Japanese Food Safari at Central



According to our polls, Japanese food is currently the favourite foreign cuisine amongst Singaporeans. So since everyone likes Japanese so much, I shall post not one, not two, not even three, but four Japanese restaurants in this one post. And believe it or not, I ate them all in one day! As my mom would say (in Teochew) "Don't want to do, never do. Want to do, do until like mad!".


Well, let me mitigate my madness by saying that the idea is actually not mine. But thanks to SoShiok.com, I was actually one of six bloggers who won a prize to go on a Makan Safari, which is a nicer way of describing Justified Gluttony. This was a bloggers' event so I was on tour with Kelvin from Timeless Fascade. You can also check out his blog for more pictures and reviews.

For those who may not be in the know. Central is the newest centre for everything Japanese. This is because it is managed by the Parco group which is a Japanese company. The shopping centre is home to many Japanese chain restaurants as well as grocery shops which cater to both the Japanese working here as well as us locals. So far, I have only tried Tom Ton's there so the wife and kids were all very eager to see what else is good.

Our Safari started at Wakashachiya which is a place specializing in Curry Udon. You heard right, the Japanese also have their version of Curry Mee but of course a mildly less fiery version. The Curry sauce was better than usual, but I don't think I could get used to having it with udon. You get your bowl of curry udon with a choice of toppings ranging from Tonkatsu to cheese to grilled eggplants. For me, I think I still prefer Japanese curry with rice. 3.75/5



What really caught our attention though, was the Hitsumabushi which is a form of Unadon (grilled eel with rice) but eaten in 3 ways. It was kinda cute as they would serve it with a little card to tell you how to eat it. (Try saying this in Japanese "Engrish")

Number one way: Scoop some eel and rice-o into small bowl and eat plain-o. Number two: Scoop some eel and rice-o into small bowl, add yakumi (seasoning made from seaweed and other stuff) and eat-o. Number three: Scoop some eel and rice-o into small bowl, add yakumi and pour the dashi into rice and eat-o. After you finish 3 courses, fourth course, you eat any way you like-o!


Actually this dish reminds me a little of Thunder Tea Rice! The eel was a little crumbly but the sauce was excellent. I never did like Thunder Tea Rice and so I go for Numbers 1 or 2. 4/5

Our next stop was Ma Maison, a restaurant which I have always wanted to visit when I was in Parco Bugis but never got to because of the long queue. Now, the Japanese are great at adapting foreign cuisine to make it very distinctly Japanese. Some even say that they can take, say, a traditional Pasta dish and transform it into what it SHOULD taste like.



Pork Tonkatsu is one good example of what I mean. This is essentially a European dish that the Japanese transformed into something that is now considered by many to be the best version of a deep fried Pork Cutlet. The Tonkatsu here might not the best one I ever eaten but it is certainly served in the quaintest fashion. It comes with the sauce served in a "Winnie the Pooh" like honey pot and you get to grind your own salt. The crust is good but I found the pork to be just a tad dry. 4/5

If you have never walked into Ma Maison, you should. Especially if you are out on a date. Even my wife and I, who are a bit "out of date" when it comes to going "out on a date" were thinking about what a romantic place it would have been to share a meal together. Now with two kids who can't sit still, it is still a nice place to have a family meal but without all that "Rou Ma" (lovey dovey) kind of stuff. Like how the Japanese have "Japanized" European food, they also managed to "Japanize" traditional European decor such that the place is distinctly Japanese though recognizably European.



Of the several dishes that we tasted, I liked the Doteni Burger best. Although the pattie was served well done (You don't have a choice), it was nicely seasoned and the beef stew that they served it with was an excellent complement to the sunny side up and pattie. It's another good example of what I mean by Japanized Western cuisine. 4.25/5



Our next stop was Santouka which specializes in Ramen. Ramen has gained popularity amongst Singaporeans in recent years but I must admit I haven't really gotten into it. One of the reasons, I suppose, is that I don't like the idea of paying over $10 for what is essentially a glorified bowl of noodle soup. Plus the Japanese "Chashu" is not really Char Siew, but more like Loh Bak.

I was however very impressed by the Japanese "Hawkers" who where serving out the noodles. I wonder how much they get paid to do their job? I have always imagined that with their higher standard of living, it would be quite expensive to employ a Japanese Expat to come to Singapore to "Lou Mien" (Dip Noodles in Hot water). I am sure our Hawkers here can do the same job but for a fraction of the pay. But you know, if the person cooking the noodles were shouting out orders in Hokkien instead of Japanese, maybe the noodles would not taste as authentic.

Anyway, amongst the different flavours that we ordered. The "Shio" was the best. The soup was milky and savoury and actually quite good and I must admit, better than our normal Bak Chor Mee soup. The milkiness of the soup was achieved by boiling the pork bones such that all the fat in the marrow is mixed in with the soup forming an emulsion. So if you always believe that soups are good for you, think again. This is a high cholesterol soup which is why it is so shiok!

Soup aside, I found that the noodles that day had a strong "Kee" taste which I would have marked down any of our local Bak Chor Mee stalls. However, I am not sure whether Ramen is supposed to taste like that since the other foodies did not seem to mind it. 4/5



For lovers of Salmon, their Sake-Ikura Don might be a good place to get your salmon fix, especially if you like the fishy salty burst of Salmon Roe in your mouth. Basically this is flaked cooked salmon and roe on rice. My wife and daughter loved it. For me it was like eating cooked salmon and roe on rice. Know what I mean? 3.5/5



By the time we got to our last stop, Waraku, we were already pretty full except for my son who had been saving his appetite for his favourite Japanese restaurant. Waraku has been one of our regular places to eat Japanese food because it serves pretty decent food at decent prices. So we often go there for my son's favourite dish of Tempura Udon. Waraku does serve one of the best Udons you can find in a mid range Japanese restaurant. The texture is always very good and it has enough gumminess and a good bite.



This time around we were so full that we could only manage some sushi and sashimi and move onto the dessert. We have never really tried the desserts at Waraku and so our Green Tea Ice Cream with Mochi and Red bean paste came as quite a pleasant surprise. The green tea ice cream was refreshingly creamy and I suspect, must be imported from Japan. The red bean paste was excellent with just that hint of saltiness that nicely balances out the sweetness. 4.5/5

Conclusion

So there you have it, a Japanese Food Safari right here in Singapore. Actually it would be a good introduction to Japanese food for the uninitiated. Would anyone else be interested in attending a whole day food safari of some of the restaurants in Central? If we can get 20-30 people, maybe I can persuade them to organize one for our readers! So if you are game, do write in the comments with the number of persons required. No obligations at this stage, just gauging the level of interest.

Thanks to SoShiok.com and the Hori-san from the management at Central for organizing this event.

One more restaurant which I blogged previously was Tom Ton which serves marvelous Kurobuta Tonkatsu

38 comments:

Holy Drummer said...

WAH! JAPANESE FOOD SAFARI!!!

Can I place reservation already?

tranquility said...

Have you reviewed the Sun and Moon Dining at Wheel-lock place before? Since you're on a roll for Japanese food...
The prices are a bit on the higher side but it is quite an interesting place..the matcha parfait dessert(green tea ice-cream with red beans and riceballs) is my favourite dessert:D

ieat said...

Yes heard about Sun and Moon many times but never had the chance to visit

Damien said...

Sun & Moon dining on the ground floor is one (or one of a few) places in Singapore that serves "Kamameshi," which is Japanese steamed rice topped with various kinds of meat, seafood, and vegetables.

The presentation is pretty interesting as the rice et al is semi-cooked in an iron pot and sealed with a wooden lid. At Sun & Moon, an hourglass accompany this dish.

The wait staff will inform you that you could only open the lid when one end of the hour glass is filled and the ingredients fully amalgamate with the rice.

Do not really know if the hourglass thingy is a novelty or not as the seafood in my Kamameshi were almost fully cooked but I personally found it interesting and foodwise - delicious.

The sashimis and grilled beef are also highly recommended.

The desserts are also very good, with notable mention to the mochis and goma pudding.

Sun & Moon @ CHIJMES and Central cater to slightly upmarket clientle and if i remember correctly (can someone help verify), the prices are slightly higher than the Wheelock branch, which has more of a chill- out, casual atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

I place my reservation too.

For Sun & Moon @ The Central, I understand from a friend that they are having 30 per cent discount till 30 June. Am not very sure the full details. Hope I am right.

Meantime, have fun.

Rgds
WaWa

jems said...

Have been to Sun & Moon at both Wheelock and Central a few times and besides the Kamameshis, and once their special season ramen, other dishes didn't quite impress. In particular their beef cube steak which was very small and overpriced and not really good.

I like the decor and atmosphere at Wheelock though very nice.

Waraku's cold udon is a must do dish for me always. Love its family style, kids friendly, great prices and reallly efficient service. I think they really embrace kaizen and execute it very well. I visit the StarHub Centre outlet and Central outlet pretty often and always leave satisfied.

khim said...

hey WaWa,

u can enter ur pen name under option 3 of "choose an identity".

dun have to register anything & instead of showing as anonymous, it'll show ur pen name! ;)

i guess it's time for me to visit Ma Maison again! =)

khim said...

pls add me to ur list too, les!! =)

ieat said...

Looks like we have to try to include Sun and Moon as part of the safari!

newcomer said...

i like the idea:))))

Anonymous said...

ieat! yepp..ma masion is definately a nice place to go on a date! =)
u didnt try the beef omu rice?
itz one of their house specialties. itz yummy!! my whole family loves it ^^
p.s esp since they cook the beef with the special sauce that takes 2whole days to prepare!

also try the beef kamameshi from Sun with Moon! itz yummylicious!
dun miss out the sukiyaki frm SWM too.. the huge cuts of fresh fatty beef is definately nt for the weak hearted, esp swishing it wif the sukiyaki broth. Sinful! but GOOD =)(1 of the best sukiyaki i've tried, thought it tasted better than tom ton)

le'chloe

Anonymous said...

oh oh!! & not forgetting the homemade tofu cheesecake & foie Gras Canapes from Sun With Moon! ^^
ultimate stuff!
& if u still have extra space, do try the grilled cod fish with sweet miso sauce! =)
SWM is one of those restaurant that nv fails to surprise me with delightful dishes each time i visit. do go soon..since they are having a 30% off!

le'chloe

khim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
khim said...

it's Sun AND Moon OR Sun With Moon? r they same or 2 different restaurants? me a bit confused..

btw le'chloe, since u have a pen name, y not use it instead of showing Anonymous?

hope to see u in ur pen name soon! ;)

Damien said...

Sun with Moon :) Always thought it was Sun & Moon.

Indigo said...

Count me in for the Jap food safari already! The trick to going for such a safari is to avoid indulging too much in the carbos and focus on the meats and such! that's what I do nowadays at buffets!

ladyironchef said...

hahah! one day eat 4 diff jap restaurants! alright, i'm interested if the dates are right for me : )

Junie said...

I LOVE Japanese food..and I loveee to eat! Count me in! And I might bring another friend too..so that's 2 people. =)

Tried Tom Ton before too (due to reading yr blog) and I didn't regret it at all...

fatpig said...

Looks like a lot of people are recommending Sun with Moon. Have tried that and their sister restaurant Sun Japanese Dining a couple of times but not very impressed. I think its just me.

Cheers =)

wenxiu said...

i would love to join a japanese food safari too!

Anonymous said...

Please organise one for us. I agree that Sun & Moon is over-priced, even with the 30% discount, it isn't value-for-money and it isn't worth a return visit.

ice said...

Japanese Dining Sun and their sister Sun With Moon restaurants are just big on frills and accessories, they're ok if you are not particular about quality. I wasn't impressed at all too. imho, for a mid-market Japanese dining outfit, I think they're seriously over priced in the raw department.

fatpig: it's not just you. =)

cheers.

pammiez said...

Yes this sounds like fun! Do organize it. I'l definitely be looking forward to it. Cheers~

jems said...

yes fatpig, read my comments I wasn't much impressed too despite a few visits :)

focUS said...

EN Japanese Dining Bar located at UE Square (River Valley Road) served authentic jap food. Small and cosy place serving delicious main courses.

Something to try (and I've tasted them), the Unagi Fried Rice and the appetizer raw squids.

Would love to be involved in this Jap Food Safari!!! :)

Myself and a friend :D

tranquility said...

You might want to try the escargots in Ma Maison too. The plate of escargots is served above a flame underneathe on so you'll see the sizzling garlic sauce in the shells. Yummy.

Apocalypta said...

You left out Marutama! Their ramen comes with an unusual chicken stock soup base as well as one made from nuts. It's also less salty than Santouka. Must try...

sien said...

Heyoes!


Would certainly be interested... will also check back for updates! :)


- Si En

Pao said...

I WANT! Count 2 in! I hope the Japanese Food Safari will happen soonn.. Yuumm..

adriane said...

Doc, you were saying Kee smell from the Ramen? Mmmmm I don't think that should be the case. I won't say Im an authority on the subject but I did eat alot of Ramen while in Japan over the last 3 years. I don't remember having any Kee smell.

Normally in Japan Ramen comes in 3 main soup bases. Shio (salt) Shoyu (Soya Sauce) or Miso. Every place has its own special stock and one can ask for thick or light soup. Certain Ramens like those in Hokkaido come with a seafood soup base.

There is also the dry version, where you get the cooked noodles and soup in separate bowls and you dip the noodles into the soup ala zaru soba style.

Apocalypta said...

Am suprised you missed out on Marutama -- it's my favourite ramen place. Instead of pork stock they use chicken stock as well as one made from nuts. It's a lot less salty than Santouka. Also, next time you eat at Santouka, try the pork cheek. So salty, but so divine!

khim said...

hey tranquility,

u like e escargots at ma maison too ah?? =)

i find tat e escargots there r one of e best i've tried!

love, tastespotting said...

love the pics - and love the maki sushi and the ikura at the end of the post - saw that the maki sushi was submitted to tastespotting, but unforch, the photo got cropped weird. would you mind cropping the photo to a 250 square and resubmitting? would love to see some sushi hit the front page :)

Anonymous said...

How about economical yet tasty Japanese crusine around central area during lunch hours? Any ideas?

Office worker said...

Do you work around town? Check out Amara Hotel's food court (Level 4) at Tanjong Pagar if you have the time. There's a Japanese stall selling great food from $4.90 onwards. great for lunch time.

kamachan said...

I'm Japanese:)
I'm surprised at your stomach the reason why you ate four restaurant's food in one day!
What is the most deliciouse japanese food?

fatalpee said...

hey i would like to ask,the ramen u had at Santouka, was the noodle like Ajisen Ramen that kind (whitish, less chewy) or the yellow type like those in Tokyo ramen (yellow, chewy). i cant see from yur photo cos the broth very thick, which is a good thing (:

ieat said...

It is the yellow chewy type which is imported from Japan.

I have eaten at Ajisen once and that was it. The photos never made it to the blog.

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