Lunch Date at Teppei, Singapore

Lunch on weekdays is mostly a snappy affair, and Teppei feels like just that – except the bit about there being a long queue, and it helps to be “prepared”. Needless to say, the hottest dish in the house is the Barachirashi Don at $17.90. Here’s the low-down.

Teppei Japanese Restaurant
#01-18 Orchid Hotel, 1 Tras Link, Singapore 078967
No reservations taken for lunch, Reservations for dinner by phone at 6222 7363 (they open reservation for the next month or so at a specific date and time, so call ahead to find out when)

You’ll like Teppei (and it’s Barachirashi Don) if:
1. You love heavily marinated chunks of sashimi – I personally found it a bit overwhelming on the fresh natural flavours of the fish,
2. You love daikon (raddish in a light gravy) and beansprouts – these are free-flow at the table so that’s a double yes from me!
3. You don’t want to spend too much at lunch (Otherwise I know a few other Chirashi dons that are pretty damn good at a slightly higher price point like Sumiya)

Teppei Japanese Restaurant Singapore Food Review Daikon Beansprouts

You won’t like it if:
1. You mind squeezing shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone in the tight bar counter type seating – Yes, it can be a little uncomfortable and stifling, and you have to be slightly careful with your movements
2. You like relaxing lunches – The pace at Teppei is quick; orders taken, orders prepared, orders served like clockwork. We couldn’t help but feel the pressure to eat quickly and leave.

Teppei Japanese Restaurant Singapore  Food Review Blog

Finally, some tips:
1. Go before 11.50am if possible, because the queue gets really long and the wait can be easily over half an hour.
2. Know what to order before you enter – especially if you’re going to be spending some time in the queue, eyeball the menus displayed outside and decide. That’s because once seated, the waitress will come (possibly Without a menu) to take your order. If you’re taking too long to decide, she will be standing in the narrow aisle blocking everyone who’s trying to get in or get out. If all else fails, you can’t go too wrong with the Barachirashi don.

Itadakimasu!

Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant, Singapore

SCRIBBLES

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.

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!

Wakakoma, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

Category: Japanese – Kaisen Wakakoma Don, Kaisen Chirashi Don

I added Wakakoma restaurant to our “Hitlist” for Sapporo because it’d been featured on No Reservations. I’d watched that episode on one of the weekday nights after work, was sold by Anthony Bourdain’s mouthwatering descriptions and enthusiasm for Wakakoma, and found my tummy grumbling about not getting some of that amazing sashimi heap that Bourdain was happily tucking into.

Sapporo Fish Jyogai Market, North 11 West 21, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido, 060-0011 (〒060-0011 北海道札幌市中央区北11条西21 中央卸売市場 場外市場), Tel: 011-644-7722, Opens daily from 9AM – 9PM

We had a tough time trying to find the place, with the front and sides of the building plastered over in a dozen signs filled with loud Japanese characters and stalls selling fresh seafood on the ground floor, I thought I’d gotten it wrong. I was asking for directions when one of the stall owners finally caught wind of “Wakakoma“, and gleefully pointed us in the right direction and up a narrow flight of stairs that we would’ve otherwise totally missed.

Damage: $$ – $$$

Wakakoma was definitely one of the pricest restaurants. The Kaisen Wakakoma Don was 3,780JPY (~$44 SGD)- but was also covered in 13 kinds of seafood and so was totally justifiable in my opinion. Can’t get nothing of that sort in Singapore, no, so might as well go big or go home!

To Go: Yes, but don’t go out of your way and stick with the tried-and-tested

It was very good, no doubt. The seafood was fresh covered ever inch of the top of the bowl, and included king crab and botan shrimp. Travelling around Hokkaido, you’d realise that any don (rice dish) with kani (crab) in it never ever comes cheap, and so while it was a pretty costly meal, I thought it was well-priced compared with everywhere else. That said, I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to eat at Wakakoma because it was a little out of the way (there was nothing that interesting in the area) and I think you can get some pretty darn decent kaisen dons elsewhere. Sorry Bourdain, but Marutomi Shokudo in Monbetsu was still the best.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

We alighted at a nearby parking lot and following my GPS, we found ourselves at the foot of a small cluster of buildings, huge signboards plastered on all sides. I led the way down the pavement – a narrow cement path which separated the shelves of fresh produce and seafood to our left and the road to our right on which huge lorries and trucks drove by hurriedly, fetching the day’s catch from the market to, I supposed, restaurants all over Sapporo.

Wakakoma Restaurant Anthony Bourdain Food Review Blog Sapporo Hokkaido Japan Jyogai Market

I walked up and down that same stretch several times, looking for Wakakoma, and each time seeming to succeed in overshooting the little red dot anchored on the map. A kind middle-aged Japanese lady manning the fruit stall finally figured out what we were looking for and pointed down the row. We’d stopped at regular intervals and turned to her for approval, only to see her wave us farther and farther down the row, until we finally ended up by a small staircase where she nodded and pointed upwards.

The staircase opened out into a small restaurant which could seat about 30-40 people. The chef’s table was to the right of the dining area, and dozens of signatures of (I suppose) famous people lined the wall at its entrance which probably meant Wakakoma was a favourite of many.

Wakakoma Restaurant Anthony Bourdain Food Review Blog Sapporo Hokkaido Japan

I took no time with ordering at all, considering I already knew exactly what I was there for, and everyone took my cue. When I saw the Kaisen Wakakoma Don, I’m pretty sure my eyes lit up- I mean, anyone’s would! With a grandiose botan shrimp head triumphantly poking out of the sea of sashimi, I’ll admit I was really excited. While some of it was good – like the hotate (scallops) and kani, others like the ika (squid) and maguro (tuna) fell short; the ika was chewy and rubbery while the maguro was thin and slightly stringy. I’d tried uni (sea urchin) a few times around Hokkaido and had attributed my indifference to the fact that those weren’t the freshest, but even at Wakakoma I was let down in spite of all the uni-campaigning that Bourdain had done. It was only recently when I had the best uni of my entire life at Hashida Sushi, surprisingly or otherwise, back home in Singapore – and that, is a story I’ll share with you in time.

Wakakoma Restaurant Anthony Bourdain Food Review Blog Sapporo Hokkaido Japan

Let’s explore: The little town of Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

Otaru has become a special memory for me. The tinkling music in LeTAO and the Orgel Museum transported me into a Disneyland of sorts, while the abundance of food places along the street and souvenir shops kept it real by singing with wonderful aromas and displays of kawaii toys, telling me that indeed, “This is Japan”.

I managed to capture some of my experiences in this charming town of Otaru, so come along and take a walk in the town with me!

Manzoku, Singapore

SCRIBBLES

Category: Japanese – Smart Casual – Chirashi Sushi Bento, Grilled Items

Yoi Group’s Manzoku on Purvis Street is the new sister to Chikuwa Tei at Mohamed Sultan. While I’ve yet to go to Chikuwa Tei, I’ve heard many good things about it and figured Manzoku would be more of the same. Both restaurants have a pretty similar menu, so I’m not quite sure why they were given different identities, but Manzoku fared well enough to prime me for a visit to Chikuwa Tei.

18 Purvis Street, Singapore 188597, Tel: +65 6734 4436

In January when they first opened their doors, it was a difficult find – the restaurant’s signboard was a plain A4 paper plastered onto its doors reading “MANZOKU” – and many customers got lost en route. It’s almost just opposite from Jai Thai, and when I went in late February, I found that Manzoku had settled in quite well – it now has a beautiful sans serif black lettering above its set of tall wooden doors, and its signature Chinese character running vertically down the middle in a bold, auspicious red.

Damage: $$ – $$$

In spite of its wilfully unfinished interior, Manzoku is in no way a budget or casual eat. The Chirashi Don ($25), however, is of very good value and featured some typically costlier cuts of sashimi. The grilled items are distinctly pricier, and if anything is going to derail the budget, it’ll be these. Our add-on of Unagi was $24, bringing the total to around $43 per person.

To go: Yes, it’s worth trying

Many of us have an undying love for sashimi and chirashi don, and Manzoku is a good place to get your fix, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for a more personal, intimate setting for special occasions. It’s great for a night out with friends and like Chikuwa Tei, it’s best to make a reservation ahead of time as Manzoku is often full.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

We arrived at 7pm in time for our booking and the place was 80% full, with the last few vacant seats under reservation. Stepping in, the ambience was a little unexpected after the polished impression created by the strong (and heavy) double front doors, slightly minimalistic in design. The floor and walls were plain, bare cement. Simple pendant lights dangled from the high ceiling, and the counter was on the right, towards the rear, creating some sort of a cafeteria-but-not-quite setting. By estimate, Manzoku has a seating capacity of about 50.

Having read about the chirashi sushi bento, we homed in on it in the menu, and added on a grilled Unagi as a side dish.

Manzuko Chikuwatei Singapore Japanese Restaurant Food Review Blog Chirashi Don Best SashimiThe Chirashi Sushi  bento featured Salmon, Maguro (tuna), Mekajiki (swordfish, my favorite), and Hamachi (yellowtail) sashimi slices atop Japanese sushi rice. The sashimi was sliced thick, and the swordfish was especially fresh and tasty. The salmon was sliced a bit thinly and the tuna was a bit stringy (perhaps specific to the cut I’d happened to receive), and I very much preferred the taste of the sashimi pieces I’d had on my Mix Bara Kaisen Don at Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya. The little appetiser of cold tofu with cucumber slices and the miso soup which were served with the Chirashi bento were tasty.

The unagi was deliciously prepared. Grilled to perfection with just a slight charring to bring out the smokey flavours and giving rise to a little caramelisation, the unagi was generously lathered in a thick (arguably too thick), sweet-savory teriyaki sauce. I thought the portion was decent for the price of $24, and is something well worth trying if you should visit Manzuko.

Manzuko Chikuwa tei Singapore Japanese Restaurant Food Review Blog Chirashi Best Sashimi Grilled Unagi

LeTAO (ルタオ), Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

Category: Dessert – Cheesecake

We made a highly-anticipated stop at LeTAO (ルタオ) in Otaru for their famous cheesecakes. I heard all about the melt-in-your-mouth creamy cheesecakes of LeTAO from friends who’d gone ahead, and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint.

7-16 Sakaimachi, Otaru City, Hokkaido, 047-0027

Being right at the start of the street as you turn off the main street, LeTAO is impossible to miss.

Damage: $$ – $$$

If you’re heading upstairs to the cafe, you’re not going to stop at one. And if you’re shopping on the ground floor, with the sales assistants smilingly handing out samples of everything delicious (think lots of chocolate), you’re not just going to walk out with one box either- more like a bag, or two, or three!

To go: YES! Definitely!

Needless to say, you have to try LeTAO‘s cheesecakes – A light texture, with soft, smooth, cheesecake, nestled within a bed of feathery light cake crumbs and a light cream. To me, it was as if special notes of the cheese, distilled somehow, were gently whisked and incorporated into the cake, and as it descended upon my tongue, I couldn’t help but feel a smile grace my lips.

For all the hype surrounding LeTAO‘s cheesecakes, I’m surprised no one has made much mention about their tea. The LeTAO tea is incredible! There is an amazing range of flavours, and if you just open the lids of the sample cans, the beautiful scents will hit you like a dream. We bought some to take home with us from the shelves on the second floor (where the cafe is), and we’ve rationed the teas till now because they are simply so precious in fragrance and taste.

LeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary BlogLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Chestnut Mont Blanc DessertLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Double Fromage CheesecakeLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Desserts Double Fromage Cheesecake