finally got to try the much raved about teppei barachirashi one night after work last week; it was the perfect way to reward myself after a whole day of being cooped up in the office! we didn’t have it at teppei itself because teppei only does omakase at night (and i hear they are fully booked for their attractively affordable omakase dinners for months); neither did we have it at hana hana (also opened by teppei and located right next to it) which serves teppei’s lunch menu in the day, but focuses on yakitori at night. that left us with hanare, another off-shoot by teppei (that makes them a trio of restaurants) which offers a japanese buffet as well as some simple set meals in a really fuss-free and family-friendly environment. hanare is located a stone’s throw away from teppei and hana hana, at the top floor of a shophouse along tanjong pagar road. look out for the signs they place along the walkway so you don’t miss the doorway with this staircase that will take you right up to the cafe: helps in working up an appetite 😉 we were there right when they opened at 630pm, and were among the first few to arrive. i was really pleasantly surprised because i imagined we’d have to queue after hearing horror stories about the snaking queues at all 3 teppei outlets during lunchtime that start forming at least half an hour before they open (do these people not need to work?!)! since the prices at hanare are the same both at lunch and dinner, i would say it definitely makes heaps more sense to go for dinner; avoiding lunch crowds is always the way to go! as the word “cafe” in its name suggests, hanare is meant to offer a very simple no-frills experience. decor is really simple and doesn’t feel much like a japanese restaurant at all; in fact the whole set-up seems a little makeshift, with basic tables and chairs and bare walls. you place your order and pay at the cashier before taking a seat. there are a few options to choose from – the japanese buffet (at a really affordable price of $19.90), the bara set (equally affordable $17.60), and the hanare special (just $12)! we were there to try the famed teppei barachirashi, so we went for 2 bara sets. the bara set comes with a bowl of the barachirashi as well as a free flow of 4 side dishes. the side dishes available as part of this set change on a daily basis if i’m not wrong, and on that particular day, this was what was available: i do think the presentation of the dishes can be improved on but for the price we paid, i really didn’t think there was any reason to complain. the 4 sides available that day were (from left to right in the above picture) salad, a stew, edamame, and something that tasted like a cross between a fishcake and potato cake in some kind of sweet sauce (clearly i wasn’t really a fan of this… hahaha). as part of the bara set, you can also help yourself to the white rice, miso soup and japanese tea available at the buffet table. took a mix of the side dishes to snack on while waiting for our barachirashi to be served. the salad greens (tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce) were actually very fresh and made for a refreshing side dish when paired with the sesame dressing that was provided. the edamame seemed slightly overcooked to the point of being a little soggy, but the beans within weren’t affected so no complaints about this either (gotta love edamame!). as for the stew, i think it was meant to be something like oden although there was no fishcake in it (if i’m not wrong, japanese fishcake is usually a key ingredient in oden); instead it was a mix of carrots, radish, lotus root and chicken. i really enjoyed it, especially because i am a huge fan of daikon and lotus root!!! the broth was light and tasty, and i had quite a few servings of this. finally we come to the unidentifiable fishcake-type thing which i really did not fancy, especially because it was cold after being left at the buffet table for quite a while. had half of a piece and left the rest… service is efficient and our barachirashi arrived really soon after we placed our order. it was all quite exciting finally seeing the bowl of chirashi that i had seen countless pictures of sitting very very pretty right before me: the first thing that struck me about the bowl of chirashi was that i could barely see the rice hidden below the chunks of fish. definitely a good sign! as evidenced by the picture above, they were really generous with the fish for the price, and i have to say that the fish was really quite fresh. there was a mixture of tuna, salmon, scallop, ikura, yellowtail etc, and all of it was thoroughly seasoned with a soy-based marinade (if my tastebuds did not fail me). topped with some seaweed, spring onions and sesame seeds, it made for am extremely tasty bowl of chirashi. my only qualm was that the sashimi could have been better chilled while the rice could have been cooled down a little more before serving. it was as if they just scooped straight out from the rice cooker (in fact, they probably did?) and piled seasoned fish on top of the rice; i felt the rice was seriously lacking in rice vinegar and everything else that makes sushi rice sushi rice, it felt like i was basically eating a bowl of white rice. also, the rice was so hot that some pieces of sashimi appeared to have cooked a little after mixing it all together?! definitely not how i like my chirashi… all that said, can’t deny that this was still a great bowl of sashimi goodness, especially for the extremely affordable price. so how does teppei’s chirashi compare with its counterparts at my other favourite haunts (ie aoki and sushi bar)? i actually think they’re all different so it depends on what you’re looking for! at the sushi bar, the chirashi is basically very fresh and delicious pieces of sashimi very generously laid atop a bed of rice; it is completely unseasoned, just good, sweet, thick slabs of unadulterated sashimi. at aoki on the other hand, there’s just something amazing about how everything is put together and some magical aoki touch is added to it, making quite possibly the most perfect bowl of mazechirashi ever. the fish pieces at aoki are small but provided extremely generously (still has the highest fish to rice ratio, in my opinion) and yes, quite clearly, aoki still has my vote for the best bowl of chirashi in singapore; even if not the best, definitely my favourite. at teppei, the seasoning is soy sauce-based which makes it tasty, but i think i prefer a lighter seasoning so that the flavours and freshness of the fish isn’t lost. took a quick look at what they offered as part of the buffet spread, and found that the food was very simple and home-style. don’t expect any fancy or fine japanese cooking or foods; what they had available as part of the buffet spread consisted of a lot of japanese curries, katsudon, gyoza, siew mais, soba etc: i’d probably give the buffet a miss, but the chirashi is something i am likely to return for if i’m looking for a cheap japanese meal in the tanjong pagar area. if i’m pining for chirashi and desperately need to satisfy a dire craving though, i’d probably be more content if i head to the sushi bar or aoki. don’t get me wrong – it was definitely a good bowl of chirashi and i will return for it, but for some reason (perhaps the strange temperatures of the rice and fish?) i probably wouldn’t constantly miss it as i do with aoki’s… have to acknowledge the fact that the former is definitely much much more wallet-friendly than the latter though!
Hanare Japanese Cafe
99B Tanjong Pagar Rd
another pic of the chirashi for good measure PS. perfect place for dessert after the meal, keeping with the japanese theme, tsujiri tea house at 100am mall for the best matcha soft serve ever!!! best best best