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!

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Wakakoma, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

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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

Otaru Market, Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan (Gallery)

We made a stop by Otaru’s wet market in the late morning to check out their range of fresh seafood. Being a seaside town, Otaru’s streets are lined with restaurants and shops selling seafood in various forms – from live to dried to fresh cuts served with don. Otaru’s wet market was smaller than Kushiro’s Washo market but better, with fresher seafood and great value. The stall owners are a lot kinder as well, perhaps due to lesser competition, and even took the time to explain the different catches and fantastic sea creatures.

I walked down the length of the market armed with my DSLR, trying my best to capture as much of the colour as possible. One of the shopkeepers saw me pointing and commenting on the giant crabs in my video, and without hesitation, lifted the entire crab out of the tank and said, “Yes it is hu-ge!” Haha! – often it’s really the locals that really make the place even more memorable. He gave me a pinch of uni to taste before we eventually sat down to enjoy a Major seafood meal.

Right- enough of my talking. I’m going to hit you with the pictures 😛

Otaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Don Travel Food DiaryOtaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Don Travel Food Diary King CrabOtaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Don Travel Food Diary BlogOtaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Ikura Don Travel Food DiaryOtaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Don Travel Food Diary

Manzoku, Singapore

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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

Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya, Singapore

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Category: Japanese

I have a feeling that one day I’m really going to regret having posted this. Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya has been around for a while but I don’t think many people have discovered it yet – which is why I have feelings of both fear and excitement (which, I know, sounds a little extreme for feelings towards a restaurant but legit nonetheless); fear for when it gets popular, I’m not going to be able to get a seat for a long time to come, and yet, excitement, at how much potential Sumiya has.

181 Orchard Road, #12-02 Orchard Central, Singapore 238896, opens daily 12-3pm and 6.30-10.30pm

Sumiya is located right at the top most floor of Orchard Central – the rooftop, to be exact. I’m not even sure many people are aware that there’s this top floor because the lifts only go up to level 11, where Tung Lok Seafood Restaurant is situated, and from there you’d have to turn left and walk all the way to the end. Go around the corner and you’ll find a set of escalators that are otherwise pretty obscure, and that will lead you right to Sumiya‘s doorstep.

Damage: $$-$$$

I think Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya possibly has one of the most ridiculous (in a good way) lunch sets in Singapore. The lunch sets are served daily (including weekends), and range from $15.80 for a Chicken Teriyaki Don to $58 for a King Kaisen Don which has a ridiculous amount of sashimi. The sets we had were about the $20 price range, and were of fantastic value, and just thinking about it is making me salivate. The grilled items, which are served based on a skewer count, are very popular and will spike your bill a little but are still competitively priced when compared with other charcoal grill places such as the ones at Cuppage Plaza.

To go: YES!!! (And soon…)

The food is incredible – sashimi slices were thick and fabulously fresh (just read on for the detailed review below), the tempura was also delicious, and everything was just- fantastic. Service was impeccable as well – they were friendly, attentive, and polite. Plus, there’s the great birds-eye view of Orchard and Somerset if you take a stroll on the balcony. Note to self: Go back ASAP.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya Singapore Food Review

Sumiya has the feel of a laidback slight old-world market-style charm with wooden tables on unfinished metal legs and high chairs, which were surprisingly comfortable. The charcoal grill was being worked to our right as we came in through the entrance, and the staff nodded politely in welcome.

The Fish of the day Charcoal Grill Set ($16.80) was made from mackerel, and was fresh, coming off in flakes. The outside was grilled to a golden brown with the lightest crisp, and was cleanly seasoned with sea salt which supported the natural flavours through.

Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya Singapore Food Review Blog

Assorted Tempura at Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya Singapore Food Review Blog

The Assorted Tempura set ($17.80) was a generous serving of five prawns and vegetable tempura in the loveliest batter. It was served piping hot and held it’s crisp to the end of the meal, and was well complemented by the light but flavourful dipping sauce and a generous serving of freshly grated radish. They definitely didn’t stinge on the ingredients – the vegetable tempura was made from asparagus.

My dish was the Mix Bara Kaisen Don ($18.80) and when I saw it, I went wow, and the waitress couldn’t help but break into a smile at my enthusiasm for the dish. I mean, seriously, look at it-

Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya Singapore Food Review Blog Mix Bara Kaisen Don

BAM! Heaps and heaps of thick juicy sashimi which were so fresh, with generous bits of avocado (!) and a mountain of ikura and roe. It tasted absolutely divine! Each set came with a salad, an appetiser, chawanmushi, japanese pickles, soup, and a green tea mochi (which I totally fell in love with). OMG is all I can say, my tastebuds were absolutely singing afterwards – to the top of my list!

Marutomi Shokudo, Monbetsu, Hokkaido, Japan

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Category: Japanese

Marutomi Shokudo came highly recommended by the hotel’s front desk and was within walking distance from where we’d stayed. When we arrived at 1.30pm, there were at least five people already seated in the waiting area and two people waiting outside the door. Now, whenever my family gathers together and fondly recalls our trip to Hokkaido, Marutomi Shokudo would always be mentioned as one of the top 3 places we’d dined at.

5-6-1 Minato-Cho, Monbetsu City, Hokkaido, Japan, +81-158-24-1188

Located along the coast facing the Sea of OkhotskMarutomi is situated at the corner of a set of buildings and faces the fishing port where boats come in each morning with a dazzling array of seafood.

Marutomi Shokudo Monbetsu City Hokkaido Japan Food Review Travel Blog

Damage: $$

Mind- blown. Around $20 for a bowl of rice covered in a generous assortment of extremely fresh and thick sashimi slices ranging from salmon to scallops, it’s definitely a tough one to beat.

To go: Yes, definitely!

Monbetsu city is rather small with not a lot to see, but if you do pass by from Abashiri, Kitami or Sounkyo, Marutomi is more than worth your while. The seafood was incredibly, incredibly fresh, and the servings were very generous, although you might wish to note that they speak no English. We arrived with only 45 minutes to go before they closed for the afternoon and when they finally had sufficient seating, we had a bit of trouble explaining that we were willing to clear out within 20 minutes before they ushered us inside. Seating was comfortable (some along the bar counter, and about three 4-6 seater tables to the right) but limited, so it would be wise to go earlier where possible.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

Grilled cuttlefish Marutomi Hokkaido Best Sashimi Travel Blog Food

We were first served a springy, tender cuttlefish for dipping in a light mayonnaise. The grilled items were good, but the sashimi really stole the entire show – imagine a smooth, thick slice of fish, bending to your bite before breaking into a fresh melting tenderness. The ikura (roe) were bright orange spheres, bursting in the mouth to unleash an intense explosion of flavour. I thought I knew fresh seafood until I dined at Marutomi. We cleared out within 20 minutes as promised, and yet, this rushed meal was easily at the top of the charts. Truly, this is just one of the things you have to taste to believe.

Shiretoko Cuisine Ikkyuya, Utoro, Shiretoko, Hokkaido, Japan

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Category: Japanese

We stopped in Utoro for lunch, just before we turned off into the Shiretoko pass which ran between Mount Rausu and Onnebetsu. I’d read about and seen pictures of this specific Salmon Ikkura Don (Salmon and roe on rice). I tried my best with all the tantalising descriptions I could muster for the duration of the entire morning, and by lunchtime, everyone was convinced to look for it in this little seaside town on the west coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula.

13 Utorohigashi, Shari-gun, Shari-cho 099-4355, Hokkaido

It was pretty hard to find – a clean, cream-coloured building with black outlines and a light coloured wooden door – the restaurant blended in with the surrounding buildings. Even with the GPS, we drove around the same area four times before someone finally spotted the white shop sign hanging vertically in front of the restaurant as we came around the bend.

Damage: $$

It was very value for and well worth the money. The dishes had generous portions of ingredients which were very fresh, well-seasoned and tasty. My Salmon Ikkura Don was about 2000JPY which is about $22. Most of the dishes also come with a bowl of soup and yellow pickles.

To go: Yes, if you can spot it 😀

The elderly lady, who I believe was also the owner, was friendly and very polite, and the dishes were meticulously put together. Everyone enjoyed the different dishes, from the well-known Salmon Ikkura Don to the Yakisoba (Fried noodles) to the Katsu Don (Breaded Pork on Rice). When we were there, they also had a “special” dish which were the clams, and they were absolutely lovely, so you should definitely take a look at what’s the special when you go.


A MORE DETAILED RECOUNT

There it is!

Someone finally spotted a white sign on the side of the building with blue and black Chinese characters hinting something along the lines of food as we rounded the same bend a fourth time. There was little else which would’ve given it away – no logo, no pictures of food or anything of the like – besides the little white shop banner which hung across the front door on a pole. It also didn’t help that the shop was facing away from the sea, so it was on the reverse side of a cluster of buildings.

We’d parked across the street at the open carpark and started walking towards it when suddenly an elderly lady came out and started taking the shop banner down from the pole – that’s when I ran towards her and began gesturing wildly, refusing to believe that all our efforts would go to waste. Fortunately, after she figured out that our group of 8 (big business – especially when it’s hungry Singaporeans) wanted to dine at her restaurant, she decided to let us in.

Clams steamed in Japanese sake

On her recommendation, we tried the special, which were clams steamed in a clear sake broth. The clams were fresh and cooked just right – none of that chewiness – and came off the shell cleanly. The broth itself was light, and carried the full-bodied flavour of the sake well.

I ordered the Salmon Ikkura Don (featured picture) – of course, I wouldn’t change my allegiance – and it did not disappoint. When it was served, everyone who hadn’t ordered it went all jelly and kept eyeing it (I mean, look at the picture). It was so carefully put together – the thick salmon slices had a healthy gleam and lay in a circle around the bowl, within a ring of glossy ikkura. The salmon was extremely fresh, smooth, and had a good firmness.

Yakitori Soba Utoro HokkaidoThe Yakisoba came with pork and shiitake slices, and was topped with an egg – I managed to steal a bite, and it was delicious. The noodles were firm and springy, coated in this tasty savory sauce which had a hint of sweetness (perhaps a sort of teriyaki sauce but slightly less sweet). The pork was fragrant and the mushrooms were cooked to a good softness, while the vegetable slices provided the crunch. And egg yolk on noodles… how can anyone go wrong with that?

Although we were the last ones in, the owners did not rush our meal. In fact, when they noticed that we were eating really quickly so they could close for the afternoon, we were told not to worry and to take our time to enjoy the food. We made it a point to keep telling them how good it was by giving them the thumbs up and telling them おいしい (Pronounced “Oishii”, meaning “delicious” in Japanese) each time they came around. When we were about to leave, we were handed little postcards featuring the fishing pier by which to remember their town and restaurant by, and smilingly ushered out with friendly goodbyes and polite little bows, and we left ready to take on the rest of the peninsula.