From Michelin-starred fine dining (and ramen!) to salt-of-the-earth donburis and bento meals, we are absolutely spoiled for choice when it comes to Japanese cuisine in Singapore. In the last couple of months, several more casual dining spots have opened their doors, and we couldn’t be happier!
From the prodigious Ministry of Food comes Tensho, which specialises in—you guessed it—tempura. Chef Sonoda Kazunori, who is the culinary head chef for MOF’s portfolio of Japanese restaurants, has very exacting standards when it comes to food. For the dish Anago Tendon, which includes sea eel (anago), ebi, onsen egg, and vegetable tempura, Chef Sonoda personally visited the anago producer in China to ensure the product is of the highest quality, and is produced in a safe and clean environment. He was also adamant that the restaurant used Hitomebore rice for all the tendon dishes. That’s because this rice is slightly sweet and has a consistently sticky texture, which pairs well with tempura.
He’s spot on. The rice here is exceptionally yummy and doesn’t leave you with a heavy feeling in your stomach. A particularly unique item on the menu is the tempura egg, which is a tantalising balance of deep-fried batter and oozy, eggy goodness. Mix well with the tare sauce (prepared using Chef Sonoda’s secret recipe), and enjoy!
Tensho is located at #B1-20 The Centrepoint; #B1-08/09 Cathay Cineleisure Orchard; and #01-14/15/16 United Square
This is another restaurant from MOF’s portfolio of Japanese restaurants. Kaisen-Tei specialises in serving freshly cubed sashimi in the form of hearty, healthy kaisendon. Here, you can pick and choose from eight types of seafood (salmon, maguro, hamachi, mini hotate, tako, ika, ishigaki, and mekagiki), four types of sauces, and 11 toppings. While the fresh seafood is best paired with rice—specially sourced from the Akita Prefecture for its fragrant, subtly sweet flavour—you can also choose to go carb-free with the salad option. All sets include a miso soup.
Not a fan of raw fish? Kaisen Tei also serves a mean Japanese curry – choose from either chicken, pork, ebi, or croquette curry with rice.
Kaisen-Tei is located at #03-41 313 313@Somerset
If you’re making a date with the latest ramen stall at Ramen Champion, here’s a word of caution: come hungry!
But first, what is tsukemen? It is a Japanese ramen dish where thick, springy noodles are eaten after being dipped in a separate bowl of broth. Joshoken, which specialises in tsukemen, is a brand under Tashiro Koji’s Saikyo Gundan – a restaurant that clinched the top prize at the Super Tsukemen Exhibition in October last year.
The signature dish at Joshoken is the Special Kotteri Tsukemen, where a bowl of al-dente ramen is topped with pork collar and pork belly chashu, bamboo, seaweed, spinach, ramen egg, and fish cake. This is accompanied by a piping hot bowl of broth, prepared with a blend of chicken, pork, onion, ginger, garlic, carrot, and leek. Pro tip: Before dipping the ramen in the broth, squeeze a dash of lime to the noodles. This helps cut through the greasiness of the broth and accentuates the flavour of your noodles. The restaurant also provides a complimentary bowl of soup wari—a separate light broth used to dilute the thick tsukemen broth—which allows you to slurp up the entire bowl of soup after your meal.
My favourite at Joshoken, however, is the Maze Soba (pictured in the main image). Similar to popular local dish bak chor mee, Maze Soba is a concert of ingredients, including minced meat, poached egg, garlic chives, spring onions, seaweed, mentaiko, mayonaise, and homemade chilli. According to the folks at Joshoken, the best way to enjoy the soba is to toss the ingredients and noodles at least 20 times to achieve the perfect balance of flavours. The wild medley of textures and flavours make this a super addictive dish, but its robust portion means you’ll probably enjoy it better when shared with another person. If you’re done with the noodles and still have ingredients left over, simply top up $1.50 for a serving of Japanese porridge to mix with the ingredients and polish off all that umami goodness.
Joshoken is located at Ramen Champion, #04-10 Bugis+
4. Teppanyaki Hamburg Nihonbashi Keisuke Bettei
Fans of Keisuke Ramen in Singapore will be delighted to know the ramen king has expanded his repertoire beyond ramen and tendon (Tendon Ginza Itsuki) to a Japanese favourite – hamburg steak (pronounced hahn-bah-gu). This is not your ordinary hamburger steak – made with prime US beef, each patty is freshly ground and formed in the restaurant to ensure the meat maintains its juicy flavours. Similar to Ginza Itsuki, there are only two items on the menu – the Keisuke Prime Beef Hamburg Set and the Triple Cheese Prime Beef Hamburg Set.
The latter is stuffed with a cheesy trinity of cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan, which explodes in a runny, yellow lava when you slice through the meat. By the way, the hamburg steak here is so tender and supple that you’ll hardly need a knife – just a fork will do! Apart from the hamburg steak, fill your stomachs with the free-flow buffet of Japanese side dishes, available with every order of a set meal. The rotating line-up changes daily and includes a wide selection of dishes, including the moreish ramen salad, pasta salad with tuna and eggplant, cha soba salad, and assorted fresh veggies. In keeping with Keisuke’s tradition of serving free flow eggs, you can also enjoy unlimited servings of eggs cooked in a variety of styles – from scrambled and sunny-side up to Japanese tamagoyaki (rolled omelette).
Teppanyaki Hamburg Nihonbashi Keisuke Bettei is located at 72 Peck Seah St