Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sakari Sushi Restaurant, Orchid Hotel

One of the blogs that I follow quite religiously is The Travelling Hungryboy which is run by American-Asian Brian Ma, and his brand of writing is very candid and informal which makes it fun to read. He also updates very regularly, which is a particularly important trait for a food blogger. He recommended "Sakari Sushi Restaurant" as having a very good chirashi, so I decided to pop by on my day off - one day after coming back from Japan - to see what the hype is all about.

But the first time I came, I didn't have the chirashi; I was blown away by the awesome sushi at Sushi Tokami (which you can read my review here), so I wanted to see what Singapore could offer. I guess perhaps expectations should be toned down due to the quality of the fish, but I wanted to see what this place was about. So I said to Chef Paul (also known as "Sushi Paul"): Omakase please!

We started off with squid (ika) - good texture, chewy but not being too firm. The meal was off to a good start. I would have preferred more vinegar in the rice but that's always a matter of personal preference and I know Singaporeans don't like too vinegared rice. 

Next up, a fish which had a gelatinous crunchy texture, perfumed with some yuzu and ikura. A good dish though I wish I could still recall its name! Never mind. It was good. 

We were then served with a kampachi (or was it hamachi - my memory is failing) which was quite good; flavourful.

The kohada was well-prepared, flavourful, tasty - with good fish oils. 

I particularly enjoyed the shako (or mantis shrimp), which had great crustacean flavour, very prawny. After all it's a giant prawn - it had a good seafood flavour.

Next up - sea eel (anago), which had good flavour; certainly well-seasoned.

We were then served with negitoro, seasoned with some spring onions. A pretty flavourful dish, good quality of tuna. 

And we ended off with some bonito with ginger. Good.

Overall, the sushi omakase at Sakari Sushi was pretty good, although I think the price was relatively high especially for lunch, if we were just to eat the sushi omakase alone. I guess you always pay a premium for omakase anyway. Certain pieces - like the squilla (shako) and the anago - were very good, quite comparable to what you will get in Japan. I thought the rice could have been more flavourful as I do appreciate more flavour in sushi rice, to pair with fish. But then again I think it would make much more sense to do dinner - if we are eating sushi omakase - rather than for lunch, since a comparative sushi omakase at Shinji or Hashida would set you back S$300 per person.

Now, moving on to the chirashi don, which I had on a subsequent occasion. It was good! A small bowl - almost a miniature Aoki bowl but at 2/5 of the price, But it was chockful of ingredients that you would not normally see in a chirashi don, for example - Kohada. Very fresh fish, a good assortment; and you could tell that the fish was of a much higher grade than some of the other places. And at S$22 (average) - it was good value. I would come back for the chirashi don lunch, certainly. This for me is a 8/10.

As you will note from the photos, I have had the chirashi a few times. Haha. 

The ambience of Sakari is quite "zen" - there are lots of bricks on the wall and a pleasant woody atmosphere throughout. I guess, as it's not so popular yet, it's a good place for a pleasant conversation. 
Would recommend.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pantler, Telok Ayer Street

It seems that one of the recent trends in the Singapore food scene is the opening of specialised artisan patisseries and boulangeries - offering premium cakes and utilising top-quality ingredients (and often charging prices to match). Flor Patisserie, K-Ki, Patisserie Glace, ABC Boulangerie, have opened; and they compete with more established brands such as Gobi, Plain Vanilla, and the like. One of the most anticipated openings was the opening of Pantler, whose baker and owner used to work in the Hyatt in Tokyo. Now given that the cakes standard is Tokyo is second to none, the presence of a chef who arrived from a five-star hotel in Tokyo is - certainly and hopefully - a badge of quality.

And I think it didn't disappoint. I've been to Pantler on 2 occasions already as it is very near my office. The decor of the place sports a zen-like interior - minimalist walls, lots of black, sparse interior decoration. The focus of the display really showcases the cakes well.

The first time I arrived - I had a citron tart, which was pretty good, featuring a good balance between the tartness and sweetness and a good crumbly base. (7.5/10)

The second time I visited - which was this afternoon - I treated myself to a Pear Tart. This was really quite superb, featuring very pure flavours, the right amount of sweetness (could be less in fact) and very ripe fruit. The flavours of the Bartlett pear was spot on, and there was the almond / fragipane filling below the pear slices which were delicious too. (8.5/10)

There are many other cakes on offer - including many interesting species like a "ruby" tart featuring grapefruit, and Hyatt's famous chocolate layered cake. Next time!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sakuraya, West Coast Plaza

One of the places that have recently become a favourite of mine is Sakuraya, located at West Coast Plaza. I'm quite fortunate as my church is literally next door from West Coast Plaza, so Sakuraya is extremely convenient for me - as a quick "snack" after music practice, or after church. 

The concept is somewhat like a "fish market" - you select your piece of sashimi, and they slice it up for you for dine-in. They also offer some donburis, including my favourite barachirashi, which comes - as you will note in the photo - with all sorts of assorted ingredients including tuna, tai, hamachi, tamago, etc, all chopped up into bite size pieces. Eating the barachirashi is a pleasure in itself, as the small size of the pieces of fish leads to better mouthfeel. 

The rice could be far better though: it is usually quite hard and lacks the vinegary taste of a good sushi rice which I enjoy. Overall: 8/10

S and I are "sashimi" buddies - we would enjoy a large plate of sashimi every time we get to dine at Sakuraya. This was Norwegian salmon and hamachi. The hamachi was really good, full of fish oils (as it's coming to winter time): 8.25/10. This time the salmon wasn't so up to par, being rather powdery in nature rather than being smooth. 6.5/10.

This is a place that I patronise quite often, and I thank God there's such a place near me. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mezza9 Champagne Brunch, Hyatt Singapore

I'm usually not a big fan of buffets - since, you know, I get full pretty fast and buffets tend to have substandard food i.e. not plated well, not much taste, and the "pig" in me just wants to eat more and more leaving little room to savour the intricate flavours of the food (if there are indeed such flavours). It was M's birthday, and he said he booked champagne brunch at Mezza9 @ Hyatt - and what's better than some champagne and free flow of oysters! 

The selection was ginormous - there was an appetizer station featuring freshly-shucked oysters, lobsters, crabs, large prawns, jamon, rock melon, and some salads; a Chinese station where one could order sio-bak and pipa duck amongst other roasts; a grill station where there was pasta cooked to order and other meats such as lamb leg, striploin, pork belly, etc; a Japanese station where we had access to sashimi (yellowtail; salmon belly; swordfish; hamachi all included), sushi, miso soup, etc; and of course, a dessert selection, as well as a cheese room. All this came with free flow champagne (Perrier Jouet), red wine, white wine, etc - and juices if you'd like. The price is SGD138++ which is I thought a pretty reasonable deal considering that a wedding dinner would already set you back SGD180 and the food isn't that good anyway (for most wedding dinners).

I munched through the seafood first - the oysters were really good for a buffet, freshly shucked to order which meant that they were fresh - briny, slightly sweet, and delicious - man I'd love to have some more even as I'm blogging. 
The littleneck clams were great too - quite delicious. Then we had some lobster (not that nice); crab (was good - rather sweet); and prawns, of course - big and fresh. I had some jamon with rock melon too - all that washed down with the champagne. 

And of course, I had a plate of sashimi as well: very fresh swordfish replete with delicious oils; yellowtail was great as well, very fresh and with lovely fish oils; salmon belly is always a treat sine it's extra fatty - the tuna was slightly disappointing even though it's bluefin tuna (I guess the experience at Sushi Tokami has killed tuna for me forever).

Also tried some yakitori - the chicken balls were not bad, and so were the pork that was grilled with leek.

We moved on to mains, and the striploin was good - I requested that it be charred longer on the grill to bring out the flavour and it went well with the red wine sauce. What was a highlight was the pork belly - succulent pork fats on the outside, crispy skin, and very strong flavours of pork. Washed down well with the cabernet sauvignon.

To finish, I visited the cheese room, and asked for a cheese sampler. I sampled five different types, which were artfully presented on my plate with some bread and chutney, and arranged from mildest to strongest. All of them were great, very fine cheeses from boutique producers in Switzerland and France. Yummy. The cheese was one of the highlights, sampling cheese washed down with the cabernet sauvignon which made a good match.

The restaurant also provided a cheesecake provided for M's birthday, which was a nice touch. And the cheesecake itself was great (I'm a big fan of cheesecakes, poor waistline of mine).

Overall, one of the best buffet experiences in Singapore and certainly if I were rich I'd be eating here more often. Ha. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Seryna, Shinjuku

Just a quick post before I head to Sentosa for Adult Playground organised by a friend of mine. This was shabu-shabu at Seryna, which has a pretty affordable lunch set at about Y5000 which featured wagyu beef (look at that marbling) and crab! 

The crab was good stuff, sweet and of good quality - and the trick is to blanch it in the shabu shabu water for about 2 minutes. The beef was very well-marbled as well. 

A shout-out to the great sesame and ponzu dipping sauce - never knew the combination was so good.

(I'm never a big shabu-shabu fan since I much prefer the sweetness of a sukiyaki. This was good though).

Value for money: go during lunch, as the price skyrockets during dinner. 

The view from the Shinjuku outlet, located ontop of the Sumimoto building - is fantastic too. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Jin Fine Dining, Far East Square (Amoy Hotel)

Dr Leslie Tay (ieatishootipost) posted about this new joint that just opened at Amoy Hotel, named Jin Fine Dining. Apparently they served a mean bara-chirashi for only SGD18 and use top quality fish. As I'm a great fan of good chirashi-don, I jumped at the opportunity to try this.

I popped down on a Tuesday night to Amoy Hotel located at Far East Square - the restaurant actually occupies the atrium of the building, which is - nice - since you get good air-conditioning and the benefit of the hotel decor.

Chef Thomas was formerly from Hokkaido Sushi Restaurant - and I had a little chat with him, as I always do when I visit new places.

I ordered the chirashi set - and it was pretty good. What particularly impressed me was the rice: that was the most delicious and flavourful sushi rice I've eaten for a long time (in Singapore) - was perhaps on par with the rice from Tatsuya. It was so delicious, flavoured with lots of fish, vinegar, etc. As for the fish, they were undoubtedly fresh; however - the tuna was Indonesian tuna instead of hon-maguro so the flavour was far less delicious and rather chewy, in fact. This was about a (7.75/10). I will come back when they have more fish and maybe I'll "update" the ranking. 

The SGD80.00 omakase set (ieat set) also seems like a good deal, come to think of it. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sushi Tokami, Ginza, Tokyo (鮨とかみ)

I visited Sushi Tokami (鮨とかみ) on a recommendation from a poster on the Chowhound forum, which is one of the foodie sites that I visit when I need recommendations, especially in relation to overseas places. I had high hopes for Sushi Tokami, because it was my first real sushi full omakase meal in Japan and because the Chowhounders were commenting on how good the chef's tuna is, and I'm certainly a big tuna fan. It was slightly difficult to find this place, located at the basement of Ginza Silver Seiwa building, a building quite near Shimbashi station in Ginza, and which is full of KTV joints. The interior was quite posh, featuring a few private tables and - of course - the sushi counter which could seat about 9 comfortably.

The chef then greeted us and we told him that we came from Singapore. He was - thankfully - very friendly and affable,  and relatively fluent in English as well which was nice, as he could speak to us regarding the food that he was about to serve us.

We were first served with a Tuna Tossaki temaki - the "tossaki" is apparently the backside near the tuna's neck and is high in flavour. When I first popped the temaki in my mouth, my eyes literally "lit" up - this tuna tossaki had such intensity and depth of flavour - such a rich and deep flavour almost like eating well-aged meat. It paired well with the salty akazu vinegar rice (shari) which was a lovely counterpoint to the tuna. I had a second helping at the end of the meal - it was that insane. This was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the meal (9.25/10)

The second dish we had was mushrooms with some asparagus. The mushrooms had a very earthy flavour, very robust, and lifted with some grated yuzu. This was another solid appetizer: 8/10.

The sashimi course was next - we had a buri sashimi which was incredibly delicious, with really tasty fish oils oozing out. Very elegant, clean aftertaste. 

The buri belly (the white piece at the background) was also incredibly good - very yummy fish oils, and certainly more fatty. 
Oishi! (9/10)

Next up was an abalone which had superb flavour - very clean tasting and flavourful. Good texture as well, being nice and firm. (8/10)

Aburi saba marinated in miso. Such an intense mackerel flavour, the torching of the fish brings out all those fish flavours and complements it with a slight smoky edge.  So pure and flavourful. (8.75/10)

Kawahagi liver was next - this was just so creamy (8.5/10)

Next up - a superbly delicious Hokkaido oyster - so creamy and full of that sea taste ending in a long finish. This was marinated with a slight shoyu. Yummy! So creamy! (8.75/10)

Next up - flounder done two ways: one was with salt and pepper - fresh and flavourful; the other was marinated with shoyu and yuzu and that was full of umami. 

This came accompanied by a golden cherry which was sweet, tart and juicy, somewhat like a cherry tomato. Very refreshing indeed. (8.25/10)

That signalled the end of the appetizers - and we then moved on to the sushi proper. 

The first course was a hirame (flounder) - which had good flavour (7.75/10)

Second - ika with yuzu - pretty tender and chewy, which was great. (7.5/10) (not really a fan of ika)

Third, we had a kamasu, or Japanese barracuda. Again, a very pure fish flavour (a "fish oil" taste) - pairing well with the red vinegar shari. Another oishi fish. (8.75/10)

The undoubted star of the show came next - the maguro. As mentioned, they say that Sushi Tokami has the best maguro in Tokyo and I can totally see why! This was undoubtedly, by leaps and bounds, the best maguro I have ever eaten in my life, and certainly one of the highlights of Sushi Tokami. So red in colour, so rich in flavour, with a depth of flavour not seen from any other fish - full of that tuna flavour, like a good dry aged meat. This is how God intended sushi to taste - an almost transcendental experience. 

I thank God for letting me enjoy this maguro. Yums. (9.5/10)

The chutoro was also pretty good - very deep rich tuna flavour, slightly more floral and delicate due to the higher levels of fat. Good long finish - the oils linger on and on. (9/10)

The otoro was brilliant as well - it tasted awesome. Rich flavours of fat, luxurious mouthfeel, so tasty - pairing perfectly with the red vinegar shari. (9.25/10)

Moving on to stronger tasting fish, the kohada had clean fresh flavours, lightly salty, savoury meat. Great. (8.5/10)

This ebi was apparently of top quality - the prawns were freshly steamed and peeled in front of you. Sweet taste. (8.5/10)

Creamy uni was next - floral and delicate. Good stuff and top drawer. (8.5/10)

This was baby snapper marinated in konbu, which had a delicate flavour. (8.5/10)
I am starting to enjoy fresh mackerel (saba) more and more. This was a joy to eat - very fresh, delicate and pure; a complex taste at the back of my tongue, and a long aftertaste. (9/10)

Next up - ikura. This was also very nice, accompanied by some yuzu. (8.25/10)

Anago was delicious. the anago was done two ways: with the usual sauce, and grilled with salt and pepper. Delicious flavours. 8.75/10

We also had some tamago (not pictured) which had a great pudding-like texture. (8.5/10)

Chef Sato-san then asked if we wanted anything else. I asked for more tuna tossaki temaki and was rewarded with another - though sadly it tasted better the first time! I guess we were already satiated. 

Finally, we had tuna tossaki soup to round off the meal. Apparently this is good for the complexion.

Overall, a fantastic, exceptional and transcendent experience. I gave thanks to God for the meal, and I can finally imagine that this is what God intended sushi to taste like. Awesome. One of the most wonderful meals I have eaten in my life and certainly the best Japanese meal so far. Oiiishi!