PEr FYI

January 11, 2020

Aburi-EN, Singapore…how evocative the flavours are

Aburi, literally translates as “flaming” is a style of cooking to create a smokey fragrance.

We started with the Hokkaido ika surume – grilled Hokkaido squid. For any lover of squid, the result is exquisite. You can really taste the charring. Equally impressive was the premium buta bara don – grilled chestnut pork belly on rice. Best of all was the Wagyu Karubi Don – a lip-smaking grilled miyazaki wagyu on rice.

So go in ones or twos or many. But go. Do. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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December 7, 2019

Sushi House, Johor Bahru…Strictly no dieters

Here me now: This modest, casual, wallet-friendly spot serves up quality sushi at serious value.

On our dinnertime visit it was buzzy, relaxed and the service was lovely. Just the right amount of bustle: no one rushing you through your meal. A favourite was the stunning, “get-your-phone-out-and-get-snapping” large sushi boat – minimum 20 servings of sushi or more. Next up, captain crunch – 8 delicious pieces of fried prawns with crabstick & cucumber sushi roll topped with shrimp roe, spicy mayonnaise, sweet sauce and crunch. The ebi tempura mayo – fried prawn with mayonnaise was amazingly light. Also great: the addictive chicken katsu don – fried chicken cutlet on rice. The soft shell crab temaki – fried soft shell crab with cucumber & lettuce can be risky – but here it’s perfection.

Sushi House fulfils most of the criteria for my ideal sushi restaurant. Strictly no dieters. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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August 17, 2019

Maichibo, Chiba, Tokyo…the more is definitely the merrier.

Maichibo is a lovely spot in Chiba specializing in okonomiyaki, the Japanese savoury pancake cooked on a large steel hot-plate. I won’t hold it against you if you’ve never heard of okonomiyaki before. It’s the lesser known of Japan’s delectable dishes, but it’s certainly having a moment.

The Mai Course is made up of Caesar salad and baked romaine lettuce with half boiled egg followed by tonpei-yaki pork omelette. The sauce was not too overpowering, instead, it was a great combination of the pork. Then there were grilled chicken, chiba’s beef steak 50g and Hokkaido’s grilled scallops which was pleasant rather than exciting, cooked just a fraction longer than I would have preferred. Then the main event – the Mix okonomiyaki. Its flavors—sweet and savory, spicy smoky —were instantly recognizable (as they would be to anyone who has been eating casual Japanese food of late), while the texture, simultaneously crunchy and creamy, hit all of my comfort food sweet spots. No wonder they call this stuff Osaka soul food.

If you’ve been to Chiba only to go to Disneyland, this Japanese gem is the perfect reason to return. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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June 16, 2019

Baikohken, Asahikawa Ramen Village, Hokkaido…oodles of noodles

Not all ramen are created equal. There are salty, brown-coloured, broths and milky-coloured ones. But which restaurants really strike the perfect balance of flavoursome soup base to soft, silky noodles to extra ingredients? What is the secret that sets one ramen join apart from another? Who is top of the broths?

My mission to find the best ramen took me to Asahikawa Ramen Village in Hokkaido. The broth is pretty rich here. For the full-on indulgence, go for the charsiew ramen miso. Make sure to add in the butter, just because you can. The gyoza is a worthwhile side.

Overall, the food was good but not memorable but I can think of 50 other places I can get the same or better quality ramen. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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May 19, 2019

Teshikaga, Sapporo…cure your ramen cravings.

In the heart of Sapporo’s red light district, Ganso Ramen Yokocho, the “original alley”  – a long narrow alley which features 17 popular shops offering different flavours of miso ramen. There are mutterings about noodle strengths, and the mammarian wobble of one soft-boiled egg over another. The problem is that, as with so much in Japanese culture, once you get past a certain quality threshold it’s very hard to distinguish one thing from another.

The one I ordered – the all the shoes  miso ramen – snow crab, barbecued pork topped ramen with miso (bean paste based soup) is a vivid flash of colour. The broth is a lovely shade of rust with a kick. The barbecued pork meat is soft, the fat beginning to melt away into the broth and respectable noodles come with a lovely bite.

With the kitchen directly in front of you, you can watch your bowl get assembled from start to finish. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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April 27, 2019

Suage+, Sapporo…soup curry: Japan’s most underrated dish

Soup Curry – heavy, saucy and comforting – is one of Japan’s most underrated dishes.

Start by choosing the type of curry base you want…here choose your kind of curry from Crispy “Shiretoko” Chicken & vegetables – chicken (boneless), potato, carrot, eggplant, pumpkin, boiled egg, maitake mushroom, green pepper or Braised “Furano” pork kakuni – braised pork belly, potato, carrot, eggplant, pumpkin, young corn boiled egg. The broth is soupier than traditional Japanese curry. Then, select your desired spice level. Chicken-me chose the mild version. Next, choose the amount of rice you want and request any additional toppings. Most locals scoop rice onto their spoon and dip it into the curry, but you won’t be kicked out if you ladle the soup curry over your rice instead…like us.

It’s a spectacle of color that tastes as good as it looks. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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October 7, 2018

Hamburg Steak Keisuke, Singapore…like beef from pampered cows

Fancy a hamburg steak? Of course you do. It’s the food trend fave that’ll never die.

But not all hamburg steaks are born the same, and Keisuke’s is utter meaty marvels: juice-seeping, humming with flavor. There are just a few tables, so don’t expect much in the way of comfort or ambience. But what you will discover is a stripped-back but hugely satisfying formula for the prime beef hamburg set – with or without cheese. Beef from pampered cows come perfectly cooked and properly seasoned for one hell of a meaty mouthful. The 4 sauces: Keisuke original sweet-and-spicy sauce, demi-glace, oroshi ponzu (radish with vinegar), and teriyaki add to the flavor invasion. Maximise on the salad bar and the show-stopping egg station with its sunny sideup, overeasy, boiled, scrambled, half-boiled, omelette, and tamago yaki.

In my (not so) humble opinion, Keisuke has the best hamburg steak in town. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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July 15, 2018

Hajime Tonkatsu & Ramen, Singapore…man, this pork cutlet is good

Ton Katsu or Pork Cutlet shares a semblance with schnitzels.

Here at Hajime, the premium pork loin is the star, a perfectly fried cutlet coated with crunchy Japanese bread crumbs. And what meat it is—luxurious, thick, juicy and packed with porky flavor. Dipped into the sauce, the meat is moist and delicious. his isn‘t a taste of what tonkatsu has been—it‘s a taste of what it‘s become. The stock at Hajime is very good. It is a deep, rich, intensely life-affirming thing (albeit not for the pigs that must die in its making). The ingredients are simmered long and slow in water. Think 12 hours.

Go to Hajime to experience the religious power of properly fried pork. It is the way to make a bad day good. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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February 3, 2018

Wagamama, London…Just not worth it.

While Wagamama is a semi-intriguing name, the interest can stop there. This is clearly Japanese food tailored to a Western palate. Everyone love Japanese food, but the Japanese food here is really mediocre as far as I’m concerned.

And the Shirodashi ramen?  (slow cooked, seasoned pork belly on top of noodles on a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso. Topped with pea shoots, menma, spring onions, wakame and half a tea-stained egg) Well, that left much to be desired.

What to avoid: The poorly made Wagamama ramen (grilled chicken, seasoned pork, chikuwa, shell-on prawns and mussels on top of noodles in a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso. Topped with half a tea-stained egg, menma, spring onions, wakame and pea shoots) was objectively terrible. It was barely Japanese at all. And for a Japanese restaurant, what an achievement!

Why settle for middle of the road when there are other options? Just sayin’. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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September 23, 2017

EN Washoku-sake, Tokyo…pork is the thing

Tonkatsu is one of the most popular meat dishes in Japan although a dish like deep-fried pork may not seem to fit the Japanese reputation for clean, healthful foods.

Mugifuji-pork cutlet dish which comes with three kinds of small dishes, salad, rice, pickles and miso soup. The cutlet is crispy, incredibly light, not oily and absolutely appetising

There might be better examples of classic pork katsu around town.  But if you want to experience the bustling intimacy of a populist Tokyo meal, then this is the place for you. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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