Do you know of someone who is just plain fussy? I mean these people can rightly be called “Food Narcissists” where only their own cooking or their own mother’s cooking has got enough power to trigger a pleasurable response from their tastebuds. Mr. YaKwang is one of these people. Almost 90% of whatever is recommended in this blog would fail his taste test. So when such people rave about a certain eatery, one has to sit up and take notice.
This Izakaya is one of Mr Ya.Kwang’s favourite eating spots. I am not an expert when it comes to Japanese food, but he certainly is. He has eaten many times in Japan (Used to be a steward with SIA) and tells me that the ambience of this particular Izakaya is pretty close to what you get in Japan.
For the uninitiated (like myself), an Izakaya is literally a drinking house where Japanese men gather after work to drink sake and have a bite to eat. Very much like a Japanese Pub or a Cze Char in the Singapore context. So with such places, you usually find a variety of staples at good prices since the main emphasis is on the drinks.
The Nijumaru Bento box here costs $18 and comes with the specials of the day. What I particularly like is the Japanese style Lor Bak (Braised Pork). To me, Japanese style Lor (Braising sauce) tastes more “clinical” than our Chinese style lor. By this I mean that it tastes cleaner and less complicated. In fact the style of the Lor epitomises Japanese cuisine as a whole. It’s neat and the emphasis is always on bringing out the best in the produce rather then masking the taste with a cacophony of ingredients like our South East Asian cuisines.
This is perhaps a consequence of latitude rather than of attitude. Being situated further up North means that meats can keep fresh longer in the colder climate. So you can appreciate the freshness and taste of the produce with minimal preparation. Whereas in a hotter climate where meat turns bad quickly, the taste often has to be masked by cooking it in a curry.
Anyway the Braised Pork was very good and I wish I could have a whole bowl of it to eat with steamed Pau Skin. 4.5/5
The other item that I wish could be free flow was the Beef Karubi skewers. The USDA beef was brilliant and each bite caused my eyes to roll up to heaven. Simply marinated with salt and pepper and served with a salty miso sauce, you would imagine that it is something that you can make yourself at home right? Then why is it that they need to employ a middle aged Japanese chef just to do the grilling? 4.5/5
The pork skewers were also very nice. Unlike our pork satays where the emphasis is on the marinade and the gravy, Japanese pork skewers are simply marinated with rock salt and pepper so the emphasis is on getting a good cut of belly pork and grilling it to perfection to bring out its natural porky parngness (aroma). 4/5
I have to admit that one of the things like don’t appreciate about Japanese cuisine is the cold stuff, be it sashimi or cold noodles. I think that I am too much of a Teochew Ah Hia who prefers his piping hot porridge. I had my customary degustation bolus of noodles and left the rest to Mr Ya.Kwang to finish. The noodles here are only cooked when you order so it takes a quite a while before it arrived. For me cold noodles on the whole are 3/5, but obviously to those who like it, it is more of a 4.5/5
This is where the Japanese themselves hangout. They are such regulars here that each of them have their own bottle of sake which are kept in the restaurant so they can decant a bit everytime they eat there. Overall the food here is very good and the prices are pretty reasonable and the place does have a feeling of authenticity about it. And at the end of the day, it is at least a place where Mr.YaKwang is raving about the food instead of lamenting about how sad the state of Singapore food is nowadays.