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Restaurant review: Four Japanese restaurants in Singapore

Kinki Japanese Restaurant & Bar

Customs House

70 Collyer Quay #02-02 +65 6533 3471


Sushi restaurants generally have a particular type of look: they’re minimalist with wooden tables, and as dark as the cave Plato fixated on. So when my partner and I were greeted by a tsunami of light from Kinki’s floor-to-ceiling windows, I wondered if we were in the right place. A reassuring waiter showed us to our table.

Kinki is a new sushi restaurant in the old Customs House on the waterfront of Collyer Quay and so enjoys a front row seat for fireworks over Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer. But we weren’t there for the view; we were there for a French chef’s take on Japanese cuisine in Singapore.

What does a French chef do with sushi? Adds foie gras, of course. The foie gras and scallop sushi ($22) is one of Kinki’s signature dishes and is a surprising success. The rich, smooth taste of goose liver with the rice is odd at first, but there’s a hint of wasabi on the scallop that pleasingly cleanses the palate at the end of each bite.

The more traditional chicken teriyaki ($18) and giant sea prawn ($20) were tasty and fresh. However, the pomegranate miso black cod was just too avant garde for our taste buds.

Sizeable helpings meant that we could only manage to share the black sesame ice cream ($5). It was a perfect balance of dulcet creaminess with a strong sesame flavour.  By now the sun had set and the glamorous city lights had emerged, so we thought it only right to reflect over a couple of generously alcoholic mojitos.
Kate Mallord


Takumi Tokyo

2 Keppel Bay Vista

Marina at Keppel Bay

+65 6271 7414

Takumi Tokyo has a teppanyaki grill and an a la carte menu, but Roy and I are here for the robotayaki set menu ($100): seven courses, all charcoal grilled. We’re told the special binchotan charcoal emits negative ions that aid relaxation. Well!

If those ions don’t do the trick, a couple of drinks are sure to. A bottle of Kirin beer ($12) is a good palate cleanser, and the sake on offer ranges from the house pour, $18 for 180ml, to $440 for 1.8L. Delightful Ono-san, who presides over the robotayaki counter, applauds our choice of shochu by the glass ($14) – Westerners hardly drink it, he says, and only Japanese customers ever order the potato variety.

The atmosphere is fantastic. As each item is presented on a giant wooden paddle, called a shamuji, Ono-san and his minions call out its name in triumphal chorus; and each drink is presented with joyful yells of “Kanpai!” (bottoms up).

Every course is perfectly prepared, cooked and served: dried stingray fin; skewered tuna neck and white leek; three kinds of seasonal vegetables: small tomatoes, sweet potato and mushroom; a tiger king prawn in the shell; cod fish in miso; skewered chicken wing with Okinawa salt; and Akita-style rice cake with miso soup and pickles.

It’s a light menu, though. If you were feeling really hungry you might have to order a couple of extra items. One thing is sure: they’d also be wonderful.
Verne Maree


Ippudo Tao

207 River Valley Road

UE Square #01-55/56

+65 6887 5315

When Ippudo first opened in Mandarin Gallery, its reputation for killer ramen earned it a never-ending queue of eager diners. If patience isn’t your thing, the edgier Ippudo Tao on River Valley Road is just as good.

My cousin and I ordered our drinks – a glass of tongarashi umeshu (spicy plum wine, $6) and a milky Calpis sour ($6) – before diving into the long list of appetisers: fluffy pork buns ($3 each), tofu salad ($7) and a selection of grilled skewers including chicken heart and eggplant. My favourite? The buta kakuni onsen tamago ($12), a heavenly collaboration of stewed pork belly and soft-boiled egg.

When it’s time for the ramen, we prepare ourselves for greatness, chopsticks at the ready. No disappointments here. The hearty broth, which takes over 20 hours to prepare, may be a smidge too salty for some, but the miso paste adds depth. There are two types of ramen (thin and thick) served in different broths. I preferred the tao kuro ($15): thick noodles, richer broth.

Sweets are simple: try the incredible creamy custard pudding which hides liquid caramel at the bottom; a Japanese relative of crème caramel, perhaps.
Victoria Yi

Ginza Bairin

ION Orchard #B4-39


One of the plethora of casual Japanese eateries that have mushroomed in the ION basement, this is a Ginza speciality tonkatsu restaurant – Ginza referring to the fashionable Tokyo neighbourhood, and tonkatsu being breaded pork cutlets.

Some desultory shopping has whetted our appetites, so we start with a serving of cheese croquettes ($3 each) – surprisingly good, but then again, what’s not to like about cheese coated in breadcrumbs specially flown in from a particular bakery in Tokyo, deep-fried and served piping hot?

Theirs is billed as the Number One Donburi in Japan, so we have to try the special black pig katsudon ($16.90): rice-based and topped with a soft egg to keep it moist. It’s a real rib-sticker – good to warm you up on a wintry Tokyo night – but we prefer the tonkatsu char siew ramen ($15.50), a generous portion of succulent, tasty pork in a broth that’s thick with flavour.

Portions are huge; we can’t manage a starter and two mains between us. This place is bright, cheap and cheerful, and worth a try.
Verne Maree