The hype: When the Lo & Behold Group does something, the local F&B scene watches with bated breath. And with the opening of this cosy 26-seater shophouse restaurant, they’ve finally opened their first Japanese concept and everyone’s wondering what it’ll be like.
The vibe: Walking inside, you’ll notice the place is without blemish, amazingly clean and supremely pleasing to the eye. Esora is easily the belle of the party and looking at it is as if gazing upon a gorgeous specimen you can’t help gawking at. Take a seat at the beautiful communal or round tables, but why keep your distance when you can be up close by the counter as the equally stunning team caringly serves you each course.
The food: A lot of weight is put upon young Chef Shigeru Koizumi’s shoulders (this being his first time at the helm), and with his teeth cut at renowned establishments the likes of Nihonryori RyuGin in Tokyo and Singapore’s own Odette, he has managed to put forth a modern Kappo-style meal ($198 for seven courses; $258 for nine courses; or $308 for a bespoke nine course) worth bragging about.
Intensity of flavors is purposefully sidestepped in favor of intricate style and nuance. The menu takes on whatever is micro-seasonal at that point in time, so their offering might be different the very next day you visit. What remains constant is the attention to exacting standards. During our visit, we started with a dashi. It’s a soulful broth that warms you up for the first course, the Monaka, Koizumi’s rendition of the wafer dessert usually packing azuki, but is served savory with foie gras instead. This is perhaps the most interesting dish.
There’s also a chawanmushi item worth talking about. The egg custard is nowhere to be seen at first glance, but is actually hidden underneath a thick layer of horsehair crab and matsutake mushroom stew. Very aromatic and the textures are heavenly. Still, the standout has got to be the juicy and fatty omi wagyu, served with burdock, amanaga pepper (that’s meant to be eaten with the fresh wasabi on the side) and aged vinegar glaze. A crab donabe rice dish rounds off the meal, making sure no tummies are left unfilled to the brim. Chef is generous with his portions and quickly asks if patrons want more the moment you clean off the last glistening grain from the bowl.
Before the dessert, a pre-dessert is always served, though it’s not mentioned on the menu. We had a palate-cleansing kyoho grape sorbet before a wasanbon caramel ice cream was plated before us in spectacular fashion: whole white truffle gets microplaned right before your eyes as shavings upon shavings of the good stuff piles atop your plate, making you wonder if you can really have that much truffle.
The coup de grace however is really the wagashi platter (chef’s take on the petit four) at the end. Here, traditional Japanese treats are served upon a custom-made flat wooden box that’s opened before you. It’ll be hard to hold in your amazement as the immaculately presented tiny cotton candy stick, daifuku and more become literal eye candies that prompt incessant photo taking.
The drinks: You’d think to find a pairing of sake or wine to go with your many courses, and there is that option. But to go for the tea pairing ($38/$48) instead is to find a new experience. It may not be as effective in encouraging spirited conversation (it’s sobering, in fact), yet you’ll find yourself pondering over each tea—all cold-brewed (except the one hot one) same-day in small batches—in search of the multitude of mild, accented notes present in each glass.
Yes, the teas aren’t served in earthenware or wood, but in stemmed glassware of different height and width as if at a wine masterclass. There’s even a bubbly one, though still non-alcoholic. Teas are made with a mix of leaves, genmai, spices, and many other grains, and the staff presents a bell jar of what goes into each tea for visual and olfactory impact. Slowly take a whiff before having a sip; it’ll enhance the whole encounter.
Why you’ll be back: If not to continue gawking at this beaute of a place, Esora is where you bring a first date or close friends to to impress, or where you treat yourself to a meal you won’t soon forget. Dining here means dining alongside some of the trendiest crowd in town.