Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Shoukouwa Singapore

Singapore is never short of high quality Japanese restaurants. As a matter of fact, every year, there are capable and native Japanese chefs opening new elite dining places in the island. The latest addition that probably caught even many seasoned foodies and critics alike off guard was a tiny sushi-ya at One Fullerton named Shoukouwa. Approximately 5 months only after the opening, Michelin awarded this sushi place 2-star (pretty unusual practice by the red guide book). It may not be completely "new" since the head chef was Masakazu Ishibashi, a Hokkaido native. He is the master chef of Ginza sushi ichi group - he occasionally had special events a few times here annually in the past. However, since the opening of Shoukouwa, Ishibashi-san has spent most of his time these days in Singapore. He stands behind the counter regularly and rarely lets other chefs to serve sushi to the diners. When Chef Ishibashi is off or visiting other sushi ichi branches in Asia, he would especially fly in his colleague from Tokyo to be the temporary chef de cuisine as Shoukouwa. Like many other high-end sushi-yas in Japan, this place only offered omakase; there are 2 kinds and guests can choose whether they want to have the shorter version or a longer one. To fully experience the best of the chef's creations, I opted the most comprehensive one - menu Hana. After a few snacks, the chef served some sushi and mixed them accordingly. Ishibashi-san wanted to make sure that diners would not feel full if he gave the sushi only towards the end (I will arrange the otsumami and sushi separately below for easier reading). 

Kabura mushi (Steamed Eel with grated turnip/radish, wasabi and some other vegetables) - A traditional Japanese appetizer, typically served during a cold season. Quite a decadent opening. The steamed stuffs were tasty and relatively sweet with a touch of 'hot' wasabi while the aromatic dashi was also pleasant
Sashimi platter - My 'Sakana' consisted of:
-Kawahagi (Filefish) wrapping its liver - succulent and creamy
-Mirugai (Geoduck) - very crunchy and a little sweet
-Saba (Mackerel) - flavorful with distinct fishy aroma; a versatile fish
Nodoguro (Slightly seared Black throat Sea Perch served with soy sauce, leek, ginger flower etc.) - The Nodoguro was fresh, tender, and delicious with slightly crispy skin (good texture). The mixed of chopped vegetables gave interesting taste variations though a bit too strong for my taste 

Hokkaido Kegani (Hairy crab served with jelly sauce and a bit of shark's fin) - A fresh, meaty and refined kegani with its natural sweetness; it went along nicely with the flavorful sauce; awesome!
Cooked Tachiuo (Silver Scabbard fish served with tuna belly) - After slightly grilled, the Tachiuo became softer, still meaty in light flavor. The tuna here, however, was rather mediocre - tender but rather flat in its taste
Kaki no Shiraae (Persimmons in tofu sauce) - It's deliciously awesome! The sauce was versatile and I imagined it would be suitable to be paired with other fruits. This dish can be a dessert too

Crab croquette - This deep-fried croquette had a nice crisp and light crust while the inside, in contrast, was filled with rich & velvety creams, cheese and muddy crab meats - rather too intense / rich for me
Awabi don with "matcha sauce" - The Chiba abalone was sake-braised, thickly sliced and slowly steamed for several hours. The result was a tender and delicate abalone (barely chewy) with slightly sweet and buttery taste. The 'green-tea' sauce, made from a mixture of awabi's liver, miso, egg & oil, was delicious with little bitter flavor and certainly elevated the overall flavor. The shari could be used to wiped out any left over sauce ... I wish to have a second helping for this outstanding dish 
Uni, Ikura and Gohan (Sushi rice topped with Sea urchin, Salmon roes & wasabi) - No kani this time since we had plenty of crab earlier. To compensate, Masa-san gave us generous amount of ikura. A dish that was full of decadence: rich, sweet, creamy, fresh, delicious & balanced. It's usually served towards the end of the omakase

Kinmedai (Golden-eye snapper) - rather sweet with unique texture; decent
Shima Aji (Striped horse mackerel) - good texture and quite fishy but in a good way. It was full of flavor explosion and went well with red vinegar shari
Buri (Yellow tail) - the left one in 'sashimi' form was smoky and flavorful; the right one in sushi form was oily and delectable
Akami Zuke (Marinated lean tuna) - the soy sauce/sake and red vinegar rice brought out the maguro's natural sweetness
Chutoro (Medium fatty tuna, aged for 10 days) - a marvelous piece; succulent and luscious!

Shimo Furi? (In-between Chutoro and Otoro) - A refined, smooth and delicious cut with the right texture and temperature. The red vinegar rice optimized the toro's flavor
Kama Toro (Lightly seared back-cheek part of Bluefin tuna aka 'gill flesh') - very marbled with elegant taste
Uni (Sea water Sea urchin in gunkan style) - cold, creamy and sweet as expected
Sayori (Half beak) - clean, quite soft, sweet & delightful
Akagai (Ark shell) - top quality, pleasantly chewy with deep flavor

Katsuo (Bonito) - Fatty (in the Fall), fresh & fine; scallions gingers were used to reduce some smell
Anago (Salt water eel glazed with 'sweet' sauce) - delicate and delicious
Negitoro Temaki (Chopped toro with spring onions and sushi rice wrapped by crunchy seaweed) - tasty flavor variations; good
Tamago (Omelette) - sweet and milky but a bit 'sticky'; still enjoyable

Miso soup - served with clam and wakame; above average
Kudamono - Musk melon and pears. High quality of sweet & watery Japanese fruits

The food was generally very good in particular the sushi. Most (if not all) pieces were nearly flawlessly prepared and executed. The fish/seafood had the right texture, temperature and was well seasoned/'sauced'. Masakazu Ishibashi used 2 different shari: the one with white vinegar was applied to lighter & cleaner (white) fishes while the one with red vinegar was utilized for fattier & more flavorful items such as some different cuts of maguro. For the drink, due to the expensive meal, I only had a hot ocha in which the staffs never failed to refill. The service was similar to my experience at Ki-sho. Staffs (all of them were gentlemen wearing suits) were warmed, observant and discreet but they're always ready to respond tp any questions or needs you have. Chef Masakazu was also easy going, comforting and modest. He liked entertaining diners and helped a group of Mexican businessmen with restaurant recommendation in Japan. Overall, the atmosphere was relatively casual. The main downside of the experience was probably Shoukouwa's dining room. It's small, had no windows and lacked any interesting decor. Besides a private room for 6-people, the counter only accommodated 8 people (fully booked on that day) at most and the dinner was divided into two time slots. A future return to this place is likely and as of now, Shoukouwa immediately has become among my top 3 favorite restaurants in Singapore. Well done Michelin Singapore! Please follow this link for the meal's pictures: Shoukouwa Nov '16

Food: 95 pts

Service: 94 pts

Overall: 94.5/100