Dinner @ Sushi Shinsuke 鮨 薪介 (Tokyo, Japan)

October 16, 2022 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

So while I always ambitiously try to secure bookings at highly raved sushi-yas for my Japan trips, I like to visit hidden gems too. One can also say it’s a way to keep myself sane; If you’re a die-hard foodie like me, you probably know the reservation process can get really stressful.

I learnt about Sushi Shinsuke through instagrammer @andrew_gyokudari. In his insta-post (pre-COVID), he actually mentioned he was in a dilemma to share (and inevitably make Sushi Shinsuke unbookable) or not to share (and feel guilty for wanting to keep them to himself). And I am glad he shared this hidden gem! Although one may have easily missed his insta-post because while he said he visit Sushi Shinsuke every other month, he has only posted about his visits once.

With credits to @andrew_gyokudari’s insta-post and Pocket Concierge’s write up, I got to learn chef-owner Shinsuke Mizutani decided to pursue being a sushi chef after he was inspired by the works of a sushi chef in his hometown Nagasaki. At 19 years old, he went on to work at sushi-yas including Sushi Tanaka, Sushi Tsubaki, Sushi Ginza Onodera (Hawaii) and Sushi Ryusuke, before taking time away from sushi to be a server at Michiba (kaiseki restaurant) and a security guard at a temple in Nippori. And all of it was done intentionally. Ie, so that he could develop his skills in areas other than sushi such as speaking English, knowledge of Japanese cuisine table manners and hospitality. It was only in late 2017 that he eventually opened Sushi Shinsuke. And for those who are curious, he was 34 years old.

For my March ‘19 dinner, my hotel concierge assisted to call the restaurant in late January to make the booking.

And on the day of my dinner (Sunday), I arrived punctually at 6pm. And the first thing that stood out was the unique interior decoration. It was a mix of traditional (wood counter) and modern (stained glass ceiling, posh dining armchairs, champagne glasses on the table). Interesting. And it being spring, I was in a (short) dress. And it was sweet of head chef Shinsuke san that he asked his staff to get me a blanket. After settling down, I commenced my ¥20,000 omakase dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Abalone.

2) Dish #2 (above) – 3-days aged Japanese spotted prawn (botan ebi). Head chef Shinsuke san shared the aging was to make it sweeter and improve its texture.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Belt fish (tachiuo).

4) Dish #4 (above) – Bonito (2 slices).

5) Dish #5 (above) – Spanish mackerel (sawara).

6) Dish #6 (above) – Green eyes fish (mehikari).

7) Dish #7 (above) – Handroll with monkfish liver (ankimo). This was seriously good! And head chef Shinsuke san shared it’s cooked with lots of vegetables (cabbage, carrot, onion, etc) and aged for 1 week.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Octopus; One to be enjoyed as it is (left), and one (simmered) to be eaten with wasabi (right). “A lot of wasabi”, he said.



8) Dish # 8 (Nigiri assortment) (above) – Ink squid/golden cuttlefish (sumi ika), medium fatty tuna (chutoro), 2-weeks aged medium fatty tuna, gizzard shad (kohada), sea urchin, geoduck (mirugai), horse mackerel (aji), baby snapper/sea bream (kasugo) with persimmon, grilled firefly squid (beautiful aroma of smokiness), tiger prawn (kuruma ebi), marinated tuna (maguro zuke) and sea eel (anago). I was particularly intrigued by his use of persimmons. I love persimmons and I rarely hear persimmons used in sushi. Head chef Shinsuke san shared the sweetness in the kohada was due to the use of dried persimmon. Wow. And I should have captured his superb knife skill. He was furiously slicing away at the geoduck but without looking at it (as he was talking to me). Wow wow.. And for his sushi rice, he used a blend of rice vinegar and red vinegar to season it.

And at this point, head chef Shinsuke san asked if I could eat more. And I said I could have 2 more sushi.

9) Dish #9, Additional (above) – Giant clam (ishigakigai) nigiri.

10) Dish #10, Additional (above) – Roll of violet sea urchin (murasaki uni) rice, chunks of 2-weeks aged premium fatty tuna (otoro), tuna scarped from the bone, and squid (ika). I thought the inclusion of squid was interesting because it introduced a chewy texture to the roll.

11) Dish #11 (above) – Egg omelette (tamago).

It was a very memorable dining experience. I enjoyed myself in every aspect. The service, the food, the ambience! I liked how head chef Shinsuke san boldly and successfully created his own style. Like with the use of persimmons. He doesn’t confine himself to the fixed concept of sushi, but still respects the tradition of Edo-sushi.

I was also the first to arrive at the restaurant. And in an attempt to help me feel at ease, head chef Shinsuke san created conversational topics despite the language barrier. And I appreciate his efforts. Although 2 other groups of customers arrived later in the evening and head chef Shinsuke san got busier, he continued to check in on me. It could be as simple as having eye contact with me, telling me what’s coming up (as I waited for my next dish), asking me how’s the dish, and sharing additional details of the dish (that I just finished).

In fact, there was a few really cute moments. So for my octopus dish, I was told to have lots of wasabi with the simmered slice. And as I was about to start on the second piece (the simmered one), head chef Shinsuke san tried to make sure I was indeed putting a lot of wasabi from the corner of his eyes. I caught him ‘monitoring’ me, and we both laughed when our eyes met. Head chef Shinsuke san is a warm and funny person. Absolutely love his sense of humour! I appreciate how he went out to make sure I felt included. I was dining solo, but I didn’t feel alone.

Do I recommend Sushi Shinsuke? Yes!!! I am so glad I found this hidden gem because of @andrew_gyokudari‘s selfless sharing. I honestly can’t wait to be back. And reservation is a must. Although only 5 of 8 seats were occupied that night, head chef Shinsuke san turned away a potential customer that attempted to walk in at 8pm.

With 2 glasses of iced green tea, I paid ¥22,460 (inclusive of tax and service charge).

Dinner @ Higashiazabu Amamoto 東麻布 天本 (Tokyo, Japan)

October 9, 2022 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

I get most of my Japan sushi-ya news from Instagram. And when Higashiazabu Amamoto opened in June 2016, it certainly took Japan sushi scene by the storm. All the Japanese foodie sushi lovers that I followed were posting pictures of their meals at Amamoto. And that of course made me wanted to secure a seat at this highly raved sushi-ya. However that wasn’t easy, especially with everyone in Tokyo Japan vying for 1 of the 8 seats.

And that became harder when Amamoto was awarded 2 stars by Tokyo Michelin Guide 2017 just 6 months after its opening. If my memory didn’t fail me, I don’t believe my hotel concierge ever managed to get through their line. But my glimpse of hope appeared when Omakase.in (a third party reservation website) was launched in April 2017 and Amamoto was 1 of the restaurants on it!!!

Amamoto accepts reservations for the next quarter at the beginning of every quarter:-

On 1 January: April through June
On 1 April: July through September
On 1 July: October through December
On 1 October: January through March in the next year

With Omakase.in, it’s a case of fastest-fingers-win. Which meant even if one refresh the screen right on the dot when seats are released, one may see some seats in one second and none in the next (second). I was unable to secure a seat for the specific dates for my February 2018 and January/February 2019 trips. But persistence and strategic planning paid off. On 1 January 2019, I chose to secure my booking at Amamoto before purchasing my flight ticket. Thus, my March/April 2019 trip. :) And yes, that’s my definition of ‘strategic planning’… Ha!

So it’s to note Amamoto releases limited seats on Omakase.in. Was talking to a regular seated beside me during the meal, and learnt she secured her seat just by calling. But I ain’t complaining. As difficult as it is to get a seat, I am just glad Amamoto is accessible to all by being on Omakase.in.

Amamoto has 2 seatings; 5pm and 8.30pm. I got myself the first seating.

And a little background update… Before opening his own sushi-ya Higashiazabu Amamoto, chef-owner Masamichi Amamoto spent nine years honing his skills under the late legendary chef Mitsuyasu Nagano san at 2-Michelin star Umi before moving on to Shinohara (now known as Ginza Shinohara) and Gion Sasaki.

And for my 5pm weekday dinner, I was the first to arrive at the restaurant. It seemed like customers are seated according to first-come-first-sit, and starting from the end of counter. So I was seated right at the end. But that was fine by me because every seat had full visibility of the open kitchen. Although from my seat, it was a little hard/tricky to watch head chef Amamoto san knead away at his sushi because he stood in the centre. Ie, it’s a straight sushi counter so my view was partially blocked by 3 heads.

Meal started promptly after everyone arrived. And I commenced my ¥35,000 dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Mozuku seaweed.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Head chef Amamoto didn’t introduce the fish but went straight into telling me to have one slice with salt, and the other with wasabi and soya sauce. But this was probably flounder.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Scallop, and to enjoy with salt.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Firefly squid. These were filled with lots of goodies. Could I call these ‘pregnant firefly squid’? Like you know… Pregnant fish. Pregnant firefly squid. Haha.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Japanese whelk (tsubugai).

6) Dish #6 (above) – Baby white shrimps (shiro-ebi).

7) Dish #7 (above) – Spear squid (yari ika) stuffed with roe.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Japanese spotted prawn (botan ebi) marinated in Shaoxing wine, and sea urchin.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Oyster.

10) Dish #10 (above) – Charcoal-grilled black throat sea perch on rice.


11) Dish #11 (Sushi 1 to 8) (above) – Flounder, baby snapper, squid (ika), tuna (chiaigishi maguro), medium fatty tuna (chutoro), sea urchin, gizzard shad (kohada) and tiger prawn (kuruma ebi).

12) Dish #12 (above)


13) Dish #13 (Sushi 9 to 12) (above) – Horse mackerel (aji), big-eye snapper (kinmedai), bonito, and cherry salmon (sakura masu).

14) Dish #14 (Sushi 13) (above) – Tuna roll.

15) Dish #15 (above) – Tea.

16) Dish #16 (Sushi 14) (above) – Sea eel (anago).

17) Dish #17 (above) – Egg omelette (tamago). If one checks the feed on Instagram, one will sometimes pictures of tamago tower. Do note this is usually done for his regulars. The pair of ladies seated beside me were his regulars. They requested for 2 pieces each instead of 1 piece, which he also gamely went on to stack their 4 pieces together for their photo-taking. And a hardcore foodie will know this (trend) was created by instagrammer @andrew_gyokudari (head chef Amamoto san’s VIP customer and friend).

Head chef Amamoto san only started the sushi leg at 6pm. And I realised the reason why the meal took more than 3 hours was because he made the sushi pretty slowly. But that’s the whole intention because the entire dining experience was set up such that customers get to enjoy and watch him prepare every dish. From appetisers to sushi. And that’s stemmed from his past experiences from working at kaiseki restaurants Shinohara and Gion Sasaki. Sushi rice seasoned with brown sugar syrup and vinegar, his sushi was size L. So please come with an empty stomach.

For the non-sushi leg, head chef Amamoto san would tell me what condiments (ie, salt, soy sauce) to have the respective dishes with. But what he didn’t mention was the main ingredient. I suspect it’s because he wasn’t confident with English and he knew I couldn’t understand Japanese. But don’t get me wrong, he is friendly. Just that he doesn’t converse as much (with me). Though as he stood at the exit at the end of the meal to personally thank everyone for coming, he attempted a “謝謝” to me. Cute.

Do I recommend Higashiazabu Amamoto? Yes! It certainly lived up to the hype. The food was spot on. In fact, I read that head chef Amamoto san is able to source for quality ingredients despite off seasons or bad weather (eg, March/April are challenging months to obtain good tunas) thanks to his meticulous seasonal sourcing and perfectionism. So as long as one is able to secure a seat, one can be assured to be treated to a good meal! I strongly everyone to dine here at least once in a lifetime. I paid ¥38,900, including tax and service charge. Though that’s excluding Omakase.in’s booking fee of ¥270.

I will certainly be trying to secure a slot for my upcoming February 2023 trip. It has been a long time waiting. :)

Dinner @ Monzushi Singapore 紋ずし | Sushi Restaurant in Tanjong Pagar

August 28, 2022 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

Eating sushi in Singapore ain’t cheap. Especially when it’s at reputable sushi restaurants that’s helmed by Japanese chefs. So imagine my surprise when I came across Monzushi; Opened by third-generation chef Keisuke Kaneko, with dinner menus ranging between $148 to $288. Now… Before anyone start protesting that $288 is considered expensive, do note I am comparing Monzushi against other most sushi-yas which dinner omakase menu easily starts from $400.

Excited at my surprise find, I immediately went to their online reservation system and booked myself for the immediate weekend. And it seems like pre-selecting one’s choice of menu is the new norm. And from the dinner menu, I went with Chef’s Special menu ($288). Monzushi had 3 seatings; 5pm, 6.30pm and 8.30pm. I chose 6.30pm as I was going to be in the area and be done by 6pm.

It rained almost the entire day on the day of my dinner. I only managed to arrive at the restaurant at 6.40pm. Could I blame the rain? Keke. But prior to stepping into the restaurant, I was praying hard I wasn’t the last to reach. I was hoping chef-owner Keisuke san doesn’t wait for everyone to arrive before starting. Else, I be so embarrassed.

However, I was surprised to see I was the first to arrive. The sushi counter could sit 8 people and it turned out the other 7 customers had contacted the restaurant earlier in the day to cancel. Say what! That instead got me nervous in a different way. It wasn’t my first time dining solo, but it was my first at having the entire place to myself with no one joining later. Gasp.

After taking my drinks order, I started my Chef’s Special menu, $288 with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Sea urchin on tofu skin (yuba), fish cake, and (cooked) bonito.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Sashimi platter including bonito, mackerel (saba), various cuts of tuna, and shellfish.

3) Dish #3 (above) – This was massive! And the thing was… I had a phobia of oyster. Like I couldn’t consume oysters for a good 5 years? So while I have since overcome it 2 years back, the sight of this huge oyster set off some bells in my head. But thank goodness this went down smoothly. Its texture was very creamy. Really good.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Milt (shirako). I was really happy to see this as it has been a while since I last had milt. Was told this was the start of the season. Glad I came! :)


5) Dish #5 (above) – Green eggplant. Was told this is also a seasonal ingredient that’s only available 1.5 months a year. Really nice. The sauce served alongside it enhanced the eggplant’s sweetness.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Deep fried river crabs. I got curious and asked if they feed the (live) river crabs, and was told they don’t. That the crabs could survive a good 5 days and it be really smelly if they do feed them. Ahhh… I see.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Turbo shell soup with mushrooms.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Blowfish.

9) Dish #9: Sushi 1 (above) – Premium fatty tuna (otoro) nigiri.

10) Dish #10: Sushi 2 (above) – Baby gizzard shad (shinko) nigiri.

11) Dish #11: Sushi 3 (above) – Baby squid nigiri. Baby squid legs was served separately on its own but with sauce. And this was really good. Very tender.

12) Dish #12: Sushi 4 (above) – Baby sardine nigiri.

13) Dish #13: Sushi 5 (above) – Torched (aburi) sea perch nigiri.

And at this point of my meal, sous chef (local) shared there be 2 more pieces of sushi, soup and dessert. To which I said I was still hungry and requested for 3 more pieces of sushi. And because I was the only diner, I had the opportunity to converse a lot with the chefs. While conversing, I mentioned my love for shellfish. So I was extremely appreciative when head chef Keisuke san went to his fridge and took out goodies for me.

14) Add-on dish 1 (above) – Giant clam (ishigaki-gai) nigiri.

15) Dish #14: Sushi 6 (above) – Open roll of sea urchin rice and sea urchin. Was told to hold it up by pinching the seaweed together. Yum!

16) Dish #15 (above) – Rolled egg omelette (tamago). This was served piping hot, which head chef Keisuke san shared it’s done intentionally. “Must be hot to taste good,” he said.

17) Add-on dish 2 (above) – Salmon roe in sac (sujiko) with grated radish. So good! Was told to eat in small mouthfuls so that it wouldn’t be overwhelmingly salty. I didn’t think it was salty at all. In fact, I thought it’s brilliant that head chef Keisuke san paired it with grated radish.

18) Add-on dish 3 (above) – Arctic surf clam (hokkigai) nigiri served with sauce made with its liver and ginger.

19) Dish #16 (above) – Sea eel (anago) nigiri with salt and coarse black pepper.

20) Dish #17 (above) – Soup with seasonal mushroom.

21) Dish #18 (above) – Melon.

Despite being the only diner for that night, I thoroughly enjoyed myself at Monzushi. It was a little uncomfortable when I was having my first 2 dishes because I had like 5 pairs of eyes looking at me. But head chef Keisuke san broke the ice. I relaxed. And we, including sous chef, enjoyed a group conversation. I got to learn Monzushi celebrated their 4-years anniversary just the week before. Head chef Keisuke san addressed his father affectionately as papa. And yes, his papa also flew in from Japan to celebrate with them. But papa couldn’t stay long (in Singapore) because of their sushi restaurant back in Tokyo.

As taken from their website, Monzushi started off as a yatai (stall) in 1933. It was originally called Monchan-Ya and was founded by head chef Keisuke san’s grandfather. Following the success of the yatai, grandfather went on to open his Edo-style sushi restaurant in Tokyo called Monzushi. Monzushi Tokyo is now helmed by head chef Keisuke san’s papa and brother.

I asked head chef Keisuke san, “Why Singapore?” To which he laughed and shrugged his shoulders. But he went on to share he started working at 14 years old for others in Ginza right from the bottom (washing plates), before returning to be trained under his papa and then heading overseas including Shanghai (4 years).


Head chef Keisuke san and his sous chef were friendly and easy to converse with. And head chef Keisuke san is a drinker. So go ahead and offer him a drink too! I am a little embarrassed to say I got a little carried away with my drinks. Ha.

Would I recommend Monzushi? A big fat yes from me. It’s a rare find for omakase menu that’s by Japanese chef to be affordably priced at $288. And I really appreciate the omakase menu included less common (and seasonal) neta (sushi topping) like baby squid and baby sardine. Usually one only gets such if opted for nigiri-focus menu. And yes, he used 2 types of sushi rice (shari). Red shari for oily fishes, and white shari for less oily fishes. Head chef Keisuke san shared the recipe of white shari was passed down from his grandfather, while the red shari was created by himself.

It’s a pity Monzushi doesn’t get as much attention on social media. Head chef Keisuke san mentioned 70% of his customers are his (Japanese) regulars with the remaining 30% being working crowd from neighbouring offices and hospitals. I do hope more will get to know of Monzushi and give them a try.

If one is only after small bites and drinks, Monzushi also has a bar! :)

13 Neil Road, Singapore
6227 7088, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sun : 17:00 – 22:30
Ambience: 7
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon