Taste Of Nippon

Taste Of Nippon

Japanese fare that everyone loves. Curry Don, Sushi and everything else; you name it, we have it!
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

It seems that Okinawa-style Onigiri has been pretty much the rage recently — whilst the Central Business Districy had recently seen the opening of Hitokuchi Onigiri that is a dine-in concept at CapitaSpring, a new Mr. Onigiri has opened its doors at Upper Thomson Road along the same stretch of shophouses where specialty cafe joints such as Hello Arigato, One Man Coffee and Oak Coffee Co. are located. Occupying just half a unit of a typical shophouse, Mr. Onigiri is established more as a takeaway kiosk — there are no seats within the shophouse, and patrons who wish to have the Onigiri on the spot can sit at the bench located just by the road. Yet another establishment that had first started off as a home-based business that is establishing their presence as a brick-and-mortar space, the menu currently revolves around just Onigiri — there are a total of seven (7) variations of Ongiri available here; this includes the Otakotak Onigiri that comes with a fusion element. Beverages available at Mr Onigiri includes a variety of flower tea, hot green tea, as well as canned drinks.

Being one of the four items that are marked with a star on their menu, the Signature Melted Cheesy Crispy Chicken is described to come with elements such as Japanese seaweed, Japanese rice, tamagoyaki, spam, cheese, chicken patty and tartar sauce. Sinking our teeth into the Onigiri, we felt that the seaweed encasing the other condiments here is slightly on the chewier side; something that does make it a little difficult to eat considering how one would likely need some effort to bite off the piece of seaweed while the Japanese rice clings onto it. We liked how the portion of Japanese rice seems to have been relatively controlled here — the thin layer of rice was actually fairly compacted for a good texture; all that without making the entire Onigiri feel too heavy considering how it does come pretty substantial with all the other elements. The other condiments such as the tamagoyaki, spam and fried chicken were pretty decent; the tamagoyaki here felt more like a thin omelette while the spam provided much of the savouriness and meatiness that the Onigiri seems to need — the fried chicken cutlet felt close to those commercially made ones available in supermarkets, though still sufficiently crisp and tender nonetheless. The only gripe for us was the cheese; whilst the name of the item did suggest something oozy and stretchy, the sliced cheese that they had used for the Onigiri here felt a little far from what was expected. All of the elements does seem to be brought together with the use of mayonnaise for a creamy touch, though we wished that they could be a little more light-handed with that.

Not sure if this is the case, but it does seem that the hype for Onigiri just seemed to have began; it is interesting to see how the wave is slowly catching on ever since Hitokuchi Onigiri had first opened their doors at CapitaSpring. No doubt Mr. Onigiri is not quite that much of a fast grab-and-go spot that Hitokuchi Onigiri was poised to be; this is largely due to the fact that Mr. Onigiri was a one-man show when we made our visit — the same guy behind the counter dealing with patron’s enquiries alongside cashiering / ordering duties is also the same person preparing and packing the orders. As such, do expect some time for orders to be cleared during peak periods. Not sure if we would spend that much time to have Onigiri (we waited for slightly past 30mins considering that we were the second in-line after an order of seven Onigiri, while there were also various groups making orders whilst waiting for them to get our orders prepared), but one thing is definitely for sure — Mr. Onigiri does make for an interesting option especially for those staying around the neighbourhood; also a more convenient spot than the Central Business District for those who are looking to have a taste of how Okinawa-style Onigiri are like.

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Waa Cow! should not be an unfamiliar name to most whom have been following the hipster Japanese dining scene for quite a while; with its first outlet being situated in Stephen Riady Centre within NUS U Town (it is often been mistaken that their first outlet is within the Raffles Xchange at Raffles Place MRT Station), Waa Cow! has become quite a staple within the Central Business District. One can now easily find Waa Cow!’s presence within Marina One West Tower, as well as in the recently renamed CIMB Plaza (formerly known as Change Alley). Waa Cow! has always been a brand associated with their Signature Wagyu Beef Bowls — that being said, their latest concept situated within myVillage @ Serangoon Gardens hops on the Yakiniku bandwagon. Adopting a similar approach to other individual / personal Yakiniku concepts such as that of Yakiniku Like, Yakiniku Go etc., Waa Cow! Yakiniku serves up a variety of different cuts of meat, chicken and pork for the patrons to grill to their heart’s desire. Patrons can either opt for the meats in ala-carte or in the form of a set, whilst there is an extensive menu of sides (in both to-be-grilled, or ready-to-eat form) for patrons to go for as well.

For those whom are looking to try the various different meats that Waa Cow! Yakiniku has to offer, the Karubi, Pork Collar & Chicken platter would be the one to go for. Opting for the set, the set sees the meat platter being served with a bowl of Japanese Rice, as well as a standard side of Spicy Miso & Leek Relish and a canned drink of the patron’s choice. For those looking to switch up the the items offered in the set by going for options such as the Truffle Rice, or to add on sides such as the various different types of Chawanmushi and Sashimi available on the menu, there would be additional charges on top of the standard price of each set. For our order, we had opted for the Truffle Rice, as well as to add on the Wasabi Mayo, Truffle Sauce and Mentaiko Sauce as well; each table also comes with bottles of the Ponzu Negi and Garlic Butter Teriyaki, as well as black pepper for patrons to use for the meat as well. Whilst the flavours and textures of the grilled meat are pretty much up to how one grills them, we note that the cuts of the meat were pretty much on point; the Karubi and Pork Collar were both more towards the lean side but still were pretty tender for the most part. The highlight to us apart from the Karubi and the Pork Collar though were the Truffle Rice and the various sauces we opted for. It is no doubt that Waa Cow! is not the first establishment to have came up with truffle-infused rice, but their variant was just amazingly subtle and light without being overwhelming — didn’t disrupt that delicate texture and flavour of Japanese short-grain rice. We went a little crazy with the sauces here considering how the additional sauces weren’t that necessary — the reason so is because we just could not settle with the thought of going for either the Truffle Sauce or the Mentaiko Sauccw; it has indeed been a long time since the last time we had made a visit to Waa Cow! anyway. The Mentaiko Sauce and Truffle Sauce were as good as we remembered them to be — sufficiently rich and creamy whilst being umami or carrying a good hint of truffle aroma, but the Wasabi Mayo sauce carries that slight earthiness of wasabi without launching itself into an overwhelmingly numbing affair. The Ponzu Negi and Garlic Butter Teriyaki were also good; the former being that lightly savoury sauce with a hint of Yuzu for a refreshing kick that resets the tastebuds, while the latter is a immensely thick and rich teriyaki sauce that is sufficiently garlicky for a slight twist.

Waa Cow! has been through quite a fair bit over the years; the establishment having also survived through the nation’s Circuit Breaker period where eateries in the Central Business District felt a great impact on their sales due to the lack of office crowds returning to office. From being a totally new brand name, and then establishing themselves as one of the go-to places for fancy Wagyu Beef Bowls in the Central Business District, Waa Cow! seemed to have proved themselves as a pretty trusted brand over the years — their outlets in Marina One and CIMB Plaza being hit destinations for office workers to hang out for an after-work wind down. It is needless to say that the folks around Serangoon Gardens are a pretty lucky bunch to have them around their neighbourhood — a Yakiniku concept with a focus on personal Yakiniku grills that is reasonably priced; the lowest-priced sets being listed at $14.90 before prevailing charges. With meats of a decent quality at its price as well as great sauces and a delicious specialty of Truffle Rice to boast, Waa Cow! Yakiniku is definitely one of the spots that is worth making the trek to for those who are especially into barbecue meats and the personal Yakiniku grill experience; a destination that is likely to be an attraction for those living outside the area to make a visit into this unique neighbourhood in the island.

Heard about the new AmiYaki Japanese Authentic Home Grill which had recently opened its doors at Icon Village that is situated a stone’s throw away from Tanjong Pagar MRT Station. AmiYaki Japanese Authentic Home Grill takes over the former premises of Tokyo Soba, which has moved to a bigger unit just a few steps away within the same building. For those whom have visited Tokyo Soba in the past, much of the interior furnishings and fittings have stayed the same ever since the days when Tokyo Soba had occupied the unit; the differences are generally limited to the posters being hung on the walls as well as the signages on the facade that reflects the new tenant. Being an establishment that emphasises on Teishoku-style Japanese dining, AmiYaki Japanese Authentic Home Grill is big on terms such as “ichi ju-sansai” which means one soup and three dishes, while “AmiYaki” refers to the cooking method that involves grilling meat / fish over a wire net over high flames or red-hot coals — all these aligns to their aim on serving patrons a well-balanced, healthy meal. Patrons can either go for the sets, or order the items ala-carte — the items are listed either in the “Add On” or the “Appetiser” section of the menu.

Being one that is especially intrigued by dumplings, it was needless to say that the Special Handmade Gyoza Set was the item that caught our attention when we first skimmed through the menu here. All sets come with appetisers such as the Chikuzen-ni, Nibitashi, pickled Japanese cucumbers, Miso Soup and Rice — it is noted that the greens served in the Nibitashi and the ingredients that come within the Miso Soup may change on a weekly basis. Going straight for the Special Handmade Gyoza, these morsels of wrapped up meat fillings were really delicate and enjoyable — coming all wrapped up in a skin that is just of the right thickness, the skin has been beautifully pan-fried on the underside for a slightly crisp texture which provided a contrast of textures. Biting into the gyoza, the gyoza is not just filled with a meat filling — it also contains chives which provides for a nice savoury note with a bit of flavour contrast from the chives that cuts through the meatiness; the gyoza also being pretty juicy within as well. We were not expecting too much from the Chikuzen-ni, and Nibitashi — that being said, we were really quite impressed with the quality and execution of the appetisers here; the former was especially well done where it feels like a well-executed version of a homely stir fry of chicken and root vegetables. We found it to be especially appetising given how tender and juicy the small chunks of chicken is; coming with all sort of roots vegetables such as potato, carrots etc. that have been cooked to a soft consistency — an item which we found to be especially comforting and balanced without being particularly salty. The Nibitashi on the other hand was a little more simple; still great however — being just blanched, they were all crisp and retained that crunch which felt pretty refreshing from all the meat and gyoza that is served up here in the set. The Miso Soup here comes with quite a load of kelp — provides for a good bite for some texture while the soup was rich without being overly salty; the white rice on the other hand was beautifully executed with the Japanese pearl rice being sufficiently moist and sticky as it should be. Overall, a really comforting affair where it is not only just well-executed — the entire experience being one that is hearty, wholesome and homely as well.

Having tried only the Special Handmade Gyoza Set at AmiYaki Japanese Authentic Home Grill, whilst we did miss out on the grilled items which they have to offer the menu, one thing is definitely for sure — they definitely do go by their mission in feeding their patrons well in terms of quantity and quality. Would say that the set is well-sized; while it does seem to be pretty wholesome with quite a number of appetisers being served up, we did not feel that there was too much food — it was, however, pretty easy to finish given how the items here are rather well-executed. One thing we really enjoyed here is how they attempt to feed their patrons like as if they were home; there is just something about the food here that feels especially comforting and hearty; something different that makes it stand out and speak to the soul as compared to the other forms of Japanese cuisine typically served at other spots that are usually more delicate or intricate. Given how each set is priced really affordably mostly from $16++ to $18++, AmiYaki Japanese Authentic Home Grill definitely works as a spot for office workers in the Tanjong Pagar neighbourhood to go to treat themselves to a reasonably-priced Japanese meal that is well worth what it is priced at. We would probably be returning soon to give their grilled items a try — think the Pork Belly Set if not the Hokke Set; though definitely AmiYaki Japanese Authentic Home Grill is somewhere which we are looking forward to a swing by again.

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Didn’t really have any idea where to head for lunch since it was raining — was walking quite aimlessly around the Telok Ayer neighbourhood and found this new establishment named Paris2Tokyo located at 2 Stanley Street. Taking over the former premises of the SoupeRich, Paris2Tokyo is a new Japanese gastrobar (red cloth is still covering the logos when we made our visit); the establishment is being named as such as the concept serves up “innovative fusions of French-Japanese cuisine and gives it a progressive spin in a bold new direction”. The entire interior of the space is decked almost akin to that of other Japanese gastrobars that have opened up around the Chinatown neighbourhood recently — one that is seemingly more contemporary rather than Japanese; the front of the entire shop space being dedicated to the bar counter displaying the various types of alcohol available, while a high table hanging off the wall and high chairs occupy the area opposite it. Booth seatings and proper dining tables and chairs are available towards the end near to the closed kitchen at the back of the space; Sakura flowers have been included in the decor to hang off the ceilings at the back of the space to provide a little bit of that Japanese flavour. The kitchen is helmed by Chef Ronald Li, whom has previously worked at the now-defunct Restaurant Andre, Salt Tapas and Bar and The White Rabbit, as well as KU DE TA (now known as Ce La Vi) Serving up two separate menus during lunch and dinner service, Paris2Tokyo serves up a Lunch Teishoku from 11:30am to 3:00pm; essentially a section of the menu where they serve up their own rendition of Donburi with a choice for going either ala-carte or in sets, while dinner service starts from 5pm to 11pm with dishes spread across sections such as ala-carte (seemingly starters), carbs, mains and dessert. The beverages in the menu at Paris2Tokyo includes canned drinks, Japanese tea and Japanese bottled beverages for non-alcoholic options, while they do have an extensive selection of alcohol such as sake, beer, gin and whisky.

Dropping by Paris2Tokyo on a rainy day for lunch and cutting short our journey to somewhere further out to avoid getting drenched, we skimmed through their menu and decided to give them a try since we were fairly enticed by how the Truffle Soy Salmon Confit Bento. Despite the word “bento” in the namesake, the dish is being served on multiple plates. Available as an ala-carte item or in a set, the ala-carte version comes only with the Truffle Soy Salmon Confit itself, Signature Japanese Garlic Rice, as well Japanese Miso Soup; the set sees the addition of a Tobiko Tamago Pickle alongside the Sweet Potato Korroke and the patron’s choice of a canned drink. Going straight for the Truffle Soy Salmon Confit, we found this to be executed fairly well disregarding the lack of truffle aroma which would have otherwise completed this dish as per its namesake perfectly. The salmon confit features an exterior than has been seemingly lightly pan-seared before being served; there were evident grill marks on the slab of salmon. Digging into the flesh, the fish was flaky and moist; the insides still pinkish as one would have expected from a Salmon Mi-Cuit (i.e. partially cooked) or a sous-vide salmon dish — the salmon carrying its distinct flavour with a light hint of soy sauce that seems to have been brushed on the salmon to go along with it; the execution of the salmon bringing out that French-Japanese fusion that they have promised. The soy sauce does flavour up the bed of greens beneath a little as well; the greens cutting through the notes of the fish to refresh the tastebuds — all that while the Ebiko over the top provides a popping sensation for more texture. Moving to the Signature Japanese Garlic Rice, we thought that this was an interesting take after all — whilst one may initially expect the Signature Japanese Garlic Rice to be some sort of Garlic Yakimeshi, it turns out that the Signature Japanese Garlic Rice is not to be misconstrued as a fried rice but more of their own take of a flavoured rice that gives a vibe that is almost like a spruced-up version of the flavoured rice that is served with Hainanese chicken rice. Whilst sounding rather odd now that we are describing it in this way, the short-grained rice was well-executed; sufficiently moist and fluffy, and that it was well-complimented with the bits of sweet Tamago, zingy and crunchy Shibazuke (i.e. Japanese pickles) as well as the umami Furikake that gives it so much flavour that we mopped up the rice in no time. The addition of Sakura Denbu (i.e. pink fish powder) helps to provide an interesting aesthetic to the Signature Japanese Garlic Rice with its pink hue for a more vibrant look. The accompanying Japanese Miso Soup was sufficiently flavourful; came with bits of spring onions, kelp and small cubes of smooth tofu as well.

Despite only having tried one item of their Lunch Teishoku menu, we must say that we were fairly impressed with this random eat that we have ended up going for on a weekday lunch — there was no dispute in how there seems to be a lot of emphasis of the execution of the dishes here to incorporate the French way of cooking into Japanese cuisine for a modern twist. Sure, there may be elements where we wished that they could probably refine further (such as that of the lack of truffle aroma for the Truffle Soy Salmon Confit), but it does seem like to folks in the kitchen here knows what they are doing and have a very clear picture on the concept behind the food in general; something which we found to be really commendable about such Japanese gastrobars that tend to focus on serving up more classic Japanese cuisine such as sashimi, sushi and Donburi in general. No doubt the name of the establishment isn’t really the best; thought that it sounded a little too hipster for our liking (we probably wouldn’t be headed here if not for how we didn’t feel like walking on in the rain), but Paris2Tokyo does definitely seem like one of those slightly more underrated spots for those whom do not mind such a setup — somewhere where the food definitely speaks for itself more than the vibes that the space attempts to bring out, and a spot that we would like to check out again for the other dishes that they have to offer (hint hint: Miso Cod, Tako Taco, and the Parisienne Gnocchi)!

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Yakiniku restaurants have been pretty much sprouting up across the entire island of the late ever since the opening of Yakiniku Like’s very first outpost on the island at PLQ Mall — that brand has pretty much expanded its operations with multiple outlets around, while there are also other Yakiniku restaurants such as that of Yakiniku-GO, Yakiniku Shokudo and Hey! Yakiniku that have since opened in various shopping malls serving up the same fare. Located at Basement 2 in Bukit Timah Plaza, Grill by CUT is yet another establishment that brings the Yakiniku experience to the residents around the area; opened by the very same folks behind CUT Butchery at myVillage @ Serangoon Gardens, Grill by CUT is situated just right beside CUT Butchery’s newest outlet at Bukit Timah Plaza as well — Grill by CUT being an establishment that emphasises on “Butcher’s selection Charcoal BBQ”. As one would have expected, the menu here would feature Wagyu Platters and Yakiniku Sets featuring different cuts of beef from cows of different origins, as well as also other types of meat (i.e. chicken, pork) for those who are looking to have the Charcoal BBQ here; Grill by CUT does however have other items for those whom are not so much into Charcoal BBQ — the menu has sections dedicated to Dons & Noodles (including beef bowls and non-beef options for Donburi — think Sashimi Don Bowls, Unagi Kabayaki Don, Teriyaki Chicken Don) and Sukiyaki as well, whilst they also do serve a small variety of appetisers and sides on the menu here. Those who wish to pick and choose the meats that they desire would also be able to do so from the ala-carte section of the menu.

Having decided to go for one of the Casual Wagyu Platter and one of the Dons and Noodles here, our choice from the Dons and Noodles section of the menu was the Spicy Mentai Wagyu Beef Bowl — essentially their Signature Wagyu Beef Bowl which features Australian grain-fed MB4 Wagyu, Onsen egg, Housemade beef shoyu glaze and Niigata rice with the addition of Spicy Mentaiko mayonnaise over the Wagyu beef. Going straight for the Wagyu beef here, we were really impressed with how well-executed the beef here was; very tender and juicy, and did not require any effort to chew — the Wagyu beef was also savoury sweet from the Housemade beef shoyu glaze that made it especially flavourful, and the beef was in no way gamey. We also liked how the Spicy Mentaiko mayonnaise was being done here; it does carry quite a good kick of spiciness — something that would tingle the taste buds for those who are tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness whilst being still umami. With a slight sear from the blow-torch, there was a hint of smokiness that came with the Wagyu beef as well. We also liked how the bed of Niigata Rice beneath was sufficiently moist and sticky — lightly drenched with a bit of Teriyaki sauce for a sweet-savoury flavour; mixing the onsen egg that came with a runny yolk provided the entire bowl with a silkier touch and gels all of the components altogether. The addition of Shibazuke (i.e. Japanese pickles) provided a good tangy crunch that resets the taste buds from all that meat and rice going on in here.

No doubt the items at Grill by CUT does seem to be priced higher than other casual Yakiniku establishments that have been sprouting up in shopping malls of the late; that beng said, one could easily argue that the offerings at Grill by CUT are certainly more premium than that of the same establishments mentioned above as well. Being a butchery, one can also say that Grill by CUT is probably a way to showcase the variety of meats that they are retailing at CUT Butchery — a great way for consumers to have a try on the various cuts of beef as well as the beef of various origins before making their purchase. For those who are budget conscious, it would be worthy note that the lowest priced Yakiniku item to go for at Grill by CUT would be the Best Value Set in the Casual Yakiniku Set section of the menu that is priced at $18.80++ featuring 200g of Karubi Shortplate that also comes with Kimchi, Japanese Yuzu Salad, refillable lettuce and Niigata Rice. We were also pretty impressed with their cooked items — the Spicy Mentaiko Wagyu Beef Bowl was one that we found to be really well-executed and a fuss-free option to go for those who just want to have something without the need for grilling. Would say that Grill by CUT is certainly a destination for beef lovers to check out — especially for those who are into the Yakiniku experience; a spot that is worth checking out, whilst also somewhere which residents around the area would be glad to have in their neighbourhood.

One place which we hadn’t been visiting ever since now that the work ‘hood is in the Central Business District is Republic Plaza — just somewhere that we have not ventured into after all these while even though we are aware of the F&B options available in the basement, as well as at the first two levels of the building. Hidden in a corner within the basement is Subarashii Shokudo; a quick service Japanese restaurant that serves up Donburi that features various options of proteins — think Donburi featuring cooked meats such as the Spicy Vinegar Grilled Chicken Donburi, Grilled Saba Donburi and Unatama Donburi. Being one of the few eateries located within the basement of Republic Plaza that has a dine-in area, Subarashii Shokudo still serves up their food in disposable wares however. Operating as a quick service eatery, patrons would order at the counter and receive a buzzer that would beep upon the order being ready for collection; patrons are also expected to clear their tables and dispose the trash in the bins provided.

Having settled at Subrashii Shokudo after being unable to decide on what to have for lunch, we made a random order for the Grilled Pork Belly Donburi. We did not have much expectations on what would be served considering how the illustrations on the menu did look pretty pedestrian — we were actually pretty surprised by its actual presentation that seems more than appealing however. The Grilled Pork Belly Donburi is observed to come with quite a generous portion of grilled pork belly, salad greens and half-boiled egg all atop a bed of rice which had been drizzled with teriyaki sauce for flavour as well. Going straight for the grilled pork belly, we were surprised with how it tasted — the grilled pork belly here is sliced in thickly the way we would like it to be; having been grilled before serving, the pork belly provides a really firm yet juicy bite. No doubt that there would be some effort required in chewing, but we really liked how the gelatinous fat provides a very good chew — all that with cracked peppercorn for a slight crunch and slight peppery kick than tingles the tastebuds. The short-grain rice beneath was well drenched in sufficient teriyaki sauce for a bit of moisture and good flavour — yet another detail that they have nailed, while the accompanying salad greens did come with some Goma dressing (i.e. Japanese Sesame Salad Dressing) on the side — provides a refreshing crunch that is a respite to all that meat and carbs that are going on in here. Overall, a simple, yet thoughtful offering that really shows a lot of attention to detail that they have placed into serving up whatever they have to offer.

Subarashii Shokudo is that sort of eatery that one would have been easily overlooked and with good reason — it being tucked in a corner that leads to nowhere else within the basement level, and how they seek to serve up rather simple and conventional fare that somehow pales in comparison against the many other eateries within the Central Business District. Stepping in and giving them a try proves a different story; as simple or pedestrian that their fare may seem to be, Subarashii Shokudo does put in a lot of heart and pride in what they have to serve — there are a lot of attention paid into the details in the dishes that they serve up, and this is certainly something that is worth commending. We would most certainly find ourselves coming back to Subarashii Shokudo again another time for lunch; would be most interested to try the other item that they have to offer.

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Have visited quite a number of Minor Food Singapore’s new dining concepts of the late including that of Siam Smith at Palais Renaissance as well as Mamma Mia Trattoria E Caffè at Suntec City — the same group is also behind other known establishments such as Go-Ang Pratunam Chicken Rice, Josh’s Grill, Poulet and Sanook Kitchen just to name a few. GyoGyo is the latest concept; situated at Funan and replacing the former premises of Yu Kee Specialties there, GyoGyo specialises in Japanese grilled fish — the menu revolves around offerings with Japanese Grilled Fish Sets as their main focus. The Japanese Grilled Fish Sets are available in Saikyoyaki, Teriyaki, Mayoyaki, Shioyaki and Nitsuke styles, whilst those who wish to have something apart from fish can look into the Teppan Spaghetti and Donburi sections of the menu. There is also a section on the menu that is dedicated to Other Grills & Tempura — patrons can either opt for these as a communal plate for sharing, or add-on a Japanese Rice Set to make it a main; sides and desserts are also available here. Only non-alcoholic beverages are being served up here at GyoGyo — think options such as canned drinks, bottled water and Japanese Tea as some of the options being available here.

Since GyoGyo is all about Japanese grilled fish, we thought it would be good to go for one of the items on the Japanese Grilled Fish Set menu. We found ourselves going for the Grilled Mero Set that is being listed on the Saikyoyaki section of the menu. It is also worth noting that each Japanese Grilled Fish Set also includes Japanese Steamed Rice, Miso Soup, Vegetables of the Day and Pickles. The slab of cod fish that was being served to us look beautiful with the charred edges from the grilling; also does come with skin-on — a plus point for those who will appreciate it. First taste of the grilled fish itself and we really liked the flavours of the fish here — it’s naturally sweet, soft and flaky, though we did wish that the fish did retain a little bit more moisture after all that grilling as we found it a wee bit on the dry side. The skin itself was gelatinous; also sweet, yet providing a slight savoury and smoky note that was rather appealing. The only qualm we have had with the fish was that it was a little bit bony — no doubt these were tiny ones; which wasn’t too hazardous but it is still something which we would prefer not to deal with. The Vegetable of the Day that was served together with our order of the Grilled Mero Set is simple stir-fry of greens, mushrooms and root vegetables; the gravy does give a good savoury note, though we found it to be otherwise decent and nothing too much to shout about — the same would also go with the rice and the accompanying miso soup as well.

Felt that GyoGyo was an establishment that is set up primarily to serve the masses — something which Minor Food Singapore probably does best; a typical shopping mall eatery with interior decorations that can be said as being on the more generic side, whilst serving up a good variety of dishes which the concept focuses on, yet having other dishes that are slightly more irrelevant to capture the wider audience should they prefer something more “mainstream”. GyoGyo isn’t that spot to go if one is looking for something more exquisite — yes, no doubt they do offer a good variety of fish, but being a commercial establishment in its nature their focus is purely on the concept and not the produce they use, whilst the execution is decent at best — a slight mismatch considering the high price point of some of the dishes considering its focus on fish. A spot that is meant to serve the general public and perhaps, bring the idea of Japanese grilled fish to the masses, GyoGyo would probably work for most as a casual dining option available within the mall.

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Huggs Coffee has been on a roll on its plan of expansion recently; ever since the opening of their outlet at Thomson Plaza, they have since opened several other new outlets such as the ones at i12 Katong, JEM, Lazada One and more; their latest outlet being the one located at Clarke Quay Central. Whilst this new outlet still serves very much the same items as what their other outlets are serving up and also includes a display freezer at the counter to display the flavours of gelato from Denzy Gelato available, the Clarke Quay Central outlet marks the very first time that Huggs Coffee is serving up hot food in its cafes. Available in the menu at their Clarke Quay Central outlet is a whole line-up of “Mains” — this section of the menu features the various Donburi, Poke and side dishes offered in collaboration with a brand named “Karubi”. For those patrons who wish to opt for another form of carbs for their Donburi, an option of Salad Mix or Zawo Soba is also available at $1 extra.

Given how it was being mentioned as a signature item on the menu, there was no giving the Signature Truffle Wagyu Donburi a miss here. Priced at $18.90, the Signature Truffle Wagyu Donburi features the same elements that comes with the Original Wagyu which includes items like Australian Grain-Fed Wagyu Beef, Onsen Egg, Housemade Beef Shoyu Glaze, Shibazuke and Japonica Rice — the only other addition exclusive to the Signature Truffle Wagyu Donburi would be the Housemade Signature Black Truffle Concoction which can be said as a truffle-infused mayonnaise. Digging into the Signature Truffle Wagyu Donburi and we were immediately impressed; really liked that Australian Grain-Fed Wagyu Beef which came with the Housemade Beef Shoyu Glaze; the glaze adding a hint of sweetness to that Wagyu Beef that was savoury without any hint of gaminess that seems to have been blowtorched for a smoky note. The chunks of Wagyu Beef were also bite-sized; coming in a generous portion, the beef was also tender and does not require much effort to chew — very well-executed in its own. Given how the chunks of Wagyu beef were sitting above the bed of rice, the Housemade Beef Shoyu Glaze also lends it sweet-savoury note to the fluffy and suitably sticky Japonica Rice as well; a joy to polish up given how it is pretty easy to have. The Housemade Signature Black Truffle Concoction attempts to gel the carbs and the meat with its creaminess that is infused with a hint of truffle that isn’t particularly overwhelming, but constantly runs at the back of tongue to remind us of its existence; the sous-vide egg, with its runny egg yolk, also provides a silky texture to everything else in the bowl when mixed together with the various elements. The inclusion of Shibazuke was a thoughtful touch; these pickles help add a crunch and a refreshing tang that resets the taste buds when all of the meat, sauce and carbs get a little overwhelming — provides for a good break in between all of that which is happening in the bowl. Overall, a Donburi that is especially well-executed and delivers in terms of flavours and textures at a suitable price point.

Huggs Coffee has really gone a long way from its days as a coffee kiosk serving up simple bakes and ready-to-eat food that just needs to be heated up using an oven; not only do they seem big on collaborating with other local brands, they do seem to also found themselves dabbling into new territories such as having a proper hot kitchen to dish out actual hot food for those looking for something substantial enough as a meal on its own. Karubi seems to be off a very good start; their offerings do seem comparable to the same of other establishments that are known for serving Donburi in similar styles — something which we found to be fairly impressive. We do wish that they would be able to keep up to such standards in the long run; the Donburi is something which we would most certainly think about having if wanting to settle for a convenient, yet hearty and delicious meal in the area!

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The Outram Park neighbourhood does seem to be a happening spot for new F&B establishments these days; aside from Homeground Coffee Roasters’ move to from East Coast Road to Teo Hong Road, there are also new F&B establishments such as Mio that have opened in the area as well. Located at 82 Neil Road, Mio is situated right beside the very first outpost of Apiary. Having started as a delivery-only concept, Mio is not an entirely new start-up in the local F&B scene; in fact, they are opened by the same people behind the now-defunct Bao Makers which had previously operated out of several locations such as Horne Road in Jalan Besar, Teck Lim Road at Outram Park and in Westgate at Jurong East. Mio attempts to be an establishment that “brings traditional, yet artisanal fine Japanese cuisine in their abode” — the space has been designed in a rather clean and minimalistic look with a touch of zen; tastefully decorated to include natural elements such as greenery and even stones in some parts for a peaceful yet modern look. Mio’s menu does carry quite a wide selection of dishes — the menu spreads across various sections such as “The Art of Sushi”, “Sashimi”, “Japan Wagyu Specials”, “Side Dishes”, Rice and Noodles”, “Kid’s Meal”, and “Desserts”, while the list of beverages include non-alcoholic options such as tea and soda, with a wider variety of alcoholic beverages such as beer, red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, gin, sake and sparkling sake.

There were really quite a number of items on the menu that attracted us; a bit of a pity since we only visited Mio with one other pax and could not try everything that seemed to have stood out to us. One of the dishes that we found to be pretty interesting on their menu would be the Asari Clam Somen, which is an item listed on their “Rice & Noodles” section of the menu. The item comprises of elements such as Kombu Butter Broth, Asari Clam, Somen, Shimeiji Mushroom and Japanese White Noodles. First taste of the Kombu Butter Broth and we were really impressed with how it tasted; it’s savoury and briny from the clams, yet garlicky — so much flavours in there but also felt particularly clean, but packs a punch. Moving on to the Asari clams; these were fresh without any undesirable stench whilst the flesh was pretty bouncy and provided for quite a good bite. The choice of the Somen (i.e. Japanese White Noodles) was a pretty good move for the dish as well — the noodles were slippery and slurpy; complements that briny and garlicky Kombu Butter Broth really well to further elevate those clean flavours that one would expect out of a contemporary take of Japanese cuisine. Overall, a dish which we felt that they had certainly looked into the details of flavours and textures in the R&D phase; one that had much heart and thought placed into it.

We have also tried other items at Mio; this includes the Sushi Ball from the “The Art of Sushi” section of the menu; their contemporary take on Nigiri Sushi which is shaped into balls that features salmon, southern bluehn tuna, yellowtail, squid, swordfish, cucumber, red radish,
Japanese sweet egg and prawn; also another dish that we quite liked will be the Goma Goma off the dessert menu that features black sesame cake, house-made black sesame ice cream, speculoos crumble. All in all, despite Mio’s affiliation with the now-defunct Bao Makers, we felt that Mio was something that is leaps and bounds ahead of what Bao Makers used to be; the only association which we could draw to Bao Makers would be the through the Bao of Threes dish that features Ebi Croquette, Japanese Chashu and Miso Nasu Bao which is a Japanese interpretation of the items that Bao Makers were offering previously. That aside, it feels that Mio has got serious potential — from the effort behind the interior decor, to the quality of produce used and the execution of the food; Mio felt like a move away from Bao Maker’s hipster fare into a premium establishment with a contemporary touch that we found to be really impressive. A spot that is likely to become a highlight on social media; probably somewhere to hit before the queues start to form!

JIN HO had been quite a hit with those living around Kovan MRT Station ever since its inception — the coffeeshop stall that was previously at Blk 203 Hougang Street 21 which was best known for their wallet-friendly Japanese Donburi and Asari Bata Yaki (i.e. Asari clam in butter sauce) had recently became a standalone establishment, and had moved into one-north neighbourhood. Occupying the space which was previously home to an outlet of Attap House, JIN HO is now JINHO Shokudo & Bar — the space being revamped to become a watering hole with a dimly lit interior that features neon lighting. The dining hall features furnishings and fittings with a wooden accent; there are tables meant to serve various group sizes from 2 pax to 6 pax all around. Maintaining a menu that carried most of the favourite items during its time at Kovan, JINHO Shokudo & Bar’s menu does feature familiar Donburi dishes such as the Gyudon, Unadon and Yaki Toriniku Don; also available is the Asari Batayaki — now being listed in the “For The Belly” section alongside ala-carte orders of the various meats featured in their rice bowls. What is newly-introduced here would be the items listed in the “Light Bites” section of the menu — items which are intended as a bar snack such as the Ebi Chilli, Plum Daikon and Kaki Fry. Being positioned as a watering hole, the beverages available at JINHO Shokudo & Bar largely revolves around alcoholic beverages — their selection of alcohol includes draught beer, red and white wines, sake, whiskey, cognac, gin, vodka and highballs, while their non-alcoholic selection includes canned drinks and a small variety of juices.

If we had to choose an item to write about, it probably would be the Kagoshima Butadon. The menu describes the Donburi to come with elements such as house-cured kurobuta pork belly, edamame
confit tomato, truffle mushroom and onsen egg; all of which sitting atop a bed of short grain Japanese pearl rice. Mixing the onsen egg into the rice before mixing up the entire bowl of elements altogether, the egg yolk does bind all of the different elements that are served in the same bowl by providing a silkier touch. The various elements in the bowl also gave the dish a textural contrast — the house-cured kurobuta pork belly providing a meaty bite with a good chew from the fatty parts; all that whilst being crisp on the exterior. Meanwhile, the edamame provided somewhat of a popping mouthfeel as one chews on it, while the confit tomato gives a good refreshing burst of tanginess. The truffle mushroom provided a bouncy texture; all that with a slight whiff of truffle to provide an umami note to the earthy flavours of the mushroom — a pretty apt addition for yet another dimension of flavour to be added to the entire bowl. The bed of rice beneath has been drizzled with what seems to be Tonkatsu sauce for some flavour — carried a savoury note with a hint of ginger that cuts through all that meat and carbs in the same bowl.

Whilst it is a joyous occasion to see how JIN HO has evolved from being just a baker stall to a full-fledged standalone eatery by its own, we found ourselves pretty much sitting on the fence for this one. It is pretty amazing to have seen how they have grown ever since their inception — we did however feel that the quality of the food was not particularly up to scratch and prices are now somewhat steep as compared to in the past. Whilst the Kagoshima Butadon did seem to be an improvement over the Gyudon which we have had during our first visit at their Kovan stall, we found the Asari Batayaki to be lacking in its richness in terms of the buttery notes that we had enjoyed previously — all that whilst the clams felt a little sandy. The Ebi Chilli also did not seem to impress much; that is besides the fact that the prawns served were pretty decently sized. That being said, JINHO Shokudo & Bar was pretty well-packed on a weekday evening when we made our visit visit for dinner — here’s hoping that this will be still the case for them in time to come …

Billion Bowls was a stall with quite a hype back then when they were first featured on social media — the coffeeshop stall located at the coffeeshop named [email protected] at 83 MacPherson Lane is opened by a chef previously from Mikuni; the stall serving up Japanese Ramen and Donburi at pretty affordable prices (none of the items here exceeds $10). Items that are listed on the menu include a Spicy Chicken Ramen, Mentaiko Mayo Salmon Don and Bulgogi Don; those looking for something to share across the table can also opt for sides such as the Signature Golden Prawn as well.

Having dropped by Billion Bowls since the spot that we had initially wanted to check out wasn’t opened for the day, it was easy to decide what to go for here — we opted for two of their Donburi which features their signature sauces; the Mentaiko Mayo Salmon Don and the Golden Sauce Prawn Don. Whilst the former is something which was well-executed, the latter was also as well-executed but also something which we found to be less predictable. The elements that come with the Golden Sauce Prawn Don is what one would have usually expected out of a Donburi like this — essentially the prawns come blanketed in their Golden Sauce that seems to have been torched; all atop a bed of short-grain pearl rice with a side of cherry tomatoes and wakame (i.e. seaweed). Going straight for the Golden Sauce Prawn, it is little wonder why there was just so much talk about Billion Bowls back then — the Golden Sauce is undeniably creamy with a slight smokiness from the torching; there is this slight saltishness but the flavours are undeniably clean, and so much so that its flavour is just something that we can’t quite put a finger to. Nonetheless, it was a good combination with the prawns here — the light flavours of the sauce just paired so well with the natural sweetness of the prawns; the prawns are also pretty fresh and provided a good bite considering how chunky they are. The bed of rice beneath came with rice that was lightly drenched with a sweet-savoury Japanese sauce for some flavour — didn’t feel like there was any conflict between the Golden Sauce and the sauce used on the rice in terms of flavour; the sauce for the rice also makes the rice easier to have. Whilst the cherry Tomatoes are essentially just what they are, the Wakame does help to provide a slightly refreshing crunch.

The crowds seemed to have died down at Billion Bowls — the coffeeshop being barely full when we visited for lunch on a weekend lunch service, and that that there were a constant stream of patrons for Billion Bowls though there was never quite a queue to begin with. That being said, they seem to have been pretty consistent with the food that they are serving out to their patrons — we were actually pretty impressed by both the Mentaiko Mayo Salmon Don and the Golden Sauce Prawn Don for their quality; definitely put some other establishments to shame and also very value-for-money as well. An earnest setup by folks who have not only got a good repertoire, but also the passion to serve their patrons their very best; Billion Bowls is certainly a destination to check out!

Orchid Hotel at Tanjong Pagar is pretty much a haven for Japanese cuisine — being the most recent addition to the hotel is Tsukiji Unagi Shokudo; a Unagi specialty store in Tsujiki, Tokyo which also runs two Unagi-centric eateries in Singapore — Tsukiji Unagi Daioh within Don Don Donki’s food court in JCube, as well as an independent restaurant named Tsukiji Unagi Shokudo at Orchid Hotel. The menu at Tsukiji Unagi Shokudo features Combo Jyu, Hitsumabushi and Donburi — mostly surrounding that of their A5 Nihon Unagi, though they do also have Grilled Maguro, Grilled Skewers and a couple of sides on the menu. Beverages served at Tsukiji Unagi Shokudo includes soft drinks, as well as hot/cold green tea.

The A5 Nihon Unagi with Black Angus Beef Karubi Combo which we have ordered was item off the special collaboration menu with ANZU Meat Factory which is said to be limited to “10 meals a day” section of the menu — all items in this menu comes with Unagi Soup, Shibazuke, Savoury Unagi Bone Crisps, and Seasoned Seaweed. Going straight for the highlight here, the A5 Nihon Unagi is indeed the star of the show — Tsukiji Unagi Shokudo only uses blue-skinned Nihon Unagi that is said to be of a higher quality than the usual Unagi that is used in similar establishments in Singapore. One could easily tell that the quality differs here as well — the Unagi here is especially plump, but doesn’t carry quite as many boney bits within so it has this really meaty texture that is at the same time somewhat flaky; all that smothered with that sweet-savoury Unagi sauce with a light crisp from the grilling which we definitely found to be the one of the most memorable Unagi dishes we have had. In retrospect, the Black Angus Karubi Beef is lesser of a favourite as compared to the Unagi — no doubt still savoury from the sauce that it was coated in and slightly smoky from the grilling; that being said, the beef slices were a little more chewy than what we would have preferred though probably also a quality of Karubi anyway. The bed of rice beneath came pearly and sticky; came drenched in ample sauce for a bit of a savoury flavour. Whilst the Shibazuke and Seasoned Seaweed does help to reset and cleanse the taste buds with its crunchy and pickled nature, the inclusion of Savoury Unagi Bone Crisps is an interesting one — deep-fried till crispy, think of these as items that are pretty similar to cartilage that is usually served as a bar bite to be paired with beer. Here, the Savoury Unagi Bone Crisps is to be enjoyed with the Unagi sauce and Sansho (i.e. chili powder) that is placed at every table that patrons can help themselves to. Also interesting is the Unagi Soup; a soup that seemed collagen-rich with its milky appearance whilst packed with a light savoury note that is pretty delightful — an interesting change from the usual Miso soup. The Unagi Soup also contains Unagi meat-on-bones within; something patrons should definitely exercise some caution whilst consuming.

With its emphasis on serving A5 Nihon Unagi, Tsukiji Unagi Shokudo is certainly making a difference to the dining scene here where they are placing an emphasis to introduce premium Unagi to the masses here. Prices are a little steep for those who are intending to go for the special collaboration menu with ANZU Meat Factory, Hitsumabushi or Unajyu, though they do have a promotion for members which is rather easy to join and makes it a little more affordable on the wallet. We were pretty impressed with the quality of the Unagi here; pretty fresh, whilst the different elements are also decently-sized — definitely a spot that Unagi fanatics should check out especially if establishments such as Una Una, Unagi Tei Japanese Restaurant and Uya Japanese Unagi Restaurant appeals to you!

Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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