Kanada-Ya, London

first london post of the new (academic) year! the first week of school has come and gone, and i’m pleased because i had an extremely foodful week. the fact that i’m now in final year has definitely fuelled this food frenzy to try out as many new places and try as many things on their menus as possible ūüėõ guilt is starting to settle in though, because it was definitely far from being as fruitful on other fronts (which may or may not include readings)… need to get back into school mode pronto! #newweeksresolution

i had heard lots of good things about and seen good pics of one of london’s newest¬†ramen shops while home in singapore for the summer, so jumped at the chance to check it out last tuesday night when my friends and i were craving some oodles of¬†noodles. the choice of dinner venue was between koya (tried and tested, guaranteed satisfaction) and kanada-ya (new and exciting), and i’m glad we went with the latter because we were not disappointed! arrived just slightly past 6.30pm on a weekday evening and we were greeted with this queue before us:
20140930_183916undeterred, we hopped into line. it helped that almost everyone both in the queue and in the shop¬†was asian and the majority were japanese actually – a sure sign of the shop’s credibility ūüėČ some menus were handed down the line to keep patrons occupied while they waited, but the menu isn’t very extensive at all so like us, you’ll probably make your choice before the queue¬†even¬†moves an inch.

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it took us about 45 minutes to be seated at a table for four so it was great that the food came pretty quickly once we filled in and submitted our order sheets. we each got an original ramen with an egg added, and also ordered a serving of original onigiri for the table to share.

the onigiri came swiftly:
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plain onigiri Р£2.50 for 2 pieces
unfortunately, we were sorely disappointed by the onigiri. it was literally just plain japanese rice moulded into the classic onigiri shape and placed atop a sheet of seaweed. i suppose when the menu described it as plain, they really meant that it would be completely plain… we suspected that they’d be a letdown once we saw them brought to our table, but still clung on to some hope that there’d be some sort of seasoning in the rice. alas, we were wrong and even sprinkling some sesame on top couldn’t save them. we certainly weren’t expecting any toppings, but all agreed that we had imagined at least some japanese spices or flakes of some sort sprinkled over the top. many of their japanese patrons seemed to be ordering the onigiri though, so maybe this is actually the¬†traditional and legit stuff, just not what we’re used to. the ones with plum or salmon are¬†probably more appetising; maybe (just maybe) i’ll give them a try when i return.

thank goodness the ramen arrived before us hot on the heels of the onigiri, so we didn’t have much time to feel despondent about our poor rice ball choice. it could have been that our expectations were slightly lowered because of the onigiri (but i doubt so), but we all thought the ramen was very very good, so satisfied was one of my friends that she¬†declared it the best ramen in london at the moment, and i concur.
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original ramen with hanjuku egg Р£10 + £1.80
the super tasty soup is an 18 hour pork bone broth; the thickness and milky porkiness of it is testament to its very lengthy cooking time, and will leave you wanting to slurp up every last drop of it. what i liked most about the broth was that it was very satisfying, but not heavy. as for the chashu pork belly, it was perfectly seasoned and cooked and so tender that it¬†was very nearly worthy of being described as melt-in-your-mouth goodness. very very nearly. as for the noodles, like ippudo, you can choose how well you want them to be cooked. i always prefer my noodles firm so i opted for the hard, and was not disappointed – they retained a great bite even after sitting in the soup for a while, far from turning into fat mushy strands. and now coming to my favourite part of the bowl… the egg (nothing new there)! i would definitely recommend adding an egg (or two) to your ramen. at ¬£1.80 it does seem pricey but i thought it was worth it. after all, its not every day that you come across such a perfectly cooked and seasoned onsen egg. just look at the bright orange yolk and its wonderful consistency – still wet but not running all over the place and into the soup! besides the yolk, the white was also very well seasoned and i finished my 2 halves wishing i had another two to finish. or four. or more. ūüėõ will seriously consider ordering 2 eggs when i return! our bellies were happy¬†and as we were making our way through the big bowls, we were already imagining how perfect it would be to have this soupy¬†goodness to warm our chilled souls in the dead of winter when its freezing outside.

on top of the great food, service is friendly, fast and quite efficient. the shop itself is cosy and does not have a large seating capacity at all, so be prepared to queue when you visit. we all agreed that it was better than bone daddies and shoryu which made the wait to get a table worth it; hopefully you’ll feel the same way too!

next ramen conquest: ippudo london, which is opening right opposite kanada-ya (ooooh competition). london be upping its ramen game and i’m not complaining ūüėČ

Kanada-Ya
64 St Giles High Street
London WC2H 8LE20140930_190349

Shimbashi Soba, Singapore

today i shall write about my¬†newfound love for this soba place in paragon’s basement: shimbashi soba!!!
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i remember having tried it once with my parents when it first opened; it was quite a long time ago and we didn’t like it enough to pay it any return visits in the following years. it was only about 3 weeks ago when it was suggested as the venue for a dinner with some friends that i returned for them oodles of noodles. and i am glad i did!

shimbashi soba is a casual family-friendly set up with pleasant and efficient service and an extensive menu. besides a range of hot sobas and cold sobas, they also have set meals, some sushi rolls and assorted japanese sides, along with a decent array of desserts (which i hear are worth a try). we were there at half past seven on a weekday evening, and the place was full, with a queue forming outside the shop a while after we were seated. they have quite a few tables though, and food is served quickly so the turnaround time for tables is pretty quick.
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some info about their soba which is handmade on site daily:
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on my first visit there, i ordered the tenchirashi soba which is soba topped with mixed tempura fritters and a poached egg. this is the bukkake style of serving, where the soba is served chilled, with sauce poured over it. my eyes lit up when the plate of soba was laid before me, and i was not disappointed when i took my first bite!
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it is a generous serving of soba and there is seriously a mountain of tempura on that plate, so much so that its hard to mix everything together without having pieces of tempura falling off the plate, and you can barely see the noodles hidden below when the dish is served. the mixed tempura consists of prawn and assorted mushrooms and veggies like ladies fingers – just my cup of tea! the tempura wasn’t oily which kept the dish light, and the amount of batter coating¬†each piece was just nice. the ingredients were fresh and the oil used to fry the tempura was definitely fresh (always a plus point! nobody likes the taste of reused oil…). together with the sauce, egg, and topped with spring onions, everything came together very well to make a super yummy and refreshing cold soba dish. i loved this so much when i had it the first time that i ordered the same thing when i returned yesterday night! i contemplated others but figured the probability¬†of not being as satisfied and leaving disappointed were too high…

as for the soba itself, the noodles are delicious – they are of perfect consistency, springy with just the right amount of bite. the texture is spot-on and the best part is that the noodles are really light and you don’t feel overly full even after having a whole plate of noodles! the very yummy noodles are made fresh daily and are cooked and served only upon each order; this shines through in the taste and texture of the noodles. no preservatives or additives are added, and the soba is said to contain a range of nutrients not only beneficial to one’s health but also having¬†anti-ageing and beautifying properties.

if you want to really appreciate the noodles in a completely unadulterated form, i would suggest going for the options on the menu with less toppings to distract from the noodles themselves (they have plenty). other things my dining companions have ordered at our meals:
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cold soba with kimchi

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cold soba with sesame dipping sauce

this is the best way to really savour the noodles as they are – just plain noodles dipped into a delicious cold and creamy sesame sauce. despite being thick, the sesame sauce is not heavy and goes very well with the noodles.

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cold soba with clams broth

the broth here is a warm broth and we were pleasantly surprised at the clams in it. they were rather big and plump compared to clams used at other places which tend to be small and completely unsubstantial. the broth was yummy when taken with the soba, but was too salty for my liking when taken alone.

sorry i don’t have the exact prices for the different dishes above but they all range from about $16-$20! for the quality of the soba i’d say its worth it, but it is a little on the pricey side for the plain sobas which just come with dipping sauce (like the sesame one).

i’ve gone twice since i rediscovered this place, and i’m sure i’ll be going back pretty often, especially when i’m looking for a light, refreshing and quick meal. they also have an extensive vegetarian menu with a range of vegetarian sets that include vegetable tempura, vegetarian soba, vegetarian sushi etc. they all look good and seem to be a draw for vegetarians looking to enjoy some japanese food. oishi!!! soba so good ūüėČ

Shimbashi Soba
#B1-41 Paragon, 290 Orchard Road
Singapore 238859
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PS. if none of the desserts on the shimbashi soba menu catch your eye, there’s always honeymoon desserts right opposite to satisfy those cravings for some yummy chinese desserts:20140717_211325
green tea x durian x vanilla x watermelon: weird but (very) wonderful

Ramen Bari-Uma, Singapore

the search for my favourite bowl of ramen in singapore continues, this time with a trip to bariuma ramen. we decided to give this place a try after many people dubbed it underrated and after checking it out, i must say i have to agree!

a corner unit in the basement¬†of the unremarkable tanglin shopping centre (accessed from the main road; there is no need to enter the mall at all) is where you’ll find this great ramen joint that hails from hiroshima. what i like about its location is that it is tucked away at the quieter side of bustling orchard road, making it central yet well away¬†from the crowds.20140623_193708

we were there on a monday night and though there was no queue (which seems to be a prerequisite for ramen joints in singapore), there was quite a healthy crowd and even as we left at close to 9pm, there were still customers streaming in and several who placed takeaway orders.
20140623_194129its a really casual and fuss-free place that i felt gave off a very homely/family-run vibe, probably due to a combination of the relatively hidden location, simple decor, open kitchen and friendly staff. in fact, i could imagine this being a traditional ramen house in japan where customers came for piping hot bowl of ramen to hide from the cold outside!

this huge sign plastered on the wall at the entrance of the shop also cracked me up and seemed very typically japanese:
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the menu is mainly focused on ramen:20140623_194334
but they also have some sides that you can order to go with your noodles, like gyoza and yakitori. they also have some hot stone rice bowl options: 20140623_194225

we had read about and seen the sign outside the shop about the ajitama-uma ramen being their specialty, so that’s what the both of us opted for.
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ajitama-uma ramen – $15.50
the ajitama-uma ramen comes with a thick-cut slice of flamed¬†chashu, a whole onsen egg, bamboo shoots, and a sprinkling of fresh spring onions. the soup base is a combination of shoyu and tonkotsu – this is quite interesting and unique to bariuma, given that most ramen shops in singapore serve bowls of ramen that are either shoyu or¬†tonkotsu based, never really a combination of both; i think this is the first place i’ve seen and tried this! it was super rich and tasty, and was not only served piping hot but also managed to stay that way for quite a long while after, something that doesn’t happen with bowls of ramen as often as it should (i find that many of them tend to cool down really quickly ie if you snap¬†a few pics of it before tucking in, it is no longer as¬†hot as when first served!). i slurped up every last drop of the collagen-filled soup that was simmered for hours.
(pictorial evidence:
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we soon realised our initial apprehension that the chashu wouldn’t be enough (since each bowl only comes with 1 slice) was unfounded when we saw how thick the chashu slice in our soup was. check it out:20140623_195506
look at it glistening irresistibly in all its glory – it was an extremely substantial slice and was surprisingly enough to go with the whole bowl of noodles! despite its thickness, it was not tough or dry; on the contrary, it was moist and tender, and the fact that it was flamed made it extremely flavourful and yummy. (i am clearly quite a fan of their chashu) if you really enjoy the chashu, you can even order a plate of aburi chashu as a side (see menu above); i can only imagine how delicious that melt-in-your-mouth goodness will be!

as for the egg, 1 of us got a perfectly done onsen egg with a wonderfully viscous yolk, while the other (me, sadly) got one that was completely overcooked.
the perfect:
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the far (far far) from perfect (i was the sad and very disappointed recipient of this completely overcooked onsen egg):20140623_200600
the only saving grace was that when i told the waitress that my egg was completely overcooked, she immediately brought another over with no questions whatsoever. the 3rd egg was an in-between – the yolk could definitely have been more liquid, but thankfully it was not overcooked:20140623_200900
so do note that the eggs are quite hit and miss! i also felt that the egg white could have been a little more strongly-flavoured.

the noodles were great Рi like my noodles to have some bite, and their homemade noodles provided just that; they were of the long and thin sort, and are freshly made at the restaurant. oishi!!!
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oh yes, there is an ongoing promotion where if you sign up for their mobile membership, you get a free serving of 3 gyozas:20140623_201551

indeed, free food is hard to resist and so we ended up with these goodies to share between us:20140623_195333
chicken gyoza
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we thought they were pretty good, but nothing¬†exceptional. i liked how the filling was fresh and didn’t taste like the frozen sort, and how it was pan-fried till they had crispy bases like guo tie. they make a decent snack to stave off hunger pangs while waiting for the ramen to arrive. (although come to think of it, our gyozas arrived after our ramen hahaha!)

other than the problems with the eggs, i would say bariuma serves an extremely satisfying, and sadly underrated, bowl of ramen. i will undoubtedly be back for more and would even go so far as to say that in my humble opinion, bariuma serves up a better (and much more value-for-money) bowl of ramen than ippudo does! also, the fact that you don’t need to queue for the former is icing on the cake.

face of a very satisfied customer (aka my date for the night):
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2 thumbs up!

this little ramen joint is certainly a hidden gem, and i’m already looking forward to the next time i can again tuck into this bowl of porky goodness! see you there ūüėČ
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Ramen Bari-Uma
19 Tanglin Road
#B1-01, Tanglin Shopping Centre
Singapore 247909

ps. they’ve opened a 2nd branch at united square

(dessert at) Roka, London

today on rockabitebaby, i present to you… *drumroll please*… quite possibly my new favourite dessert in all of london and one of the BEST molten lava cakes i have ever had – none other than roka’s dark chocolate molten matcha lava cake.

please do me a favour and FEAST YOUR EYES –
Imageafter a wonderful japanese dinner at nizuni (directly across the street from roka) last weekend, my pig-in-crime for the night and i decided to try our luck at roka and see if they’d just let us order dessert. we weren’t too optimistic and were initially turned away but we must have looked pretty shattered, because we were later told that we could do that if we sat outside, so brave the cold we did!!! and boy am i glad we did.

we didn’t even need to look at the menu to place our order; we had come for just one thing: what they call the¬†CHOCOLATE TO MACHA PUDDING, YO-NASHI AISU, rather underwhelmingly described on their menu as a¬†dark chocolate and green tea pudding with crunchy jivara and pear ice cream. i really don’t know why its misleadingly called a pudding, because this is some seriously amazing molten lava cake!

we requested to change our pear ice cream to black sesame ice cream (green tea + black sesame = one of my all-time favourite flavour combinations), and were greeted with this humble-looking cake not long after:
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looks can be deceiving/do not judge a book by its cover – i was apprehensive when the cake first arrived at our table and wondered why it was square and not the usual more cylindrical-shaped lava cake. but we quickly learnt that our worries were completely unfounded when we dug in:
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the dark chocolate cake erupted with amazing green matcha goodness that just wouldn’t stop oozing out!20140308_205528if this isn’t a beautiful mess, then i don’t know what is…

the dark chocolate cake was crisp at the edges but moist inside, and even got a little gooey towards the centre, just as a perfect molten lava cake should be. it was light and not overly-sweet – pretty much a match made in heaven with the molten matcha that was of the perfect consistency. the matcha taste was really authentic; there was not a hint of any cheap artificial matcha flavouring at all and topped with the yummy black sesame ice cream which was smooth, creamy and fragrant with black sesame bits, we were truly in dessert heaven.

indeed, this slice of heaven didn’t come cheap (i can’t remember the exact price but it was about ¬£10), but it was worth every penny (and calorie)! it proved to be one of those rare (or not so?) things which made me remind myself not to stuff my face too quickly so the enjoyment could be prolonged, and that caused an escalating sense of loss as what was on the plate slowly diminished. ūüė¶

a must-try if you are at roka and i will without a doubt be back for this, hopefully along with their proper food too!!! for matcha lovers out there, it is essential that you give this amazing cake a try to better your quality of life. as for non-matcha lovers out there, it is equally imperative that you do the same; you might just change your mind about this green goodness.

Roka

37 Charlotte St
London W1T 1RR

PS. feast for two that night at nizuni across the street, before the night got even better than it already was with aforementioned epic dessert:
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might (or might not) have gotten a little carried away with the ordering (but we did finish it all!!!)

needless to say, i was a very very happy bunny that night ūüôā

Abeno, London

located just a stone’s throw away from the british museum, abeno is the perfect spot for a legit japanese food fix after a day at the museum. ¬†specialising in okonomiyaki (japanese pancake containing a variety of ingredients), this traditional japanese establishment also serves a range of other foods cooked before your eyes on a hot plate at your table, including teppanyaki, yaki-soba (fried noodles), and om soba (noodles wrapped in egg).

my friend and i visited on a friday afternoon and we were greeted by the sight and smell of food glorious (fried) food being cooked at the centre of each table¬†once we entered, which got us even more excited to eat. (NB: as enticing as the smell of freshly-fried goodies is, unfortunately it lingers on your clothes so wear something you’re going to wash…). abeno occupies a simply-decorated and cosy shop along musesum street that makes for a very pleasant place to have a casual lunch:
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they have a special lunch menu, so its not a bad idea at all to make a trip down for that all-important mid-day pick-me-up:20140307_132810

since they are known for their okonomiyakis, it wasn’t difficult to decide what we wanted to go for – we decided on an osaka mix and a tokyo mix. it came with a miso soup and the side dish of the day which was some kind of green bean-like vegetable in sesame dressing. 20140307_134313
the miso soup was flavourful and wonderful for a cold day, but i do wish they had added some ingredients into the soup instead of just having a measly few pieces of seaweed. i really enjoyed the side of greens – it was well-chilled, extremely fresh, and they had a very nice crunch to them. the sesame dressing was also light and added in just the right amount such that all the greens were well-covered, but they certainly were not dripping in sauce.

not long after, the raw okonomiyaki ingredients were brought to our table in shiny metal bowls, all ready to be mixed and cooked before our eyes!
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we were rather pleased with their generosity with the ingredients! every condiment was also very fresh, and everything was subsequently mixed together to give this:20140307_134210

then the cooking began! the mixtures were poured onto the hot plates before us and shaped, before being left to cook under metal lids for a few minutes.20140307_134440

after some fancy flipping and the removal of the lids, this is what greets you:
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trust me, by this point, the smell and wait you’ve had to endure thus far will leave you completely ready to tuck into this pancake of goodness sitting pretty before you! but before going for it, there’s one final step to be done – the decorating of the okonomiyaki! there is a range of sauces/toppings you can pick from – japanese mayo, sweet katsu sauce, seaweed and bonito flakes! needless to say, we opted for everything, and a bit more ūüėČ

the final product:20140307_135229after admiring the bonito flakes that were very much alive and swaying atop the freshly-made pancakes for a bit, we happily commenced demolishment of the okonomiyakis.

there was actually not much difference in taste between the tokyo mix and the osaka mix, which i think probably means not enough kimchi was added to the osaka one to give it that additional spicy punch. nonetheless, both were very good. the ingredients were fresh, the pancake was lovely, warm, fluffy and tasty, and the sauces that accompanied them were great complements. the combinations of ingredients were good, and i particularly liked the squid and prawns which were really crunchy and naturally sweet! it didn’t take long for us to get through the pancakes though, because they were not very big at all. for someone with a big appetite, you’d probably be just half-full but there is the option of getting a deluxe okonomiyaki (which i assume is bigger), or adding noodles to the mix though!

we had room for dessert, and i was really excited by the impressive range of desserts they had on their menu:
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after much deliberation, we opted for the kyoto sundae!20140307_143742
kyoto sundae: green tea ice cream, azuki red beans, cream Р£5.95

besides the fact that the sundae itself was structually unsound and basically impossible to eat without putting the scoop of ice cream in serous danger of rolling right off, it was pretty good! hidden beneath the cream were some crunchy cereal bits as well as mochis, so it pretty much had all the makings of a perfect matcha sundae. i love red bean so my only qualm was that they were a little (or not so little) stingy with the red bean sitting atop the ice cream. also, for its price i had imagined something bigger, but then again i suppose the size of the okonomiyakis for the price we paid should have been some indication to manage our expectations with the dessert serving size. matcha anything is always good though, so i still really enjoyed this dessert!

abeno is certainly worth a visit for the relatively novel experience of having your food prepared before you. the quality of the food is also commendable, and it makes for an entertaining lunch experience although i think the okonomiyaki itself though very tasty and rather yummy, isn’t particularly mind-blowing. i’d probably be raving about it more if it was slightly more reasonably priced! at ¬£13 for the lunch set, it is a bit steeply-priced for what you get. (or maybe i’m just comparing this to what you pay for something similar back home or in japan, which i really shouldn’t be doing because this is london after all…) i will return if i’m craving teppanyaki-style food or some good japanese dessert, but probably not as frequently as i would if the pancakes were just that tiny bit cheaper!

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Abeno

47 Museum St
London WC1A 1LY

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PS. they have a sister outlet serving the same things (if i’m not wrong) – Abeno Too located near covent garden/trafalgar square at great newport street!

The Sushi Bar, Singapore

home for the holidays, and this is one of the first places i checked out with the sister when we were looking for somewhere to eat in town that wasn’t gimmicky/part of a chain. she had tried it with her friend a while back and given it her stamp of approval, so this is where we went before our annual tradition of getting christmas nails done ūüôā ah, its good to be home!

located in far east plaza, this relatively new hole-in-the-wall sushi shop is very randomly located (quite like everything else in far east plaza) opposite a hair salon, surrounded by clothing shops. it opens for lunch at 1230pm, but when i arrived at 1215, there was already a queue of 2 people that had formed outside, as my sister had rightly anticipated. by 1230, the queue had grown to this insane length:
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it occupies a corner shop, and though not tiny, it isn’t very huge either. decor is extremely basic and service is rather slow so i definitely wouldn’t recommend this for a fancy celebration or a special occasion. it is good for a quick (if you don’t count the long queue and the relatively slow service) japanese fix that’s reasonably priced and of good quality, though.20131218_123308they do 50% reservations and 50% walk-in, but when i called to try to make a reservation, i was told that they were fully booked for lunch and dinner for the entire week. which explains why i was an ultimate aunty and headed down to join the queue at 1215pm so we could secure a table.

worth the hype? based on what we had that day, i’ll definitely return, so i suppose the answer would be yes?

we had the aburi salmon with soft shell crab maki:
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aburi salmon with soft shell crab maki – $16.90

we all really enjoyed this! they have normal aburi salmon maki too, but this one with soft shell crab was recommended by a friend so this is what we tried! i must say sushi bar does their aburi salmon very well – torched just enough to cook a thin top layer of the otherwise raw salmon, it gives the generous pieces that hug the rolls an almost melt-in-your-mouth effect. the rolls are stuffed with perfectly ripe avocado and soft shell crab that was fried nicely and most importantly in fresh oil.

20131218_125154people will probably ask how this compares to shiok maki, and i would say this is lighter but as satisfying a maki! as you can see from the picture, there isn’t any heavy sauce that distracts from the roll itself; in contrast, shiok maki is drenched in a thick cheesy sauce that is delicious don’t get me wrong, but makes for a very different roll.

and the chirashi:
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normal chirashi – $24.90

they have 3 chirashi options – the basic, the normal, and the premium. we opted for the normal one and i was extremely pleasantly surprised by the amount of sashimi that topped the bed of rice. i can guarantee that it was as delicious and satisfying as it looked! not only were they generous with the number of slices of sashimi, each individual slices was also thick and very very fresh. this definitely exceeded my expectations because the quality of fish was honestly not what i was expecting from such a random shop in far east plaza of all places hahaha. my favourites were the scallops and aburi salmon, as well as the yellowtail and swordfish! actually, even the salmon was really good. okay – everything was good!!! we were given 3 slices of each type of fish (except the scallop and aburi salmon where we were given 2) – in total that made for about 20 things that topped the rice, and the fact that each piece was so good was fantastic. i was sashimi-ed out and extremely satisfied by the time i had made my way through the box.

i would definitely recommend sushi bar to people looking for affordable but good quality japanese food along orchard road. i was very pleasantly surprised and it did meet my expectations; it is quite a hidden gem given what you get for what you pay! the service and ambience is far from top-notch, but the food makes it worth the queue (and anyway the queue isn’t so bad if you go early, as i did! alternatively, you can make a reservation.). moreover, the prices on the menu are nett; there is no additional gst or service charge, which is always nice! hurray for exciting new food options along orchard road (Y)

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The Sushi Bar

14 Scotts Road
Far East Plaza #03-89
Singapore 228213

ps. check out my christmas nails that i got done after lunch:
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so pleased. annual sisterly traditions make me happy ūüôā
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Flesh and Buns, London

i’d been wanting to try flesh & buns since i heard that it was owned by the same people behind one of my favourite bowls of ramen in london at bone daddies.¬†the thought of roasting your own green tea s’mores was also too good to resist, so it was flesh & buns that we headed to to celebrate one of my housemate’s birthdays!

occupying a pretty large space in the basement of a building at seven dials, it is an izakaya restaurant (drinks accompanied by food) that made its debut quite recently in the london dining scene. decor is simple and modern, with large tables that make it a good venue to meet up with larger groups of friends. it was rather quiet when we visited on a sunday night:
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its a really dimly lit place so unfortunately the photos aren’t going to be great because all i was armed with was my s3 camera ūüė¶

as their name suggests, they pride themselves on their handmade buns, which are to be eaten with their mains. their buns are basically kong bak pau buns (for those who have absolutely no idea what i am going on about, kong bak pau are chinese braised pork “burgers”) – delicious steamed buns that are eaten with different fillings:
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the menu seemed to be going in the direction of fusion, with a mix of interesting asian and western dishes. they do things tapas-style, the idea being for you to order a number of dishes that the whole dining party can sample.
here’s the menu:20131208_203234

the first dish to arrive at our table was the beef tataki:
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beef tataki with onion ponzu & enoki mushrooms Р£10.50
this was probably my favourite starter of the night. the sauce was delicious and the beef was fresh and sliced to just the right thickness – not as thin as beef carpaccio but not thick to the point of chewiness. neither was it stringy, which is another huge plus point! eaten with the condiments that topped it, it was a really yummy burst of flavours in the mouth.

the second appetiser we had was the fried squid aka calamari:
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fried squid with japanese pepper and lime Р£8
there was nothing very outstanding about this starter, in my opinion. we really wanted to try the grilled beef skewers (with kimchi & yoghurt) but they had run out by the time we placed our orders ūüė¶ it was good calamari and the batter was light and tasty, but nothing exceptional at all.

we also ordered the eel cucumber roll and the softshell crab roll:
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eel cucumber roll (grilled eel, sweet soy) Р£10/ softshell crab roll (jalapeno mayo, chives) Р£9
we all thought the rolls were rather pricey for the serving size (5 pieces each?!). they weren’t anything to shout about; i think you can easily get better rolls elsewhere. the jalapeno mayo was an interesting addition i suppose, but again it can be recreated pretty easily at other joints, i feel.

the last starter we ordered was the grilled corn:
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grilled corn with lime spice butter Р£4
i loved this starter, especially because i adore corn!!! the corn was grilled to perfection and slathered in butter, naturally sweet but yet made even yummier by the extremely tasty butter. i. love. corn.

now on to the mains, which definitely impressed me more than the appetisers (thankfully!). we ordered 4 to share among the 6 of us.
first up, the crispy piglet belly:20131208_210208
crispy piglet belly with mustard miso & pickled apple Р£14.50
the crispy piglet belly was basically like chinese roast pork. but it was a pretty good rendition of it! the meat was tender and juicy, and the skin was thin and crispy. the layer of fat wasn’t too thick and it wasn’t too oily too! it went well with the mustard miso, and we all really enjoyed the amazingly thin slices of pickled apple that were a very refreshing twist to the meat!

we also had the crispy duck leg:
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crispy duck leg with sour plum soy and beetroot pickles Р£13.50
the duck was also really enjoyed by all of us – it was like duck confit with a slight asian twist. the skin had that yummy melt-in-your-mouth texture, while the meat within was moist and tasty! if i return, i would probably order this if i’m looking for a meat to go with the steamed buns.

our third choice of main was fish; we got the grilled sea bass:
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grilled sea bass with coriander miso and kimchi pickle Р£16.50
i remember this to be very yummy, probably something i’d order if i return! the fish was extremely fresh and grilled to perfection. the skin was crispy and coated in just the right amount of coriander miso, while the meat was firm, moist and naturally sweet. our only gripe was the small serving, given the price we were paying.

the above 3 mains are meant to be eaten with the steamed buns or vegetables (which come together with the buns):
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i thought it was good that they had lettuce and other vegetables to eat with the mains – too many buns would fill you up really quickly, and veggies are always a healthier and lighter accompaniment.

finally, we went for the spicy beef hot stone rice aka flesh & bun’s take on bibimbap:
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spicy beef hot stone rice with mushrooms and sesame butter Р£8.50
i think this was probably the most reasonably priced out of all the mains we ordered – the serving was definitely the biggest of everything we had ordered! i really enjoyed this dish and how the many ingredients and sauces added culminated in a big bowl of goodness. i felt that there was something different about it when compared to what you get in regular korean restaurants, but couldn’t quite place it. it was really tasty and the veggies added were fresh and retained their crunch. this dish¬†had me scraping at the burnt bits at the bottom of the pot when we were done (not the healthiest thing to do, i know).

and finally, definitely last but not least, we had our dessert – one of our main motives for going to flesh & buns. out of the 4 we ordered though, i felt that only 2 were worth the hype and out of those 2, only one was something i’d return for.
the dessert menu:
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first, we had the bone daddies sundae:
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bone daddies sundae: matcha ice cream, blueberries, jelly, honeycomb, cream Р£7
i felt there was too much going on with this sundae – it was nice and exciting to have a huge range of toppings added to the sundae, but the (major) downside is that i thought the matcha taste of the ice cream was almost completely masked. there was also something in it that we could not identify, but that made the whole thing kinda sour..? i’d probably give this a miss if i visit again.

we also had the yuzu meringue pie:
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yuzu meringue pie with raspberry yuzu sorbet Р£7
this was very refreshing! the combination of yuzu and raspberry made for a very tart but yet not too sour dessert, and was a good break from the sweetness of all our other dessert choices. i thought the yuzu pie was delicious, as was the raspberry sorbet. i’m not really a fan of meringue so can’t say much about it! if you’re into sour things, this is definitely for you!

we also had what flesh & buns has become pretty famous for (how could we not) – the green tea s’mores!
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s’mores: marshmallows, biscuits, green tea chocolate – ¬£8
we were beyond excited when the charcoal stove was brought to our table for us to roast the s’mores. there was definitely a major novelty factor there – the idea of DIY roasting not just regular s’mores, but green tea s’mores at your table. it was a really fun experience (though the marshmallows ended up being kinda burnt), but i wouldn’t rave abut the taste. we all agreed that the green tea chocolate was pretty lightly flavoured, but teamed with the biscuits and melty marshmallows, still made for something rather satisfying. given that we were only given 2 s’mores though, i would again say this isn’t really value-for-money though it might be worth paying for the fun experience.
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birthday girl with the completed s’more

and finally, on to my favourite dessert and quite possibly my favourite dish of the night:
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kinako donuts with black sugar custard Р£8
these. were. amazing. DELICIOUS. amazing. they were like giant sugar-coated exploding donuts. pictures to illustrate my point:
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just look at that!!! the outside of the donuts were as good as the inside – they were light and fluffy, of just the right thickness to hold the amazing oozy custard, and coated in sugar. so sinful but so good, especially because they were served warm. the black sugar custard actually tasted quite like normal custard, but it was extremely smooth and creamy and not too sweet at all! if there’s only one dessert you have space for after dinner, its these amazing balls of goodness that you must go for!!!

all in all, we had a pretty good experience at flesh & buns but i’m not sure how soon i’ll be returning just because i thought it was rather pricey (though looking at the pictures of the donuts again, i now realise that they are indeed quite hard to resist :P)! some of their dishes are rather novel though, so i suppose its worth trying at ¬†least once. they also have a lunch set-type thing, which seems quite reasonable!
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Flesh and Buns

41 Earlham St
London WC2H 9LXProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIMG_20131209_101906
night out with my chicas bonitas aka best housemates ever ūüėČ ‚̧

Aoki, Singapore

i could visit aoki every day (okay fine maybe not every day but every week) to have their chirashi. i love it that much and it is seriously that good!!! i’d probably go as far to say that aoki serves one of the best (if not the best) chirashis on our sunny island.

i had always thought aoki was extremely pricey and so never really considered visiting it until i read about their amazing chirashi in the papers and found out that they had a very reasonably-priced set lunch menu! the first time i visited was with the mother, and we enjoyed it so much that even before finishing the contents of our bowls before us, i think we already decided that we needed to go back at least once more before i left for london.

aoki offers their set lunch menu from mondays to saturdays, and it comes with a complimentary starter, a salad, miso soup, pickles and a dessert trio (my favourite part after the chirashi heehee). at $35++ for the chirashi (and i think they charge an additional nominal sum for cover charge), i think its extremely reasonably priced given the ambience and quality of food served.

on the first occasion we visited, the complimentary starter was some kind of pickled lotus root dish which was yummy, and not only because i love lotus root:
20130909_134933two of my favourite things in one – lotus roots and sesame seeds! yum. it was a tasty yet light appetiser that cleansed the palette, readying us for the meal ahead.

when the mother and i returned with the sister and father in tow, we had some sort of smoked fish-tasting thing instead:
20130921_133249my dad found it a little too fishy for his liking but my dad is someone who is exceedingly sensitive to “fishy” tastes, so don’t let what he thinks mar your impression of this dish! the rest of us really enjoyed it; it was very flavourful and reminded me of meat that has been slow-cooked and braised for hours – soft and yummy when you bite into it!

the actual set lunch (sans the complementary appetiser) started with a salad:
20130909_135704the salad was nothing extraordinary – the greens were fresh (wouldn’t expect anything less from such a reputable restaurant) and the dressing was the standard japanese salad dressing. on both occasions however, i felt that it could have been better chilled before serving (but maybe that’s just me – i like my salads cold).

and finally, on to what makes me want to return again and again and again (and again and again):
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mazechirashi

a standing ovation please, for the best chirashi i’ve had in singapore. i swear this is amazingly good stuff – if you are a chirashi lover, you will die and proceed promptly into food heaven. they are extremely (and i cannot say this enough, EXTREMELY) generous with the sashimi toppings. it doesn’t bother me at all that the sashimi used for chirashi are normally odd chopped-up pieces that aren’t good enough to star in a sashimi platter, not when the odd chopped-up pieces of leftover sashimi taste this good.

i think it is the combination of the right mix of condiments and textures and the fact that they are all in abundance in the bowl placed before you that make this a winning dish. i am normally not a fan of tamago at all, but what they serve here is super delish (of just the right sweetness) and perfectly done. the sashimi is extremely fresh, and they even have uni added to the mouth-watering mix!

also, to exemplify just how generous they are with the amount of condiments they add to your rice, these are pictures at various points of the demolishment of my bowl:
20130921_14115620130909_143326always more condiments than rice left at any point in time!!! which is amazing, because the annoying thing about chirashi is that you sometimes get left with a pile of rice and nothing exciting to eat it with. like i said earlier and am going to keep saying until you believe me, best. chirashi. ever!!! (i salivate thinking about it while back in london)

what better way to end off the meal than with dessert? at aoki, they really ensure that you get a sweet end to make a satisfying meal even more so by serving a platter of 3 desserts with the set lunch, instead of just one dessert. the 3 desserts they serve change daily, and on my first visit there, this is what we got:
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L to R: grape sorbet, plum wine jelly, mochi

i was expecting the grape sorbet to be too sweet like grape flavoured things tend to be, but it was surprisingly not at all! it was pleasantly sweet and certainly not overly so, leaving a very refreshing aftertaste on the tongue. as for the plum wine jelly, my mum really loved it for how daintily flavoured it was, while i thought it was good but wouldn’t rave about it. maybe it was because i had it after the sorbet, but i thought the flavours were not strong and distinct enough. the mochi coated in soya bean was yummy though; perfect texture and consistency!

on my second visit there, this is what we had for dessert:
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red bean ice cream, sesame pudding, plum wine jelly

i have never had red bean ice cream that tasted like this (potong is normally my trusty source of red bean ice cream); it was really yummy – creamy and just lightly flavoured with red bean. the sesame pudding was also delicious especially because i love all things sesame (white or black i’ll have it all)! its consistency was a bit like a dense tau huay (traditional kind, not lao ban pudding kind!) and i loved the taste of it though i felt it was a bit heavy and really filled you up. comments about the plum wine jelly are same as above!

i wish i had discovered this place in the earlier part of summer so i could have visited a few more times before coming back to london! but its okay, my consolation is that i’m sure its not going anywhere any time soon so i can go as much as i want when i’m next home. the chirashi is definitely going to be one of the first few things i need to eat; i am already missing my good and reasonably-priced (comparatively) japanese food!

be sure to make a reservation when you visit though, as the restaurant is small and fills up really quickly, especially with the recent raised awareness about their affordable set lunches (that are also served on saturdays yay)!

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Aoki Restaurant

1 Scotts Road, #02-17 Shaw Centre
Singapore 228208

Fat Cow, Singapore

located pretty randomly on the ground floor of camden medical centre, fat cow is the perfect place to go to satisfy a donburi craving! i had always thought it was rather pricey but after spotting their set lunch menu on display outside the restaurant while i was at camden for an eye appointment one day, i decided that i had to give the decently-priced set lunches a try.

went on a saturday afternoon (yes, they offer the set lunch on saturdays too – YAY!) with the mother and the sister to check out if it was worth the hype. the conclusion: the signature fat cow donburi definitely was, but the other things we tried weren’t mind-blowing though still above average i would say.

we were seated at the counter which i really liked because unlike some counters that tend to be cramped and result in you elbowing your neighbours when you eat, this counter was big and spacious, with a great view of the chefs doin’ their thing to boot!20130907_133020

here’s the set lunch menu:20130907_133150

the sister and i had a fat cow donburi each, while the mother decided to go for the fat foa-gura don. besides that, we ordered a medley of mushrooms in a garlic, butter & yuzu sauce (if i remember correctly) from the a-la-carte menu to share.

despite them being pretty crowded, service was prompt and the meal started with us being served a salad, chawanmushi and miso soup:
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the salad was nothing out of the ordinary; the greens were fresh but i would have preferred the salad to be more chilled. as for the miso soup, it was tasty but very normal, without any additional ingredients besides the usual tofu and seaweed that would have made it that bit more exciting. the chawanmushi was pretty good though! there was this strange gooey layer of sauce on the top but it was fine once we dug into it and it got mixed with the rest of the chawanmushi. it was very smooth and contained some whole ingredients like prawn and scallop etc so that was nice, but i think it could have been a tad lighter and less dense!

as mentioned earlier, we also ordered a mushroom medley from the a-la-carte menu. i LOVE mushrooms so this was my cup of tea! the mix of mushrooms was nice and they were very well-fried, retaining a nice bite but without a hint of any raw crunchiness. the sauce was very yummy – i think it was garlic, butter and yuzu (if i’m not wrong; sorry my memory fails me!). it was added in just the right amount to the mushrooms, resulting in them being coated in it but not swimming or being drenched. the serving was also just nice to be shared among the 3 of us as a nice accompaniment to our sets.20130907_134401

the fat foa-gura don that the mother dearest ordered:20130907_134904
glazed foie gras and wagyu beef over rice

the mother decided to be (kinda) adventurous and go for the foie gras donburi instead of the classic fat cow donburi. we were disappointed though! they were really generous with the foie gras which was cooked to perfection (melt-in-your-mouth goodness) and absolutely delicious, but what marred the perfection of the dish was the sauce! we all felt that the sauce was much too sweet and was added a little too generously, so much so that i felt the dish became quite blandly sweet (if you know what i mean)! it was a real pity because the beef and foie gras were actually really delicious. don’t get me wrong though – this donburi wasn’t terrible at all, in fact i would still say it was above average, but just not what i’d go for or what i’m looking for in a donburi. it also seemed like we were just eating plain rice with the beef and foie gras on top; i felt there wasn’t anything that brought everything together (like the egg yolk in the fat cow donburi).¬†i think its safe to say that we’re all going to opt for the trusty fat cow donburi when we return.

and now, saving the best for last, presenting to you… *drumroll please* the famous fat cow donburi!!!

various fat cow donburi-eating stages:
stage one – shamelessly snap a pic (or as many as it takes to get a good shot) of it in all its glory. won’t be too hard to get a good pic cuz its one of those foods that’s so good it’s photogenic from all angles wahahaha.20130907_135259charcoal-grilled wagyu beef with onsen egg and shiro negi

stage two – break your egg yolk (if you are a fellow runny yolk lover, i understand your pain; this is the hardest part HAHA), mix it all in and EAT!!!20130907_135344

stage three – when you reach your last spoonful, stop to snap another pic and try not to feel too sad that such an amazing bowl of food is now close to empty.20130907_140840

stage four – observe a moment of silence for the loss of the food in the bowl but trust that it has gone to a better place.20130907_140852

the fatcow donburi was amazingly yummy (as you can probably infer from my bowl that was wiped completely clean); i’d go back and order this in a heartbeat! we ordered the beef done medium rare and it came in the perfect shade of pink. mixed together with the onsen egg that was spot-on with its runny yolk factor, this bowl of rice was worth every bit of carbs (for the weight watchers among you) and definitely worth getting fat on ūüėČ my only complaint is that the beef we had that day wasn’t as juicy and tender as i had hoped. i’ve had other wagyu beef that’s tasted better – more marbled, tender and naturally sweet (i felt the beef in the beef with truffle donburi i had at tamashii robataya was better than fat cow’s though fat cow’s is certainly better value for money. read about tamashii’s donburi here!). despite this, the donburi still proved itself to be one of the best i’ve had; i think it was the general mix of everything in the bowl that made it taste so so good.

ended the meal with ice cream that was also included in the set lunch:
20130907_141642the ice cream we had that day was honeycomb ice cream, and it was a very nice end to the meal. it surprised us all by being not too sweet at all, and was smooth and creamy with crunchy honeycomb bits within. i could have done with a bigger scoop though ūüėČ hahaha!

all in all, we had a great lunch experience at fat cow. be sure to make a reservation if you’re going though! we didn’t expect them to be so popular especially because of its sightly odd location but¬†were surprised that we were only offered the late seating (1.30pm) when we called to make a reservation and even had to wait for a while before being seated when we arrived at 130pm. this is definitely somewhere that i’m adding to my ever-growing list of must-eat places when i’m back home for the holidays ūüôā

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Fat Cow

1 Orchard Boulevard, Camden Medical Centre #01-01
Singapore 248649

Tamashii Robataya, Singapore (Omakase)

i previously posted about the great value-for-money set lunch that tamashii robataya offers (read about it here), and this time my family returned to try the omakase menu for my sister’s birthday! at a hundred and fifty eight per person (it was actually 128 but we requested for the beef & truffle rice bowl which they charged an additional 30 for), we were served 8 delicious courses (including dessert), and it was a very good night.

for the uninitiated, omakase is a bit like the japanese version of a degustation menu, except without a fixed menu. what the chef serves his customers is entirely up to him, and it normally consists of multiple courses starting from the lightest to the heaviest ones, usually using seasonal ingredients. omakase is actually a japanese phrase that means “i’ll leave it to you”; so you’re basically leaving everything in the hands of the chef and hoping for the best ūüėČ

at tamashii, they have omakase menus going for $88, $128 and $168 but according to my dad, you can just state your budget (if its in between their fixed prices eg $140) and they’ll serve you something according to what you’re willing to pay.

our meal started with a platter of raw vegetables – corn, tomatoes and eggplant.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAit was a very nice and light start to the meal that cleansed our palettes for the rest of the dishes to come! the vegetables were extremely fresh and both the corn and the tomato were wonderfully sweet and juicy. despite being raw, none of them had any hint of bitterness or tartness or anything negative associated with eating raw veggies; they all had a nice crunch to them and definitely did not make us feel like grazing cows hahaha.

our next dish was a sashimi platter:
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every single piece of sashimi on the platter was to die for – of a really high quality and so amazingly fresh! there was salmon belly, tuna, swordfish, abalone and roe (that looked like a candied orange at first glance hahaha). the slices were thick, well-chilled, and extremely smooth. my favourites were the roe and the tuna:
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i think it was my first time having roe in a sashimi platter. i loved the texture of it – it had a nice bite with the little eggs popping in your mouth, and was so fresh without any fishy taste that people sometimes complain of when eating fish roe at all!
the tuna was AMAZING. best sashimi ever. just look at that:
20130815_201920tuna in all its amazing melt-in-your-mouth glory.¬†I SALIVATE and this picture has made me crave more of it omg. it was not fibrous or fishy at all, like some people complain of when having tuna that isn’t of such a great quality.

our third dish was clams cooked in broth:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
this dish was enjoyable, but i didn’t think it was anything exceptional or outstanding. the clams were fresh and the meat was sweet and juicy, while the broth was light, garlicky and tasty (i finished every drop of it). they were also cleaned well ie did not have any random grains of sand in them which is what you sometimes get when having shellfish like that – hate it when that happens! it was a bit like a japanese version of vongole – my dad’s cup of tea!

after the clams, we had this amazing grilled pork cheek:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
i know it looks super nondescript, ordinary and plain but it was one of the BEST porks i have ever eaten. pork is my favourite meat (along with duck) and here it was done so simply yet tasted so good. the meat was so tender, juicy and naturally sweet. it was lightly grilled (to perfection) and was slightly crispy on the outside while remaining moist on the inside. the cut of pork they used was really good and had just the right amount of fat in it to give it the perfect texture when bitten into.20130815_203402

next, we had a whole grilled fish (sorry i can’t remember the exact type of fish this was!):OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
it was only slightly seasoned with a little salt but still tasted very good because fish that is fresh doesn’t require much seasoning at all anyway. crispy on the outside but nice and fleshy inside, it was a nice and light course that followed the pork.
beware of the bones when having the fish though:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
halfway through the fish, i started lamenting the fact that i was being made to work too hard to enjoy my food (there were loads of bones to avoid and pick out) but i think it was worth it in the end ūüėČ hahaha.

we then had some tempura (but not the regular prawn/vegetable tempura) – shishamo and zucchini flower with cheese:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
the batter was light and fresh, and the ingredients were coated in just the right amount of it. i liked how the ingredients they chose for the tempura were quite novel and the addition of cheese to some of the pieces surprisingly did not taste odd at all! the cheese added a nice twist to the tempura and made each piece have a very interesting mix of textures – crispy batter, sweet juicy zucchini and soft melty cheese.
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i also really enjoyed the shishamo. it was big and bursting with roe:20130815_210855
so yummy!!!

last but DEFINITELY not least, we had the saga beef donburi! this wasn’t part of the omakase menu actually, and costs $55 per bowl if you order it from the a-la-carte menu, but because we added it on to the omakase, we were charged $30 per bowl.
tender and perfectly grilled saga beef sits atop a bowl of rice that is mixed with truffle, and finished off with a perfectly cooked onsen egg:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
break the egg yolk (i did this very very reluctantly – i am a total sucker for runny eggs and having wet yolks whole so that they can explode in your mouth) and mix everything together in the bowl; you will promptly realise that heaven is a place on earth ūüėČOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
the beef was tender, juicy, sweet and so marbled that it made it seem like it was melting in my mouth. the truffle was also generously added and everything came together to make a bowl of really good stuff ūüėČ at $55 i do think its a bit pricey especially since the serving isn’t big and they only give about 5 pieces of beef. but if you’re willing to spend a little more, then i think its worth the slight splurge.

and then there was dessert! matcha cheesecake, mochi and grape sorbet:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
i¬†loved the matcha cheesecake and mochi that was coated in soy bean powder, but wasn’t a fan of the grape sorbet. the matcha cheesecake was light and fragrant with the quintessential biscuit base while the mochi was very yummy and nailed what the texture of japanese mochi should be like. as for the grape sorbet, i think tamashii definitely has better ice cream to offer (see my previous post where we had the yuzu sorbet and black sesame ice cream on our last visit – they were both very good). my parents and sister didn’t mind it, but i thought it was rather sweet and made the grape flavour quite artificial.

once again, tamashii did not disappoint! apparently it rarely ever does, given that my dad is now their loyal customer who goes for lunch at least once a week; he is seriously addicted to their truffle chawanmushi. they’re getting very popular though, so be sure to make a reservation especially at lunchtime on weekdays!

it was a great meal overall fit for a great sister who was turning 22 whooooo! -cue taylor swift’s “22”-
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ps. i just have to say – i adore cedele’s black sesame cake. i am a huge fan of black sesame and if you are too, its definitely worth trying!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
sesame tahini cake from Cedele

Tamashii Robataya

12 North Canal Road #02-01
Singapore 048825