my dad whatsapped me very excitedly during his lunch hour last friday, telling me that he just had the most amazing truffle chawanmushi and (in my apparently standard words to describe anything i love) it was “sooooo gooood”. when he returned home that night, he was still enthusing about it over dinner and so it was decided that our family would go check the place out the very next day (yes, this means that my father went to the same restaurant to eat the exact same thing on 2 consecutive days; he likes it that much.).
so it was on a saturday afternoon that my family visited this relatively recently-opened japanese restaurant (it is about 3 months old) which is a stone’s throw away from my dad’s office, along north canal road. since its in the cbd, its really quiet on weekends and is actually a nice escape from the crowds at orchard road! we were 1 of just 2 groups of diners that day, but my dad says that its packed on weekdays so best to make a reservation if you’re planning on going down on a weekday.
Tamashii Robataya is on the 2nd floor of a rather nondescript building that houses a few other funky-looking joints, and is a traditional robatayaki (often shortened to robata) restaurant. for the uninitiated, robata is another kind of japanese dining (like shabu shabu, teppanyaki etc) where customers sit at a counter with a range of fresh produce displayed (eg mushrooms, corn, seafood, meats) and they pick what they want the chefs to skewer and grill over charcoal. when the food is ready, the freshly-grilled food is then served to you over the counter on a wooden oar, apparently to pay homage to the fishermen of Japan who served their fresh catch on wooden oars in the past.
the counter at Tamashii Robataya
some of the food that can be selected for grilling
freshly-grilled food served to you on wooden oars
my dad really enjoyed the set lunch that he had the day before, and so we decided to go with the set lunch menu which is also available on saturdays. (next time we are definitely going back to try the omakase/a-la-carte menu though!) they have a decent range of affordable set lunches available, and all are very value-for-money given that they come with a salad, 3 slices of salmon sashimi, rice, miso soup, dessert & coffee/tea. here is the set lunch menu:
all set lunches start with a typical japanese salad as appetiser – the greens were fresh and served with a delicious dressing that was light and refreshing. i would have preferred the salad to be a little more well-chilled though.
salad that comes with the set lunch
we were all really impressed with the salmon sashimi. expecting the typical run-of-the-mill salmon sashimi that you can get anywhere (and hence not expecting very much), the sashimi far exceeded my expectations and we were all very pleased. the pieces were sliced quite thick (i prefer sashimi that way as it gives the fish some bite) and they were fatty, which i feel is what set it apart from the regular salmon sashimi that you can get in any chain restaurant or even supermarket. i might be wrong but they seemed to have a light yuzu-type seasoning on the top which was a very nice touch, and made it a very enjoyable start to the meal.
for the mains, we went with 3 orders of gyuniki teriyaki (beef) and 1 order of gindara teriyaki (cod). the beef was a clear winner – it was a generous serving that was grilled to perfection. the meat was extremely tender and juicy, and the sauce was simply put, finger lickin’ good 😉 i soon realised that my initial disappointment at the very simple (and some might even say unimpressive) presentation was completely unfounded once i sunk my teeth into the first piece of meat.
(sorry my pictures of the beef are really rather unflaterring 😦 but trust me, it was absolutely delicious!)
gyuniku teriyaki that was cooked to perfection
gyuniki teriyaki with rice
the cod paled in comparison. my sister was sorely disappointed once it was served. the serving was much smaller than the beef and although it was extremely smooth and fresh and the sauce was as yummy as the beef’s, it was lacking the juiciness and natural sweetness that the beef had. i think its very safe to say that my sister will be ordering the beef the next time she returns for the set lunch.gindara teriyaki
the japanese rice that accompanied the grills was well-cooked, no sign of any clumpy or hard bits at all. as for the miso soup, we all really enjoyed it. it was full of ingredients unlike the msg-laden bowls of soup with a few pathetic pieces of seaweed (and tofu, if you’re lucky) that you often get with set meals. this miso soup had generous amounts of mushrooms and what i think was beancurd skin/tau pok, and it was a warm, tasty and satisfying accompaniment to the rice and grills.
besides the set lunch, we ordered a truffle chawanmushi each. how could we leave without having the one dish that my dad had enthused non-stop about the night before? each serving costs $8++ with any set lunch order. it was definitely money well spent in my opinion. the chawanmushi was one of the smoothest chawanmushis i have ever tasted!!! it was light, very very extremely smooth, and topped with not just truffle oil, but bits of truffle! the smell is amazing once you lift the cover of the chawanmushi pot 🙂 definitely one of the best chawanmushis i have ever had.
the set lunch also comes with dessert to end off the meal. i love how they have a range of desserts for you to choose from unlike some sets that come with a standard dessert of fruit/fixed flavour of ice cream. here at tamashii, you can choose from green tea, black sesame, yuzu or grape ice cream, matcha cheesecake, mochi and japanese jelly. gotta love that wide selection!!! i had my eye on matcha cheesecake from the start of lunch but unfortunately, they didn’t have it the day we were there. major sad face 😦 . so I went with black sesame ice cream instead, while my parents and sister went for the yuzu.
black sesame & yuzu ice cream
we were really impressed when we learnt that all the ice cream is made in-house. the yuzu was a very refreshing sorbet-like palate cleanser, and had actual bits of orange peel inside which made it rather special. as for the black sesame ice cream, i forgot all about my disappointment with the lack of matcha cheesecake. it was delicious – smooth, creamy and extremely fragrant. i remember feeling very sad when i had the last bite of it; the one thing that could have made dessert better was… another scoop of ice cream? 😛
all in all, we were all extremely satisfied with our meal at Tamashii Robataya. in fact, my dad just went back a third time yesterday (he very happily informed me that the lady at the restaurant now recognises him); i think he needed to satisfy his constant craving for the truffle chawanmushi. the set lunches are indeed very good value for money. we’re thinking of trying their omakase menu one of these days! will definitely update this space when we do so 🙂
[UPDATE: omakase has been tried! read about it here]
12 North Canal Road #02-01
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