Ishi is the latest outfit to join the bevy of fine-dining Japanese restaurants in Singapore. Located on the second level of the new Intercontinental Robertson Quay, it serves Kappo cuisine, which features both cold and hot preparation using the season’s best ingredients.
#02-06/07 Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay, S(238909). T 9829-8239
This place is an exercise in understated elegance from the moment we set foot in the restaurant, until our final sip of green tea before we leave the premises. There aren’t many decisions to make from the moment we take our seats. Once we choose the omakase menu, which includes two appetisers, sashimi, wagyu beef, nigiri sushi, a rice bowl and negitoro roll, all we have to do is go with the flow.
(The dinner menu also offers seven or 12 pieces of sushi, along with appetiser, sashimi and a rice bowl.) The counter seating allows us to watch the chefs meticulously carve a variety of fi sh. As he prepares the dishes, aff able head chef Masaaki Sakashita happily chats with guests about the different ingredients.
A highlight for many is the A4 Miyazaki beef served with snow salt from Hiroshima, Japan. We are told that a factory specially presses Japanese salt into delicate specks that resemble snow flakes. Sprinkle this over thin slices of grilled wellmarbled wagyu and enjoy with freshly grated wasabi and garlic chips.
Before the sushi items are served, we get a petite portion of snapper and creamy monkfish liver, as well as tempura of baby corn from Hokkaido – lightly battered and non-greasy.
Soon the procession of sushi begins. We get well-cooked and expertly moulded rice, draped with fi sh like sea bream and maguro. For us, standout sushi items include the Spanish mackerel sharpened with mildly spicy and acidic mustard seeds. There’s also the black throat sea perch, spiked with a touch of homemade chilli fermented with koji and soya sauce for three months.
Towards the end of our sushi course, we are rewarded with a generous piece of lightly torched otoro sushi. We round off the meal with a Hokkaido rice bowl topped with plump ikura and uni, and a comforting bowl of miso soup. For sweets, expect a light dessert that changes with the season. Ours is a scoop of sake lees ice cream with sweet Japanese melon.
TEXT AMY VAN PHOTOGRAPHY ZAPHS ZHANG ART DIRECTION DENISE REI LOW
(this page) Ishi’s range of sashimi includes aoriika (squid), tsubugai (whelk) and chutoro (mediumfatty tuna).
Level 1, The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, S(049178). T 6733-8388
Soothing strains of Chinese orchestral music usher us into the brightly lit Jade. The restaurant’s palette of pastel blues and gold, accented with garden motifs featuring flora and birds, is a modern and refreshing backdrop for the traditionally executed cuisine. Service here is swift, earnest and efficient, as one would expect at a Cantonese establishment. Menus are brought to the table immediately, and we order jasmine tea. Unfortunately, the waitress returns to say they’ve run out of jasmine tea and offers tieguanyin instead. This fragrant blend turns out to be one that complements our food well, but it is a surprise that a Chinese restaurant can run out of a popular tea. Meanwhile, the recommendation of a house pour red, the Joseph Faiveley Pinot Noir Burgundy 2014, is a good one for the heavier flavours of the dishes ahead.
After a sweet-savoury amuse bouche of crispy fish skin with honeyed glaze, we start our meal with the signature roast pork belly. This has a thinner crispy layer than usual – which means a delicious fatty layer, rendering a softer mouthfeel overall. Upon our request for a savoury broth, the soup of the day is suggested, and the hot and soothing lotus root, peanut and pork concoction has just the right balance of flavour.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of our meal is the wagyu beef with crispy garlic in black pepper sauce. The beef cubes are well tossed to yield a pink-centred medium-rare doneness. With every bite, the juicy wagyu fat oozes out and complements the black pepper sauce and crispy garlic beautifully. Our next dish of crispy fried soon hock fish is also expertly handled, its skin providing crunch in contrast to the rest of the tender fish flavoured in superior light soya broth, with deep-fried ginger strips brightening the taste.
TEXT JANE NGIAM
(above) Jade’s elegant interior of pastel blues, greens and gold.
#B1-39 Forum The Shopping Mall, S(238884). T 6235-1088
Being in too much of a hurry, I completely miss the door to Kaiseki Yoshiyuki. It could be because it shares the same entrance as cocktail bar The Horse’s Mouth and displays no discernible sign. And when the door is closed, no light leaks into the corridor. It could also be – and I suspect this is the real reason – I’m not in the right mind space. To appreciate kaiseki, one must quieten the mind, contemplate the season the meal revolves around, and let the eyes feast on the culinary works of art that are served. One should never sit down for kaiseki if one is in a hurry.
Chef Yoshiyuki Kashiwabara presides over the contemporary 16-seater dining room and sevenseater private room with an understated design by Asylum which doesn’t take attention away from the food. Specialising in Kyotostyle kaiseki, chef Yoshiyuki’s dishes are beautiful in their stark simplicity, letting the best ingredients speak for themselves.
Three lunch sets and three dinner menus are available. Omakase is the highest-priced option for each dining period. The yuba with uni in dashi stock amuse-bouche sets the tone for the evening – the nuttiness of the silky and delicate fresh beancurd skin lifts the intense creaminess of the bright orange sea urchin roe.
The dish that follows has shrimp with yam, sweet beancurd with citron rice, and dried persimmon. On our third dish – seasonal fish on tofu in a clear broth – the chef sends a misted spray over the bowl (yes, to check for fingerprints) that harks back to Kyoto cuisine’s samurai roots, from a time when such a thing was needed to counter assassination attempts. The sashimi course with Aomori flounder and the chargrilled ohmi wagyu both make an impression, but it is the fragrant Shokuji course of claypot rice with seasonal ingredients – dried baby anchovies, in our case – that is the highlight. Any unfinished rice is shaped into onigiri and wrapped in bamboo leaves so that guests can take it home. Eaten cold or heated up for breakfast the next day, it lets you reminisce about the great meal the night before and, in a way, prolong the experience.
TEXT ANNE LOH
(above) Perfectly carved maguro chutoro.
47 Amoy Street, S(069873). T 6514-1588
At Kimme, opened by chef-owner Sun Kim of one-Michelin-starred Meta, there are no elaborate menus or fancy presentations – only predominantly delicious food served in a suitably comfortable space. Head chef Louis Han (formerly Meta’s sous chef) helms the kitchen of this casual modern Asian bistro with a distinctive Korean influence.
The restaurant takes up three floors of a conservation shophouse. The communal dining area – made sleek and inviting by the clever use of ceiling mirrors and curved walls – and open kitchen occupy the ground floor. On the second floor, you will find a bar and dining area packed with small tables. The third floor is reserved for private dining.
The concise menu is designed for sharing, and comprises small plates, large plates, and sweets. While the drink list, too, is succinct, we are glad that it offers good variety, which includes beers, cocktails, sake, orange wine (white wine made by leaving the grape skins to macerate with the juice for a period of time), and sparkling Vouvray from the Loire Valley, in addition to the usual whites, reds and bubblies.
For small plates, we recommend the kampachi (amberjack) sashimi. The combination of pickled ginger, creme fraiche, shiso powder and chive oil enhances the freshness of the sashimi, while the mild spiciness from gochujang (Korean red chilli paste) and refreshing acidity from pomelo pulp give the dish a delightful boost of flavour without stealing the show.
Dishes we find outstanding under the large plates section include the pan-seared, crispy-skinned sawara (Spanish mackerel) with crunchy brussels sprouts, savoury bacon, sweet green peas and a moreish dashi butter sauce. Another is the tender and lightly charred Brittany pigeon (first cooked sous vide then chargrilled) served alongside smooth celeriac puree, and an onion and watercress salad dressed in an invigorating Korean dressing made of sesame oil, soya sauce, chilli flakes and fish sauce.
Desserts are usually light and simple, like the juicy strawberries with yogurt sorbet, rhubarb confit and a drizzle of basil oil. For something richer, go for the pear and cranberry pie served with a splendid homemade roasted walnut ice cream.
TEXT XIE HUI QUN
29 Scotts Road, S(228224). T 6733-5251
Dining at Ki-sho is a decadent affair. Chef Kazuhiro Hamamoto, who has been helming the restaurant since 2013, scours Japan for the season’s best ingredients for his modern kaiseki menu. And that means the creamiest lobes of uni, plumpest pearls of ikura, delightfully fatty otoro, and premium fresh abalone.
But the charm of Ki-sho lies not only in its pristine ingredients, but also in the execution of its dishes. And what a feast the chef whips up.
Immediately memorable is the first course of luscious Hokkaido uni covered with rice vinegar jelly (whose acidity brightens the dish) and topped with oscietra caviar and edamame beans. We also enjoy the assorted sashimi showcasing a spectrum of flavours, from light to meaty (think flounder, botan shrimp, striped horsemackerel, belt fish, tuna and chutoro). These go wonderfully well with the lightly spicy Manrei sake from Oita (Ki-sho features an extensive sake list of approximately 60 labels; many of them procured from limited-production distilleries). Look out for its very own Ki-sho sake from Yamagata prefecture, a floral junmai daiginjo released in limited quantities every year.
Other highlights include steamed abalone with abalone dashi jelly that echoes flavours of the sea; and Hida wagyu roll prepared with two pieces of barely cooked sukiyaki sliced beef wrapped around a nibble of cured egg yolk, uni, and liberal shavings of black truffle – absolute luxury in two mouthfuls. Nigiri sushi is expertly prepared and the searing of the otoro sushi with a hovering grill rack of hot charcoal, instead of a flame gun, is a treat for the senses.
TEXT XIE HUI QUN
(above) Ki-sho’s assortment of cold appetisers presented in a wooden box.
KYUU BY SHUNSUI
29 Keong Saik Road, S(089136). T 6221-7098
“We wanted a [signature] dish that was Instagram-friendly,” reveals chef Takamasa Suzuki. He’s nailed it, clearly – the Nanatsuboshi rice (from Hokkaido) piled with gleaming ikura is what first gets us excited about venturing under the noren (fabric door curtain) of this Keong Saik restaurant.
Opened in September 2017, this sister to Kappo Shunsui at Cuppage Plaza quickly made waves on social media. We can see why: As the 33-year-old chef heaps the ikura onto the cup (or bowl – we get to choose) of rice grown over long summer days by cool mountain-water streams, the entire staff chimes, “yo-i-sho, yo-i-sho, yo-i-sho”. The way this dish is served was inspired by an experience Suzuki had in Hokkaido, and before he begins, he again relegates control to the diner: “Please tell me when you want me to stop [heaping on the ikura].”
Greedy as we are, five scoops would be overkill.
While omotenashi (Japanes estyle hospitality) comes across strongly in this dish, Suzuki’s tight ship of four means pouring your own sake; slight delays in the removal of empty plates are common too. Also, the two chefs are only open to a la carte orders after 8pm. Fortunately, these issues don’t take much away from the casual dining experience.
Suzuki’s plates are deeply rooted in traditional Japanese elements, and heavy with natural flavours: the juicy tomato with setouchi seaweed salt needs little other than its jade leaf-like plate and the binchotan smoke that licked it. Ditto for the grilled king oyster mushroom brushed with sweet soya sauce, the sweet king crab served with vinegar and sudachi lime, as well as the medium-rare Kagoshima A3 wagyu beef sirloin partnered with a robust red wine sauce.
TEXT CELINE ASRIL
(below) The Instagram-worthy Hokkaido rice bowl overflowing with ikura (salmon roe).
#01-16 Shaw Centre, S(228208) T 6733-2225
From the bread trolley filled with baguettes, brioches and other bakes that greets you on arrival to the petit four platter that sweetens your palate before you depart, the offerings at this stalwart continue to impress just as they have since 1994.
There’s no resting on its laurels for Les Amis’ two-Michelin-star kitchen. Refined culinary techniques and gastronomic artistry reveal chef Sebastien Lepinoy’s consistently high standards. Skilful techniques are applied to premium seasonal French produce, showcasing their natural flavours – for instance, the juicy langoustine from Loctudy, Brittany, delicately wrapped with thinly sliced courgette and partnered with a light emulsion of extra virgin olive oil.
The cold starters are akin to art on a plate. We have sweet crabmeat and avocado stuffed into a crisp brick pastry roll, embellished with caviar, shiso flowers and edible gold leaves, and surrounded by diced salmon. We are delighted, too, with the exquisitely plated salmon en belle vue brightened with capers and spring veggies, then layered with grated egg white, and crowned with a “rosace” of paper-thin pink radish. This composition is encircled by an artistically piped sauce cocktail.
Moving on from the standout starters to the mains, we enjoy the natural taste and succulence of the line-caught sea bass paired with spring vegetables. However, we are less impressed with the large slice of challans duck; its texture is a little too chewy for our liking.
Signalling the end of our meal is a dessert of pillowy rum baba infused with aged rum and citrus, presented with airy whipped creme fleurette, as well as a classic warm souffle jazzed up with salted caramel.
We know by now that Les Amis has an encyclopaedic list of wines (about 3,000 bottles) that would impress even the fussiest wine connoisseur. As we don’t have time to peruse the list at lunchtime, a bonus point goes to the savvy sommelier who recommends a good-value half bottle of chablis that pairs perfectly with our seasonal spring dishes.
TEXT AMY VAN
(above) Savour the restaurant’s signature cold angel hair pasta crowned with caviar.