After I returned to Singapore from my trip to Japan, I started to crave for the simple yet clean tastes of the sushi that can only be satisfied omakase style (omakase – where you leave it up to the chef to decide what he wants to serve you). The best way to experience this is to sit at the counter and have the chef prepare the food right in front of you. If your chef is good at interacting with you and is willing to chat about the food and ingredients, you’ve just scored a great eating experience!
So I went on the internet to check out places that serve Omakase style sushi in Singapore. Shinji came out as one of the top rated ones. Shinji by Kanesaka is an outpost of the original two Michelin star restaurant in Ginza. There are two outposts of Shinji in Singapore, one at Raffles Hotel and one at OUE. We were recommended to try Raffles Hotel. As you enter the restaurant there are a few things that strike you on how very traditional this restaurant is. Firstly there’s the docile Japanese waitresses in kimonos showing you very politely to your seats, then there’s the beautiful Japanese cypress wood setting where the sushi bar counter seats are, and there are the chefs, comfortable and confident in their expertise, showing off their flair for creating beautiful and delicious food. The smell of cypress wood just transports you to Japan.
Their seafood is flown in several times a week from the famed Tsukiji market in Tokyo
Our chef or more correctly our itamae was more junior and very quiet, which was unfortunate as the two more senior itamaes at the counter were joking with their customers and presenting and explaining their food with flourish in heavy Japanese accents.
Nevertheless our itamae was hardworking and very willing to please.
We were presented with the menus, you can choose from 3 sets:
Sushi Edomae 江戸前 $220
Nigiri sushi 15 pieces Maki sushi
OmakaseWa 和 $300
Assorted cooked dishes Nigiri sushi and maki sushi Soup
Omakase Shin 真 $450
Assorted premium sashimi
Assorted cooked dishes Nigiri sushi and maki sushi Soup
Since I was already there, I opted for the most expensive SGD 450 set. And burnt a hole in my pocket in the process.
As an appetizer, I had golden orange globes of ikura with some yuzu accent. Delicious but doesn’t deviate much from the normal ikura you get at other Japanese restaurants.
I started to get more excited as he brought out a slab of sashimi grade fish:
Look at him carefully and gently slice and place the fish reverently on the serving plate.
4 slices of fresh and chewy tai
Let’s not forget the sauces. Of course, you do not pour soy sauce, mash some wasabi into it and dunk every slices of sashimi into it. This is the temple of Japanese food after all. The chef prepares and put out two sauces for me, one yuzu/ponzu sauce and the other is just soy sauce.
Next up, seared barramundi served with a slice of lime, fried gingko nuts and torched baby scallops. The scallops were all right but I prefer mine raw. The fish was good, a slight smokiness on the skin to an otherwise clean tasting fish, but what was surprising were the gingko nuts! They were surprisingly delicious and tasty morsels and I wish I had these as snacks to pop while watching my Korean dramas. Its fried on the outside and creamy and nutty on the inside.
Next, the itamae brought out a golden mound of uni and this was where I started squealing in anticipation. Yes I love uni THAT much.
The itamae plating sea urchin, jelly and some other mixture for the Omakase wa set.
As for my Omakase Shin set, none of that stuff, I had just pure, fresh, creamy pieces of uni on my plate.
There were two different types of sea urchin, one from Hokkaido and the other from Tokushima. I think the upper one is the Murasaki uni and the one on the bottom is the Bafun uni. Both were delicious but the darker, more orange one had a deeper and creamier flavour to it.
And then came the chutoro. Chutoro is in between akami (pure red tuna and no fat, my favorite) and otooro (fatty tuna belly). The slices are thick and generous and how else would it taste but amazing?
On to the next course! This came as a surprise to me. When I first saw it I was like ewww boiled fish soup. Its probably going to be bland and the fish meat tough. But I was so wrong.
This was for the Omakase Shin set; lightly torched tuna cheek in a light but flavorful broth made from tuna head and dashi. Beautiful fatty large slices of the tuna cheek simply melted in my mouth. I finished the soup as well despite knowing that there were a lot more to come.
The final bonito dish. It doesn’t look like it here, but it’s a large portion. The size of my palm and super thick to boot. The skin had been cooked slightly but the meat is still raw. Another great dish well complemented and accentuated by the chive mixture stuffed in between the slabs. Needless to say again that it was very fresh.
Meltingly good chutoro sushi. I’m normally a greater fan of akami rather than chutoro and otoro but this was an exception. As you can see, the fish is way bigger than the rice, as opposed to what you normally see in sushi joints where the sushi is mostly rice and a small pieces of fish on top. Here, the fish tapers over the warm, well seasoned rice, and pressed just right so it is not too compressed and yet doesn’t fall apart when you pick the sushi up.
I also completely forgot to take the clam soup they served. I don’t know if it was the heightened senses caused by the traditional Japanese ambience and good food, but the soup was not like any ordinary clam soup, it was really yummy. Just clams, soy sauce and water and bits of greens floating on top.
Fatty toro sushi XD. As you can see, the itamae already brushed a little bit of soy sauce over the top of the fish
Aji sushi. The best I’ve had in Singapore,Let’s not talk about Japan because that’s a whole different ball game =p. The rich flesh of the fish is so delicious with the small dollop of spring onion/chive mixture dabbed on top.
Omakase Shin set uni/ikura/negitoro don – this was THE highlight of the meal for me. The itamae kept saying “special special” while he was preparing the dish and now I understand why! Sea urchin rice topped with chopped negitoro and generous helpings of ikura. The sea urchin is first mixed well into the rice to form a risotto-like, creamy texture. This creamy sea urchin rice is absolutely exquisite with the delicate briny salmon roe and the fatty chopped fatty tuna belly mixed with negi.
It was probably very obvious that I enjoyed the dish, exclaiming “UMAI!!!” at every bite to the itamae’s amusement as he corrected me and said “oishii”. Umai is a higher level of the meaning of delicious but it is also slightly more informal hahaha. Nevertheless your itamae will always be happy when he knows that you are enjoying his food.
While I savoured every single bite of this dish, all creamy and briny and heavenly, the Omakase Wa set only had sea urchin sushi in place of the uni/ikura/toro don.
Then some anago (eel) is brought in boiling hot, and the itamae handles it with absolutely no feeling at all!!! The top one is brushed with a soy glaze and the bottom piece is sprinkled with salt. This is a model example of what anago should taste like and matches the anago I had in Sushiso Masa, Japan despite the differences in style. It was cooked perfectly with a slight char.
And then I finished off my meal with fruits/dessert. You’d normally think when you see fruits on the menu that its probably gonna be a couple slices of watermelon right? They actually served up some really good fruit and desserts.
Never knew what the hype about melons were in Japan. But this melon almost explains it. Besides the honey sweet soft melon chunks, the nashi pear with yuzu jelly provided a refreshing and delightful end to a great meal. There’s something about that pear and yuzu jelly that goes so well together! The goma ice cream was good too but nothing compared to the melon and pear/yuzu jelly.
All in all a great meal! I would be coming back but not as soon as I would like because of the SGD 450 price tag 😉 Good service, great food and good ambience.