It should be of little surprise that G and I would choose Japanese for our “last date night meal in the foreseeable future.” While we have never tried Goto, recommendations from a few trusted sources convinced us that this might be the closest to dining in Japan that we would experience locally. Other convincing factors include: the chef/owner, Goto Hisao, is the former chef of the Japanese Ambassador, and as a geek, how could I possibly pass on a restaurant named thusly. Skipping to the conclusion: we were very impressed. While dinner here is not cheap, if you’re in the mood for high class kaiseki- this is the place to visit.
Ramen. It wasn’t really until our trip last year to Kyushu that G and I truly understood what the craze was all about. There is a local favorite, Taiho, that serves up a slightly greasy and salty tonkotsu ramen with pork rinds… mmm. Craving some noodles at home, I decided to learn just how difficult it would be to create a bowl from (mostly) scratch. Since I lack the patience to fry up rinds, I went with the next best thing- bacon. As luck would have it, the Momofuku ramen recipe happens to include this tasty internet meme as a key ingredient. In total, this dish took 3 days to make, but that was only because I also wanted sous vide crispy roast pork as well.
G and I stumbled upon Matsu awhile back on our way to eat at Torisho Taka (they are neighbors). The restaurant serves mid-ranged Japanese-French fare in a semi-formal setting, equally appropriate for a date night or business lunch. Since the set menu prices seemed reasonable and the reviews online were generally decent, we decided to try a little fusion one weekend.
The lunch prices are comparable to lunch deals available elsewhere (or next door for that matter), but diners have a few different price options to choose from for more variety or courses. Since this meal was breakfast/lunch, we elected to order the “Matsu Set” – a six course meal for $58.
On one of the rare family nights that everyone agreed to try some place new, we decided on Torisho Taka (since last minute reservations at Kazu are nigh impossible for large groups these days). G and I had been there for lunch and found the food to be quite good, and as the sister restaurant to Aoki, one would expect a certain level of excellence at Taka. Their specialty is sumiyaki, with cooked dishes as a secondary attraction. The ingredients are fresh and primarily from Japan.
G and I have a fondness for mom and pop restaurants. Back home, we had Tekka, run by an elderly Japanese couple in their sixties. While we’ve come across a few places like that here, none have made an impression quite like Ooi. The restaurant is run by an adorably friendly obasan with her chef husband, the creator of straightforward and downright tasty meals. It might just be our new favorite (but pricey) spot for a good Japanese home-cooked meal.
Hidden in the basement of Cuppage Plaza, it’s unlikely that one would happen to stumble upon Ooi. This could explain why it’s filled predominantly by regulars, and why we were the only new faces that evening. It’s a small restaurant, seating maybe 20 people. The wife, Hiromi-san, alternates serving dishes, chatting with the guests and taking shots of shochu. Fortunately, she has two other staff to ensure that food is promptly served and drinks always filled.
Last year’s World Gourmet Summit featured some notable personalities including a special appearance by Ferran Adrià and one very particular chef from Japan who transported everything including water for his guest stint in Singapore. The latter might sound a bit absurd, but if you’ve ever had the pleasure of dining in Japan, you might appreciate how difficult it is to reproduce those tastes and textures abroad. This year, Shinichiro Takagi, chef/owner of Zeniya had the dubious honor of presenting the cuisine and ingredients of his region during this tumultuous time in Japan.
Chef Takagi hails from Kanazawa, capital of the Ishikawa Prefecture, which, if my memory serves me correctly, is home to great seafood, historical attractions, and celebrities Hideki Matsui and “Chairman Kaga”. While this region on the western part of the main island was unaffected by the recent disasters, imports of food items from Japan has become much more strict, and as a consequence many ingredients meant for Takagi’s menu were unable to be shipped. This meant that many substitutions were used for this meal that ultimately diluted the experience of each dish.
“We don’t serve sake” was the polite response from our waitress to G’s request of no tuna, salmon (or other large fish). While salmon has now surpassed horse mackerel (aji) as the most consumed fish in Japan, it is not historically served raw. This was a pleasant surprise in that Aoki didn’t favor current trends over tradition. We had heard plenty of positive reviews about the restaurant and so far we were off to a good start. But since this was a “first date” of sorts, G and I decided to sample their lunch menu and see if it warranted a return visit for dinner.
Sometimes all you need for a good meal is a plain cabbage salad in a chilled bowl followed by an incredibly light, flaky and juicy tonkatsu donburi.
Saboten is a chain of tonkatsu restaurants from Tokyo. That’s pretty much all they serve here in Singapore, and they do it incredibly well at a reasonable price. I never thought much of breaded pork before. Consider me a convert.
9 Raffles Boulevard, #P3-01, (Parco Marina Bay)
G and I have added Torisho to “our must try for dinner” list due to our recent lunch experience there. While we both have a fondness of Kazu Sumiyaki for our grilled food needs, it’s always good to have more options. And Torisho is no stranger to quality; it’s the sibling restaurant of Aoki (which incidentally offers an amazing chirashi lunch). The lunch selection is not fancy – mostly a selection of donburi, but each dish is well prepared and the prices are quite reasonable. G went with the wagyu ($38), and I, the pork ($28). Continue reading