Japan is famed for many things, and cuisine must rank near the top of the list. We set out to discover some great Japanese restaurants on the island – read on for our reviews of the best! From sushi and other classics to modern and fusion variations, here are five restaurants to satisfy your Japanese food cravings.
Set amidst a beautifully landscaped Japanese garden and koi pond, the short walk from the main hotel to the entrance of Keyaki will surely set the mood for your meal (zen surrounds and immaculate presentation all around!), and make you feel as though you’ve been transported to a Shinto shrine. Whether you sit in the main dining room, the sushi bar, the teppanyaki counter or one of the private tatami rooms (there’s also the recently built Garden Pavilion for private parties), the experience is sure to be fab. After all, the service is spot on and Chef Shinichi Nakatake’s food is gorgeous.
If you eat Japanese food frequently, it’s easy to just order the same old thing. Which is why opting for a kaiseki, or traditional multi-course Japanese dinner, can be a good way of sampling dishes you probably wouldn’t think to order yourself. Priced at $170 per person, the “Sushi Kaiseki” menu has seven courses, while the nine-course “Kiri Kaiseki” ($200) offers a selection of lobster, sashimi, wagyu, noodles and more. There’s also an “Omakase Kaiseki” ($190) that changes seasonally. Of course, if you prefer to order à la carte, there’s a massive menu to choose from, with everything from tempura, sushi, sashimi and kushiyaki to teppanyaki and udon. Some of our favourite dishes of the night included prawn teppanyaki ($26) accompanied by out-of-this-world garlic fried rice ($9; a must!), echizen zaru soba (chilled buckwheat noodles; $23), the “spider” maki (deep fried soft shell crab roll with fish roe; $18) and the negitoro maki (chopped tuna belly roll with spring onion; $26). The yellowtail sashimi ($7 per piece) was some of the best I’ve tasted – meltin-the-mouth and super fresh; I couldn’t get enough! We suggest ending the meal with the light and refreshing yuzu ice cream ($9).
Star dish: It’s hard to pick just one, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the perfectly sweet and perfectly cooked miso marinated cod ($30) long after we left!
– Amy Greenburg
Located along the stretch of upscale dining establishments in the JW Marriott, Akira Back is a gorgeous 100-seater offering contemporary Japanese cuisine. The space is stylishly furnished with plush leather chairs and designer plates, yet modern with bright pops of colour – a refreshing alternative to grungy industrial themes that seem to be the trend these days.
A partnership with celebrity chef Akira Back, the namesake restaurant goes beyond the classics of Japanese cooking to showcase innovative modJapanese plates that are perfect for sharing. A brilliant starter is the tuna pizza ($26), which features delicately thin slices of raw tuna, umami aioli, micro shiso and truffle oil, beautifully presented atop a paper-thin pizza cracker. We also enjoyed the wagyu tacos ($25) with spicy tomato ponzu, a simple yet satisfying way to whet the appetite.
Beef lovers will not regret ordering the “Sanchoku” short rib ($48). Slow-cooking for 48 hours is the key to breaking down the muscle and retaining the juiciness in this cut, and it’s incredibly tender with a rich, buttery flavour. If you’re still peckish, there’s a selection of sushi rolls with interesting combinations. We’re definitely returning for the crispy pork belly roll ($23); the sweet-savoury pairing of the miso marinated pork belly with crunchy coleslaw was to die for!
Star dish: If there’s only one dish I can pick, it’ll have to be the Holy Cow ($30). Featuring perfectly cooked Tajima striploin, shrimp tempura and kimchi sushi peach emulsion, this roll was an explosion of flavours and textures – truly deserving of its bold name.
– Anthia Chng
Don’t let the name fool you. This is most certainly not a café. Wonderfully tucked away from the chaos of the main drag of Club Street, Caffé B is an elegant, sophisticated fusion restaurant with attentive service.
Walking past the impressive bar (complete with teppanyaki plates) and climbing the stairs of this tastefully renovated, three-storey heritage shophouse is like being transported to a Mediterranean hillside villa. With its high, smooth white walls and minimalist furniture, the Japanese Italian influence is delicate and modern.
The fusion of Japanese and Italian cultures in the food is clever too, with neither one overpowering the other. The six-course omakase menu with paired wines ($178), designed by Executive Chef Masanao Saito, starts with the signature farmer’s egg with clam espuma; topped with caviar and zesty lemon puree, this is a surprising little taster served nestled in its own nest. Choose from mains like black cod à la meunière and morel mushroom served with cauliflower puree or the Japanese wagyu steak with black truffle pomme puree. The menu ends with the Monte Bianco with apricot puree, meringue and chestnut, which was definitely a highlight and a great, light way to finish.
Star dish: Those who prefer savoury will love the Hokkaido sea urchin with vongole and squid ink tagliolini (paired with a fabulous un-wooded Chardonnay). With its subtle flavours (who knew sea urchin could be so enjoyable?), you won’t want to leave a single mouthful of the broth!
– Kel Flanders
A meal at Beni is more than good food: it’s an experience. While there is a small dining room, the main part of the restaurant has only a few seats facing the kitchen so you can watch as they prepare their only offering, a chef’s tasting menu ($258). The beautifully presented ten course meal is a Japanese interpretation of French food, the brainchild of Chef de Cuisine Kenji Yamanaka. The meal is presented with impeccable service and includes a few twists in presentation that makes dinner here more special than an average meal out.
Star dish: The available selections change often and some dishes are stronger than others, but there are a couple of truly delicious signature items that remain on the menu from week to week, including the Ozaki A5 wagyu beef. My fave, though, is the mushroom cream truffle. Just yum.
– Melinda Murphy
RIZU Modern Japanese Cuisine
Intimacy is the defining undertone in this Duxton Hill location; it’s a sleek and slender shophouse filled with sultry jazz, dark wood and moonlit lighting. The personal touches of owner Hisamizu Takahashi are evident from the unique stoneware to the specially curated sake menu. We recommend nabbing counterside seats for the optimum experience.
Though many will argue that the art of Japanese cuisine has been diluted by mainstream demand, an omakase journey at Rizu is a reminder of the meticulous precision and beauty in simplicity that the country is celebrated for. Parking our California Roll habits for the evening, we left our appetites in the scrupulous hands of Chef Noboru Shimohigashi and welcomed the opportunity to expose our palates to new flavours and textures.
Our eight-course omakase meal ($158) started with caviar-embellished cauliflower puree, followed by scallops with five kinds of tomatoes, all of the latter varying distinctly in sweetness, size and texture. Next up, lobster three ways; sashimi, mousse and an indulgently rich bisque. There’s a choice of mains: grilled kuromutsu (bluefish) from Shizuoka Prefecture or Miyagi wagyu A4 striploin steak. If you’re dining in pairs, we recommend ordering one of each as both are cooked to perfection.
There’s a refreshing sushi and sorbet interlude before the abalone donabe takikomi gohan (mixed claypot rice) leaves the appetite satisfied and ready for the final sweet notes; a zesty Japanese orange and yogurt mousse with coconut ice cream, and some delectable matcha financiers as a take-home treat. Star dish: Grilled kuromutsu – Leanda Rathmell
Like this? Read more at our wine and dine section