Why go to Japan when it keeps coming to you?
Why go to Japan when it keeps coming to you?
- By SG Staff
- | Nov 18, 2018
We’re going to go out on a limb and boldly bet that if you were to ask any Singaporean what their favorite cuisine is, chances are they would answer Japanese. After all, there must be a (commercial) reason behind the steady stream of Japanese food enclaves popping up all around the island the last couple of years. And if it isn’t your favorite cuisine, well; it likely will be after you complete this round-up.
The historic 160-year old building underwent a facelift in 2014 to give us a quaint Japanese food alley resembling a ramen street outside Tokyo station. With restaurants like sushi-by-day and teppanyaki-by-night diner Tatsu, shabu-shabu specialists On-Yasai, and Ikkousha which serves traditional tonkotsu ramen, you’ll never run out of options. For something casual and fun, don’t miss probably Singapore’s favorite yakiniku chain, Gyu Kaku. There’s also Japanese-fusion seafood fare at Wharf Oyster Bar, and a branch of Tonkatsu by Ma Maison. 30 Victoria St., 6337-7810.
Don’t be put off by its local reputation of sleaze and vice; also known as “Little Japan”, this older and more modest building to the right of Cuppage Terrace is a favorite go-to for Japanese-orientated KTV, massage and foot reflexology sessions, and of course, Japanese food. It houses seven eateries specializing in a diverse range of Japanese food such as Azmaya Honten’s signature shabu-shabu; Kazu Sumiyaki’s char-grilled yakitori; quality omakase from Kaiho Sushi; and tempura from izakaya-inspired Japanese restaurant and bar, Hanashizuku. 5 Koek Rd., 6734-1413.
Seven popular Japanese cuisines converged under one roof late last year and they’re all relatively affordable. There's a tuna, salmon, yellowtail and swordfish sashimi specialist over at Maguro-Donya Miura-Misaki-Kou Sushi & Dining; a yakiniku-style hot plate restaurant, Nikunohi, which specializes in kuroge wagyu beef; Nigiro Cafe, a Tokyo cafe that claims to have the best Caesar salad in the Japanese city; and Enbu, a warayaki and charcoal grill izakaya serving traditional small plates paired with Coedo beer. Also try the Korean tofu stews from Tokyo Sundubu, whose confused presence in a Japanese food enclave is still very much welcome. #03-313, Suntec City Mall. 6238-1630.
In the basement of Orchard Central, away from the hypnotic jingle of Don Don Donki’s empire, hides an oasis of affordable Japanese eats. A partnered concept brought in by the Don Don Donki folk, Hokkaio Marche comprises eight Japanese concepts from various parts of the Hokkaido prefecture in a comfortable, casual food hall setup. You can get steaming bowls of ramen from $12 at Sapporo Ramen Shirakaba Sansou, Japanese curry rice from Donburi Maruya, soba from Soba Maruki, and our personal favourite—DIY chirashi-style Kaisen Dons from just $8.50 at Kaisen Natsume. There’s also Japanese-style soft serve and drinks from the Dot Cafe & Bar; so really, there’s no reason to be wasting an hour queueing for sweet potato. #B2-11 to 29 and #B2-44 to 48, Orchard Central. 6509-9383.
Located inside Tanjong Pagar’s 100 AM Shopping Mall (ie. home to the second Don Don Donki outlet), Itadakimasu is another multi-restaurant concept housing seven different brands under one roof. Get your fill of tonkatsu, shabu-shabu, ramen and more: Shabu Shabu Gyu Jin is all about the hotpot and prime beef cuts; Nadai Fujisoba Ni Hachi imports quality buckwheat from Japan for your fresh soba; and there’s even an outlet by our local Ramen King—Ramen Keisuke Tori King, which serves up chicken thigh for the main event. Familiar names Yayoi and Saboten round up the directory. Level 3, 100 AM Shopping Mall, 100 Tras Street.
Japan Food Town
Make no mistake; there’s so much more to Japanese food in Wisma Atria than just Koh Grill & Sushi Bar. Needing no introduction, the 628-seater food hall parked on the fourth level of the former Isetan Orchard houses 16 casual-dining eateries from various prefectures and cities in Japan. There’s udon specialist Inanwa Yosuke (Tokyo), famous for their handmade udon that uses a 150-year-old technique; ramen masters Machida-Shoten (Kanagawa); Osaka Kitchen (Osaka), popular for teppanyaki and okonomiyaki; and Sushi Takewaka (Tokyo), a 36-year-old sushi specialty shop originally from Tsukiji market. You can also opt for healthier-choice Kinme Mai rice (available at half of Japan Town's eateries), which has the nutritional value of brown rice. Can’t decide what to have? This should help. #04-39/54, Wisma Atria Shopping Centre. 6694-6535.
Hot stone tendon from Sizzling Hot Stone
Across the road, Shaw Centre’s Japan Foods Garden sits in a corner of the Food Republic down in the basement. Of the five dining establishments within the enclave, Sizzling Hot Stone brings to the table Singapore’s first-ever hot stone tendon, as well as healthy soup pots like the Health & Beauty Salmon Pot. If you’re making your rounds, hit up Fry Pan Shokudo for Korean-inspired tempura, Gyutetsu Teppanyaki for teppan-style dishes, Tsukiji Takewaka from Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market for all kinds of sushi, maki, chirashi and sashimi; and Bar, which serves up innovative bar grub and alcoholic beverages. #B1-01, Shaw Centre. 6493-7300.
Possibly the OG Japanese food enclave, this well-worn mall in the heart of Clarke Quay is an entire building of Japanese restaurants, stores and even a supermarket. There’s notoriously affordable udon joint Tamoya, Tonkotsu Kazan Ramen for stone-bowl ramen and rice dishes, Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru and Tampopo for your sushi fix, and Marutama Ramen for ramen-slurping. And if you need a leisurely walk around to digest all that food, the supersized Meidi-Ya supermarket (the second overseas branch outside Japan) will keep you occupied for hours. 177 River Valley Rd.
There are plenty of options to choose from Millenia Walk’s Japanese food street—from steaming bowls of ramen at Chabuton and Miharu Sapporo Ramen, to fresh premium thick cuts of sashimi at Teppei Syokudo, Tomi Sushi or Rakuzen (all serving up generous amounts). There’s also a wide variety of quality sake at Patisserie G and freshly baked Japanese pastries from Pullman Bakery, the only Hokkaido-born bakery in Singapore. Millenia Walk Level 2. 6883-1122.
Photo credit: Japan Gourmet Hall SORA
Possibly inspired by the success behind their first Japanese food enclave (Eat At Seven), ANA Holdings opened an even bigger one in Changi Airport Terminal 2 in Nov 2017. Sora (which means ‘sky’ in Japanese) sets itself apart as a gourmet food hall that at 300-diner capacity is the largest restaurant across the airport’s four terminals. It houses six new and existing restaurant brands; must-tries include old faithfuls Kuro Maguro and Tendon Kohaku for chirashi and crispy tendon respectively, plus new brand Japoli Kitchen for its fusion Mentaiko Pizza. You can also pick up drinks and ice cream at the Sora Bar. #036-058, Changi Airport Terminal 2, Level 3. 6386-7005.
Inspired by the bustling district of Ginza in Tokyo, Shokutsu Ten is a Japanese food paradise at this heartland shopping mall, designed with authentic architectural detailing and historic icons specially imported from Japan. It showcases a total of nine restaurants, over 10 cultural kiosks and an amazing selection of Japanese specialties, adding a new dimension to the quintessential Japanese dining experience. Head down for some Japanese pasta at Kabe no Ana or go for a mandatory hot pot over at Shabu Tontei. There's also local favorite Men-ichi Ramen and Idaten Udon which serves up a unique (and spicy) twist on udons. They’ve since opened another enclave at NEX Mall too. #B1-77/78, Jurong Point Shopping Centre. 6792-5662.
It’s not so much a food enclave as it is just a building home to some good Japanese eats, but Singapore’s tallest skyscraper still makes the list for anyone needing to satisfy a craving in town. Cutest among the various Japanese restaurants is the Japan Rail Cafe, but we also like bakery and cake shop Hattendo for their sinful cream buns. Additionally, there is a branch of Imakatsu, sushi restaurant Azuma, and probably most excitingly, donburi place Kuro Maguro (the same one in SORA) by Kanagawa prefecture’s tuna wholesaler Misaki Megumi Suisan, which flies in top-grade blue fin tuna at -60F for maximum freshness. #31-01 Guoco Tower, 1 Wallich St. 6386-8322.