Omakase a la française

It was only recently that I was at Issho Izakaya for dinner and their food was good enough that I asked if they did omakase for dinner and the chef said ‘Yes’. Then, a friend asked me if I knew of a place that served good Japanese food and I told her about this place and how I wanted to try the omakase. So we came here. It was a quiet Thursday evening and they gave us our own tatami room. Now that, I call service! We ordered the genmaicha at first thinking that it was not very strong until I realised that that tea had kept me awake the whole night the last time I had it. So we switched to yuzu tea instead. Whew! If this was lunch, I would have ordered the genmaicha as the tea was really fragrant the last time I had it. After calming ourselves down with yuzu tea as we had rushed to the place, we were then ready for dinner.

Before the omakase, we were asked if there was any food that we do not eat. Both of us do not really fancy eels and so I thought it was the end of the ‘forbidden food’ list. Unknown to me though, there were more things that my friend does not eat and I have asked her to post her experience after this post.

Yuzu tea

Sukini which consisted of chicken and pork on baguette, lotus root and renkon chips. I thought the renkon chips tasted like berlinjau and perhaps it is the same item but known by its Japanese name. Who knows? The lotus root was crunchy as were the chips. The meat on baguette was nicely seasoned and the baguette too was crunchy.

Next, we were served uni tofu chawan mushi, oyster tempura and pork springroll. I have not had sea urchin in a while and was rather pleased to be served it.

What a unique chawan mushi!

This was a rather standard sashimi platter. Small but adequate. We were given raw tuna, salmon and scallop.

This was another unique dish – kani croquette with tartar sauce. The crab was a real leg of crab meat which had been deshelled. The croquette was pretty well sealed with a lovely rich creamy sauce inside the crusty exterior.

I never thought we would be given wagyu but here it was. Wagyu with foie gras. What we thought was grilled onion on the side turned out to be rice encircled by daikon which was absolutely delicious and balanced out the meal perfectly. The rice also provided the necessary carbohydrate to our meal, for me anyway.

The dessert was a piece of art in itself. It seems that is the way with Japanese omakase. It always seems to end on a high. We were served creme brulee, crepe with a matcha cake base and matcha ice-cream. The matcha ice-cream was delicious. I did not appreciate the crepe as much. The rock melon had not ripened sufficiently but perhaps that was the intention or dessert may have turned out a little too sweet had the rockmelon ripened further. It was refreshing nevertheless and I liked the sourness of the strawberry at the side as well. The creme brulee had a little surprise inside – matcha mochi! A lovely end to the evening indeed.

What I like about Japanese omakase is that one never knows what one will get. This is now the fourth omakase I’ve tried. All four omakase have been different. There are those who stay more true to authentic Japanese food and others who venture out and combine it with other types of food. Tonight’s omakase clearly had French influence in it which I did not mind at all as I hardly eat French food. Foie gras, which I have not had before, was a completely new experience for me. The other thing I liked was the presentation. It was like being served art! The whole meal was at an affordable price of $80++ per person, not including the yuzu tea. I would definitely come back here and hope that I am given my own tatami room again. Just be sure that there are no major events going on at the arenas or stadiums at the location or you would not enjoy your meal in a relaxed, unhurried manner like we did that day.

Gochisosamadeshita!

Issho Izakaya, 1 Stadium Place, #01-13/K5, Kallang Wave@Sports Hub. Tel: 6702 4708.

Omakase @ Kampachi Plaza 33

I have been thinking about trying the omakase at Kampachi for a while since my brother last brought me here for a meal some time ago. Today, I decided to go with my mother. Mum, being an elderly, thrifty Chinese lady, could not understand why I would spend so much on a meal that was half raw and served in such small portions. But I convinced her that it was the experience that people come for, as well as the freshness of the food. This was, after all, a Japanese fine dining experience, over a 7-course meal. Naturally the Chinese 8-course and serving portions came to mind, which was not the case here. Midway through the course, Mum asked if I was full. Well, not Chinese full but sufficiently full, I assured her. She had ordered a bento as well which she was having problems finishing. So she asked me to help her with it. Of course with omakase, the dishes are served in a certain way so as to enhance the palate and appetite progessively. If I had helped Mum with her bento, it would have ruined my palete but she was insistent; very insistent. I managed to convince her that I would help her at the end of the meal.

A sake ball hangs at the door.The ball is made of cedar twigs and is traditionally hung at the entrance of sake breweries to show the arrival of new good quality sake. By displaying it at its restaurant, Kampachi is pointing to its sake selection which is one of the largest in Malaysia, some of which are exclusive to Kampachi.

Kirara roasted rice tea. I love this tea because it is not caffeinated and it has a lovely roast flavour.

The detail that has gone into the furnishing of the restaurant.

Look at the cute rabbit at the top of the teapot! Isn’t this a lovely teapot set with a matching cup. It’s a restaurant, I know, but it’s still lovely.

The appetiser consisted of brinjal, mushroom, spinach and roe salad and hamachi. I have not eaten crunchy brinjal before and I actually do not like brinjal because those that I have eaten are usually mushy. But these were slightly crunchy, complemented nicely by the sea salt. The little salad was also nicely balanced between the vegetables and roe . And the lightly fried hamachi was good too

The appetiser consisted of brinjal, mushroom, spinach and roe salad and hamachi. I have not eaten crunchy brinjal before and I actually do not like brinjal because those that I have eaten are usually mushy. But these were slightly crunchy, complemented nicely by the sea salt. The little salad was also nicely balanced between the vegetables and roe . And hamachi was good too.

The next course was snapper soup. This was light and delicious.

A choice of three sauces.

Good serving portions of tuna, amberjack and flounder sashimi. The flowers too are edible. The flowers are hanaho and shokuyo hana respectively. Both are imported from Japan and are edible. The shokuyo hana was actually a little sweet.

For the sashimi, I was given a choice of three soy sauce choices – normal soy, low salt soy and tosa sauce. The tosa sauce was Kampachi’s own soy sauce and it had bonito in it. Next was the tasting. Which one did I like best, I was asked. Well, I liked the low salt shoyu the best. The contrast between the taste of the fish and the soy sauce was the best. As for the tosa sauce, it was already flavoured with bonito and hence the contrast in the taste did not seem as great. The tuna, yellow tail and flounder were a good size and they tasted very fresh.  I was served another fish dish which actually looked and tasted like cod but I did not take a picture of it. I was busy talking to the waitress who was explaining to me about the side fish. That is the name of the fish, makokare, or side fish. It was lightly fried and it tasted really good as well. Again, light and delicately balanced.

Grilled beef served with the famous Kampachi truffle shoyu sauce.

Next was the beef. This was not part of the menu but I asked if they had beef in the omakase. This was probably where the communication was not clear though it was not really the fault of the staff. I was under the impression that they could let me have beef in my omakase without realising that they had actually replaced one of the items in my omakase. I do not know what was replaced nor did I ask. I only realised this after the meal was over.I had been hankering for Japanese beef since I came back from Japan. The beef there was cheap and good. The beef here was not bad but it was not like the one I had just had in Japan for a fraction of the cost. It was definitely not wagyu nor did it melt in my mouth but neither was the one I had in Japan. I ordered it done medium and it was prepared correctly. Don’t get me wrong, the beef was good but just not the melt-in-mouth good that I was half expecting in a Japanese omakase.

Chirashi don in inari. I thought this was a novel idea. The vinegar in the inari, or beancurd, added a slight sour taste to the chirashi don that we normally know.

This was when my mum asked me if I was full. Well, I was not Chinese full but sufficiently full. The next dish was unexpected and so was the appearance of the chef. Chef Ishigami was as nervous with his English as I was with my limited Japanese. He explained how to eat the dessert, bowed and left. I thought this was a nice finish to my omakase meal.

Again, perfectly balanced in terms of taste. The Japanese dorayaki pancake with sweet red bean filling was just crunchy on the outside and spongey on the inside. The mint, pineapple, strawberry and rock melon balanced each other out nicely, along with the cold vanilla ice-cream and hot pancake. Chef Ishigami said to eat everything together and he was right. How zen is that?!

Two unhurried hours later, we were done. It had been a pleasant lunch.The taste of the food was clean, distinct and fresh.

Unhurried was really appreciated as all the omakase that I have had in Singapore had been rushed. This one was so much more pleasant. It was also the start of Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims, and the restaurant was not busy. Each staff who served us was very polite and made sure that we were served well. Whatever question I had was answered in detail, something which would not have happened in Singapore at all. I also appreciated that I was not overly full and that this restaurant was in PJ and not KL because I would not have made that journey downtown for omakase in KL as much as I liked it.

Gochisousamadeshita.

For other Japanese fine dining posts, please check out here, here and here.

Kampachi, P1-02, 1st floor Plaza 33, Jalan Kemajuan, Seksyen 13, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Tel: +60 3 7931 6938.

This was a last minute reservation for one omakase and they were able to accommodate us. Best to reserve if you are planning to have omakase there.

Omakase dinner

What does one do if one is unable to make a reservation at a restaurant because the queue is three to four months long? Choose another restaurant, which was what we did.

The fish was fresh, having been flown in from Japan that very day. Indeed, the highlight was the fish — both the sashimi as well as the sushi. 

Of the ice-cream desserts, we chose the Yuzu and sea salt milk. 

There were three options for the omakase sets — $50, $80 and $100. We chose the $80 as I wasn’t keen on wagyu beef. It would be too much, I thought. Tuna belly sounded rather appealing so we opted for that one. Free flow cherry tomatoes and seaweed were excellent as was the fresh wasabi stick. They were novelties not available at other more pricey omakase places.

This is now the third omakase place I have visited and the first dinner place. It was actually pleasant to be able to have an unhurried meal here. The last two omakase meals I had were over lunch and the meals were rushed because they were specials offered over two lunch time slots. While the food may not look very aesthetic, and the selection a tad limited, they were very fresh nevertheless and served with care. Our server also offered detailed explanation on what exactly was served to us, especially the types of fish we had, which was not my experience in the other places. The place had a ‘woody’ feel transporting one to Japan albeit for a couple of hours, minus the intermittent interruptions in Mandarin spoken by a waitress.



Counter chefs





Fresh wasabi stick that we grated ourselves





Spinach and tofu appetiser





Fresh air-flown fish that we had as sashimi





Pork dish



Oysters coated with rice and almond flakes and a vegetable tempura



Brinjal soup

Sushi selection



Yuzu and seasalt ice-cream



Free flow cherry tomatoes and seaweed




Omakase dinner sets are served in twos, and both must be the same value. With omakase at such affordable prices, should I still visit its neighbour with the long waiting list? 

For my earlier posts on Omakase lunches, please visit here and here.

Sushi Kou, #01-16, 1 Tras Link, Orchid Hotel, Singapore 078867. Tel: 64448433.


Fine Japanese Dining (III)

This was the third place I tried omakase at. I came here because of Dr Leslie Tay’s blog post. This was the most value-for-money place I have tried to date, for omakase. I have only tried three places so far.

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Two dishes were a little different from the standard Japanese fare. They were the peitan tofu and the chawan mushi in truffle oil. Both were their own creations. If one does not like peitan or century egg, then this would not be a good replacement for the normal agedashi tofu. I didn’t mind it as the taste was discernable but subtle. My friend said it reminded her of century egg porridge which was not one of her favourite dishes. The chawan mushi in truffle oil turned out to be a little too oily for me. I am not sure they could have made it any less oily though. If one likes truffle oil, then this would have been fine. I must say I prefer truffle oil on fries still. The yellowtail cheek was a little dry. The yellowtail is an oily fish and I was surprised that it was dry. The rest of the menu was fine.

Comparing with what Dr Leslie Tay was served and what we had, the difference seemed to be in the soup at the end and the grilled fish. Of course, there are reasons why no two omakase are the same, which I will not venture into, but I am more inclined to go for really excellent omakase for twice the price and thoroughly enjoy it at far more infrequent intervals than to settle for something that is more affordable but less satisfying. Service and language do matter especially when my Mandarin and Hokkien are virtually non-existent.

Like another omakase place I went to earlier, this place had a time limit by which we had to finish our meal. After my last experience where I had to rush my food, I concluded that omakase lunch can turn out to be too much and the enjoyment diminishes as one gets more full. This was clearly the case for me today. Plus, the novelty was starting to wear off as well. The restaurant had other bento sets which looked really good and for the time we were alloted, perhaps a bento set would have been a more enjoyable experience.

Hakumai Sushi & Omakase, #01-50A International Plaza, 10 Anson Road, Singapore 079903, tel: +65 6224 4790

Fine Japanese Dining (II)

This is the second ‘high class’ restaurant I went to, and this time it was to try out the omakase menu. Unlike the experience at Tatsuya before, this restaurant had options for omakase in their menu which gave me an indication of the amount I was going to spend, and for how many dishes. The exact details are not mentioned and are in fact not necessary as most customers just want an idea of the price range. For someone who was trying out omakase for the first time, this was very helpful.

My friend and I decided to try the meal that was around S$150. The following was most of what we got. The food was very fresh and even though each serving is rather small, one does fill up significantly in the end.

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This was like a light salad appetizer. I was quite fascinated with the ‘holey’ vegetables.

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Simple salad in a light citrusy soy sauce.

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This array of sashimi was delightful. The Shiso flower that was served was beautiful to look and added to the aesthetics of the dish. The prawns on the right were fresh but one was fresher than the other. What amazed me was that the degree of freshness was discernable.

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A closer shot of the pretty flower.

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Lotus root with sesame seed.

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What’s in the bowl?

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Soup that was tasty but light. It was simply flavourful.

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Grilled Yellowtail cheek. Yum.

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Melt-in-your-mouth unagi sushi.

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Battered vegetables.

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Sushi that was densely packed to the right temperature. It was actually slightly warm.

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Ikura (salmon roe)

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Sliced pickled ginger.

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Tamago (egg)

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Jelly dessert with rice wine in it!

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The unassuming entrance to the restaurant. I did not even recognise this as the entrance at first.

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Chefs hard at work who hardly spoke to each other or to any of the guests.

I would definitely come back here for lunch again. There were two time slots of an hour and twenty minutes each which I felt was a little insufficient. Firstly, we had trouble finding the place and that took a few minutes off the time. Then as we got fuller, we ate slower. In the end, we had to rush in order to finish the food on time as the next batch of guests had already arrived.

Aoki is part of the Les Amis group of restaurants. Reservations are a must.

Aoki Japanese Restaurant, 1 Scotts Road, #02-17 Shaw Centre, Singapore 228208. (Opposite HSBC Bank, Tanglin Branch). Tel:6333 8015

Fine Japanese Dining (I)

This visit was inspired by Obama actually. He went to Japan to visit Abe who brought him to eat at the famous Michelin star Jiro restaurant in Tokyo. I was reminded of a visit by someone I know who went to Sushisho and wrote about his wonderful experience. Never mind that he had to save a lot of his part-time work money in order to pay for the meal. I wanted to go and try the food too but Japan was simply too far and too expensive to fly to just for a meal. So I wondered if there were such restaurants in Singapore and I found not just one, but several. This is one of them.

We booked lunch and were seated at the counter. It was very difficult to see chef Goh making all that delicious and fresh sushi with such passion and dedication and not order them. From the time we sat down till more than an hour later, he had been receiving orders and making them non-stop, and he was just one of six chefs at the sushi counter bar that Friday afternoon.

I settled on a bento set as the omakase which I wanted to try sounded a little bit too vague. The hurried explanation did not help either and I could not get a clear idea of how exactly to order that. But after more than an hour of watching the chef prepare omakase dishes for other customers, I think I have a better idea now.

Our set came soon after and I was impressed. The sashimi was fresh, the rice was real Japanese rice that somehow tasted different from the Japanese rice that is served at other more moderately-priced Japanese restaurants. The tempura was okay; not a take-your-breath-away outstanding but still good. Then just when I thought that nothing in my set could surprise me anymore, I tasted the chawan mushi. Now, that took my breath away. The little yuzu citrus bits on the chawan mushi were the secret and what a difference those little bits made to the whole dish. I was so glad I ended my set with that. I ate the fruits first.

So all in all, it was a delightful lunch. Now to save a few hundred dollars so I can have a nice omakase lunch that I saw others eating today.

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The next day, one of the chefs sent me a ‘Thank you’ sms for dining at their restaurant. Talk about service. This must be the new norm.

Tatsuya Japanese Restaurant, Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Road. Tel: 68874598.