Kon’nichiwa! With 2016 marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Japan (SJ50), we’ve noticed a surge of Japanese eateries making its home in the Lion City. Not too sure if its a coincidence or a well-thought out move, but we’re definitely pleased to see all these restaurants sprouting all over Singapore, from Michelin-starred Tsuta to homegrown brands like Kanshoku Ramen Bar and Ninja Cut.
Chalong, located at Tanjong Pagar, is perfect for the working crowd as they serve up fuss-free meat rice bowls. All their meat are sous vide and grilled in the Josper Charcoal Oven and is also smoked with apple wood, to add more flavour to the meat. Highlights include their iberico jowl that has been sous vide for 18 hours, alongside their homemade chilli sauce and their black angus striploin, which is coated with red wine sauce and yogurt. Their meat bowls come with Japanese rice and a half-cooked egg. You could pump up this hearty bowl by also adding vegetables like grilled asparagus, tomatoes and white button mushrooms. #B2-21 Tanjong Pagar Centre, 7 Wallich St.
Chef Masaru Seki, who is the fifth-generation member of the founding family of Ippoh Tempura Bar by Ginza Ippoh, is bringing the same revered Osaka-style tempura directly from the Tokyo Ginza restaurant to Singapore, along with strict culinary traditions that dates all the way back to 1850. Located within the idyllic Dempsey neighborhood, this 1,200-sq ft restaurant is a mixture of traditional and modern, with its bamboo fixtures and monochrome of gold tones. The space can seat up to 18 diners, 12 of which are at the tempura bar where you can witness first-hand how these golden beauties are made. Unlike other tempuras, theirs are light yet crispy as it is fried in safflower oil to lock in the flavors without all that greasiness. There are a few lunch and dinner sets to choose from, which comes with kakiage, rice and miso soup, as well as sashimi for the pricier sets. The only difference between the different sets is the number of tempuras being served. There’ll also be a specially curated selection of sakes, wines and beers that will go well with the tempuras. Block 17B Dempsey Rd.
This new permanent cafe run by East Japan Railway Company (JR EAST) is a one-stop destination for all things Japanese. For starters, you’ll be able to speak to the friendly, bilingual staff to plan your itinerary and even purchase your JR passes (includes JR East, JR Kyushu, JR West, JR Shikoku, JR Central and JR Hokkaido) before making your way there. There will also be a monthly theme where they will focus on the lesser-known prefectures of Japan, where you can also get your hands on snacks and kawaii items from that particular region, alongside popular merchandise from JR East’s retail stores. Food-wise, the cafe will be adopting a bunch of F&B recipes created by the JR East Food Business (JFEB), a subsidiary under the JR East Group which owns over 50 different F&B establishments in Tokyo. Some of the dishes you can expect is The Ultimate A.B.C. Burger (from one of their burger restaurant chain), which sees the combination of avocado, bacon, cheddar cheese and 160g juicy wagyu beef patty between fresh lettuce and soft buns from Boulangerie Asanoya; and the Kaisen Avocado Don, a solid rice bowl of salmon sashimi, scallops and avocado from JFEB’s Nomono Kitchen. To keep things fresh and exciting, they’ve also thrown in a monthly rotating menu that will feature signature dishes that represent that particular region for the month. #01-20/21 Tanjong Pagar Centre, 5 Wallich St.
Kanshoku Ramen Bar has branched out to its third outlet at the heart of Orchard. Its space is very much similar to the branch at Orchard Gateway; reminiscent of a typical Japanese eatery with its long bar tables and chairs. “Kanshoku” in Japanese means to finish eating every last bit of your food, and you can finish your bowl here without leaving any leftovers as they don’t use salt or any preservatives usually found in other ramen.You can dig into their truffle infused ramen (made up of Hakata-style noodles, caramelized pork belly, truffle oil and shaved truffle) which come in a delicious broth or opt for the dry version if you’re not up for something soupy. Those who like their ramen spicy can slurp up to their spicy tonkotsu ramen and flaming hot tonkotsu ramen. They also have the usual Japanese nosh such as pork gyoza, charsu donburi and chicken karaage. #B3-18 ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn.
Teppei Yamashita is known around town for his affordable and solid Japanese concepts, starting with Teppei at Orchid Hotel. This time, he has opened a rare unagi-only eatery that’s seeing some serious lines. Working with a respected unagi farm in Aichi prefecture, Yamashita flies in live unagi, to be dramatically cut up behind the glass front kitchen of this otherwise all-wood, cozy 37-seater restaurant—an experience that is increasingly rare even in Tokyo. If that sounds mad expensive, it’s surprisingly not. Nearly all the dishes are under $30, and some are even below $20. Try the Hitsumabushi—the eel is marinated with Teppei’s original sauce involving soy sauce, brown sugar and other secret ingredients, grilled and served over fancy rice from Yamagata prefecture. It is meant to be enjoyed four ways: first on its own with rice, then with the addition of the accompanying nori flakes, spring onion and freshly grated (!!!) wasabi, then in a porridge-like consistency with the accompanying eel broth and, finally, whichever way you liked it best. Purists should get the Shirayaki: straight up, unmarinated, grilled fillet, served with a root of wasabi, a grater and a little bottle of Himalayan sea salt. 1 Keong Saik Rd.
The people who brought you Duxton Hill’s Ninja Bowl, which dishes up Japanese-inspired rice bowls, now have Ninja Cut among the eateries of Seah Street. As the name might suggest, the focus this time is on proteins, particularly meat. The industrial-minimalist 60-seater offers plenty of hearty and healthy options. Though the concept of Ninja Cut and Ninja Bowl are similar, the former sets itself apart by offering more premium protein options such as their roasted ribeye, which is served with grilled corn, sautéed mushrooms and a mouth-watering onsen egg (do note that they only serve 30 bowls a day); and grilled squid, that is marinated with their secret sauce. Amp your already protein-heavy meal by adding white quinoa. They also serve hearty brunch fare all-day, including their grilled cheese with braised beef cheeks which comes with Japanese curry and their take on the typical southern pork and grits which features pork belly cooked in aburi-style, alongside truffle polenta mash. 32 Seah St.
Renga-Ya (which means “brick house” in Japanese) is nestled on the grounds of the beautiful old convent, CHIJMES, among other establishments, offering exquisite cuts of beef from the land of the rising sun. Staying true to its moniker, the space has a very rustic feel thanks to its wooden floors, brick walls and warm lightings. They specialize in two types of cooking methods—Japanese barbeque and flame-grilled steak—so you know they’re serious when it comes to meat. The showstopper has to be their Renga-Ya BBQ platter, which comes in 300g and 500g, and features thick slabs of beef from Hokkaido and Kagoshima. They will be then cooked to how you like it over the hot charcoal. Those who prefer their beef flame-grilled, they can tuck into their steaks, ranging from different cuts such as tenderloin, striploin and rib-eye, alongside sauces of your choice, like their homemade steak sauce and peppercorn sauce. Don’t forget to try their protein-heavy appetizers such as their deep fried oysters and their beef carpaccio. They also serve up other Japanese classics such as their pork katsu doused in Japanese curry and beef udon soup. #01-11/12 Chijmes, 30 Victoria St.
The Michelin-starred Tsuta has made this outlet in Singapore its first outside of Japan. Located at Pacific Plaza, this 18-seater restaurant brings the same critically acclaimed flavors that founder and chef Yuki Onishi offers in its Japan outlet.The secret of its success lies in its carefully selected ingredients, a mixture of sauces used for the base of the soy broth. Onishi works closely with a shoyu brewer in Wakamaya Prefecture that creates a soy sauce to his specifications, mixed with two other shoyu for the dashi (soup stock). Even their noodles are unique; made with four types of whole wheat flour for a nice bite and smooth texture. Starting from $14 for a bowl, you can choose from three different types of soup bases—the Shoyu Soba, which has a dash of black truffle sauce; the Shio Soba, which consists of a blend of chicken and seafood, rock salt, red wine and rosemary; and the Miso soup, which has a lighter yet robust flavor. #01-01 Pacific Plaza, 9 Scotts Rd.