Lunch @ Sushi Sato | Sushi Restaurant in Dempsey

April 10, 2022 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

Opened fairly recently in November 2021, Sushi Sato has to be 1 of the hardest sushi restaurants to book to date. Seats for the following month are released on the first day of the month at 10am, on their website. Ie, seats for June are released on 1 April 10am. And seats are taken up… Within minutes?

My first attempt at booking was on 1 December for February 2022. Despite setting reminder in my calendar, I missed it because 1 December was a weekday. Had to work. Was in meeting… And during my 2nd attempt, I loaded the website only to see just a few weekday dinner and lunch slots left. Since I wasn’t too keen on dinner, I booked myself for a Friday lunch. Yes, even if that meant taking leave.

I reached the restaurant at 12.15pm for my 12.30pm lunch appointment. And seeing no one behind the reception desk, my first thought was “Oh, they only open at 12.30pm sharp.” So instead of trying to open the entrance door, I obediently waited outside. It was only after a couple that reached minutes after me and let themselves in that I realised how silly I was. I of course waited a few minutes before entering after them… Ha.


Interior (Picture Credit: Link)

I walked past a private room before entering into the main space where chef-owner Yuji Sato was. The L-shaped counter could sit at least 10 people. But I was surprised to see I was the last to reach for the 12.30pm seating despite it being 12.20pm only. There are 3 options on the food menu. A friend happened to have lunch at Sushi Sato 2 days before me, and shared the difference between utsukushi menu ($280) and tomi menu (from $350) was that the latter had an additional rice bowl (donburi) with grilled fish and the sea urchin-salmon roe bowl was replaced with 2 sushi instead. So thanks to my friend, making my choice of menu was a straight forward decision.

And with that, I started my utsukushi menu, $280 with:-

1) Seasonal starter (above) – Firefly squid.


2) Chawanmushi (above) – Steamed egg with seasonal ice fish.


3) Seasonal sashimi (above) – Smoked medium fatty tuna (chutoro) and flounder.

4) Sushi #1 (above) – Marinated tuna (maguro zuke).

5) Sushi #2 (above) – Flounder fin (engawa).


6) Cooked dish #1 (above) – Mountain vegetable (burdock) tempura. This was very nice. The batter wasn’t exactly paper thin, but I felt the thickness was necessary for it to be crunchy. And the batter wasn’t just plain flour. I could taste it’s seasoned. Good choice I say because while the burdock was juicy, it would have been bland on its own.

7) Sushi #3 (above) – Japanese spotted prawn (botan ebi).

8) Sushi #4 (above) – Gizzard shad (kohada). Head chef Sato san made a joke by saying “lizard” shyly. Haha.

After serving his first sushi, head chef Sato san checked with every customer if the rice portion was fine. I noticed mine was small. As though it was specifically made that way for female customers. Didn’t say anything until after I had my fourth sushi.

His sushi rice was slightly acidic and stickier than usual, but went really well with his neta (sushi topping). But with only a small portion of rice, I was left with just the neta (in my mouth) after a few chews. It’s as though I was eating sashimi instead of sushi. So yes, I requested for more sushi rice simply because I wanted to continue tasting the rice in my mouth! :) And I wasn’t alone. The female customer beside me ask for more rice for her sushi too!

9) Sushi #5 (above) – Arctic surf clam (hokkigai).

10) Sushi #6 (above) – Ink squid (sumi ika).

11) Sushi #7 (above) – Smoked baby tuna (meiji maguro).

12) Cooked dish #2 (above) – Grilled squid legs.

13) Sushi #8 (above) – Adult yellowtail (buri).

14) Sushi #9 (above)

15) Sushi #10 (above) – Chicken grunt (isaki).

16) Sushi #11 (above) – Scallop (hotate).

17) Rice bowl (above) – Rice bowl of sea urchin and salmon roe.

18) Soup (above)

19) Sushi #12 (above) – Premium fatty tuna (otoro).

20) Hand roll (above)

21) Dessert (above) – Strawberry, orange and warabi mochi.

I left the restaurant feeling really satisfied. The food was very on point! I especially enjoyed his sushi rice. It complemented the sushi toppings very well. In fact, I regretted not adding more sushi. My friend had mentioned the needlefish (sayori) was outstanding. But then again, it was a little tricky with my situation to ‘steal’ head chef Sato san’s attention.

My fellow diners happened to be head chef Sato san’s regulars. Like everyone in the room but me. I felt out-of-place because everyone were unconsciously (or consciously) making their presence felt by talking loudly, toasting head chef Sato san non-stop, making conversations with both head chef Sato san and the waiting staff, etc. In fact, I was thankful I wasn’t offered the drinks menu because I would have ordered just a 180ml sake while the other groups were ordering bottle after bottle. Gasp.

Although the rowdier lunch group slightly marred my dining experience, I would still strongly recommend Sushi Sato. For $280, my meal was very value-for-money especially with the range and quality of fishes served. I would recommend lunch over dinner as I heard dinner menu ranges from $380 to $580. But if money isn’t an issue, go for it I say! Though I reckon it’s going to be a challenge for a long while to secure bookings at Sushi Saito.

Can’t wait to be back!

SUSHI SATO
6B Dempsey Road, Singapore
6971 8265, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Mon – Sat : 18:30 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Sun

[Revisit] Lunch @ Ashino | Sushi Restaurant at CHIJMES

March 7, 2022 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

My last visit to Ashino was in 2016. I was so scarred by my terrible dining experience then, that I knew a return visit will never happen. However my trusted foodie friend (anyone still remember InstaGram Bottomless Pit (IGBP)?) went in recent years and assured me that things have certainly picked up. It’s only with his nudge push that I decided to take the leap of faith and revisit Ashino.

Reservation was made via Chope for a weekend lunch. I wasn’t sure if chef-owner Taku Ashino san was still the sole chef behind the sushi counter, so I added my request for ‘head chef only’.

When I arrived at the restaurant at 12.30pm, 2 groups were already seated and had commenced their meals. The last group entered shortly after me at 12.35pm. Was glad I indicated my request for head chef in my reservation because there were 2 chefs behind the sushi counter.

Was presented with the lunch menu after I took my seat. I contemplated between the ‘lunch omakase’ menu ($275) and ‘special omakase’ menu ($400). I decided to go big and ordered the ‘special omakase’ menu comprising 7 appetisers, 13 pieces of sushi, miso soup and dessert. And with that, I started my Special omakase menu, $400 with:-

1) Sushi #1 (above) – 10-days aged blue fin tuna (250kg).

2) Sushi #2 (above) – 4-days aged striped prawn from Hokkaido, with its roe.


3) Appetiser #3 (above) – Steamed egg (chawanmushi) with flesh from a 5.5kg king crab.

4) Sushi #3 (above) – Razor clam and a strip of seaweed that’s out of sight because it’s sandwiched between the sushi rice and razor clam.


5) Appetiser #2 (above) – Grilled shinning eye fish (mehikari).

6) Sushi #4 (above) – 12-days aged flounder.

7) Appetiser #3 (above) – Wasn’t sure if I heard it right, but was told the yellow tail (buri) was smoked for 9 days. And served with spicy horseradish, although it really wasn’t spicy. But this was pretty good. Particularly enjoyed the contrast in temperatures; Cold horseradish against the warm yellow tail.

8) Sushi #5 (above) – Belt fish belly. Interestingly, the fish was served warm.

9) Appetiser #4 (above) – And was told to have these in the sequence of octopus, scallop and its liver, and codfish milt. The scallop seemed to be heavily marinated with sesame oil. Wasn’t sure if I enjoyed it. But I certainly understood why the codfish milt had to be consumed last. The sauce was heavier and easily overwhelmed the sesame oil.

10) Sushi #6 (above) – Cherry blossom trout (sake masu) from Hokkaido.


11) Appetiser #5 (above) – Smelt (wakasagi) tempura from Hokkaido. I enjoyed this.

12) Sushi #7 (above) – Squid.

13) Sushi #8 (above) – Medium fatty tuna (chutoro). From 218kg blue fin tuna.

14) Sushi #9 (above) – Needlefish (sayori).

15) Appetiser #6 (above) – Sea eel (anago). Presented by sous chef, I was surprised when he mentioned “anago” because it was white. I am too used seeing my anago brown. Haha. And this was pretty good; Held its texture well. Firm yet juicy.

  

16) Appetiser #7 (above) – Assortment of 4 crabs. Starting from top left and in clockwise direction, I was given thorny crab, swimmer crab, hairy crab and king crab. And I enjoyed the swimmer crab the most. I guess there’s a reason why it didn’t have any accompanying sauce. Cause its meat is sweet on its own? Keke. Second favourite was king crab and its roe sauce (left saucer).

17) Sushi #10 (above) – Golden eye snapper. Was told instead of wasabi, this was served with citrus pepper.

  

18) Sushi #11 (above) – Baby white anchovy (shirauo) steamed on cherry blossom (sakura) leaves. And my neighbours were right. It tasted a little like coconut.


19) Sushi #12 (above) – Violet sea urchin (murasaki uni).

20) Fish soup (above) – Soup made from leftover bones from the fishes used for lunch service. Bones were grilled before boiled. This was really good. Very light on the palette.

21) Sushi #13 (?) (above) – Egg omelette (tamago).

The staff asked if I wanted to add more sushi before desserts was served. Tempting, but I decided not to. The staff went on to say I could choose between ice cream and fruits for my desserts. I asked if I could have both, which the staff responded with “Add on?” I nodded my head. And I know… Like why was I adding on desserts instead of adding on sushi.

22) Dessert (above) – Rock melon, apple, strawberry and orange.

23) Ice cream, + $10 (above) – Fermented sake ice cream. I really liked the texture. It was similar to gooey gelato? There was a slight stretch to it. And I was told to enjoy its original flavour first. Which I did with 2 mouthfuls before the staff poured sake over my remaining ice cream.

My meal came up to $416 (before GST and service charge). $400 for the food, $10 for additional ice cream and $6 for my iced green tea.

Did head chef Ashino san manage to redeem himself with this meal? Yes. He has certainly improved over the past 5.5 years. His sushi was definitely better than what I last had; Sushi rice was sharp and sushi was kneaded firmly. If you read my previous review, his sushi used to be very loosely kneaded. To the extent that it was very hard to pick it up.

Though I am going to be very honest and real about the fishes which were aged. I didn’t think the aging did much to bring out the flavour of the fishes.

There’s also something else that’s bothering me. The menu mentioned 13 pieces of sushi for my ‘special omakase’ menu. However, when I was sharing my lunch experience with IGBP, I realised I was only given 12 pieces. Asked IGBP if tamago is counted as a sushi piece, to which he said it shouldn’t be. IGBP shared with me the pictures from his previous Ashino meal and it was clear that tamago wasn’t in the (sushi) count. And let’s just say… That made me slightly upset because that additional 1 sushi over the $270 ‘lunch omakase’ menu was one of the reasons why I opted for the $400 ‘special omakase’ menu. And since I was dining solo, I got to pay more attention to my surroundings. I remembered everyone had a ’46-days aged marli (makajiki)’. Remembered that distinctly because I was impressed by the mere mention of ’46-days aged’. But to be fair, I wasn’t sure if that’s supposed to be in my menu since I was the only one having the ‘special omakase’ menu.

Coincidentally, I happened to have an ongoing Whatsapp conversation with Ashino staff and curiosity got the better of me. I asked if the tamago was meant to be the last sushi, and was told it should either be hand roll or anago (depending on the course). Errr… Okie. So I guess head chef Ashino san really missed out my last sushi.

Which of course got me wondering… Will you check with chef if you realised you were given 1 less sushi during the meal? Unfortunately for me, I probably wouldn’t. Too timid lah. *Shrug*

So to the most important question… Will I recommend Ashino? Well, let’s say it’s “yes” and “no”. Yes because I enjoyed his strongly-vinegared sushi rice. No because the sushi-s failed to wow. But that’s also because my expectation of the food was higher since I went with the $400 ‘special omakase’ menu. Had I went with the mid-range menu (say the $275 ‘lunch omakase’ menu or even the $220 ‘sushi omakase’ menu), I would say it’s a good deal. My dishes weren’t that different from the other groups who didn’t opt for the $400 menu.

So to conclude clearly (ha)… Ashino is worth a visit. But stick to the $220 ‘sushi omakase’ menu. Or the ‘$275 ‘lunch omakase’ menu if you like some side dishes alongside your sushi. And don’t feel shy adding on more sushi. My neighbours requested for 2 more sushi, and they were given seared premium fatty tuna (aburi otoro) sushi and snow crab leg sushi. Ain’t sure how much that would cost, but the add-on sushi certainly looked good.

ASHINO
30 Victoria Street, CHIJMES, #01-23, Singapore
6684 4567, Website
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tues – Sat : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 21:30 (Dinner)
Value: 6
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon

[Revisit] Lunch @ Hashida Singapore | Sushi Restaurant in Telok Ayer

March 2, 2022 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

I have been to Hashida a few times, but not once have I sat at chef-owner Kenjiro ‘Hatch’ Hashida’s counter. After seeing a foodie friend post pictures of his recent meal at Hashida, I got down to make my booking. Tried reserving directly on Hashida website, but no slot was available despite me trying for dates 1 month, 2 months and even 5 months away. Instead, I got the message ‘For reservations and further assistance, kindly WhatsApp 8129 5336. Thank you!’

And WhatsApp them, I did in the end. Was informed Hashida only took reservations 1 month in advance. Well, that worked for me. Booked myself for a weekend lunch.

Arrived at the restaurant promptly for my 12pm lunch. It was 12.10pm by the time everyone made our course selection from the menu. And 12.15pm when head chef Hatch san made his appearance. He seemed a little disorientated, and asked the staff to repeat the food orders to him. And I didn’t think it was professional when the staff repeated our orders loudly (in front of us). I wouldn’t have given it much thought if everyone ordered the same menu. But that wasn’t the case. But hey, that’s me. I am probably too conscious for my own good. Maybe no one minded.

And with that, I started my Omakase menu, from $350 with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Pickled turnip ‘rose’, sweet potato, mushrooms and chrysanthemum petals (purple and yellow).


2) Dish #2 (above) – Steamed egg (chawanmushi) with crab, lotus root purée, simmered burdock and sea eel (anago). There was a lot going on. But thankfully the spoon wasn’t big. And because of the small bites, this was almost like different dishes but presented in a bowl. One mouthful, egg with crab and lotus root. Another mouthful, egg with lotus root and burdock. Another mouthful, burdock and sea eel.


3) Dish #3 (above) – Adult yellow tail (buri) and octopus. Was told specifically to enjoy the octopus with the seaweed sauce.


4) Dish #4 (above) – Second sashimi platter with tuna cut between medium fatty tuna (chutoro) and premium fatty tuna (otoro), and baby tuna (meiji maguro) marinated in Hashida’s homemade soy sauce. The tuna were sliced thin, but that worked out very well because it would have been too fatty if it was any thicker. I am surprised at myself because I always thought ‘the thicker the better’. Haha.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Gunnel fish, sea bream roe, yam and beancurd skin.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Monkfish liver (ankimo) and squid with its roe. Drizzled with traditionally homemade sweet sauce. I really enjoyed this. I think the (bottom side of) monkfish liver was slightly caramelised too.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Snow crab and sweet potato tempura, sprinkled with homemade sweet potato salt. Ie, salt made from sweet potato skin. And served alongside black sesame sauce.

Before starting our sushi leg, the staff went round asking if we wanted our rice small, large or regular. I went with regular.

  
  
  

8) Dish #8 (above) – Sushi assortment of horse mackerel (aji), yellow jack (shima aji), ark shell (akagai), snapper (tai), flounder with sea urchin and homemade gin salt, winter fatty snapper (ishidai). Most chefs would slam the ark shell onto the counter top, but head chef Hatch san did his gracefully. After kneading the sushi, he flicked the top of the ark shell instead before serving.

  

9) Dish #9 (above) – Open sushi of belt fish (tachiuo) and sea urchin. Was asked to eat this quickly so that the seaweed was still crisp. However, as much as I love sea urchin, there was too much of it. Could barely taste much of the grilled fish.

  

10) Dish #10 (above) – Continued sushi assortment of marinated tuna (zuke akami) with minced premium fatty tuna (otoro) beneath, and Japanese spotted prawn (botan ebi).

11) Dish #11 (above) – Pen shell and steamed sea urchin.


12) Dish #12 (above) – Head chef Hatch san specifically instructed his staff to prepare really hot sushi rice (shari) for him to prepare our rice bowl. And in the bowl, there was snow crab, cubed geoduck (mirugai), barracuda, salmon roe and seared big eye golden snapper (kinmedai). However, I didn’t quite understand the intent of using piping hot sushi rice. This was just so-so for me. Head chef Hatch san probably wanted to create a dish unique to Hashida, but there was too much happening in the bowl.


13) Dish #13 (above) – Prawn-based miso soup with homemade fish cake.

  

14) Dish #14 (above) – Hashida signature tuna sushi. Where several thinly sliced tuna were used, instead of it served as a chunk.

15) Dish #15 (above) – Musk melon.

16) Dish #17 (above) – Flourless chocolate cake made with tofu and topped with grated truffle.

17) Dish #17 (above) – Blood orange sorbet, a very thin slice of sweet potato, dried persimmon, vanilla ice cream and warm orange juice. Head chef Hatch san shared he drew inspiration from his mother’s dessert.

I was very, very full. In fact, I was so full that I wasn’t able to enjoy the last few dishes very well. Guess my appetite has really shrunk with age. SOB!

I noticed head chef Hatch san used really hot sushi rice for his sushi. It was so hot that steam would come out when he opened the lid of the ohitsu (Japanese wooden tub). Not just that, the rice was so hot that head chef Hatch san would dip his fingers into a bowl of iced water before reaching for the rice. I mean, I do know of some sushi chefs who are very particular of the rice temperature. But it was a first to see such warm hot rice being used. And the thing was… The sushi rice wasn’t impressive. And it was kneaded too loosely for me. I could feel it just by picking the sushi up with my fingers.

So it was a pity that the sushi failed to impress. Instead, the non-sushi dishes fared better.

But service was great. For a start, I liked how the staff would exchange my half-finished glass of iced green tea with a new glass. There was a family of 3 who was also dining during my weekend lunch. The child was probably 8 years old? I think. He seemed to be the same age with my great grand niece. And I thought it was very sweet that the staff paid more attention to him. They taught him how to cup the shiso flowers to bring out the fragrance. Even head chef Hatch san contributed by encouraging him to eat with his fingers. In fact, head chef Hatcn san must had been in a good mood, cause while the family didn’t order the omakase menu, he mentioned he was giving them premium fatty tuna (otoro) which wasn’t usually given for non-omakase menu. I also enjoyed the banter between chef and his staff.

Do note the menu mentions omakase menu is from $350. My lunch came up to $420 (before GST and service charge).

Would I recommend Hashida? Well… The sushi leg plays a main factor when it comes to my sushi omakase meals. I unfortunately wasn’t impressed. So based on that, I probably wouldn’t. Though one should also note head chef Hatch san isn’t your typical Japanese chef. You can see he has a hip-hop swag. Which is also reflected in the restaurant’s interior decor and choice of music played at the restaurant.


For my lunch, it was held inside the very first room. There are 3 rooms altogether. And the room where I had my lunch in was probably space-themed. If one looked at the corridor ceiling just outside the room, you’ll be able to see it was intentionally designed with a cut out. And with a cute astronaut figurine peeping out. Which made me guess that the ceiling within the room was thus designed to be of rough texture, as though mimicking the surface of the moon.

HASHIDA SINGAPORE
77 Amoy Street, Singapore
Website, 8129 5336
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 6
Wed – Sun : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tues – Sun : 19:00 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon