Japanese dining is (seriously) taking Singapore by storm

(Thankfully) joining the explosion of cheese tarts and ramen diners in Singapore, more restaurants—and a supermarket—have launched authentic Japanese, or Japanese-inspired food concepts this year. From twee Sanrio character cafes to a new food enclave in Wisma Atria, these are the hottest places to dine at now. 

Affordable fusion

, Japanese dining is (seriously) taking Singapore by stormMo’Mor Izakaya

Straddling the gap between wallet-friendly Japanese street food and the sometimes pricier, Western-influenced restaurant fare, Sen of Japan is pushing affordable fusion plates with a casual dining spin. The ground-level restaurant and bar overlooking the Marina Bay waterfront offers fusion, Japanese-influenced cuisine by executive chef Nakano Hironmi (who has worked at Nobu in Las Vegas). The restaurant’s signature dishes include the black cod with soy ($24.50)—which you can have with foie gras ($8.50 supplement)—and salmon aburi maki roll ($17.50). There’s also a good range of weekly promos: on Monday, have salmon sashimi at $5; oysters (three pieces) are just $12 on Tuesday, and on Thursday, gyoza goes for $5 for six dumplings. Don’t miss the one-for-one sake on Wednesday, too. 

In a similar vein, Mo’Mor Izakaya at Tanglin Post Office is all about Japanese-European tapas and grilled plates. For a quick bite, order the Australian wagyu on skewer ($22), charcoal grilled whole Japanese squid served with fermented chili bean glaze ($19), and apple-cured salmon sashimi with yuzu gel, pickled cucumber and olive oil caviar ($16).

Cartoon cafes

, Japanese dining is (seriously) taking Singapore by stormHello Kitty Orchid Garden

On the unrelenting path to cuteness, popular anime series Pokemon has joined fellow critters Hello Kitty and Pompompurin by setting up its very own character cafe here. Like its predecessors, the focus is—of course—on feeding your Instagram with photos of kawaii brunch plates emblazoned with cartoon images, and blowing your cash on twee merchandise. It’s open for a limited time only, so make your way down to EwF at Bugis Junction from now till Jul 31

Japanese food courts

, Japanese dining is (seriously) taking Singapore by stormJapan Food Town

Isetan Scotts Supermarket has launched a new grocery shopping experience and food enclave with revamped modern, minimalist interiors, a permanent event stage showcasing authentic Japanese products and a “food theatre” section. It houses Japanese eateries like WA-Dining, which serves bentos with ingredients such as seafood from Hokkaido and wagyu beef from Kagoshima; udon and soba diner Dashi Bar, known for its Hyoshiro dashi soup stock and Kaku-Uchi Sake Bar, a casual watering hole specializing in premium sake brands from various Japan prefectures. 

Occupying the fourth level of former department store Isetan Orchard, the 628-seater Japan Food Town (opening in July) specializes in authentic Japanese cuisine. It has 16 casual-dining eateries from Japan’s various prefectures and cities such as Dassai Bar (Iwakuni), which is known for their fine sakes; Sato Yosuke (Tokyo), an udon specialist famous for their handmade udon that uses a 150-year-old technique; Nabe Seizan (Tokyo), an offshoot of two Michelin-starred kaiseki restaurant Seizan; and Sushi Takewaka, a 36-year-old sushi specialty shop originally from Tsukiji market. 

One-bowl meals

, Japanese dining is (seriously) taking Singapore by stormThe Populus Coffee & Food Co.

It’s not a novel concept, but donburi have been making the menus of hip cafes and stalls of late. The Populus Coffee & Food Co. along Neil Road is now tapping into the rice and grain bowls trend with new weekday and weekend menus, and it has Japanese-inspired donburi like the Populus chicken rice doburi ($18.50), and the truffled wagyu beef ($21.50). It’s also not the only cafe with the great idea—just a little further down at Duxton Road, Ninja Bowl puts out East-meets-West meals like the Buta ($14)—cured pork belly, ume-pickled apples and onsen egg—and the Kaisen ($16), scallops and mussels in lemon butter sauce. Over at Circular Road, Superbowl gives CBD dwellers a simple and affordable selection of sashimi ($10-20), beef ($10) and even fruit bowls ($10). 

But for a more traditional take on the Japanese rice bowl, head to Teppei Daidokoro by chef Teppei Yamashita and Sugei Sake Salon. At Teppei Daidokoro, charcoal grilled yakitori is the highlight, although the Timbre + stall also offers the typical chirashi option. Marriott Tang Plaza’s Suigei Sake Salon has an exclusive selection of chirashi that’s priced at $33 (with appetizer, soup and dessert). The sashimi combo is always changing depending on the availability of ingredients, and with only five bowls served each day, booking in advance is advised. 


, Japanese dining is (seriously) taking Singapore by stormSakemaru

First, it was Japanese whiskey and now, good’ol sake is in the spotlight. There are new places specializing in sake like Isetan Scotts Supermarket’s Kaku-Uchi Sake Bar,  Japan Food Town’s Dassai Bar, and Hidden Door Concept’s 510 Sake Bar at Novena, which has more than 50 sake labels.

And then there’s a monthly sake subscription service Sakemaru, which delivers fresh seasonal brews directly from Japan. Some of the breweries on the service include Senkin (Tochigi), Tempoichi Shuzo (Fukuyamashi Hiroshima) and Takai Shuzo (Gunma). It’s $50 per month, and first-timers get 50 percent off their first month.  

Emporium Shokuhin is also hosting the Ehime Food & Sake Fair from Jun 2-26. On top of shopping for fresh produce, the food market offers sake tastings, a seven-course sake-pairing menu at Takujo Japanese Dining ($98++, with an additional top up of $38++ for sake), and a sake shooter sampler ($16++ for a set of three) at Umi+Vino Seafood Wine Bar.