Bongeunsa Temple, Seoul, South Korea (Gallery)

I’ve just returned from Spring in South Korea – a great time to go, with gorgeous and breathtaking scenes of Cherry blossom trees. On my first day in Seoul, I set up basecamp at a hotel in Gangnam-gu. Gangnam is a beautiful trendy district (made famous by Psy’s “Gangnam style” song) with lots of cafes and indie label shops, and lies to the south of the Han river, which winds horizonatally across the city. It is an area obviously loved by the teens to 20 somethings, but probably not so much the elderly because I hardly saw them hanging about.

Bongeunsa Temple lies in the eastern part of Gangnam-gu, just north of the sprawling COEX mall, and is an unexpected sight amidst tall buildings decked in glass. Near the entrance to Bongeunsa, street beggars sat or walked up to visitors waiting to cross the road at the traffic lights, holding their hands together with dark crinkles of toil etched into their tanned skin. Inside, there was a sense of quiet calm – especially in the gardens. I drifted from one building to another, drawn by the beautiful green and red-brown coloured paints incorporated into a simple but seemingly complex design and the neatly tiled roofs of slategray. Rows of brightly coloured paper lanterns folded into lotus flowers were strung across the ceiling of the main prayer building, and I watched silently as a lady unclasped her hands and lifted a flame to light a candle at the altar.

531, Bongeunsa-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 강남구 봉은사로 531 (삼성동)

Open all year round; There is also a 2-day temple stay activity should you wish to participate. Alternatively, there is also a 3hr programme where you can experience participating in different temple activities.

Bongeunsa Temple Seoul South Korea Things to See Travel Diary Blog

Bongeunsa Temple Seoul South Korea Things to See Travel Diary Blog

Bongeunsa Temple Seoul South Korea Things to See Travel Diary Blog

Bongeunsa Temple Seoul South Korea Things to See Travel Diary Blog

Tian Tian Chicken Rice, Singapore

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As anyone who’s visited Singapore would know, we’re pretty well-known for amazing and affordable hawker fare, and Chicken Rice is one of the dishes which tops the list. It sounds like a simple dish – just chicken, steamed or roasted, patted atop a dome of rice – but that is exactly why this dish could be easily underrated by someone who didn’t know better. #01-10/11 Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore 069184 Tian Tian Chicken Rice is situated on the left most row of the Maxwell Food Centre when entering from the main entrance, and will be easily spotted due to the queue that trails in front of it almost every hour of the day. However, they are very quick and one never has to wait that long. Ambience is typical of Singapore’s hawker centres, where there are many stalls selling a variety of local fare at affordable prices, operating in a very casual no-frills canteen concept. Damage: $ With a plate of chicken rice priced about $4 or $5 (if you ask for more chicken), and vegetables priced around $3 to $4, you get incredible value here. We had a feast (see feature picture) on just $16. A great option for travellers on a budget! To go: Yes! If you’re in southern Singapore / Near Maxwell Tian Tian’s is a hainanese chicken rice, and is also the one Singaporeans are proud of for having won the cook-off against celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay in a publicly held tasting and vote in 2013. The chicken is smooth and the skin is silky, and unlike other hainanese chicken rice sellers, Tian Tian does a slightly thicker sauce instead of the usual light soy-sauce seasoning. Everyone would notice that Tian Tian’s chicken rice is particularly noteworthy – each and every grain remains intact, and coated over with the tastiness and aroma of natural chicken oils. They were extremely generous with the vegetables too, and they were cooked perfectly with good bite and delicious oyster-sauce flavours, and daym is that chilli spicy! Tian Tian Chicken Rice is a great choice for anyone who’s in the southern parts of Singapore (Tanjong Pagar, Duxton, Chinatown, etc.), but elsewhere, there are other great choices too, such as Boon Tong Kee at Balestier and one of my all-time favorites, Tong Fong Fatt Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice at Raffles Place.

Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant, Singapore

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Category: Japanese – Casual

Believe it or not, my first visit to Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant was because we were looking for lunch on a workday and after making a few rounds in the Raffles City basement, decided to give up on the unbelievable Din Tai Fung queue and head to Watami next door. Well, I’m glad that happened.

252 North Bridge Road, Raffles City Shopping Centre,#B1-06/07, Raffles City, Tel: +65 6336 2425

Watami is located in the Basement of Raffles City Shopping Centre, opposite Tiong Bahru Bakery, adjacent to Din Tai Fung, and just around the corner from Soup Union and Thai Express.

Damage: $$

As the name implies, Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant is not the most upmarket place, but of course, it isn’t a budget eat either. Weekday lunch sets change daily and are around $15, but if you go at dinner or do a la carte, prepare for at least $30 each.

To go: Yes, they have some really good dishes

Watami is pretty good, although there are some dishes I believe you can get better value on elsewhere. Of their entire menu, the barbecue/grilled items are typically their most outstanding, so I would make sure to get some of that.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

Since, like with Sushi Tei, I’ve visited Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant so many times, it makes more sense for me to share with you about some of the top dishes I’ve had there rather than write about a specific visit, so here goes! 

Order: Ika Maru Yaki (Roasted Squid, $13.80)

Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant Singapore Food Review Blog Grilled Squid

The Ika was done perfectly, even better than the ones we’d had in a few cities around Hokkaido. Amazingly tender (none of that chewy nonsense that we often get served with), lightly seasoned to bring out the the natural flavours- it was so good we ordered a second.

Order: Jikasei Niku Miso Hiyayako (Cold Tofu with Watami Meat Miso, $6.80)

Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant Singapore Food Review Blog Cold Tofu Miso Minced Meat Spicy

At under $7, there’s no thinking twice about ordering this dish. The tofu is refreshingly served chilled, and the sauce that goes over is lightweight but surprisingly intense. The serving of minced meat is generous, the dry chilli lends a slight edge when eaten, and is well-balanced with the cold silken tofu.

Order: Asari Ishinabe Soup (Clams cooked in a stone pot with Japanese-style Sauce, $10.80)

Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant Singapore Food Review Blog Hot Pot Clams in Sake sauce

I seriously think Watami undersold this dish by calling it a “Japanese-style sauce” when it has such an incredible dose of sake. The clams were served just right, not overdone (unless you leave them sitting in the pot too long after it’s been served, since the pot keeps the heat), and we couldn’t get enough of the bubbling broth of clam essence and sake, managing to dish out at least 3 bowls-full from the little stone pot.

Order: Wafu Touban Steak (featured picture; Self-grilled Short Ribs, $18.80)

The Wafu Touban Steak reminds me a little of Gyu-Kaku but it might be unfair of me to say that, since we all know not all Japanese barbecues are created similar (remember that piece of meat you spent 10 minutes chewing?). I’ve had the Wafu Steak on 4 occasions; 3 of which the cut was perfect and super tasty, and the other of which was way too fatty and ended up popping a lot on the stove and projecting its fatty oils all over the table. I know how that sounds, and it might still be worth it, but it depends on your luck. I’m not sure if you can make a request for something not too fatty – I’ve not tried, but if you manage to, I’d love to know!

Avoid: Bariuma Teba Karaage (Shichimi Curry) (Crispy chicken wings (chilli red), $7.80)

Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant Singapore Food Review Blog Crispy Chicken Wings

Avoid at all costs. Yes, I know you’re looking at the picture above and thinking, “How can that possibly be?” Looks can be deceiving – This was dry, had little meat, was pretty tasteless and was not spicy at all.

Asia’s 50 Best: Jaan, Singapore (Part 4, Desserts & Finishing Touches)

Category: French – Fine Dining

2 Stamford Road, Swissotel The Stamford, Level 70, Equinox Complex, Singapore 178882

Damage: $$$$

The Menu Prestige itself is an ongoing concert that has no specific intervals, but I have taken the liberty to break it up into smaller sections to make for an easier read. This section comprises the last 2 dishes of the Menu Prestige, which feels proper to name “Desserts & Finishing Touches”.


For the Finest Cheese Selection and Condiments, the hostess swivelled over a beautiful trolley display of cheeses, both hard and soft, with a variety of textures, and began asking for our preferences before proceeding to put together a tasting platter of 4 cheeses. Biscotti was served with homemade plum, strawberry and pear jams as well. I’m not a fan of nuts so I didn’t quite enjoy the biscuits, although the one in the foreground went well with the sweet, thick jams.

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 2015 Jaan Singapore Food Review Blog Cheese Selection

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 2015 Jaan Singapore Food Review Blog Cheese Selection and 1965 Sg50 Colheita Port Wine

The Kopke Colheita 1965, Cask #11640 was presented to us as well; a port wine that was selected to commemorate Singapore’s 50th Anniversary. Shipped from Vila Nova de Gaia, a city in Portugal which has strict standards on the ageing of their Ports, the Kopke Colheita 1965 was incredibly intense and sweet, and reminded me strongly of the Hungarian Tokaji wine I’d had in the historic wine cellar in the basement accessible from the Hilton Hotel in Budapest, which the sommelier had skilfully and accurately described as “liquid nectar”.

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 2015 Jaan Singapore Food Review Blog Coconut cream

To be honest, I can’t remember what this was, so I’m not going to try to give it a name. It was a light coconut-y foam with ice shavings followed by red ruby-like things beneath. I realised the best way to enjoy Jaan‘s dishes is to put together the different tastes and textures on a spoon and have it altogether. The same with this dish, which transformed into a creamy, cool and refreshing dessert, although not particularly outstanding.

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 2015 Jaan Singapore Food Review Blog Choconuts 'Grand Cru'

This is where Sous Chef Kirk Westaway made his appearance from the kitchen, holding a metallic canister, and asked how our meal was. He smilingly inverting the canister and leaned the nozzle into my plate like a magician about to present a trick, when out came a gush of thick chocolate mousse. As everyone already knows of my undying love for chocolate, this seemed like a possible heaven. The mousse was delicious and cold, which was all the more better, but somehow the different parts just didn’t quite come together on the plate.

The finale was the Petit Four (feature picture), once again presented with fanfare of dry ice. I’m not sure whether it could be because by this point I was i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-y full, but whilst good, it wasn’t spectacular to me – the exception being the round brown globes suspended on the small sticks out of a jar, which, when bitten, revealed pleasantly a surprise of strong and fragrant liquor.

All in all, a dinner at Jaan, well worth remembering. 

Asia’s 50 Best: Jaan, Singapore (Part 3, Main Courses)

Category: French – Fine Dining

2 Stamford Road, Swissotel The Stamford, Level 70, Equinox Complex, Singapore 178882

Damage: $$$$

The Menu Prestige itself is an ongoing concert that has no specific intervals, but I have taken the liberty to break it up into smaller sections to make for an easier read. This section comprises the first 3 dishes of the Menu Prestige, and for which I most naturally draw parallels to “Main Courses”.


Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 2015 Jaan Singapore Food Review Blog Foie Gras "Poche"To be most honest, I didn’t like the Foie Gras “Poche” with cabbage, yuzu and ‘bouillon’ at all. The foie gras was, undoubtably, unlike any I’d ever tasted – it was very soft, like tofu, and its flavour was very trace. I like the strong intensity and richness of foie, so this didn’t work for me and I wouldn’t have known what I was eating if it hadn’t been mentioned. The refreshing zing of the yuzu was a bit too jarring for my taste, and felt a bit out of place, while the vegetables were crunchy but not very tasty. In my opinion, the bouillon was too oily and its flavour was too thin, and the dish just didn’t feel cohesive.

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 2015 Jaan Singapore Food Review Blog Crispy Skin Amadai

The Crispy Skin Amadai was a seafood platter featuring coquillages, confit carrot, and rouille. This dish was strong with its reference to Indian cuisine, largely due to the saffron and spices featuring in the rouille. The seafood was fresh and sprightly and the fish came away cleanly in slices, although they were very cleanly prepared and lacked any form of richness if unaccompanied by the rouille, which unfortunately, I felt, overwhelmed the seafood when combined.

They really took to “saving the best for last”. The Hay-Roasted Pigeon with corn, bread, and liquorice was absolutely stellar. The pigeon breast was fully tender and packed full of unique flavours which I’d never tasted in any other meat, and yet, one could tell that these were the natural notes and an unadulterated rendition. The pigeon leg was wonderfully charred with a gentle smoke to brown and lightly torched to perfection. Both of the plated sauces were intense and stood well both alone and together. This was, beyond any doubt, Jaan’s most outstanding dish, and left me thinking about its tastes and flavours long afterward.

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 2015 Jaan Singapore Food Review Blog Hay-roasted Pigeon Best Dish

Asia’s 50 Best: Jaan, Singapore (Part 2, Appetisers)

Category: French – Fine Dining

2 Stamford Road, Swissotel The Stamford, Level 70, Equinox Complex, Singapore 178882

Damage: $$$$

The Menu Prestige itself is an ongoing concert that has no specific intervals, but I have taken the liberty to break it up into smaller sections to make for an easier read. This section comprises the first 3 dishes of the Menu Prestige, and for which I find most suitable to name “Appetisers”.


Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 2015 Jaan Singapore Food Review Blog Uni Sea Urchin Pudding with Caviar

The Hokkaido Sea Urchin with Obsiblue prawn and Kaluga queen caviar – I didn’t like. I love good uni but this was a pudding infused with sea urchin – the creamy texture of the pudding caused the natural richness of the uni itself to be lost, and whatever flavours made it through came across as slightly fishy. I couldn’t taste the prawn.

An addition complement of crostini was then served, beautiful to picture but somewhat ordinary in taste.

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 2015 Jaan Singapore Food Review Blog Crostini

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 2015 Jaan Singapore Food Review Blog beetroot collection

When the Beetroot Collection was served I’d spent a good while looking at it – it was like a piece of art- a delicate, intricate mixing of textures, temperatures, and variants of a magenta colour on the plate, punctuated by some yellow and some white of the radish and whip. This was a complex dish which included “Burrata artigiana” and honeycomb, and eaten individually made for nothing much, but when we began mixing them into the same spoonful, it became something quite special which I can’t quite put a finger on, and, I suppose, was the right way to enjoy it.

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 2015 Jaan Singapore Food Review Blog 55°C rosemary smoked organic eggAs if I didn’t already love egg enough, I was introduced to Jaan‘s highly discussed 55′ Rosemary Smoked Organic Egg with Ratte Potato, Chorizo Iberico and Buckwheat, which came with the great pomp of being served in a tray over a block with a endless stream of white mist gushing over and cloaking the table (feature picture). The waiter picked the egg from the tray and poured it in with the rest of the condiments in the glass, which I mixed a little with my spoon and then tasted. For all of the dish’s complexity in preparation, the egg was perfect but I still found it hard to believe that it could only be achieved by poaching the eggs at 64 degrees for 55 minutes. The chorizo, somewhat reminiscent of bacon, provided the salt to the otherwise seemingly non-seasoned potatoes and balanced the dish like a perfect breakfast.

Asia’s 50 Best: Jaan, Singapore (Part 1, Amuse-bouche)

Category: French – Fine Dining

Number #11 on San Pellegrino’s list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2015 and a strong player in the list over several years, I’ll readily admit I was excited for this meal. Jaan, helmed by Chef de cuisine Julien Royer, presents modern french cuisine with tantalising visuals, often calling for the hostesses to add the final touch to the dish right before your very eyes.

2 Stamford Road, Swissotel The Stamford, Level 70, Equinox Complex, Singapore 178882

The reception for Jaan is the same as for Equinox and bars City Space and New Asia, to the left of the main reception of the Swissotel lobby.

Damage: $$$$

At dinnertime, the Menu Degustation of 5-courses is about $200. We went with the 7-course Menu Prestige with wine pairing, which totalled about $500 per head. A different menu is presented at lunchtime, with a 3-course at $68 and a 5-course at $118. 

To go: Yes, for that special occasion

Jaan was an exceptional experience. The restaurant itself seats about 30 persons, and the setting is warm, posh, yet intimate, and the service is excellent, professional yet personal. An amiable sous Chef Kirk Westaway appeared towards the end of the meal to put the finishing touches on our desserts, cracked a little joke and asked how everything was. Overall, the food was good and some dishes were especially memorable. Remember to reserve a table at least 2 weeks in advance, as they typically run at full-house on a daily basis.


The lift doors opened to the floor of Equinox, where a Jaan hostess waited, nodded politely and greeted us by name, before leading us to the left and down the passageway, up a short flight of steps which opened into a small space and finally, into the dining area of Jaan with views of Singapore’s skyline as drawn out by skyscrapers. Having made the reservation for 6.30pm, we were the first to arrive. We both went with the Menu Prestige, a 7-course, with wine pairing.

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 2015 Jaan Singapore Food Review Blog Appetizers

The first amuse-bouche was Lentil Hummus with cereals tuiles. I’ve had hummus at a variety of places, and I recalled the hummus I’d had in Dubai which had been dry and crumbly, and rather pasty in taste. That was also when I decided I definitely didn’t like hummus very much. This, however, was absolutely rich, moist, and delicious – almost reminding me of orh nee (yam paste), with a touch of sweetness. I couldn’t stop smiling at the little jar and started feeling rather silly about trying to have it with the bread as well, but the hostess smiled knowingly and let me keep it until I was completely through.

Next, a stone platter of Black sesame sponge and smoked eel, pork trotter samossa with grain mustard, cantal and walnut crackers (feature picture) was delivered to the table, and the Mushroom tea cep sabayon followed shortly after. The trio I wasn’t impressed with and thought to be rather ordinary – the sesame sponge lacked depth of flavour and the cantal and walnut crackers were pretty flat, which is surprising as cantal cheese has similarities to cheddar.

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 2015 Jaan Singapore Food Review Blog Best Mushroom Soup

The Mushroom tea, however, blew my mind. Even as I watched with interest as they poured clear mushroom tea into whatever was already in the cup, there was no way I could’ve expected the explosion of flavour. It was honestly one of the most a-m-a-z-i-n-g things I’ve ever had in my life, even more mind blowing than the starters I’d had at El Celler Can De Roca. It was essentially a cup of mushroom essence, speckled with crisped mushroom bits releasing their woody rich tastes, enveloped in a deliciously creamy cep sabayon. Exceptional.

Travel Diary: Shiroi Koibito Park, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

Japan, 〒063-0052 北海道札幌市西区宮の沢2条2丁目11−36; Tel +81 11-666-1481

We followed the smiles and waves of the park guides in neatly ironed white uniforms and rounded the bend into the basement carpark before disembarking for Shiroi Koibito Park in Sapporo, Hokkaido. It was funny how I’d known about the Shiroi Koibito biscuit before I knew anything else about Hokkaido – it seemed to be the ultimate souvenir that friends would bring back from Hokkaido, and with good reason, considering that ever since I’d tasted it, I couldn’t stop craving the light thin biscuit with a skinny block of white chocolate wedged between.

The lift opened into the main store, and straight away I felt like I’d stepped into a fantasyland of sorts, with (what I now recognised to be a distinctly Japanese touch) tinkling music and chocolate and candies in colourful wrappers everywhere, including giant standing lollipop decorations. A grand-ish staircase descended from the second floor on the right, and straight ahead, stood a ferris wheel around which children had gathered, slotting coins and taking turns to hit a button which would spin the wheel and drop a piece of candy from the lowest bucket when it stopped.

Shiroi Koibito Park Famous Best Biscuit Sapporo Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary

Once outside, the Shiroi Koibito Park reminded me of disneyland with its castle-like exteriors and gardens full of the most colourful flowers and little water features, including cherubic sculptures peering out from random places.

Shiroi Koibito Park Famous Best Biscuit Sapporo Hokkaido Japan Travel DiaryWe stepped into the shade of the building to commence our tour of the Shiroi Koibito Park, and were each handed the awesome biscuit at the entrance. I’m not a huge facts junkie, so the details of the making of the biscuit wasn’t all that fascinating to me, except when the trail opened up and ran by the actual production line. I stood for a good while watching the Shiroi Koibito biscuit get pushed out from the machine, sandwiched together, sorted, and packaged, all within a few meters. I couldn’t help but focus on the workers picking out imperfect Shiroi Koibito biscuits near the end of the line, wondering what they did with the rejected biscuits- and daydreamed about them giving it all to me.

Shiroi Koibito Park Famous Best Biscuit Sapporo Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Factory Production LineThe Shiroi Koibito Cafe stood at the end of the tour – it’s the only place where you can have the Shiroi Koibito White Hot Chocolate Drink and the Shiroi Koibito White Chocolate Ice-cream. I sat down excitedly and immediately decided that the dilemma was non-existent and that I was going to have both 😛

Shiroi Koibito Park Famous Best Biscuit Sapporo Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary White Hot Chocolate and White Chocolate Ice-CreamOh god. It was so good – the ice-cream was so creamy, milky, soft, and just melted away in the mouth. The White Hot Chocolate was good too, and was something my cousin had been raving on and on about in anticipation throughout the trip. I thought it was really delicious, but the good news is, when I tasted it, I immediately pinpointed a “dupe” in my favourite Luxury White Hot Chocolate from Whittard’s in London, which means that for everyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to visit Shiroi Koibito Park, you essentially get a taste of Japan if you can get yourself some Whittard‘s.

TWG Tea, Singapore

SCRIBBLES

Category: European – Tea, Afternoon Tea, Desserts

I’ve long frequented TWG Tea, simply because its ambience takes me back to Europe- and for a few minutes, I can just extract myself from the hustle and bustle that is the cosmopolitan city of Singapore, and be seated once again on one of the woven chairs lining the exterior of the cafes in Paris, sipping a beautiful tea as fashionably dressed parisians stroll past. Ahh. Although I did feel rather cheated when I found out the brand wasn’t all that it appeared to be, I bought into the entire idea simply because I wanted to, and so, it seems, did lots of people around the world, given that I’ve seen this tea presented in Hotel Suites and Paiza receptions and considering the number of TWG Tea palors spotting the globe.

ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn, #02-21, Singapore 238801 (Multiple Branches including at MBS)

My most frequented branch is the one on the second floor of ION Orchard, simply because of its convenience. There is another TWG on the ground floor of ION, which is actually larger and more spacious but far more open, which prevents me from immersing myself completely in my little bubble of Europe, with the operatic music soaring over my head as I enjoy my teas.

Damage: $$ – $$$

Majority of the teas range from around $14 – $24, with the top tier priced at around $30+ per pot. Cakes are about $9.50, which is expensive when compared to elsewhere, but they’re (in my opinion) well worth it. Up till recently I’d only stuck to ordering the tea because that’s what they’re known for, but the cakes (changes according to the daily selection) are truly lovely. Alternatively, there’s the TWG Afternoon Tea at $45. The food is, surprisingly, good as well.

To go: Yes, for a taste of Europe

TWG Tea has a mind-boggling array of teas, and an extremely extensive tea menu and intense book which you could request, containing information on every single tea that you might want to read up on regarding anything from its history to its characteristics. To truly experience the dilemma of choice, come to TWG Tea, although I’m definitely not complaining. I’ve trade at least two dozen teas and have never been disappointed – it’s only once or twice that I thought the tea was only “okay”.

From the day’s selection, we picked out two cakes. The first was a Caramel cake, and the second was a Chocolate Mousse Cake. The Caramel cake had a thick layer of coffee-flavoured cream sitting atop a vanilla sponge and a biscuit base, with caramel glazed over. The biscuit was too hard and we had a tough time dividing it, but the rest of the cake was a sweet tease on the tongue. The Chocolate mousse cake was thoroughly perfumed with chocolate and had a light-medium texture, and the ganache was bittersweet and rich- and totally made my day.TWG Tea Palor Singapore Global European Afternoon High Tea CakesTWG Tea Palor Singapore Global European Afternoon High Tea Cakes Chocolate

Omotenashi Sake Bar & Dining Gosso, Singapore

SCRIBBLES

Category: Japanese – Casual – Yakitori

We were strolling along Boat Quay looking for a place to have dinner before a concert when Omotenashi Sake Bar & Dining Gosso restaurant caught our eye. We were particularly intrigued by the number of Japanese clientele they had and figured that that said a thing or two about it’s authenticity, and decided to give it a try. Omotenashi Dining is quite the new kid on the block, having been around from only around September or October last year, but seems to already have picked up a good number of regulars.

No.64 Boat Quay Singapore 049852, Tel: 6533 5152, Opens 11.30am – 2.30pm and 5.30pm – 12am on Mon-Fri (Opens for dinner on Sat)

Nestled along the shophouses on the main stretch of Boat Quay by the Singapore River, Omotenashi Dining is situated right opposite the Parliament of Singapore, across the SIngapore River. Its decor theme is primarily black, with non-fuss wooden tables and white words printed on its canopy, with a yakitori grill is by the entrance on the left. There are several Japanese restaurants along Boat Quay, but among the yakitori places, Omotenashi had the largest Japanese clientele as far as I could tell.

Damage: $$

Omotenashi Dining is quite reasonably priced, with dishes priced at around $3-4 per stick (min. order of 2 per dish). It might seem little, but since most yakitori dishes comprise of meats, I find that we often underestimate how filling they can be. Beer is also popular at Omotenashi, especially among the Japanese businessmen – I saw a beer tower or two go by in the short while that I was there.

To Go: A good hangout place for meatloving friends

Omotenashi  was reasonably priced and the food was fine – some dishes being more standout than others. Indoor-seating (air-conditioned) is rather limited and it can get rather warm if you’re seated outside, so if you have more than one layer on I suggest to go somewhere else or begin stripping unless you want to be a waterfall. Service at Omotenashi was quick and the staff were attentive and eager to be of help, and the restaurant has an old Japanese feel. Overall, a possible place to hang out with friends after executing mission: escape from the office.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

A uniformed waitress came out to greet us at the front, nodded and politely invited us to come in in a slight Japanese accent. Several tables were already taken by the riverside and the indoors was full so we were seated by the entrance and presented with the menu which contained an array of yakitori, from skewered meats to tsukune (minced meat patty/ball), in different renditions – with mustard, with cheese, etc. I asked the waitress for a recommendation between the two versions of tsukune, and she pointed at one and said, “I would recommend this… and this”, and pointed at the other version. We looked at each other and tried not to laugh.

In the end we ended up ordering the Kinoko Salad, and several kinds of yakitori, a onigiri (rice ball), and an egg dish called Dashimaki. From there, the orders were sent to the grill, and soon after, began hitting our table in rapid succession.

Omotenashi Authentic Japanese Yakitori Singapore New 2015 Food Review Blog Boat Quay Mushroom Salad

The Kinoko Salad ($9.80) which the waitress said was very good and “popular” had a generous portion of stir fried mushrooms, beyond which I found to be pretty ordinary. You can give this a miss if you’re fine with having a mostly carnivorous meal.

The Isobe-yaki (chicken fillet wrapped with seaweed; $5 for 2 sticks) and Negima (chicken thigh with leek; $6 for 2 sticks) (featured picture, from left to right) were ordinary as well. They were a good piping hot, but the chicken was way too dry, which was surprising for the Negima since chicken thigh is typically fattier and retains juice better.
Omotenashi Authentic Japanese Yakitori Singapore New 2015 Food Review Blog Boat Quay Tsukune

The tsukune ($6 for 2 sticks) was great – the outside was charred perfectly, caramelising slightly the semi-sweet glaze, and the inside was piping hot and extremely juicy. They were very generous with the meat – I think this also contributed to its robust flavors and texture, making it more satisfying to have than the usual thinner tsukune patties, including the one I practically grew up on from MOS Burger.Omotenashi Authentic Japanese Yakitori Singapore New 2015 Food Review Blog Boat Quay Signature Egg

The waitress explained that the Dashimaki ($6.80) was gently cooked in a dashi stock for some time and whisked or something to give it it’s fluffy texture. To be honest I couldn’t internalise her description of the entire process because I zoned out halfway, and told myself that bottom line was that this egg was going to be more awesome than it looked. It was light but ordinary and rather lacking in seasoning, I’d happily swap this out for another yakitori.

Omotenashi Authentic Japanese Yakitori Singapore New 2015 Food Review Blog Boat Quay Yakitori Pork Asparagus LeekIt would do you good to have this – Butamaki Shimeji (Shimeji Mushrooms wrapped in Pork Belly; $6 for 2 sticks)This is one of my all-time barbecue favorites. Whenever I host or attend a barbecue, this is a dish that needs to be present to elevate the session to barbecue stardom. Ever a crowd pleaser, this yakitori was no different; mushroom juices galore, soaking up and adding to the natural saltiness of the bacon, with cheese atop. Omg, yes!