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Ginza Anzu

Published February 17, 2020 by piggie

Before I begin, allow me to reiterate that this is a food tasting invitation by JPassport.

Ginza Anzu was formerly located in Wisma Atria, but has recently joined the hype in moving to Great World City, which is fast replacing Liang Court in becoming the next Japanese town. No prize guessing, the name itself probably already suggested where Ginza Anzu is hailing from, in fact, their outlet in Ginza’s Mitsukoshi 11F regularly attracts a queue outside, and now also have oversea restaurants in Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, and of course, Singapore. What makes Ginza Anzu fascinating is that, they aren’t just a restaurant chain, they have their own farms as well as contracted farms, and their businesses encompass livestock, vegetables, food processing, and food machinery too (Hence, some claim they are from Kyushu, which is also not wrong, considering most of their enterprises are actually originated there). This way, they epitomise a farm-to-table concept, and managed to achieve good control over consistency and quality on the ingredients they use. In addition, they proudly proclaim that most of the ingredients used in Ginza Anzu are imported from Japan. I’m not sure about their restaurants elsewhere, but at least for their Singapore outlet, it’s worth noting that they are also importing premium pork from America.

For this food tasting session, we were allowed to select one from the Ginjo Pork (吟釀豚) Katsu set, and the other one has to be Hot Pot Pork Loin Katsu Set. Any sake lovers here? I know what you are thinking… Nope, I have asked, but the Ginjo Pork has nothing to do with sake. Over here, it’s simply their term referring to selected premium pork that has undergone an unique ageing process.

The main difference between the Ginjo Pork sets is, the Fatty Loin set is using fatty pork sirloin, whereas the Fillet set is using tender and leaner fillet. So, we had their Ginjo Pork Fatty Loin Katsu Set as well as the Hot Pot Pork Loin Katsu Set.

Soon as we placed our order, we were promptly served vegetable salad and radish pickles. My dining partner thoroughly enjoyed the pickles while I love their salad, along with the creamy shiso dressing. The salad is free-flow, but good thing we were only given one bowl to share though, as our upcoming meals kept us so full that we would have struggled to finish two sharing. In any case, our 2-seater table was too small for two set meals, there were hardly any space for the salad and pickles, which ended up, we needed to join another table.

Hot Pot Pork Loin Katsu Set, $28++

The Hot Pot Pork Loin Katsu Set came really fast, perhaps aiding by the fact that we were visiting during off-peak hours on weekend. It comprises breaded pork loin cooked in savory dashi broth dressed in egg swirls, pickles, rice (plain or brown), soup (miso or pork belly). If not for the fact that we weren’t allowed to order both Ginjo Pork Katsu sets, I probably won’t have ordered this, I anticipated the broth to rinse away the taste of the tonkatsu entirely, but it didn’t. It still retains the flavour to a certain level, and not excessively soaky. I genuinely believe that’s the best tonkatsu that goes with broth! On the other hand, the aroma from the egg complement the meat real well, and the pork remains chewy throughout. We were allowed to select between Miso soup and Pork Belly Soup for our meals, in fact the latter is also Miso soup but the added pork belly sure sweetened the broth. As for the rice, they are using Koshihikari rice from Niigata prefecture, possibly the land that produces the best rice on earth. Ginza Anzu claims that they select rice that was grown where natural water flows, and in Niigata, which is a heavily snowing region, that is as good to say melted snow water fertilises the paddy field. The best part is, rice is served free-flow for the set menu.

Ginjo Pork Fatty Loin Katsu Set, $38++

This is definitely the highlight from Ginza Anzu. Thick, juicy pork loin is fried to a golden crisp with the bread crust, and there are two different sauces to go along with, one sweet, and the other sour. Diners are given tiny bowl of sesame, which they can grind, and add respective sauce to go along with the tonkatsu. There’s also mustard to go with, but alternatively, if you are a bit more adventurous, you may wanna try it with the salad dressing too.

I find that the meat texture is rather firm, but with some fat portion to balance it. What impressed me was not so much on the meat, but the soft breaded crust. Not only it wasn’t oily, in fact it barely stick to the meat, but it has an interesting mixture of fluffiness and crispiness, quite indifferent from the common tonkatsu I have ever tried.

Other than the tasting menu, we had also ordered a side and a dessert to share.

Japanese Special Tofu, $6++

I won’t call this Tofu cheap, well actually it’s probably due to the labour cost in making them, more so if they import ingredients from Japan. Like many Japanese tofu, Ginza Anzu’s tofu has a coarse texture, which when you apply the condiments, such as the accompanied ginger paste and spring onion, or even the Yuzu soy sauce, it makes them easier to retain the flavour. Solely for Japanese tofu fans, which we happen to be!

Vanilla Ice Cream with Sweet Potato, $6++

Last but not least, their premium Vanilla Ice Cream has a rich vanilla aroma, and since my dining partner and I are both Japanese sweet potatoes lovers (seriously, I’m one who would purchase bags of sweet potatoes at rock bottom prices whenever I visit Japan, not from Donki!), and her favourite ice cream flavour happens to be vanilla too, we thoroughly enjoy this heavenly combination! In fact, this is one I’d like to order on its own even if I’m not having meals in their restaurant.

Towards the end of this review, I strongly recommend trying their Service Lunch ($15++) if you find them available. It’s limited to 20 sets per day between 11am to 2pm. Personally, I have not tried it, but the price is attractive given the presentation and ingredients shown, and this is what I’d love to try for my next visit.

Once again, I would like to express my thanks to JPassport and Ginza Anzu for the food tasting invitation. Although I’m not obliged to stress, but it pays to become a JPassport member especially if you love Japanese cuisines. As of now, Ginza Anzu is offering White Coffee Pudding to JPassport member who visit them for the first time and order at least one main course. At the time of my visit, their White Coffee Pudding was already sold out, so go early to avoid disappointment.

Ginza Anzu
1 KIM SENG PROMENADE, #01-113/114
Great World City
Singapore 237944
Tel: +65 62623408
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GINZA-ANZU-SG-680761165437943/
IG: https://www.instagram.com/ginza_anzu_sg

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 11:00 hr – 22:00 hr

Suparakki Ramen

Published December 20, 2019 by piggie

I’ve got to confess I don’t usually visit local ramen restaurant before I visit Suparakki Ramen, but my first visit there really got me awed. Yes, although the name sounded Japanese (which means Super Lucky), it is really the joint effort of three local passionate chaps who undergone rigourous training in Japan prior to setting up restaurants here. Knowing that they probably cannot challenge the legacy of major ramen chains here, their strategy is to keep their price modest while delivering quality noodles. To sustain that, you can see the decor are basic, tables are optimised, leaving barely much room for manoeuvre, and even diners have to fetch their own noodles when their numbers are flashed, in other words, self-service. In trade-off, of course, there will be no service charge. Diners basically order and pay upon entering, and will be given an electronic buzzer before getting into the restaurant to choose their seats.

Tonkotsu Black Garlic Ramen, $9.90+

Suparakki Ramen use typical Hakata-styled noodles, and hard boiled Tonkotsu broth for 6 hours without adding MSG. I had this Tonkotsu Black Garlic Ramen, which is the most expensive ramen on their menu, and comes with two thin slices of Charshu, half a runny egg, scallions, black fungus, and seaweed. Even though without using MSG, I did not notice any unpleasant pork scent in their broth, which was overpowered by the nice aroma of black garlic anyway. In addition, I was also asked upon ordering whether I’d like their normal or spicy version, which I selected the latter, without incurring any extra charges. It can hardly go wrong with the thin Hakata-styled Hosomen used, which was cooked to a perfect firmness too. Frankly speaking, for such quality and configuration, one usually pay double the price from an established Japanese ramen chain in sunny island Singapore. As a matter of fact, I just patronise one the day before, seriously, double the price 😛

Tonkotsu Gyokai Ramen, $8.90+

My dining partner ordered their Tonkotsu Gyokai Ramen, which is the integration of pork and fish broth, while the ingredients inside are the same as mine. Again, no unpleasant pork smell, came with a hint of bonito, but I ain’t suggesting that they merely using Bonito flakes. It’s saltier, and Suparakki claim that their broth is akin to Tsukemen, where the broth is usually thicker, but not in this case certainly, or else it would be too excessive.

Set A, Ebi Fry ($5.50+)

For an additional $5.50+, I got 3 Ebi tempura plus a drink of my choice, which I selected Heaven & Earth Ayataka Green Tea. They do serve hot green tea too, as well as Coke, and if i remember correctly, mineral water. I have to say their choice of beverages are quite limited, but who cares when there are so many beverages option available in the malls they are located at. The tempura prawns are crisp, freshly fried upon ordering by the way. Besides Ebi Fry*, other option include Karaage and Gyoza, these, along with Chashu and Ajitama are also available as stand-alone add-ons. All in all, we were very satisfied with our meals, and I will surely return.

*Ebi Fry is not available at their Citylink Mall branch.

Subsequent Visit

My 4th visit came within a week from my first, you read that right, forth visit. I guess that’s sufficient statement to say how much I love their ramen, which is also reasonably cheap. My multiple visit only involve one new flavour, so I’ll just touch on their Dry Truffle Ramen here.

Dry Truffle Ramen, $6.90+

Suparakki Ramen’s Dry Truffle Ramen is using ingredients such as black fungus, half a runny egg, shredded seaweed, scallions, and braised pork cube, and of course, truffle oil. The chewy Hakata-styled Hosomen noodle is more springy than those in their broth ramen, and I feel in using braised pork cube instead of conventional chashu here is a masterstroke, the saltier pork raised the flavour of the noodle up a few notches, and the aroma of truffle oil is absolutely scintillating. The result is what made me go back repeatedly for more, this has got to be one of the best ramen I’ve ever tried, in my opinion, better than many I patronised in Japan. Having said that, I have to confess my dining partners have very contrasting opinion though, one of them like this because she dislike pork broth, another dislike this because she doesn’t like truffle scent. I can do with both! 😀

Suparakki Ramen currently have outlets in North Point, Westgate, and Citylink Mall.

Website: https://suparakki.com.sg
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Suparakkiramen

&Joy Dining Hall

Published December 8, 2019 by piggie

Yeah, the name &Joy Dining Hall does sound strange. It only recently opens at Jurong Point Basement along Japanese Food Street, and mainly comprises 6 main dining elements, namely Ramen Kiou, Sushi-GO, Roman.Tei, Pittarino, Wadori, and My Gohan. Some of these can be considered as stand alone restaurants, while others are sharing a common dining area. Besides that, there is also another sub-element, &Joy Eats•&Joy Drinks, somewhat like the drink stall inside a food court.

Realistically, I ain’t able to cover every element in my first visit, let’s begin with Pittarino, a stand alone pizza restaurant. I can understand, pizza is not really a Japanese thing, so why is it here?

Well, the Japanese are well known for their take on foreign cuisines, for example, ramen wasn’t really Japanese to begin with, but their evolution from their Chinese predecessors are so massive that these days, people tends to think the Chinese stole it from the Japanese because in general, ramen tastes so much better than many of their China counterparts. I said that not just because I love Japanese cuisines, but I had visited many cities in both China and Japan, and the probability of finding horrible noodles in China far exceed that in Japan. Coming back to pizza, I have to reiterate, I have been to Italy too, but ironically, I found the best pizza in Japan, seriously, inside a humble Kanazawa eatery, far away from the country’s culinary capitols (ie. Tokyo, Osaka).

Half – Half: Smoked Salmon & Prosciutto, $16++

This is only available during Pittarino’s opening promotion, offering half a slice each of their Smoked Salmon pizza and Prosciutto pizza, giving patrons a taste of both pizza for one price, both usually going for $17.90++ each (12″ whole pizza). One look at the pizza crust, you can tell it’s not pre-baked, it’s only baked upon order, because they can never anticipate what type of combination a customer wants. Amazingly, they can do it in 90 seconds! It’s not really a matter of speed, but by doing so in 90 seconds, they can maintain the juicy texture of the toppings, this is really how a good pizza ought to be done, and I can safely assure, you will find it very different from your usual pizza franchise.

Let me first touch on their Smoked Salmon pizza. It’s a cream based pizza with rocket, caper, tomatoes, lemon, and of course, smoked salmon. This is my favourite, and a chef recommendation. If the ingredient list ain’t sound convincing enough, the taste was fantastic, an excellent fusion of savoury, sourness, blend coherently with the cream to create a very appetising take, if anything, I thought the caper brought out the essence of the pizza!

As for the Prosciutto & Rocket pizza, despite having a more appealing appearance, would have to settle for second best. Prosciutto is Italian dried-cured ham, and naturally it’s slightly on the salty side, but the added tomato sauce, rocket, and Grana Padano cheese generate a good balance, and eventually, the juiciness truly made this pizza remarkable.

Tomato Cheese Ramen, $14.90

And this would be the ramen after it was stirred

Hailed from Osaka, Ramen Kiou’s signature ramen gotta be this Tomato Cheese Ramen. I believe the broth must be a pork based soup, but there is little hint of it as any Tonkotsu flavour is overpowered by the rich tomato broth. In the bowl, apart from the cheese, there ain’t any charshu, but only pork slices, veggie, and thin noodle. The taste is very much akin to tomato spaghetti but in a soup version. I’d say it’s very appetising!

Ebi Chahan, $8.90

We also ordered Ramen Kiou’s Ebi Chahan, and added a piece of Chashu. As can be seen from the picture, they use prawns and dried shrimps in their Ebi Chahan, but something just ain’t quite right. Perhaps it’s due to the dried shrimps, I smell strong aroma from that of mouldy food, quite akin to those you gather from Yam or Dried Mushroom fried rice. I don’t like it, I’d say, wasted the ingredients in this fried rice. I lose appetite straightaway. That said, I paid $2 extra for the chashu, which is great to be honest.

For Ramen Kiou, as it is basically a kiosk order, self-service concept, there is no additional service charges.

2nd Visit

Kiou Chahan, $6.90

For some reason, I didn’t order their ramen on my 2nd visit, and I had their Kiou Chahan instead. I won’t pretend this is fantastic, but it certainly tasted much better than their Ebi Chahan, no mouldy smell. Now, in my previous review, I did mention I was impressed by their chashu, and in this fried rice, shredded chashu is used, along with spring onions and egg. The aroma was good, and the chashu really brings out the taste up a notch.

Gyoza, $5.90

I also ordered their Gyoza. Ramen Kiou fried it in a way where the bottom is a big layer of flour, ensuring a larger area of crispiness at the bottom, while the top still retains chewy.

My dining partners both ordered their Abura Soba ($11.90), which was a little on the salty side, though the noodle was cooked to a perfect chewiness, according to them, so much so they claimed they would come back for this. For me, I am having reservation until I try it myself next time.

&Joy Dining Hall
1 Jurong West Central 2, #B1-49
Jurong Point
Singapore 648886
Website: http://njoydininghall.com.sg

Opening Hours~
Daily: 11:00 hr – 22:00 hr

Flaming Don

Published October 25, 2019 by piggie

I actually discover Flaming Don by chance, allow me to reiterate that if you are looking for authentic Japanese fix, then this is probably not your cup of tea. Flaming Don claims to offer modern take on Japanese rice bowl, meaning expect a little twist to your conventional Japanese donburi, and after eating, I have to confess, the chemistry is damn good!

Their eatery at Bugis + (not sure about their other outlet at Bukit Panjang Plaza though) is pretty much a self-service concept. You order from the automated kiosk, collect your order chit, then wait for your number to be flashed before collecting your order.

Salmon Don, $12.90

Their Salmon Don features grilled Norwegian salmon with runny fried egg underneath, along with broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Quite usually, certain ingredients in a dish will be inferior to another, however, I can’t fault any here at all. The vegetables are fresh, the salmon grilled to perfection with a crisp exterior but not overdone so that a chewy texture remains, even the egg still retain both attributes of a runny egg and a fried egg, the end product is absolutely flavourful!

Salmon Aburi Don, $12.90

It’s easy to be deceived by the somewhat lacklustre appearance of this Salmon Aburi Don in juxtaposition with their Salmon Don above. Blame it on my camera phone perhaps, but underneath the generous spicy mayonnaise, the salmon are cooked differently from their Salmon Don. I found the salmon interior still retain a semi-raw texture, and the cohesion with the spicy mayonnaise actually taste surprisingly good!

In both cases, I wasn’t sure whether Japanese rice are used (Japonica no doubt), but the end composition are more than satisfying, in fact, I was so impressed that I took another group of friends here for another round a week later. In addition, after I penned this review, I found out some very negative feedback about Flaming Don, I need to highlight that my visit was not sponsored, and I noted the items I ate are different from other reviewers. Seems to me their quality fluctuates like share market! LOL!

Flaming Don currently has two outlets, their flagship store is this one at Bugis +

Flaming Don
201 Victoria Street
Bugis + #05-02/03
Singapore 188067
Tel: +65 68357019
Website: http://flamingdon.com.sg/

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 11:30 hr – 21:30 hr

Shirakaba Sansou 白樺山荘

Published October 25, 2019 by piggie

Miso Char-siu Men, $16

I have big sentiment towards Shirakaba Sansou dating back to 2007. It was the first of my 15 trips to Japan, having my first ramen in Sapporo from ESTA’s Ramen Republic. I walked around the premise and selected Shirakaba Sansou without prior research. Though I have little recollection on its taste, I remember it was a satisfying bowl of Miso ramen, with butter and corn among beansprouts and bamboo shoot. After a filling dinner, I returned to my hotel, grabbed my luggage, and took the overnight train leaving Hokkaido for Aomori. That time, I thought it would be my one and only visit to Japan, I never expected returning for a whopping 14 times more.

So when Hokkaido Marche brought Shirakaba Sansou over, I was naturally delighted. It was a big opportunity for me to relish a forgotten taste, despite the fact that since my first visit, I had re-visited Sapporo twice but not Shirakaba Sansou there.

Having said that, this bowl of Miso Char-siu Men is very different from what I ordered some 12 years ago in Sapporo, the ingredients are very different, notably the absence of butter and sweet corn. Pardon me, I wasn’t even sure the name of the ramen I ordered then, but I remember jotting down the name in a notepad and shown it to the staff, as the smartphone era had not really taken flight yet, and I couldn’t understand Japanese. Back to this Miso Char-siu Men… for $16, it came with 3 pieces of charshu, along with bamboo shoot, leek, black fungus, and seaweed etc. The noodle used was medium thick curly noodles, which was excellent in retaining the broth upon eating. Overall, it’s still a satisfying bowl of ramen but if I would have to grade it, I would say above average. One thing I like about Shirakaba Sansou is that, boiled eggs are available freely to patrons, which is not a common sight in Japan.

Shirakaba Sansou is actually housed together with Ajisai under Hokkaido Marche, but I chose to review them separately in case some of these eatery decided to brand out from Hokkaido Marche eventually.

Shirakaba Sansou @ Hokkaido Marche
181 Orchard Road,
Orchard Central
#B2 Unit 11 – 29, 44 to 48
Singapore 238896
Website: https://www.hokkaidomarche.com.sg/shirakabasansou

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 11:00 hr – 22:00 hr

Ajisai 味彩

Published October 24, 2019 by piggie

Hakodate Shio Ramen, $12

This actually wasn’t my first visit to Hokkaido Marche’s Ajisai. The first time I had their spicy ramen, but this time round, I wanna try their signature, the Hakodate Shio Ramen. Hailing from the southern Hokkaido city, Ajisai came from the region famous for Shio ramen with a rich history of 80 years. They claimed their broth was made using pork, chicken, and natural rock salt on a base of kelp produced in southern Hokkaido.

I can’t deny their presentation looking kind of appealing, in fact, the above picture was stirred so that I can show the charshu hidden underneath, otherwise, the presented ramen looks like this:

Nice looking eh?

OK, now the harsh truth…

I had mentioned before, that there are 3 distinct species ramen in Hokkaido, namely Miso (Sapporo), Shoyu (Asahikawa), and Shio (Hakodate). Hakodate’s Shio ramen are generally boiled with some kind of seafood, such as sardines, kelp, etc, along with pork or chicken broth, or both, to give out a clear broth in light flavour. And personally, I feel Shio ramen is the most difficult to impress among these, because if too light, there may be little difference in comparison with just using salt, then the broth very well ends up worse off than instant noodles’. Unfortunately, that was the impression I had for this ramen. I need to reiterate, that I had tried Shio ramen before, both locally and in Hakodate, and this broth here is by far the blandest, apart from the presence of salt. To be honest, I can think of a few means to improve the flavour without taking away the fact that it being a Shio ramen, and that I feel a Shio ramen broth shouldn’t just taste like salt water, the chef needs to bring out the taste of other ingredients, otherwise why bother adding them in the first place? And without those, strictly speaking, I shouldn’t be looking at eating ramen at such price. The saving grace is that, at least the medium thickness noodle is chewy, and that the egg is sweet, with charshu flavourful.

Kara Miso Ramen, $14

I mentioned earlier that this wasn’t my first time patronising Ajisai. In fact, my first time was much more satisfactory with their Kara Miso Ramen, which I presume, aren’t their forte in the first place. I actually ordered that because I was craving for something spicy, and for a moment, I had forgotten that they are from Hakodate. The reason why I didn’t blog about this earlier was the lack of time. To be honest, I think their Kara Miso ramen contains more ingredients in comparison (cost more too), but those are literally fungus, and some other vegetables that I don’t think alter much flavour, just that their broth tastes so much desirable. Others such as egg, medium thick noodles, and charshu remain consistently good. OK, credit has to go to the Miso paste they used perhaps. At least I can say, this is that sort of ramen that I will return for, but I can’t say the same for their Shio ramen.

Ajisai @ Hokkaido Marche
181 Orchard Road,
Orchard Central
#B2 Unit 11 – 29, 44 to 48
Singapore 238896
Website: https://www.hokkaidomarche.com.sg/ajisai

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 11:00 hr – 22:00 hr

Ramen Sora

Published February 14, 2019 by piggie

Miso Ramen Corn Butter, $12.80++

What happened to all those positive reviews on Ramen Sora when it first came to Singapore?

Me and my dining partner were rather enthused to visit Ramen Sora ever since they first set foot in Singapore’s culinary scene 2 years ago. As their origin is in Sapporo, which is famous for Miso Ramen, I had a Miso Ramen Corn Butter while my dining partner ordered their Spicy Miso Ramen.

When my noodle was served, I was a little taken aback by its appearance. The usual ingredients of a Sapporo ramen are all there save perhaps for the Miso, and the colour of the broth looks suspicious, looking more like a Shoyu broth. One try, and I failed to discover any Miso’s presence, with the broth tasting more like a rather bland Tonkotsu soup, which made me wonder, did they really boiled the soup for nearly a day as they claimed? Look, I ain’t a ramen novice, and I have been to Sapporo 3 times, a Miso broth shouldn’t taste this bland, and it wasn’t good enough to consider it a Tonkotsu or Shoyu broth either. It wasn’t really terrible, but mediocre. Even the charshu texture was a little stiff, overall, the result was more like something coming out from an apprentice. To put it simply, it lacks character.

Good thing my dining partner ordered something different, albeit still a Miso based broth nonetheless. But all she said was it’s more of a spicy soup, NO Miso. To add further insult, it tastes worse than what I can get from a food court for 30% lesser in price.

Seriously, are they hailed from Sapporo? I shake my head. I later found out, some recent reviewers in Tripadvisor shared similar opinions, but they are more vocal than me. Ramen Sora’s Singapore website is gone, their Facebook not updated for more than half a year. Looking at the pictures from other reviewers a year or two ago, their pictures on Miso broth are more vivid. It may be my guess, but it seems likely the original owner has sold the franchise but left only the name behind.

Unlike Arnie, I definitely won’t be calling ‘I’ll be back”.

Oh, by the way, contradicting to what some other blogger stated, Ramen Sora do charges GST and service charge.

Ramen Sora
277 Orchard Road, #B2-4A & 5
Orchard Gateway
Singapore 238858
Tel: +65 69090605
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ramensoraSG/

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 11:00 hr – 21:00 hr

Ramen Sora has ceased operation.

Ootoya 大户屋

Published January 21, 2019 by piggie

Before I begin, allow me to highlight that this is a sponsored food tasting session initiated by J Passport.

This is the 2nd time I visited their outlet in Singapore, both visit at their Orchard Central branch. The first time was a few years ago and I didn’t bother to blog. But I was immensely impressed after visiting their branch in Sendai (Japan) last Summer, hence when J Passport offered me this opportunity for a food tasting here, I decided to re-visit.

The motto of Ootoya is to serve traditional Japanese home-cooked food with healthy and hearty ingredients that a mum would normally prepare for the family. As such, don’t expect flamboyant setting despite the slightly higher pricing as compare to their franchises in Japan, after all, somebody gotta top up the premiums for air freight, and naturally, it’s the customers.

I was offered the selection of a set menu, an à-la-carte, a Serio Soba, and a dessert. But as I don’t feel easy simply walking away without paying anything, therewith I also ordered a side plus beverages.

Serio Soba

It took quite a while, and the Serio Soba was first served.

There were apparently some communication breakdown here. Upon invitation, I indicated that I would be bringing a dining companion along, so I was assuming, as per my previous food tasting session, that each of us would have 1 set each. Perhaps I should have clarified, but when I learned (and it wasn’t from the staff) that there would be only one set for us to share, my dining partner had already finished up a big portion of it! LOL! By then, the Soba noodle wasn’t even cold anymore. So, what can I say about the taste? To be absolutely honest, whatever I have to comment would certainly be heavily discounted, but to quote what my dining partner mentioned, it was nice. And that the Soba noodle was at least chewy.

All I can add is what I researched from their menu, that they are using buckwheat flour imported from Hokkaido, and handmade in-house. In addition, I really like the way Ootoya indicates the ingredients on their menu, informing patrons of any potential allergic upfront, that’s pretty thoughtful!

Seriously, I won’t mind paying additional for my dining partner (then I won’t bother ordering the side), but if the food is meant to be shared, then at least provide another cup of Soba sauce (for hygiene reason) and perhaps additional plate, then there won’t be unnecessary ambiguity. Of course, I could have simply come out my own money for a fresh order, but it’s quite a big portion, besides I would rather try their other dishes in that case.

I hope that’s a fair statement.

Charcoal Grilled Atka Mackerel Hokke Fish Set

The accompanied rice, Miso soup, and condiments

I didn’t find any opportunity to ask the staff, but it is believe that the Atka Mackerel Hokke fish was harvested from Okhotsk Sea, wind dried, and then grilled prior to serving. It still retains a chewy texture with a mild umami. I must say, at $22.80++ for the set meal (or $17.80++ alone), the price is reasonable for half a grilled Hokke fish. Though to be honest, I thought the condiments were a little mediocre, perhaps the idea was not to take excessive limelight from the Hokke fish. Anyway, the motto was to serve a Japanese home styled meal, like I said, nothing flamboyant, but decent heartiness. For paying patrons, I think it’s possible to ask for free rice refill and a switch to more healthier rice such as Gokoku Rice, Tororo Gohan, Jyako Gohan, or Yasai Gohan, but once again, I didn’t have an opportunity to clarify.

Grilled Yongenton Silky Pork Belly Marinated with Shio-Kouji

Now, THIS IS HEAVENLY!

The marinated pork belly ($19.50++) was grilled to distinction with an excellent crisp and succulence that it’s so good to eat on its own, the sweetness is absolutely remarkable! And sprinkled with a zest of lemon gives it an extra dimension, not to mention the enclosed wasabi!

Yongenton is a crossed breed of 4 different pig species, or more commonly known as Silky Pork. Surprisingly, it originated from USA. These are what I researched, and the taste is probably better than some Kurobuta I have tried. As for Shio-Kouji (塩麹, 塩糀), it’s a natural seasoning made of salt, water, and rice kouji (Kouji is the key ingredients in making miso), and Ootoya’s menu mentioned that they are adhering to a recipe passed down from Sendai 300 years ago.

You would usually associate salad with French dressing, Thousand Island dressing etc, but that’s not what Ootoya did here. They use soy sauce, and the outcome was rather interesting! But to be honest, the pork is so good which rendered the accompanying salad as mere decorations.

Yakko, $4++

Oh, I also ordered their Yakko (a.k.a. Tofu). As I mentioned, I don’t feel right walking out after meal without paying, so I ordered this Japanese Tofu (as well as green tea). I have done my research before heading down for the food tasting, Ootoya claimed that their tofu is house made, and in their menu, this is suppose to come with freshly grated dried Bonito flakes, but the Bonito flakes never came (I only remember that when I’m reviewing my pictures for this post). I ended up pouring some soy sauce to ‘enjoy’ it with the tofu, along with the supplied ginger, which otherwise tasted bland. Sorry, but this failed, especially without Bonito flakes, the chief ingredient that lifts its flavour.

Maccha Parfait

I had the Maccha Parfait ($8++) as dessert, and it can be noted Ootoya is sparing no effort to mark off a hearty dining with this. In the picture, you will find Maccha ice cream, red beans, and the cube stuffs behind are the Warabi mochi dipped in Maccha powder. What you can’t see underneath are Castella (sponge cake) cubes, Maccha Jelly, Maccha Pudding. Take my words, it’s a very fulfilling dessert for someone who loves Maccha!

I have come to the end of this post, and as a pre-requisite for the food tasting, I am obliged to include a link for Ootoya’s offer tie-in with J Passport. J Passport members get to enjoy free Limited Seasonal Pumpkin Parfait with every meal ordered. Kindly refer to the following link for details:

http://bit.ly/ootoya_parfait

The above offer is valid until 31 Jan 2019, but you can always refer to their page in J Passport for more ongoing promotion. If you ain’t a member yet, you can join J Passport for free to enjoy these benefits. Ootoya currently has 3 outlets in Singapore, kindly refer to their website for information and promotions. Lastly, many thanks to Ootoya and J Passport for hosting us!

Sumire Yakitori House やきとり家すみれ

Published December 31, 2018 by piggie

A week before I visited Sumire Yakitori House in Bugis Junction, I was in Matsue, Shimane, Japan. As their branch there opens till late night, I planned to have late dinner there, but for some reason I didn’t go there eventually. A week later, I found myself at Sumire back home, on actually my first visit!

Sumire means ‘Smile’ in Japanese, they first started in Tokyo in 2009. Although the name of Sumire list them as Yakitori House, and grilled chicken is their forte, but practically, they do serve more than that. It’s more like Kushiyaki (串燒) plus some better known Japanese cuisines and beverages.

Back in the olden days, and in fact not too long ago, Kushiyaki was very much a men’s thing, more for them to enjoy with a mug of beer or sake after work in an Izakaya (居酒屋) with friends or colleagues. I heard men in Tokyo cannot go home early or their wives will nag, so they need a spot to hang around after work, that is, if they finish work ‘early’, and ‘early’ can mean anytime before 9pm! That’s why typical Izakaya usually opens for business from early evening to over midnight. Anyway, Sumire’s owner saw the potential to bring Yakitori to a more general patrons, which include ladies and families, and so he decided to change the conventional Izakaya to a restaurant-liked concept.

Gathering these facts, it’s natural that my maiden visit has to order some Yakitori, or for that matters, Kushiyaki (By the way, for those not so versed in Japanese, Yakitori typically means grilled chicken, and is a form of Kushiyaki, which literally means skewers).

Sumire Salad, $6.80++

Let’s begin with their house salad, which include chicken and sesame dressing. This is rather appetising and the veggie are very fresh.

Yakitori Mentai Jyu, $15.80++

My dining partner wanted some rice, so she ordered this Yakitori Mentai Jyu, which comprises of assorted skewers, rice, marinated cod fish roe, and seaweed. The taste is rather good, but diners don’t get to choose the skewers, and it may or may not come with something you less desire. For example, Sumire also serves chicken heart, chicken skin, chicken liver etc, some may not like those, but fortunately, I think those didn’t feature here.

Asparagus Bacon with Garlic Soy Sauce (L) $3.90++, Enoki Bacon with Garlic Soy Sauce (R) $3.90++

Both Asparagus Bacon and Enoki Bacon skewers come with either their own Yakitori Sauce or Garlic Soy Sauce, I had them both in Garlic Soy Sauce. The Enoki Bacon was yummy, but I find the Asparagus a bit stringy, overall, the taste was good.

Momo Green Pepper (Shio), $2.90++

Momo Green Pepper is basically chicken thigh meat with green pepper, I had it with light salt, and found it marvellous! Not overly grilled, and the sparse salt really brings up the flavour than having sauce in my opinion.

Momo (Tare), $2.90++

This is grilled chicken thigh, I had it in their original Yakitori sauce. But I have to confess, having tried their Momo Green Pepper in Shio, I somewhat regret didn’t have this in light salt too. Nevertheless, the meat’s still tender and nicely grilled.

Tsukune (Cheese), $4.90++

I don’t usually like chicken meatball, but here I was enchanted by the cheesy gravy, I though the composition sounds interesting, but eventually the only wow factor was the cheese. It’s not Sumire’s fault really, just that I find chicken meatball tastes mediocre, and Sumire ain’t able to change my perception on that. That said, their Tsukune comes in 2 different sizes, the big balls you see here comes with 2 on the skewer, the small balls come in three. Same price, and diners get to choose between Yakitori Sauce, Teri Mayo, Cheese, and Raw Egg.

Chipi Bacon, $5.90++

This is the most expensive among the Kushiyaki I ordered, and it certainly didn’t fail. With Japanese green pepper and cheese wrapped within bacon, it’s my kind of tea. The savoury of the cheese, blending with sweetness of the bacon, along with the neutralising green pepper, it’s absolutely tantalising!

Tori Kawa (Shio), $2.20++

This item kept me waited the longest, until I almost forgotten about it. This is chicken skin, I have it lightly salted rather than coating with their Yakitori sauce. Again, that proved to be a wise choice. Having it crisp with sparse salt brings out its best taste in my opinion.

To conclude, although Sumire classified themselves as a Yakitori restaurant, but you have seen here they offer more than just grilled chicken. In fact, they also have some very interesting ingredients on their menu, such as Wagyu, Foie Gras, and even Daisen chicken specially imported from Japan! Although Daisen chicken is not one of the best three chickens in Japan, but it’s very famous in Sanin region, where I just came back from, the locals there are very proud of agricultural products from around Daisen area. Even in Japan, Daisen chicken are not easily found outside that region.

Sumire Yakitori House やきとり家すみれ
80 Middle Road
#01-88/89
Singapore 188966
Tel: +65 63389963
Email: sumirebugis@dinsg.com
Website: https://www.sumire.com.sg
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SumireSG/

Opening hours ~
Daily: 11:30 hr – 22:00 hr
(Closed between 15:00 hr – 17:00 hr from Mon – Thu)

Tengawa Hokkaido White Curry(天川北海道ホワイトカレー)

Published July 17, 2018 by piggie

First and foremost, this is a food tasting event initiated by JPassport, where invited guests get to sample actual portion of Tengawa Hokkaido White Curry’s 0-4 degree aged Iberiko Loin Katsu with Rice Set and their Spicy White Curry Ramen/Udon Set.

Located at probably the most prominent spot of Millenia Walk’s Nihon Street, Tengawa Hokkaido White Curry is the first and only restaurant in Singapore specialise in Japanese white curry. When they just started, they only had 3 types of set meals on their menu, but have now progressively increased to around 8. Their set meals generally comprise of main course, Chawanmushi, and soup.

Spicy White Curry Ramen/ Udon Set (Chawanmushi and Clam soup not in picture), $16.80++

Patrons get to choose between ramen noodle or udon for their Spicy White Curry Ramen/Udon set. I stick with ramen because that’s what Hokkaido is famous for. And the ramen was served rather promptly upon ordering, so much faster than the accompanying Chawanmushi, that we had to wait another 10~15 minutes for the latter. I couldn’t wait for the Chanwanmushi, as I needed to take this picture before the noodle turned soggy. I’ll touch on the Chawanmushi and the soup when I come to the 0-4 degree aged Iberiko Loin Katsu with Rice Set later.

Let’s begin with their signature broth.

The ramen broth was light, sweet, and milky when it was served, with little hint of spiciness. It is no secret that milk is the main ingredient for the creamy flavour in the bonito broth, but what impressed me was the use of imported Hokkaido milk! To sidetrack a little, Japan milk is on a class of its own, I don’t know how the Japanese farmers did it, but the richness is top notch. And among them, Hokkaido milk is generally regarded as the best and is often used in premium desserts. It is hence, no surprise that Tengawa also serves Hokkaido milk amongst their list of beverages. I’m sorry, I often get carried away whenever it comes to Japanese milk. Let me get back to the noodle. As I mentioned, the broth was not at all spicy, at least not until it was stirred along with the dried chilli in the broth, which then gave the broth a good spicy kick. And then, the presence of onion also adds additional dimension. Rather unconventionally, the ramen did not come with the usual charshu, but Iberiko (Iberico, pardon me, Japanese tends to use the letter ‘c’ and ‘k’ interchangeably) pork belly, which in my opinion, is much sweeter. The ramen noodle used is the conventional Hokkaido medium curly noodle, thought to be the best in retaining broth, and very true in this case. In addition, the usual suspects, tamago, seaweed, and scallion made their presence too. Overall, the taste is rather appetising, and tasted somewhat like Laksa, substituting the sinful coconut milk with Hokkaido milk here of course.

0-4°C aged Iberiko Loin Katsu with Rice Set, $19.80++

Literally, why it was named as such truly puzzled me. It was explained to me that the pork was seasoned in Spain between 0-4°C to achieve that firmness before shipping here (I hope I get it correctly, it’s getting a little technical). I guess such term mostly appeals to professionals in this trade, general diners like me tend to scratch our head. (=.=)”/) LOL! For all I care, I only know Iberico pork is the premium pork, well and above Japan’s very own Kagoshima Kurobuta (widely known as the best pork otherwise, and already commanding a premium price), though honestly I can’t tell the taste difference between them. But if you asking me, my level can only tell they are both superior in taste than Indonesian and Australian pork that are widely available here. Nevertheless, Tengawa certainly didn’t attempt to hide the fact that they are proudly serving premium ingredients to their customers. Not to mention their effort in presenting this dish. Ever notice the floral pedals? They are genuine, not painting. These are specially imported from Japan too! It is thus an injustice to claim their food plating is mere Instagram savvy, over and above, this is an art! Strictly speaking, you usually only expect to find such treat in posh restaurants, but dining at Tengawa won’t burn a hole in your pocket. Though naturally, it’s unfair to expect the ambience of a posh restaurant here. If anything, I do find the plate excessively large, so big that it almost cover half the width of my table, a stark contrast to the food portion in it. Having said that, Tengawa offer free flow curry, soup, and rice (Note: to be fair, it’s not meant for sharing!), I would have asked for refills if I’m paying my own bill! So, I suppose I can say, the portion is practically unlimited but was given as such to avoid wastage (and possibly more picturesque too).

Anyway, the tonkatsu has a good balance of tenderness and firmness, embedded within crisp breadcrumbs. The spotlight, of course, has to be on the curry. It is very unlike the one found in their ramen, the gravy here is reasonably thicker, less flavourful than conventional Japanese curry, but possesses a more intense milk aroma. I’d say the taste is rather exceptional. Let’s not forget the rice, which I heard Tengawa is using Akitakomachi. The tastiest rice on Earth is said to be Niigata Koshihikari, notably those from Uonuma. My understanding is that Akitakomachi is a close second, on par with Hokkaido’s Yumepirika. It is cheaper and easier to acquire Akitakomachi. But for general diners, usually it’s not easy to distinguish. To a certain extent, much also depends on how it’s cooked. And I have to say Tengawa has cooked it rather well balance, not overly sticky, thus complement well with their curry.

About their Chawanmushi, I must say, it’s very well received from many other diners too. I have a feeling it’s only cooked when we placed order, because it took well over 10 minutes for it to be served, about the same time required to cook a Chawanmushi (excluding time for preparation). Tengawa’s Chawanmushi emphasise on taste and simplicity, with only a small slice of chicken underneath, a fresh prawn and broccoli on top, and infused with truffle oil. I feel its appearance is rather Zen-like, but what’s important is that it has a silky texture with an excellent aroma, and not excessively salty. Very few restaurants have their side dish in the spotlight, Tengawa is one of those exceptional ones with their Chawanmushi.

In any other Japanese restaurants, Miso soup is expected to be served. I am surprise to find out Tengawa is offering clear bonito clam soup instead, which is rather refreshing. It seems Tengawa aspire to be a little different, and certainly demonstrating sufficient efforts to show for it. What I haven’t mentioned, is Tengawa’s impeccable service. At first, I thought we were treated indifferently because we were invited guests, but a check on internet and their Facebook page reveals otherwise. If you come to this page via search engine, chances are, you will also find many more good reviews on them. In conclusion, I’m looking forward to visiting Tengawa again, next time as paying guest.

Tengawa Hokkaido White Curry 天川北海道ホワイトカレー
9 Raffles Boulevard
#02-16, Millenia Walk
Singapore 039596
Tel: +65 62651314
Website: http://japanesecurry.business.site/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TengawaWhiteCurry/

Opening hours ~
Daily: 11:30 hr – 21:30 hr