I started this post in Singapore, but only completed it two weeks later, after only typing out the first three paragraphs! We are now residing in the middle east, but pretend as you read won’t you, that we are speaking to you from Singapore!
In anticipation of leaving Singapore and being unable to eat our favourite foods for a long while, we recently allowed ourselves the indulgence of stuffing our faces. Then the day of our departure rolled round and because of a technical glitch, or stupidity perhaps, however you want to look at it, we did not leave, and so we find ourselves still in Singapore but with seven large suitcases, two smaller ones, and really, nothing else. This could be worse, at least we have a place to stay. The result of having an empty house and the uncertainty of our next departure date which could be next week, tomorrow, or next month, is more eating out, and some frozen dinners.
So over the course of a few weeks we have eaten at, The Sushi Bar, Rumah Makan Minang, I Am, Nur Ilham Nasi Padang stall, Curry Times, Thohirah at Jalan Kayu, and were particularly surprised by one TV dinner we had.
Before I launch into this, I’d like to mention that as useful as reviews are, they are highly subjective. A person’s background has such a huge part to play in his or her perception of meals. Proceed with caution. (Also, my opinions are not that of a professional, whatever that means.)
The Sushi Bar
I’m in love.
I’m a late bloomer when it comes to raw fish (sashimi), but I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re going to eat it, it should come from a reputable source which means it probably will be accompanied by a relatively hefty price tag, too. As far as I understand from what I’ve read, there is no regulating body in Singapore to say that this here fish is indeed sashimi grade, for all we know it could be the salmon bought at Cold Storage and sliced to resemble sashimi, how would we know! Sashimi grade fish should be blast frozen on the ship at sea, to such low temperatures that parasites are killed (and believe me, fish have parasites, lots, even farmed ones), but because of the high-speed drop in temperature, the water molecules in the flesh of the fish are kept to a minimum to preserve the quality of the meat, so when we do eat it, it is as if we were eating freshly caught fish. The sashimi would then be springy, firm, sweet and not in the least bit fishy (which is the other conclusion I’ve come to about eating good sashimi, that it must not smell fishy).
The Sushi Bar I ate at (twice) was the Far East Plaza branch on the 4th floor. They now have a second branch open at Ngee Ann City, or otherwise known as Takashimaya on Orchard road. The menu at Far East Plaza Sushi Bar is predominantly fish, so don’t go expecting to eat tempura or agedashi tofu. Over the two visits, I had a taste of their famed aburi rolls, the mentaiko scallop sashimi, the yellow tail collar, and the chirashi don.
Aburi, if you don’t already know, is sashimi that has been torched on the top surface of the slice, while leaving the bottom surface raw, which results in a smoky, buttery soft experience. Add mentaiko (brined roe of pollack or cod) mayonnaise to the mix and it gets lifted to a whole other level. The rolls at The Sushi Bar comprise of either salmon sashimi, breaded and fried prawn (ebi), or soft shell crab battered and fried, that is rolled in the middle of a layer of rice to form a log. The log’s top surface is covered with a layer of salmon sashimi slices, followed by a dollop of mentaiko mayonnaise and then the whole log is sliced into coins and torched. And we devour. Loved it. LOVED IT. Sweet, salty, smoky, savoury, fatty, luscious, firm, soft, crunchy, umami, nothing better.
The scallop sashimi drizzled with mentaiko mayonnaise and torched was also pretty brilliant, and not in the least fishy, again, more umami magic. Actually, I begin to think the addition of mentaiko mayonnaise makes anything brilliant. That’s how simple we are here.
The yellow tail collar was a simple grilled, halved head of fish. For two people it appeared to us absolutely massive, and had so much meat on it. I am not a connoisseur of fish, but my dining partner was Chinese for the meal of yellow tail collar and she LOVED it. (Disclaimer: I realise it is a stereotype that Chinese are the experts on fish freshness but I daresay, for the most part, this stereotype holds true. This is not to say of course that other ethnicities do not know their fish.). Its a pretty oily fish (think, Mackerel/ikan tengirri or pomfret/ikan bawal), and here, it was simply seasoned, so it is Fish in all its Fish glory. I thought the highlight of this, apart form its obvious freshness, was how tender and moist the flesh was while the skin was impossibly crisp, the result of having been perfectly, perfectly cooked.
The Chirashi Don here was the first I’d ever tried, ever. My dining partner this time was a chirashi don noob like I, so we were uncertain how we would take to sashimi that was not solely salmon (see what I did there?). I don’t have a benchmark to compare it to, and from the pictures I’ve seen of chirashi don at other well reviewed establishments, is not as fancy. But hot damn it was good! All of it. All the above adjectives apply here, firm, sweet, springy, glistening and delicious sashimi cubes sitting on a tender soft bed of shiny rice beneath. Genius. The Japanese are very bright people.
We had very little time left in Singapore by the time I started writing this post, and the desire to eat again at The Sushi Bar was so strong, I could have cried myself to sleep every night. It left that deep a mark on my palate. But the Voice of Reason (the husband) reminded me that Japanese food ought to be a treat, not an everyday set lunch to indulge in unless I bleed money, which I don’t. I shake my fist at Voice of Reason but would have to agree. So The Sushi Bar, although not exorbitant, relatively mid-range, with its beautifully fresh sashimi and friendly, easy-going staff shall remain on its haloed altar of Treats for me, whilst I wait in anticipation to visit again when we are back in Singapore for a break. (Amongst other Japanese outfits on my bucket list, like, Tatsuya’s lunches, and Ginza Kuroson, and Chikuwa tei and, and. .. .. … Halo…! halooooOooOoOOo…)