Ippudo – Still not hitting the Mark

23 12 2010

It’s been a year since Ippudo opened its flagship Singapore branch in Mandarin Gallery. Back then, it opened with much fanfare with full page write ups on The Straits Times and I was inevitably lured to see what the commotion was all about during their soft launch, even foregoing a movie ticket (Zombieland) I had purchased as I waited 2 hours in line just for an available seat.

Did it wow me then? The answer is no but one year down the road, I decided it was finally time to pay them a revisit, especially on hearing that standards have gone up and previous teething issues have been sorted out.

This time around, I tried the Shiromaru Kakuni($19.50++) which is a smooth Hakata-style ramen served in Tonkotsu broth. For this ramen, you get a slice of chashu and simmered pork cubes. Having been spoiled by the kurobuta pork cheeks at Santouka and Tampopo, the chashu here wasn’t very impressive. Likewise, the simmered pork cubes was not as tender as I thought it would be. Still, I do see improvements in the texture of the ramen and rich tonkotsu broth since my prior visit. I also liked the fact that like how you can order your steak rare, medium or well done in steakhouses, Ippudo allows you to order your ramen Hard, Medium or Soft to cater for personal preferences.

I made a side order for the Nitamago($2++) aka flavour egg which I feel is essential in completing the whole ramen experience. Sadly, the egg white was overcooked and it pales in comparison to the Nitamago at Marutama and Tampopo.

Also notably pricier than other ramen joints, it will probably be at least another year or more before I do patronise Ippudo again.

Bon Appetit!

IPPUDO

333A ORCHARD ROAD, #04-02/03/04 MANDARIN GALLERY

TEL: +65 6235 2797





Aoki – Mazechirashi Heaven

28 11 2010

I took up some Japanese language classes earlier this year and managed to pickup some important Japanese phrases, for instance how to ask a girl or guy but most preferably a girl for her phone number and how to say “your welcome” (allows u to stun a Singaporean waiter who says “Arigato” to you as you are leaving a Japanese Restaurant).

Anyway, Aoki means “Blue Tree” in Japanese according to answers.com, so it’s odd why the chinese words say “Green Tree”. There are 3 scripts in the Japanese language, Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji(looks like Chinese Characters). So perhaps in Kanji, that actually means “Blue Tree” but that’s just my guess.

From Aoki’s layout and ambience, you would hardly guess that this is a fine dining establishment. The entrance to the restaurant is inconspicuous and unassuming, looking somewhat like an entrance to a lavatory or kitchen, but don’t be fooled. Gastronomic pleasures lie within.

Stepping into Aoki, you would notice that the interior designs are minimalistic yet cosy. I particularly liked the sheets of cloth dangling from the ceiling, very pretty…

If you make reservations which you should (my last attempt as a walk-in customer failed), opt for counter seats. You will get to see the master chefs at work, dexterously and adroitly moulding sushi and cutting sashimi. Once in a while, you even get to see some pyrotechnics! Ok, pyrotechnics is just a euphemism for searing but the use of a blow torch still fascinates most nonetheless.

I was right in front of the action as the chef masterfully seared the pieces of Tuna Belly Sushi. Omg, as you witness the fats of the tuna belly starting to bubble and sizzle, you just lament at how eating an Omakase Lunch Set($100++) is totally out of your budget.

There’s a $3++ charge for Otoshi. Typically, it’s a starter that is served alongside when one orders an alcoholic beverage. For Aoki, this is instilled as a cover charge, probably for the tea and oshibori(hot towels) that are provided before and after the meal, in addition to the dish of Cold Spinach. The hot towels reminded me of the ones you would get on an airplane, and in this scenario, our destination would be gastronomic paradise.

For lunch, do order the sets instead of ala-carte because it is definitely of more value. I ordered the Mazechirashi($35++) which also comes with Salad, Miso Soup, Pickles and a trio of Desserts.

The Chirashi served here is really orgasmic. A variety of Sashimi, ranging from Tuna (Maguro), Tuna Belly (Chutoro rather than Ootoro though), Uni (Sea Urchin), Hotate (Scallop), Ikura (Salmon Roe), Ika (Squid), Ebi (Shrimp), Tamago (Sweet Egg), and I think there might have been Aji (Skip Jack) and Tai (Sea Bream) as well. I’m usually not a fan of Tuna, because I find that it carries a distinctive metallic taste (maybe from the blood) which I don’t really fancy, plus Maguro is too lean compared to Salmon Sashimi. However, the Tuna in this Chirashi is different somehow. Very palatable and fresh and there was no metallic taste, plus it was fatty as well! Each time your chopsticks dive into this treasure trove of a chirashi, you never know what you are going to get and this keeps one in suspense and silent anticipation throughout the meal. Anyway, I prefer to eat my Uni by itself to enjoy the full extent of each small piece rather than mixing it with rice where its taste becomes indiscernible.

One special feature about Aoki is that they provide hon-Wasabi, meaning Wasabi that is freshly grated compared to most eateries that provide Wasabi sold in commercial tubes or made from Wasabi powder. Since I’m not a true wasabi lover, the difference to me was that hon-wasabi has a milder tone compared to the tubed wasabi which has other ingredients such as mustard inside as well while S felt that the hon-wasabi had a fruitier flavour compared to the tubed wasabi.

If you find the Tamago good, you can buy it as a side for $6++ as well which is just what I did.

Nothing too fancy about the Salad. Just one with a light vinaigrette dressing.

The Miso Soup here is especially flavourful because it is simmered with prawn heads and it really make the soup richer and sweeter.

The Trio of Desserts comprised of a slab of White Wine Jelly, a Scoop of Milk Ice Cream and a Cup of Custard with Mango Sauce. It’s really hard for me to choose a favourite dessert because they are all just soooooo good. I’m really impressed. The last time I had liquor in a jelly was at a friend’s birthday party where half of the agar agar was made from vodka instead of water and I felt that this White Wine Jelly was really innovative. The thing I love about these desserts is that they are all pleasantly light and sweet, and wasn’t heavy or cloying enough to make me feel like downing litres of tea or water after being already stuffed to the brim.

For the Shokado($38++), you get Sashimi, Nimono(Steamed Vegetables), Tempura, Miso Soup, Rice and the same trio of Desserts as in the Mazechirashi. This was what S ordered and I didn’t want to deprive him of his yumyums, (I was too engrossed in my chirashi anyway).

Sashimi looks good. Quite a variety there, there was a clam I could not identify in the left foreground.

Damn you Aoki! Where else am I going to eat Japanese food without feeling unsatisfied now?

Ok we shall answer this question sometime soon after paying a visit to Tatsuya @ Goodwood Park Hotel.

But I shall make this official, Aoki is currently my favourite Jap restaurant in Singapore.

Bon Appetit!

AOKI

1 SCOTTS ROAD, #02-17 SHAW CENTRE

TEL: +65 6333 8015





Daikokuya Ramen Dining- Looks can be Deceiving

8 09 2010

One of the new eateries to open after the basement renovation of Raffles City, Daikokuya has a charm that’s exudes professionalism and class, at least from the outside where I stood perusing the menu.

The menu looked extensive enough, with the choice of Tokyo-styled, Kyushu-styled ramen etc. My attempts to capture the menu on footage was foiled by one of the service staff, whom I assume was scared that I used the menu and it’s info for other purposes like maybe to set up a competing ramen-ya? So yea, I can’t really recall what are styles they serve.

They  have a weird policy because at first they stopped me from taking pics of the menu, but acceded to my request to take pics of the food.

I ordered the Chashu Shouyu Ramen($15.80) which is supposedly one of their signatures. It was pretty much a disaster to me since I set high standards for ramen. The tonkotsu broth came across as starchy instead of rich, like a lot of noodles had been boiled using it and significant amounts of flour had contaminated the broth. The Chashu was also overly chewy despite the significant layer of fat and lastly, the noodles wasn’t Q. Quite a disappointment.

Chashu Shouyu Ramen($15.80)

Chashu Shouyu Ramen($15.80)

I added the Tamago($2) and though it looked good, I found it bland and overcooked.

I shan’t go on to what my friends ordered since it was very forgettable.

Much is lacking before Daikokuya’s overpriced ramen is ready to take on the big leagues, at least that’s the humble view of this foodie.

Bon Appetit!

DAIKOKUYA RAMEN DINING

252 NORTH BRIDGE ROAD, #B1-13 RAFFLES CITY

TEL: +65 6336 7456





Ootoya – Complimentary Dessert for UOB Cardholders till 30 Sept 2010

18 08 2010

BFF K and I had a nice meal over at Ootoya last Monday (yes its a backlog due to the start of uni term). I remember the first time I patronized, Ootoya had only recently opened but has since garnered a loyal customer base. There’s no secret to their success, just good old unpretentious nosh and service while keeping prices at a reasonable level.

Currently they are having a promotion for UOB cardholders, giving away a complimentary dessert for every main course ordered.

I ordered the Ootoya Special Dish($15) again, same as my last visit.

Ootoya Special Dish($15)

It’s not that I’m a boring person who only orders the same food at the same places, if I was I wouldn’t have started this food blog! It’s just that Fried Chicken and Fried Potato Croquette will always hold a special place in this little boy’s heart. I didn’t bother using the dipping sauce for my chicken, it tasted great on it’s own!

Be it Tonkichi or in any other Jap restaurant, K always ends up ordering either the Unagi or Miso Pork Cutlet. This time, it was going to be the Miso Pork Cutlet($16).

Breaded Pork Loin Cutlet with Miso Flavoured Sauce & Half-Boiled Egg($16)

I preferred my fried chicken more to the pork cutlet but that’s probably personal preference.

What I like about Ootoya’s fried items is that it doesn’t leave one with an excessively unctuous feel after the meal and I love the little gestures such as serving the fried chicken on the metal grill thingy so that it doesn’t get soggy over the course of the meal.

Due to the UOB promotion, K and myself also got our complimentary desserts!

The Green Tea Ice Cream with Soy Milk Syrup tasted very peranakan (think coconut milk desserts) after we poured in some Gula Melaka given to us. The sweet Gula Melaka helped to balance the slightly bitter green tea jelly and tasteless mochi found at the base of the dessert.

Green Tea Ice Cream in Soya Milk Syrup($4.50)

I really loved the mildly sweet Milk Ice Cream though I don’t really have a thing for green tea (mousse in this case) and was too full to eat anymore rice ball desserts (mochi) since it was also present in the previous dessert.

Kyoto Uji Matcha Green Tea Mousse & Milk Ice Cream($6)

Bon Appetit!

OOTOYA

181 ORCHARD ROAD, #08-12 ORCHARD CENTRAL

TEL: +65 6884 8901





Sun With Moon Japanese Dining & Cafe – 30% Off Total Bill Till 24 Aug 2010

11 08 2010

What is it that I love so much about Sun with Moon? Is it my insatiable desire for anything Japanese? Maybe it’s their irresistible velvety Tofu Cheesecake? Or is it just the chillax riverfront ambience? Well, the answer is probably all of the above and now there’s yet another reason to add on to that list! Sun with Moon is currently celebrating its 3rd Anniversary and slashing off 30% off the total bill PLUS a 10% rebate of the total bill in the form of Sun with Moon dining vouchers. That’s an approximate whooping 40% discount! As such, reservations are indeed recommended, you don’t have to tell me twice.

I had the Premium Sushi Set($39.80++) from the Lunch Menu. Apart from the boring looking Salad, Chawanmushi, Fruit & Japanese Green Tea, the set also came with a Choice of Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen or Salmon Yaki(Grilled Salmon Belly) or Unagi Kabayaki. I opted for the Salmon Belly of course for it’s crisp unctuous omega-3 goodness.

Grilled Salmon Belly

An assortment of Sushi comprising of Otoro(Fatty Tuna Belly), Uni(Sea Urchin), Yellowtail, Ikura(Salmon Roe), Sake(Salmon), Unagi, Cooked Prawn, Tamago & California Roll. Definitely no complaints, especially when the entire set costs approximately $30 after discount.

Premium Sushi

For those on a tighter budget, the Mix Roll Sushi Set($24.80++) is another option, comprising of a Pink Dragon Roll, Avocado Soft Shell Roll & Ebi Crunch Roll, as well as sides and the choice of Spicy Ramen or Unagi or Salmon Belly similar to the Premium Sushi Set.

Mix Roll Sushi

Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen

Sun with Moon’s Lunch Menu really leaves one spoilt for choice. From the Wayuzen section of the menu, there’s the highly recommended Gindara Teriyaki & Soft Shell Tempura Set($24.80++).

Grilled Teriyaki Cod

Soft Shell Tempura

Another item on the Wayuzen section, Chirashi Don & Soft Shell Tempura($25.80++). Such a photogenic bowl of Chirashi Don isn’t it?

Chirashi Don

With 2 more weeks to go before the promotion ends, I highly suspect that I might just make a return visit.

Bon Appetit!

SUN WITH MOON JAPANESE DINING & CAFE (THE CENTRAL)

6 EU TONG SEN STREET, #01-70/71/72 THE CENTRAL @ CLARKE QUAY

TEL: +65 6534 7784





Nadaman – Epitome of Value and Affordability

24 06 2010

My hectic university life in SMU is about to commence so before my social life totally ceases to exist, I will be taking a short holiday to Adelaide and Sydney from 25th June(Fri)-5th July(Mon). No thx to my grp of non-foodie friends whom I’m travelling with, who look upon excessive spending on food with disdain, the main agenda for this trip will sadly not be on the food, though I do have a list of places I have heard about and am eager to try. For Adelaide, they are Chocolate Bean, Cafe O’Connell, Spats, Nandos(yes the same one that opened at Bugis Junction), Stacks(pancakes ftw!). For Sydney, Pancakes on the Rocks, Tetsuya’s(though the 200AUD pricetag attached to their 11-course degustation seems a little lot out of reach), Hurricane(for their ribs @ Darling Harbour) and finally Jones the Grocer(the original flagship stall!). As such, I will be taking a short hiatus but I will be back to post on Australia trip Yumyums asap!

Now back to the local food scene! Whenever someone enquires about the best Japanese restaurant in Singapore, the names Tatsuya, Nadaman, Keyaki & Aoki always seems to pop up. Dinners there are certainly no humble affair, where bills typically balloon into the range of hundreds per pax at least. These high barriers of entry proves to be the main obstacle for a student such as myself, though ironically I spent like 120 bucks on 1-for-1 booze at Mambo last week, leaving my debit card behind in an intoxicated stupor in the process…and there goes my fine Jap dinner rawr!

I for one am an opportunist, a cash-strapped one at that. So when the chance arrived for an affordable lunch at one of the “Big 4”, I readily lunged at the offer. Yes, I had made another booking for Shangri-la’s 39th Anniversary Promotion(The one with 39% off total bill for reservations made online for 39% of the restaurant’s seating capacity).  

10 lessons of Jap class taught me just enough to recognise the words “Nadaman” on their napkins. It’s small touches like this I find that adds up to a sublime dining experience.

A page on the menu I found interesting…

The 7-Course Mini Kaiseki is priced affordably at $45++. My friend M used to mix these terms up so fyi, Kaiseki means multi-course or set meal while Omakase means leaving the meal and all of it’s courses to the discretion of the chef.

My first course was the Chilled Corn Moose which looks somewhat like Tofu, though much denser and solid. It’s mildly sweet and the corn is blended in so well that I could have well mistaken it for a Soy Moose instead. A side of Chilled Spinach & Beansprouts in Dashi Stock was typical of a Jap appetizer, light and refreshing.

Afterwhich came the Clear Soup with Fishcake & Vegetables. The clear soup had a savoury umami taste about it and I really enjoyed the fishcake which was a whole lot more tasty than your singapore coffeeshop ones.

The third course was Salmon and Aji Sashimi.

The Simmered Vegetables with Meatballs came as the 4th course. I didn’t think much of the vegetables but the 2 meatballs reminded me a bit of Xiaolongbao fillings. 

From Top left clockwise - Corn Moose & Spinach in Dashi Stock, Clear Soup with Fishcake, Simmered Vegetables with Meatballs, Salmon & Aji Sashimi

The number of courses depicted seems a bit off since I have 8 pictures in a 7-course Kaiseki and it’s weird that steamed Pumpkin rice & Miso Soup should even be considered as individual courses anyway.

That said, the simple Grilled Saba Fish was nice though portion size might be considered a bit petite for a main. Nothing spectacular, the Saba fish at Marina Square Food Court though slightly oilier, would have given Nadaman’s a good fight. Ok why am I comparing a food court stall to Nadaman? That’s just plain mean…and oh I found some jellyfish strips hiding beneath the pickles! A pleasant surprise indeed.

To be frank, I couldn’t really taste much of the Pumpkin rice over the salted Saba Fish. And why is there a Miso Soup when there was already soup just now? I reckon it’s to wash down the salt from the Saba Fish if required.

A moose to signal the start and end of the meal, musing by the chef perhaps? The Red Bean Moose with Coconut Sauce brought with it a sweet end to the mini Kaiseki.

From Top left Clockwise - Pumpkin Rice, Grilled Saba Fish with Pickles, Red Bean Moose, Miso Soup

Fancy some Teppanyaki instead? Try the Teppanyaki Mini Course($45++).

First 2 courses of Corn Moose and Clear Soup was congruent to what I had for the Mini Kaiseki. For the Sashimi, it wasn’t an exact replica from the mini kaiseki as the chef replaced the Salmon with Tuna.  

From Top Left Clockwise - Corn Moose and Spinach in Dashi Stock, Clear Soup with Fishcake, Salad, Tuna & Aji Sashimi

For Teppanyaki main, you get a choice of Pan Fried Codfish with Butter Sauce or Pan Fried Salmon with Butter Sauce or Pan Fried Chicken with Teriyaki Sauce or Pan Fried Beef with Apple Sauce. Mum chose the later and unlike my Saba, this was what I could call a main! The tender beef was cut into bit sized pieces which I could just keep popping into my mouth all day. The Fried Rice was sadly forgettable.

From Top Clockwise - Pan Fried Beef with Apple Sauce, Red Bean Moose, Fried Rice

Between the 2 sets, I preferred mum’s Teppanyaki Mini Course for the Beef Main.

And with the 39% discount, the bill came to a mere $38.20 per person! For the variety and standard, not to mention complementary parking, this meal truly epitomizes the principles of value and affordability.

Bon Appetit!

 

 

NADAMAN

22 ORANGE GROVE ROAD, SHANGRI-LA HOTEL

TEL: +65 6213 4571





Tetsu Japanese Restaurant

21 06 2010

 An operator of 11 food courts in Singapore, and 5 others overseas, it came as a surprise when I found out that Tetsu is actually a venture by Food Juction to diversify it’s business into the restaurant scene. I’m glad I only found this out after the meal, since I would probably have formed some premature conclusions (about dining in a Japanese restaurant run by a foodcourt).  

It’s amazing how Tetsu has managed to secure dining awards both in 2009 and 2010, given that it was only initiatied in 2008. Starting out as a specialist in Kushi-tempura & Kushi-katsu(kushi means on a stick), it has since expanded it’s menu in 2009 to include items such as sukiyaki, curries, yakimono, sashimi, sushi, udon, u name it they have it!

The Matsu Set($32++) comes with Assorted Sushi & Sashimi with Mini Udon. The Aji(Spanish Mackerel), Salmon and Squid Sashimi were all fresh but the Tuna came across as unskillfully cut and slightly dry. Assorted Sushi included Tobiko(Flying Fish Roe), Anago I think instead of the usual Unagi(Salt Water Eel instead of Fresh water ones), Squid, Tuna, Aji and Salmon. I also really liked the Udon here which I find light and very refreshing. I did enjoy the side order of their Chawanmushi($5++) too which was oh so soft and silky!

HH had the Tori Katsu Udon($18.80++). Though I’d still prefer Tonkichi for my occasional Katsu fix, the Katsu here was still very decent, crisp but with the deep-fry oil conspicuously absent. This is definitely value for money too!

Is this my new favourite haunt for mid-end Japanese food? Fickle me thinks so…

Bon Appeit!

 

 

TETSU

163 TANGLIN ROAD, #03-18 TANGLIN MALL

TEL: +65 6836 3112








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