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Archive for the ‘Japanese’ Category

Hokkaido Izakaya has potential. Not everything I tasted was great, but there’s enough to make me happy enough to want to make a repeat visit.

Certified by the Hokkaido City Council to promote Hokkaido produce in Singapore, Hokkaido Izakaya gets its produce from just four cities – seafood from Yakumo Town (a town which faces both the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean); vegetables and cheeses from Furano City (that lavender place!); wines and beef from Kamishihoro City (where cows outnumber people); and oysters from Akkeshi Town, the leading oyster producing area in Japan.

So, authenticity checked?

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Authentic or not, two appetizers didn’t agree with my palate – scallop liver with sesame oil and cubes of cream cheese marinated with miso. Too creamy but to be fair, if you like shirako and ankimo etc, you will probably enjoy these.

Scallop Liver ($9++); Cream Cheese ($7++)

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Actually, make that three unimpressive appetizers. The cucumber slices dressed with konbu were fine but certainly nothing interesting to warrant an order.

Cucumber ($5++)
with salted konbu seaweed

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Served warm, the potato salad uses Hokkaido potatoes and is mixed ‘live’ with egg, shredded vegetables and a generous spoonful of mayonnaise. Check out the video here haha.

Potato Salad ($9++)

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Chicken wings = essential bar grub I suppose.

Chicken Wing ($6++)

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I love tamago so naturally I love this! So soft and fluffy, good stuff. Will have to ask for butter on the side next time because smothering it with butter is overkill after a few bites.

Japanese Omelette ($10++)
mixed with milk

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While not the best value-for-money dish in the house, the grilled scallop was tasty nonetheless.

Grilled Scallop ($10++)

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I’m usually not a fan of starchy food but Hokkaido potatoes are really delicious! Especially when fried like these croquettes.

Potato Croquette ($8++)

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Hokkaido is famous for its milk and other dairy products so don’t be surprised when your hotpot comes with a milky broth. This comforting pot overflowing with salmon and vegetables is perfect for a cold rainy day. We also had smoked salmon belly (not pictured) which was excellent too!

Milk Hotpot ($18++)
salmon, assorted vegetables

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The lunch menu comprises of their signature soba, handmade in the restaurant using 100% buckwheat flour imported from Hokkaido. The kakiage tempura soba has a great presentation but the kakiage was quite a letdown as it was not as crispy or airy as expected.

Hot Soba ($14++)
kakiage and prawn tempura

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By the end of dinner, I had enough of potatoes but dessert also involved this prized commodity! Served with butter and vanilla ice cream, the steamed potato was a heavy ending, not recommended unless you are still hungry. There’s vanilla ice cream with corn sauce on the dessert menu which I’ll try next time and report back.

Steamed Potato ($7++)
vanilla ice cream

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My thanks to the Food News team for hosting dinner!

Hokkaido Izakaya
95 Tanjong Pagar Road
6221 7118

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It’s all about girls and dolls on Hina Matsuri, a day traditionally celebrated in Japan on 3 March when families wish their daughters success and happiness in life. In line with this time-honoured festival, Mikuni pays tribute for the 4th time through Executive Chef Moon Kyung Soo’s culinary interpretation – an impressive lunch bento thoughtfully arranged to be a feast for the feminine eye and palate that’s only available from 1 to 10 March.

Starter
organic japanese green salad, snow crab, orange, blueberry, black sesame

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Priced at $120++ per person for lunch, the Hina Matsuri bento features an array of elegantly crafted dishes in a dainty tiered box and a complimentary glass of amazake (sweet rice beverage). When the three tiered boxes were carefully served, everyone went “waaaaaaa!” as they were indeed a sight to behold. I wanted to take mine home but Chef Moon said the box is really expensive lol. What I could take home was the menu – prettily printed and designed as a bookmark.

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Pulling out the three drawers was like opening a treasure box filled with edible gems! The top drawer housed a beautiful layer of Mikuni’s signature truffle kanpachi served with a distinctively indulgent black truffle sauce. I’ve tried this before during the past Savour events and the top notch quality has never changed. If it’s your first time at Mikuni, this is a must try!

Sashimi
kanpachi sashimi, truffle soy sauce

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The second drawer is a showcase of eight traditional Japanese appetizers with my favourites such as grilled miso cod, unagi and tamago. Be on the lookout for one quail egg – it’s been cutely disguised ha. The most surprising element for me was the abalone. I usually don’t like abalone because of the chewy texture but I have to say that this slow-cooked version was not rubbery at all. In fact, quite delicious I say.

Assorted Appetizers
8 traditional hassun: grilled miso cod, slow-cooked abalone, eel, octopus, umeboshi plum, asparagus, japanese pickles, miso egg

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I felt sad when the third drawer was revealed as that meant that the end was near. The default chirashi don unveiled is Miyazaki wagyu beef on rice but Chef Moon pampered me with uni instead since I’m a pescetarian. So fresh and creamy! The medley of colours artfully decorated atop sushi rice was lovely too.

Rice
uni chirashi don, seaweed, shrimp, tamago

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The tempura was not oily but not as impressive as the other dishes for sure. I’m generally a big eater (when I want to) and this bento filled me up nicely about 80%. Just right for lunch without the food coma afterwards, I guess.

Tempura
prawn, sweet potato, fish, pumpkin, green bean

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Rounding off the meal is Chef Moon’s rendition of a sweet ending with premium Shizoka musk melon and salt ice cream. The tinge of saltiness in the ice cream seamlessly enhanced the sweetness of the melon, interesting!

Dessert
shizoka musk melon, salted ice cream

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My thanks to Chef Moon and the Fairmont team for hosting us!

Mikuni
Level 3, Fairmont Singapore
80 Bras Basah Road
6431 6156

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There seems to be a trend for my Sumiya dining experiences – lunch usually borders on average but dinner are always much more enjoyable!

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The new Sumiya branch at Suntec City boasts a unique circular Enomatic sake dispenser with 16 different types of Japanese fermented rice wine! Just get a post-paid card from the staff, insert into the machine, press your selection and drink away! The sake range from lighter, easy-to-drink brews to higher quality, more full-bodied varieties meted out in a tasting (20ml from $2.20++), half (60ml) and full (120ml) portion.

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Freshness is key in Japanese cuisine and if there is only one dish you can order (I hope not!), get the bluefin tuna! It’s brilliant – a single cut of imported tuna showcasing three premium parts all at once, i.e. akami, chutoro and otoro. I adore it, of course!

Fresh Bluefin Tuna Sashimi Steak-Style ($68++)
three cuts of sustainably-farmed bluefin tuna in one – akami, chutoro and otoro; served with ponzu, spicy sauce and truffle paste

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A simpler but no less delicious way to enjoy seafood at Sumiya is to order it isoyaki-style. Doused in a house-made soy-dashi broth and grilled in its shell over charcoal, the plump scallop burst with umami flavour tinged with a tantalizing smokiness.

Fresh Hotate Isoyaki ($11.80++)
half-shell scallop charcoal-grilled with soy sauce-dashi broth

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The garden salad is forgettable and not that great value-for-money either.

Garden Salad ($14.80++)
assorted fresh vegetables, crab stick, flying fish roe and potato salad

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Dried fish is a traditional delicacy among the Japanese for thousands of years and despite the name “dried”, the fish is actually very moist and retains its natural juices! A special fish-dry machine is used to achieve this – heat controlled at 30°C replicating the warmth of sun rays is emitted and intensifies the flavour of the fish.

Today’s Homemade Dried Fish ($28.80++)
renkodai, a type of sea bream

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Another blast from the past is irori genshiyaki – an ancient Japanese style of charcoal-grilling fish. This entails skewering whole or selected fish parts and slow-grilling them vertically around a stack of smoldering charcoal for 20-40 minutes. I highly recommend the yellowtail collar – so juicy and tender with evenly crisp skin!

Salt Grilled Yellowtail Collar ($20.80++)
yellowtail collar grilled irori genshiyaki-style and seasoned with salt

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One of the restaurant’s signature is “Can Can Mushi” (a.k.a. ryoshi mushi), a hotpot of sorts inspired by the way Japanese fishermen cook freshly-caught seafood in a tin can on the boat or on shore. Think of it as a Japanese-style steamboat! You can even pick the soup base – original clear broth, tom yum soup, and soy sauce miso-based soup with garlic and chilli. Not my favourite since I’m not a fan of steamboats in general ha.

Today’s Chef’s Ryoshi Mushi (open price, depends on customization of seafood)
“hotpot” filled with assorted seafood – kodai sea bream fish (market price), hiroshima oysters ($4++ each), prawns ($5++ each), scallops ($11.80++ each)

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Desserts are worth a try too! With only 15 precious servings available daily, a pre-order of Sumiya Tropical Dessert is advised. The beautiful hand-carved ice bowl holds multiple colourful gems such as fruits, sago, azuki paste and even matcha ice cream!

Sumiya Tropical Dessert ($18.80++)
cubes of mango, watermelon and rock melon, sago, green tea ice cream and red bean paste in coconut milk sauce

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Other indulgent treats include mango and yogurt with matcha ice cream and deep-fried moreish pumpkin cake. I can’t pick the best out of the lot because my sweet tooth loves them all!

Pumpkin-filled Karinto Manju with Matcha Ice Cream ($8.80++)
crispy deep-fried japanese cake stuffed with pumpkin, served with green tea ice cream and sweet red bean paste

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My thanks to Rachel for hosting dinner!

Sumiya
#03-332 / 333, Suntec City
3 Temasek Boulevard, North Wing
6235 1816

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Have you heard?

Japanese-inspired and serving an array of colourful eclairs and gourmet yogurt parfaits, Karafuru (Japanese for colourful!) is the latest to-go cafe for instagram-worthy desserts!

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There was a period of time when I was cray cray over Windowsill Pies, so imagine how happy I am to find out that Chef Michael Liu (ex-Windowsill Pies creator) is the man behind the unique, one-of-a-kind menu!

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Priced between $6 to $7, each slightly savoury choux is carefully baked before being hand-piped with smooth velvety creams. Karafuru’s eclairs are lighter, fluffier, and more dainty than its French counterparts so expectations need to be managed as some may think the flavours are muted and the pastry too soft.

Ume Shiso ($7)
umeboshi creme, shiso

Black Forest ($7)
kirshwasser creme, candied wild cherries, raspberries, dark chocolate

Marc de Champagne ($7)
marc de champagne creme, marzipan, silver leaves

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Traditional Japanese flavours get a contemporary facelift in the form of an unusual ume shiso, complete with a real shiso leaf! If you like choya, try it! Otherwise, the other “boozy” eclairs include marc de champagne, irish cream and black forest.

Matcha Azuki ($6)
matcha crème, azuki beans, matcha sables

Cafe Au Lait ($6)
milk coffee creme, marzipan, dark chocolate sables

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My personal favourites are the matcha azuki and cafe au lait, as both have strong and distinct flavours. Plus, they go well with UCC coffee (for K) and Lupicia tea (I highly recommend peach momo)!

Irish Cream ($7)
coffee whiskey creme, mascarpone chantilly, toasted almonds

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A generous swirl of freshly made yogurt soft serve sits atop a plate surrounded by a spread of moist souffle cake, wobbly pudding, Japanese dango balls and thin buttery langue de chat… That’s Karafuru’s spin on the classic Japanese parfait!

Gianduja Parfait ($16)
hazelnut souffle, chocolate pudding, hazelnut and orange crisp, dark chocolate curd, candied orange, curaçao sauce

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My heart broke when I was told that the matchazuke parfait was sold out (go early, especially on weekends!) so I settled for gianduja (chocolate will never fail) and the more interesting daizu with white miso souffle, soybean pudding and kinako sauce. I didn’t fancy every element (like those chewy dango balls) but what won my heart were the creamy soft serve, dense “souffle” (quite a misnomer) cakes and the hazelnut orange crisp! Now I can’t wait to try the matcha parfait!

Daizu ($16)
white miso souffle, soymilk pudding, kuromitsu, sesame dango, ‘rice stalks’, kinako cream

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My thanks to Joseph for the sweet treats!

Karafuru Desserts
8 Jalan Klapa
62914430

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A quintessential Japanese winter dish, oden is traditionally served in a pot of light dashi and a mixture of 4-5 ingredients such as boiled eggs, fish cake and daikon. To me, it is simply the Japanese equivalent of yong tau foo and HAN has taken one step further to modernize it by serving each ingredient in individual courses, allowing the distinctive taste of each component to be highlighted in every dish.

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Go all out and opt for the (comprehensive but expensive) HAN’s Oden Kaiseki ($160++) which includes an appetizer, sashimi, 7 kinds of oden, 1 grilled course, 1 fried course, a choice between udon or ochazuke and dessert. That may sound like a lot of food but at the end of my dinner, I felt comfortably full as the entire meal was generally light and clean-tasting.

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With versions of oden differing according to region, HAN has chosen to serve Kansai-style oden, native to the southern-central region of Japan’s main island of Honshu. This region spans the prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Okayama and uses a light shoyu in their oden. Although Executive Chef Seiichiro Arakawa’s interpretation of oden reflects the style of cooking in Kamigata, Osaka, his version uses a white shoyu which yields an even clearer broth and sweeter taste.

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According to Chef Arakawa, the best oden is guided by three principles. The first is to ensure precise seasoning so that the ingredient itself has a specific taste. The second requires the dish to be accompanied by a sauce or condiment (e.g. miso or mustard). Lastly, cooking must be used as a vehicle to bring out the natural and purest taste of each ingredient used.

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I like that the oden is cooked and prepared right before the guests seated at the dining counter. Each dish is handcrafted before being placed into simmering oden pots and cooked for a precise length of time. Chef Arakawa uses seasonal ingredients from Japan and incorporates Kaiseki techniques inspired by his training at Kitcho, a Michelin star traditional Ryotei in Kyoto. His oden soup base is prepared with a blend of kelp, dried bonito, white shoyu and mirin while a selection of sauces and condiments are chosen to complement and enhance each dish.

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Menu highlights include fried beancurd cake with mustard which looks and sounds simple but has multiple steps involved – Chef Arakawa presses and mashes the tofu to form a paste, combines it with ground yam, finely diced cloud ear mushrooms and carrots, forms the mixture into balls, fries them and then cooked in the broth before serving! My favourite is definitely the Hokkaido king crab leg, so naturally sweet and succulent that I was almost moved to tears! #dramamama

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Before oden and for the past three years, HAN specializes in kushikatsu, i.e. skewered meat/seafood/vegetables dipped in batter and panko (breadcrumbs) and deep-fried in oil. I have never believed in frying fresh seafood but at least these were expertly fried and not oily at all!

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After all the seafood dishes, the wasabi ochazuke and fresh seasonal Japanese melon/peach were a refreshing change!

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P.S. Those looking for the complete oden experience can select HAN’s Oden Omakase ($120++) which includes an appetizer, 12 different types of oden (truly for the oden lovers!), 2 palate cleansers, a choice of udon or ochazuke and dessert. Alternatively, ala carte oden is available at market price.

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Special thanks to Ada for hosting dinner!

HAN Cuisine of Naniwa
#01-04, Odeon Towers
331 North Bridge Road
+65 6336 2466

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Fellow unagi lovers, you won’t want to miss the summer unagi festival “Doyo No Ushi No Hi” at Mikuni!

Celebrated in Japan during the sweltering summer season, referred to as “Doyo”, the Japanese believe that the consumption of nutritious eel helps to increase stamina and beat the summer heat. So from now till 31 August 2015, Executive Chef Moon Kyung Soo will showcase a resplendent display of traditionally cooked unagi dishes through a specially curated lunch and dinner set menu. Live unagi can be seen swimming in the huge tanks at the entrance – imported live from the Aichi prefecture and all ready to be eaten *evil laugh*

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Complemented with the season’s freshest items, the delectably presented dishes are a treat for the senses. Although the 5-course lunch is a subset of the more luxurious 8-course dinner, it looks no less impressive!

Mikuni Eel Special Summer Lunch ($120++)
chef’s seasonal selection of zensai, sashimi, sunomono moriawase, grilled eel on rice, kyushu peach ice cream

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My favourite on the dinner menu ($220++) is the appetizer of delicate barbecued eel jelly with tamago accompanied by tangy smoked salmon yuzu, eel yahata maki burdock and addictive crispy eel bone. All parts of unagi can be eaten and this dish demonstrates exactly that – skin, meat and bone are all creatively utilized!

Chef’s Seasonal Selection – 3 Kinds of Zensai
bbq eel jelly, smoked salmon yuzu, eel yahata maki burdock, eel bone

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Out of the 8-course menu, only the soup and dessert have no unagi in it (I’m not complaining). Warm and comforting, this bowl of beancurd skin and shreds of snow crab seems like a savoury version of the Chinese ginkgo beancurd 腐竹 dessert!

Soup
fresh beancurd skin, hokkaido snow crab, mushroom, yuzu

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No words needed when there’s fresh fatty toro and creamy uni! *bliss*

Seasonal Sashimi
hokkaido sea urchin, aori ika, toro, yellowtail, sea bream

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Beautifully presented in a shell, the plump and delicate grilled “salted” eel is far from salty but naturally sweet and luscious! Have to admit that I’m not a fan of the chewy abalone though.

Grilled Salted Eel
abalone, mikuni sauce, wasabi, daikon

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Each well-seasoned skewer of beef is deep-fried in panko before being topped with a piece of unagi, mustard caviar, flying fish roe and uni. Not for the faint-hearted, these golden skewers are Chef Moon’s take on the traditional Japanese recipe!

Skewers
kagoshima wagyu beef kushikatsu, black truffle, mustard caviar

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My seafood version was equally decadent!

Skewers (Seafood)
salmon, scallop, crab, asparagus

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Sunomono Moriawase
eel, scallop, shrimp, ginger flower, seaweed, tomato

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Highlight of the lunch and dinner menu is definitely the unadon (鰻丼), a.k.a. charcoal grilled eel on rice. Presented in an exquisite lacquer box, the finely grilled and aromatic eel takes center stage with its succulent and tender meat. Incredibly soft!

Charcoal Grilled Eel on Rice
mixed japanese pickle, kyushu shijimi freshwater clam miso soup

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Peaches (momo) are in season now so I was not surprised to see it being featured on this limited-time-only menu. Ripe and juicy Kyushu peach goes extremely well with the smooth ice cream made of peach and yogurt! Wonderful and refreshing end to one of the most memorable meals at Mikuni so far!

Dessert
kyushu peach, raspberry, peach ice cream

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Thank you for hosting dinner, Ruth and Laureen!

Mikuni
Level 3, Fairmont Singapore
80 Bras Basah Road
6431 6156

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… which (un?)fortunately didn’t manage to displace Hanare and Koji from my heart.

#1: Sumiya Charcoal Grill

I enjoyed dinner at Sumiya very much but lunch was a tad underwhelming, especially when there were so many gorgeous photos of the bara kaisen don on my Instagram feed.

Mix Bara Kaisen Don ($18.80++)
assorted seafood sashimi chunks on rice

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Lunch sets come with salad, chawanmushi and mochi for dessert, but I can certainly do without the frills (not even a mochi fan ha) if that means more fish on slightly dry sushi rice. The anago don was better – four long and tender (albeit thin) anago almost spilling out of the bowl, a beautiful sight!

Ni Anago Don ($16.80++)
simmered conger eel on rice

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#2: Manzoku Japanese Restaurant

Again, my expectations were (very) high due to the raves I read on Instagram (I’m an addict!!) lol.

Chirashi Set ちらし寿司 ($25++)
sliced sashimi on rice

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The chirashi don had thick slices of salmon, tuna, swordfish and amberjack, a couple of commercially produced (I guess) tamago, and a spoonful of ikura. Fish was fresh enough but the rice was strangely sweet and wasabi too “fake” (I mean artificial)…

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#3: Hokkaido Sushi Restaurant

Price tag being equal, I much prefer Hokkaido Sushi’s chirashi don to Manzoku’s. It may not be the best nor my favourite, but the generous slices of fish were very fresh!

Chirashi Don ($25++)

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Other than going cray-cray over bara/chirashi, I’ve also had a ridiculous infatuation with maki rolls. Of course, Koh Sushi and The Sushi Bar are unbeatable (to-date) when it comes to rolls but the special maki here is definitely worth a try! I love the contrasting texture from the crispy salmon and soft anago.

Special Maki ($25++)
crispy roll (anago & salmon)

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The highlight though was the platter of salmon sashimi. 20 pieces for $18++, what a great deal! And so fresh, soooo good!

Salmon Sashimi ($18++)
20 pieces

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Sumiya Charcoal Grill
#12-02, Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road
6509 9618
~
Manzoku Japanese Restaurant
18 Purvis Street
6734 4436
~
Hokkaido Sushi Restaurant
M Hotel Singapore Level 9
81 Anson Road
6221 3075

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