After so long, I finally managed to try Nobu-Ya (Middle Road), a little hole in the wall in Fortune Centre (Middle Road) that's reminiscent of the many izakayas in Tokyo or indeed in other parts of Japan. It is reputed to offer some of the best izakaya fare on this little island, and so I did not hesitate to suggest it when a few friends needed a place to chill and hang out.
Ambience wise, there's nothing much to boast about: it's just humble chairs and tables (stools, more like). But I guess that's not the draw here. There's a huge sake list of many reputable brands - and even a Japanese sake sommelier - so just ask him and he will be happy to recommend something.
Sapporo is on draft, and it tastes pretty good; much better than many a Sapporo I have had elsewhere. We started with chicken kara-age; crispy and fried on the outside. Not bad though probably not the best I've eaten due to their preference for using breast meat. 7/10
What I really loved, however, was the buri sashimi. Buri is the yellowtail when it has grown to a large size - more than 5kg and I first had the chance to try it at Sushi Tokami when it was soooo delicious. Here, it was just as good; super oishii, very tasty; lovely fish oil flavour. Yummy - I wanted to order more of these. The fish flavours were just so clean and yummy. 8.5/10
We also ordered the buri cheeks - which was done shio style. These were pretty good as well: crispy and with clean fish flavour.
Next up: vinegared Tako (octopus) - pretty yummy. It was very refreshing, and it tasted really good. The tako itself was slightly chewy but not hard at all. Good stuff. 7/10
I really enjoyed the braised beef tendon; it was braised in a delicious sauce which I was only too happy to slurp up. The beef itself was of course flavourful. 8/10
One of the highlights of the meal was ankimo (monkfish liver) just steamed. The flavour of the ankimo was just awesome; think foie gras but lighter, with the flavour of the oceans - of intense fish. Very distinctive flavour and something I really enjoyed. I shall have to hunt for more of these. 8.5/10
We then had some other braised beef - these were good, it flaked well but we were all in agreement that the tendon edged this. 7/10
A cod hot-pot followed. A comforting dish certainly, especially with the copious amounts of sake we were drinking; the fish was fresh and the broth comforting.
The Matsuki beef was great. Even though this was a small portion, rest assured that the flavour packs a wallop - almost like liver in terms of taste. A very raw, wild, kind of flavour which I really enjoy in beef. (8/10)
Lastly, shio snapper. An ugly sight but the fish was perfectly grilled; just tender, just past the point of being "cooked", and not at all tough. Perfect grilling. 8/10
Overall, Nobu-Ya has shot up to one of my top izakaya joints in Singapore, and is certainly worth a visit for its relatively wallet-friendly pricing, extensive sake list, and delicious Japanese izakaya fare. And with the constantly rotating seasonal menu, you wouldn't be bored.
Two thumbs up!