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!

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

Bincho at Hua Bee, Singapore

SCRIBBLES

Category: Japanese

I guess we should’ve known. With a 45% rating and a price range of $$$$ on HungryGoWhere, we should’ve seen the signs.

My friend, an up-and-coming culinary superstar in his own right, was back from London for a short while and suggested we give it a go. Coming from someone who has helmed the kitchen at some of the world’s finest michelin star restaurants, I wasn’t going to object – and so we went.

78 Moh Guan Terrace, Singapore 162078

The restaurant is situated in a quiet corner of a block of low-rise residences, just before the turn into an open air carpark. With an entrance that looked entirely unassuming, the restaurant would not be found unless you were specifically looking for it. Either that, or if you’d googled and seen pictures posted by the visitors who’d gone before you who, like you, also thought they’d finally stumbled upon the “hidden” find.

Damage: $$$$

In short, it costed a bomb. Almost 2 hours later, we were left slightly dazed at what just happened.

Full? Nope. Amazed? Nope. Mind-blown? Yea, I think so, and it’s not exactly contradictory. After all, we did get served up a $300 check just for us two.

To go: Uhh… no :/

I’m not going back, sorry.


A MORE DETAILED RECOUNT

Bincho Singapore Old School Interior

Bincho has a small seating capacity of 25 seats. In the day, Hua Bee is a kopitiam that serves up bak chor mee (a Chinese dish made with yellow noodles and accompanied by minced pork and sliced mushrooms). At nightfall however, the lights are dimmed, the tables are set, and the charcoal is ignited under the yakitori grill. The vibe is one that is unexpected, yet quite pleasant and cosy when combined with the marbled tables and plastic chairs.

We weren’t very hungry so we ordered a Bincho set ($120) and a few add-on a la carte dishes of Spice Cod Roe Wings ($15), Grilled Squid ($20), and Grilled Beef Tongue ($25).
19-bincho2

Our first dish to arrive was the grilled squid. It looked pretty nice, but taste-wise I thought there was really nothing special about the dish. I wanted to like the dish because I usually like grilled squid, but the flavour was lacking. I looked at him and he simply chewed, delaying his verdict on it having been overcooked.19-bincho3

As part of the Bincho menu, we were served up Angler Fish Liver. The dishes that came before it were an Assorted Appetiser and Assorted Sashimi – both pretty standard restaurant dishes in my opinion, and not enough to incite a reaction of sorts. I kind of expected the liver to taste like a form of foie gras -Perhaps I was wrong to have that kind of expectation, but this was pasty, lacked flavour, and had a far firmer texture that came away in pieces rather than melted in my mouth. The sauce, I felt, was a bit misplaced and separate from the liver.

Then, 2 dishes later, we were served up a plate of tempura. I absolutely love tempura, so when I saw this, I picked up my chopsticks and immediately fished up a piece and popped the entire thing into my mouth. It was super hot from being freshly battered, so I was hurriedly fanning my mouth and blowing out the heat, but once that was through and I actually bit through the tempura, I turned to him and made a face just as he put his piece back on the plate after just a nibble.

I don’t like this, he told me, just as a hot liquid mess filled my mouth from the broken tempura. The tempura itself was unusual – it was less weighty and crispy than most. The inside of the tempura was creamy but not quite, and tasted like… wow, I don’t even know how to describe. Slightly like a tasteless hot mess, with… a tinge of fishiness? I hated it.

He made a face back, laughed at my expression and said, it’s a cod fish’s sperm sack.

Damn.

The Tsukune with egg yolk was possibly my favourite dish of the entire Bincho degustation menu. Anything with yolk is usually good with me, and the sauce on this had far more depth than all the other dishes. I most closely associated it with the Tsukune burger at MOS which, as a kid growing up, I ate every Saturday after ballet class because it was so yummy.

While, this far into the meal, I’d become rather cautious of what I might be served, I must say the grilled beef tongue (featured picture) was good too. I’d never tried beef tongue before and was rather hesitant about it, but it was tender, full of juice, and the sauce of chopped garlic went perfect with it.

19-bincho5The chefs tell me it’s hard to impress with chicken and they were right. Although the chicken of the Yakitori Platter was pretty tasty, I probably wouldn’t be blown away no matter how many parts of the chicken they separated out and cooked for me. Some of it was actually quite dry, and while I like creative dining, I might just prefer the chicken wings on the the long metal skewers which the uncle fans with a wicker fan down the street.

Aeon Supermarket, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

Category: Japanese – Takeout (Everything from sushi to yakitori to bento boxes)

EVERYWHERE

Yeah, I know – who in the world takes a note about a supermarket? But if it’s a Japanese supermarket, I’m going to take note and that’s because there’s usually a food hall, and in that food hall, the food is likely to be Super Awesome.

Damage: Really varies depending on how much you buy because I know you’ll want to try everything, but a meal typically costs $

You can easily get a bento meal with hotate (scallops) or teriyaki salmon at around $6 or $7, or a box of karaage (fried chicken pieces) for maybe $3. They often have bakeries near the entrance too, selling all sorts of little pastries, japanese pancakes (including my favorite dorayaki; a red bean filling stuffed between two small pancakes), etc. At the first Aeon stop, they even had a melon-filled taiyaki, which is a sort of waffle that’s cooked on grill (sometimes in a fish-shape) until golden brown (featured picture).

To go: Yes! Whenever I spot one! 😀

It’s full of delicious treats and the product offerings are never the same at different branches. After that first Aeon stop, I’d gone to each subsequent Aeon eagerly looking for the melon-filled taiyaki but alas, there weren’t any. My advice is if you want to try something, just do it, because you might not be able to find it at another branch.

It’s a great way to go if you don’t have time for a sit-down meal or just want something convenient, or even if you’re looking for a more affordable meal. The standards are high – the Japanese supermarkets are truly like no other – and each time I go into one, I could easily spend hours just browsing the wide selection. I’m not a fan of getting food off the shelf but I’ve had countless good meals just having Supermarket takeout because Japan is just… Japan.

Matcha pancake with azuki red bean hokkaido japan