair to say that their obsession with curry doesn’t go back a long way. Curry has been a recent development for them and while most might guess that it was probably introduced to Japan by Buddhist Indian pilgrims or Chinese Monks who had visited India, you are grossly mistaken. Ironically, it was actually introduced to Japan by the British in the late 1800s-early 1900s when Japan ended its policy of national self-isolation and was categorized as a western dish. Ever since then, its popularity has grown, possibly due to the fuss-free and quick tasty meal it makes.

So the main takeaway is: Japanese curry is here to stay.

Enter Coco Ichibanya, Singapore’s latest Japanese Curry Joint. With over 1275 outlets worldwide, Coco Ichibanya is the largest curry house in the world! Just to give you a sense of how big this joint is, it’s parent company Ichibanya Co Ltd is a listed company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange with a market capitalization of about S$640m if I did my math correctly. Its first Singapore outlet at 313 Somerset isn’t large, possibly able to accommodate no more than 50 people, catering for quick casual meals that don’t break the bank within the $10-$13++ range.

Coco Ichibanya’s competitive edge lies in its highly customizable menu. Diners can choose from 5 different levels of curry spiciness, different extra toppings in addition to the already extensive menu, and all the way down to the preferred amount of rice. And apart from the 5 different levels of curry, there’s 2 other special curries available, a seemingly tomato-based non-spicy Hiyashi Sauce, and a mild Curry sauce.

My bubbly host May recommended that I try the Creamed Mushroom Omelet (guess Japs spell omelette differently)  Curry ($13++). Initially I was quite apprehensive, as the choice seemed a little too…interesting for my taste. You see I’m more of a traditional katsu curry kind of person but I’m glad I took her advice. The omelette was seriously perfect, timed perfectly such that the texture was silky smooth, just the way I like it. Protected by the outer layer of egg, the rice goes extremely well with the amalgam of creamy mushroom sauce and mild curry.

For the less adventurous, there’s also the more common Pork Cutlet Curry ($12++). We chose a level 2 curry and it was just the right level of spiciness for me. For cutlets, I believe there are 2 extremes, the overly lean types that will just cause you to keep swearing throughout a meal as you try to cut it into smaller bite-sized pieces and the fatty types that leave you wondering if what you ate was just a fried lard katsu. Coco Ichibanya’s cutlets leans more towards the fatty types, which I personally prefer over the overly chewy lean ones. However, compared to the Creamed Omelet Curry, this didn’t excite me as much.

Throw in a few more bucks and diners can opt for set meals, where you get an additional salad, drink and dessert in addition to your main course, which I feel is quite worth it. For drinks, go for the Calpis Water (a yoghurt drink), and the vanilla ice cream here is surprisingly yummy with visible specks of vanilla beans. Quite an unexpected surprise.

Though its operations have been running for a week or so now, the official opening date for Coco Ichibanya is 1st October 2011. Apart from the media launch event, I do believe that there’s going to be some sort of giveaway for the 1st 100 customers, along the lines of 1st customer gets a year of free dining, 2nd-50th get half year, 51th-100th get one month free dining. So if you are around the area, it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.

Thanks to Coco Ichibanya and Storm Creative Events for hosting the lunch invitation.

For more information about the launch event, do visit http://www.facebook.com/STORMsg

Bon Appetit!

Coco Ichibanya

313 Somerset #B3-25/26/27

Tel: +65 6636 7280








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