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 seven of the best!
Kyuu by Shunsui
Behind a minimalist black-and-white façade on buzzy Keong Siak Road lies Kyuu by Shunsui, the sleek sister restaurant of Five Nines and Kappo Shunsui at Cuppage Plaza. We pulled up a stool at the wide stainless steel bar, where head chef Issey Araki, formerly of one-Michelin-starred restaurant Akasaka Tantei in Tokyo, demonstrates impressive knife skills. The narrow shophouse is decorated in industrial-chic style, with dim Edison lightbulbs, concrete walls and exposed pipe and brick. Waitstaff are dressed in traditional kimonos, briskly attending to a full house; booking ahead is highly recommended.
We opted for the 10-dish omakase menu ($129), served between 6pm and 8pm. The menu is seafood-focused, starting with a trio of tasty appetiser bites, followed by the assorted sashimi platter, featuring seasonal tuna, red snapper, salmon, sea urchin, yellow tail, red shrimp, scallop and salmon roe. The fish was super fresh and beautifully presented. The standout for us was the robatayaki, a selection of charcoal-grilled dishes that included delicately flavoured tuna belly with truffle ponzu sauce and the richer Kagoshima A4 wagyu beef aitchbone with red miso fond de veau. We rounded off our meal with a small scoop of smooth in-house matcha ice cream and jammy sweet red bean paste. This is Japanese precision dining, with a dash of fun.
Star of the show: When serving the dish of Hokkaido rice covered with salmon roe, the staff chant in Japanese and keep spooning the glossy red balls on top of your cup until you tell them to stop – heaven for roe lovers! – Pip Harry
Keyaki Japanese Restaurant
Housed in the Pan Pacific hotel, this restaurant is approached via a beautiful Japanese garden, making the experience all the more authentic and enjoyable. The setting is matched by the staff and the amazing menu of freshly sourced, authentically prepared and immaculately presented sashimi, teppanyaki, sukiyaki and more, prepared by executive chef Shinichi Nakatake and his team.
We opted for the winter promotion set ($180 for nine courses), which we felt would give us a good range of the dishes on offer. Restaurant manager Keiko helped with suggestions of individual items, and we embarked on an additional selection of dishes made with the freshest seasonal ingredients. The carefully chosen dishes are prepared with the most artisanal craft and the attention to detail is by far one of the best I have ever experienced.
We started with a creamy and tasty pumpkin soup with scallop and eggplant, interestingly served cold, and then glass shrimp with seaweed soy sauce and braised duck. A beautifully prepared sashimi plate came next, consisting of the freshest tuna belly, yellowtail and flounder, followed by steamed lotus root mince balls in a starchy turnip sauce – an unusual combination of flavours that worked extremely well. Grilled king crab was then served on a bed of ice, and a deep-fried dish of Kyoto vegetables and sea urchin, rolled and served in a shiso leaf. The star of the show was the Ohmi wagyu beef, which had been grilled on a ceramic plate. Our last savoury course was steamed snapper, carefully wrapped around a ball of soba noodles in a broth. To finish off, we tried sesame pudding with rice flower dumpling.
The dishes were paired with a light Mio sparkling sake ($28.50), and then a selection of cold and hot sake (bottles from $100), recommended depending on individual taste and strength. The restaurant also has an extensive wine list and some lovely Japanese-influenced cocktails. The food and general ambience here was fantastic and the staff were knowledgeable and polite.
Star of the show: Definitely the wagyu beef – yum! – Jacqui Young
Big Sake Bar
An evening at Big Sake Bar leaves you feeling like you’ve been let in on a big, juicy secret. Marked with little more than large lit “ ” (the Japanese kanji character for “big”), this izakaya joint serves up unforgettable grub, paired with warm smiles and a quenching insight into the world of sake. The brainchild of three old friends, its guests are made to feel like part of the gang; connoisseurs and co-owners Daniel Kwok and Jeremy Goh helped us determine our taste for sake, explaining terminology and allowing us to sample drier notes through to the sweeter end of the spectrum.
Over the bar, chef Andy Quek skilfully assembled our eight-course omakase menu ($88), a mix of izakaya classics and playful twists on seasonal dishes. The starter was a surprising favourite of mine – century egg tofu, rich in flavour and served with scallions and crumbled tempura crust for added crunch. The discovery of new flavours continued, from the asari (clam) miso soup to the sashimi platter featuring mekajiki (swordfish) and melt-in-themouth seared salmon belly. The star of the menu, however, was definitely the heavenly A4-grade Kagoshima wagyu beef sirloin, perfect when dipped in the accompanying ponzu sauce.
For an additional $20, guests can complement their omakase menu with a tokkuri (carafe) of sake from a selection of three premium sakes from a 40-strong collection. We opted for Masumi’s Karakuchi Ki-Ippon, a delightfully dry junmai ginjyo (sake milled at 40 to 50 percent removal of each grain of rice) that paired perfectly with our food.
Star of the show: The wagyu beef sirloin. – Leanda Rathmell
In an unassuming corner of Mandarin Gallery is Beni, a chef’s table concept that blends French cooking techniques with Japanese produce. The chef’s table sits only eight, along a huge hewn wooden table that faces the kitchen. Smaller private dining rooms make the experience more peaceful and intimate.
Degustation menus are paired with either Japanese royal blue teas (hand-picked and cold-infused) or French wines (mainly biodynamic or organic). We enjoyed the nine-course dinner degustation ($258) with a wine flight (additional $120). The courses are very seafood focused, with a simple A5-grade Kobe beef course with Alba white truffle, served right before dessert. Highlights for us were the cold sea urchin and cauliflower soup; a barely coddled egg on a red-wine reduction and crispy onion shreds, which tasted like French onion soup when stirred together; and, my personal favourite, a meaty and perfectly tender scallop served on a celeriac puree, with hints of truffle and a squid ink tuille.
The dishes were all beautifully plated and well executed, while the flavours worked well with the wines. But one of the main attractions of Beni is watching chef Kenji Yamanaka and his team work seamlessly in the kitchen. Service is stellar, too; the sommelier and staff were passionate in explaining all the details, from the origin of the tea to the cocoa used in the dessert.
Star of the show: Mushroom chawanmushi made with three different types of Japanese mushrooms and truffle – umami heaven! – Danielle Rossetti
Since launching in 1996 at iconic Chijmes, this popular sushi resto has since added a teppanyaki counter to its space, and opened a second outlet in the buzzy business district, in Asia Square – our venue for this review. Tatsu is decked out in a simple yet sleek décor; dark wood against black gives the restaurant a modern, classy vibe that makes it ideal for business meetings and intimate celebrations alike. If you prefer somewhere quieter, book the private dining room, which seats from four to 16 guests.
The menu at Tatsu is extensive but not overwhelming. You can order à la carte with the help of the friendly and experienced staff, or stick to the various affordable sets – like the dinner set ($35) that gets you two items, rice, chawanmushi, miso soup and dessert. To kick things off in a style true to Japanese restaurants, start with an omakase sashimi selection ($40 per person), without a doubt one of the freshest sashimi offerings we’ve ever tried. If you’re not a fan of raw seafood, don’t miss the unagi avocado maki ($18) to share. Beautifully presented, the combination of eel, fresh avo and fish roe didn’t disappoint. Next came a taste of the teppanyaki; we utterly enjoyed the wagyu ($168), from Saga, Kyushu, and perfectly marbled. It’s a rich, fatty cut best shared among three or four people. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, add a serve of lobster; prepared in a creamy sauce, the fresh, juicy chunks of lobsters make the perfect accompaniment to the restaurant’s signature garlic fried rice. We ended our meal on a sweet note, with some imported musk melon ($18), impeccably juicy and flavourful.
Star of the show: Aburi sushi ($40), which includes five pieces of sushi with seared fish and one full roll. – Anthia Chng
Located right behind the busy shopping district, Fat Cow offers a quiet respite from the hubbub of the city. A quick search online for Japanese restaurants reveals countless positive reviews and high ratings for this popular Japanese steakhouse, so I was beyond stoked for what awaited me!
The décor is sleek and elegant, with a focus on wood all around the space. We sat along a 16-seater bar counter, which gave us the best view of the chefs at work. Far Cow is known for serving a handpicked selection of wagyu from renowned farms around the world, and diners can choose from a variety of preparation methods, including shabu-shabu (hotpot) and sumibiyaki (charcoal-grilled). We opted for the Kikaku (“The Standard”) set ($150 per person), a five course-meal featuring the restaurant’s signatures. Even though I’m not particularly fond of raw fish, the “Tai no Kuro Toryufu” – sliced bream with generous shavings of black truffle and seasoned kelp – stood out for its freshness and umami goodness. My partner, on the other hand, devoured the rich and flavourful “Wagyu Suji no Tare to Foa-Gura” – slow-cooked ox tendon and seared foie gras with daikon.
Star of the show: Everyone’s here for the wagyu, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The sumibiyaki version – we had A4 Ohmi wagyu ribeye and A4 Saga wagyu sirloin – was simply sublime. – Anthia Chng
This eatery is on the casual and cosy spectrum of Japanese restaurants, offering a huge range of Japanese dishes and drinks. You can expect to find the usual sashimi, udon, tempura and katsu offerings and more – the menu sure is extensive! We first tried the Oboro Kani tofu ($8); served cold, this light yet meaty appetiser is made of homemade crab tofu. We then met sous chef Alex Kok, who personally prepared for us a moriawase plate featuring a combination of sashimi ($25.80 for three types, $48.80 for five, $78.80 for seven). Each piece of salmon, tuna and hamachi sashimi was generously sliced, and we could truly taste the freshness.
The kaisen chahan ($12) – seafood fried rice – was also tasty and rich, with little cuts of juicy seafood. Equally delectable was the kurobuta rosu katsu ($17.50), with the breaded exterior of the cutlet wonderfully crunchy and the pork loin inside juicy and succulent. Another must-try is the salmon mentai aburi ($18.80). This maki is perfectly rolled and topped with torched salmon slices, then drenched in mentai (roe) – yum!
Star of the show: No doubt about it – the wagyu tataki ($68.80). Miyazaki beef is seared to smoky tenderness, giving the meat an amazing, melt-in-the-mouth quality. Drizzle it with yuzu ponzu sauce and it becomes perfection on a plate! – Grace Bantaran
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