One famous local food blogger whom I hold with high regards who favours Japanese cuisine once commented, “if you spot real Japanese at a Japanese restaurant in Singapore, just go for it. You can’t fool around with the Japanese in terms of food.” I saw plenty of Japanese diners at Himonoya, I suppose these words apply for them too! And if you have seen the range of Japanese liquor they carry, you will lose any remaining doubts of their genuineness.
Hidden in a quiet spot (formerly of Hummerstons) on level 2 of Robertson Walk, Himonoya is more than your usual Japanese restaurant. I’m saying that because apart from the conventional Japanese food you probably already heard of, Himonoya have something rather unique here in Singapore… dried fish, or what “Himono” means in Japanese. Now, don’t get confused with salted fish which our older generations here crave about back in the olden days, it’s totally different and certainly much healthier, chewy, and in my opinion, tastier too. So if you didn’t try Himono while dining at Himonoya, you probably ain’t been there. That said, Himonoya also serves common items such as sashimi, sushi, as well as a wide range of Japanese cuisines which you can normally associate with an izakaya.
I’d call the exterior of the restaurant deceiving. Despite looking like a high class restaurant from the outside, its interior is anything but. I thought I walked into a maze of Japanese Edo era eateries upon entering, before been led to my reserved table with a curtain that instilled some privacy, not that I specifically requested for it. Not all tables come with a curtain though.
Seriously, after going Japan four times in the last 12 months, I am getting numb over sushi and sashimi here already, the fact being, you can’t get any fresher than having them there, so I practically skipped most thing raw during my visit. As such, I was expecting my meal to be on the saltier side, and had ordered Japanese steamed rice to go along. But allow me to elaborate a little bit, Himonoya serves different variety of rice too, such as serving with raw egg, with salmon roes, and even grilled rice ball as well as Ochazuke! I stuck to the plain steamed rice.
Our first order, Hotaru Ika came promptly. One look, and it was obvious it’s on the salty side, it’s great that it came with wasabi too, nullifying some of the saltiness and made it rather appetising with the rice that we ordered.
Strictly speaking, the portion of this salad is good enough for one simple meal. The flavour has been enriched somewhat with the inclusion of Shirasu (whitebait).
This is the signature dish of Himonoya, Himono Hokke (half), served with lemon and grind radish. Himonoya indicated that this fish is the “Shims-Hokke” type of Mackerel which has a muscular and chewy texture that comes with an excellent umami flavour. We only ordered half of it, and it came grilled with a crisp skin, its flesh still retaining a chewy but certainly not over dried texture, hard to imagine it was actually dried fish.
It’s worth noting that while Japan is known for fresh catch, they are a country with very distinct seasons, hence at times, it is necessary to preserve their catch for various reasons. But I am rather surprise dried fish can still retain such chewy texture. Although it wasn’t stated, but the Hokke used was believed to be from the sea of Okhotsk, just North-East of Hokkaido. How this name came about is quite interesting too! It was said that this fish was first discovered by a Japanese monk named Nichiji, who named it after the Lotus Sutra (法华，Hokke).
I was expecting this Grilled Enoki Mushroom with Butter to be more flavourful, but in truth, it’s simply mushroom with butter, rather mediocre.
The Potato Salad came with crab miso, crab meat, and salmon roes. Although cheaper than the Daikon Salad, the portion is much smaller too. But the potato salad is itself very filling, and the combination with crab miso and crab meat makes a wonderful integration, not to mention that citrus zest which spices it up significantly!
Hatahata Sandfish is a signature in Shimane prefecture (Although it’s also widely available in Akita prefecture, both prefectures siding the Sea of Japan). I have long heard of it, but think never had the chance to try it. And since I have also not visited Shimane before, with no tentative visit in sight, I was very tempted to order this. In Japan, it’s usually lightly salted before grilling, Himonoya also included mayonnaise here. What I’m trying to say is, it’s already good enough without the latter!
To be honest, dessert aside, this is actually my favourite from Himonoya. Their Crab Croquette is creamy in the inside, and crispy on the outside, with a dash of crab miso and crab meat on top, it’s absolutely delicious! I can go many rounds with this.
Kinako Ice is actually ice cream with black honey. The texture is rich and creamy, not excessively sweet, I thoroughly enjoyed it!
The other dessert I ordered is Daifuku, it’s actually mochi stuffed with green tea ice cream inside, and toppled with red beans. This really impressed me, although I had a hard time slicing the mochi, but the green tea ice cream was so fragrant and have an impressive balance of sweet and bitterness, it compliments the red beans very well.
All in all, I find that food wise, Himonoya is as authentic as one can find in Japan, so are their beverages. Genuine sake (and shochu) lovers will find this a heaven with their $35++ free flow drinks. Of course, diners can also order drinks by the cup. Having mentioned that, I find that most diners are actually ladies when I visited over the weekend, that means they went there for the food, not drink.
Apart from Singapore, Himonoya also has outlets in Japan, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
Opening hours ~
Daily: 18:00 hr – 24:00 hr