Lunch @ Hatsu | Sushi Restaurant in Novena

August 14, 2022 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

When chef Leon Yap announced on his instagram account in Janurary 2022 that he be leaving Shinsora from 1 March, I had a hunch he’ll be back. And true enough, he updated in May that he’ll be opening his own restaurant in July. And in mid July 2022, he did. :)

Hatsu is located on Level 3 of Hotel Royal Newton. And I personally thought the choice of location was interesting. I mean, Hotel Royal is a really old hotel built in the 1960s. Wouldn’t the preference be to locate a new eatery in a more trendy/hip venue or in a not-that-old building?

Curiosity got the better of me during the meal, so I asked chef-owner Leon Yap about it and he shared he check out many places including Duxton but none fit the bill as well as Hotel Royal. He especially like how spacious the unit was, the restaurant being directly in front of hotel lift lobby, and the ease of parking for customers who drive. Nice!

And in all honesty, I actually like that I am now given a reason to enter Hotel Royal Newton. As a child, I always looked out of the window when my family drove past the hotel (to get to Orchard) and was intrigued by the hotel’s distinctive concrete facade and what’s inside the building.

My girlfriend made the reservation for a Saturday lunch via Hatsu’s website. What we didn’t know was that there’s 2 chefs behind the sushi counter; Head chef Leon and his sous chef. We got lucky because my girlfriend and I were assigned seats at head chef Leon’s end of the counter. And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4), I ordered:-

1) Hatsu Lunch Omakase, $120 comprised of:-

(A) Appetiser (above) – Saba (mackerel) and water shield in yuzu jelly, topped with ginger flower.

(B) Chawanmushi (above) – Served with snow crab. Was told the sauce in the steamed egg custard was also made with the crab shell.



(C) Nigiri (9 pieces) (above) – Mako garei (marbled sole/flounder) with salt, hotate (scallop) from Iwate, chiaigishi, shima aji (striped jack), kohada (gizzard shad), kinmedai (golden eye snapper), sakura masu (cherry trout) with grated yuzu skin, otoro (premium fatty tuna) and bafun uni (short spine sea urchin).

(D) Mini rice bowl (above) – Topped with minced tuna, salmon roe and diced pickled radish.

(E) Soup (above)

(F) Dessert 1 (above) – Homemade platter of castella cake, nama chocolate and crystal candy (rose flavour).

(G) Dessert 2 (above) – Peach.

2) Chef’s signature handroll, $50 (above) – The lunch omakase menus don’t include head chef Leon’s signature roll; The creation which he won World Sushi Cup Japan 2019 with. I decided to order it since I had stomach space for just a little more. :) For those after the prettier version that’s included in the dinner omakase menu, order the umami bomb maki ($98, 4 pieces) from the a-la carte menu. Though the umami bomb maki is slightly different (using cured egg yolk instead of aged bonito) since it’s inspired from his original award wining sushi creation.

My girlfriend and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Hatsu. The sushi segment was very impressive. I was happily nodding away with every bite. So good! The quality of the neta (sushi topping) was top notch! However if one prefers strongly seasoned shari (sushi rice), do note Hatsu’s is on the milder side. It’s as though the shari is the silent supporter in the sushi to allow the neta to shine through. If you get what I mean. Love the balance! I also like how head chef Leon doesn’t go easy on us with his sushi introduction. I realised there’s still a lot of Japanese fish names and cuts that I need to pick up!

Will I recommend Hatsu? Yes! Quality food and very value for money. If one intends to go for lunch, I recommend going straight for their $120 menu. My girlfriend went for the Hanami lunch menu ($90). Compared against my Hatsu lunch menu ($120), she had the same items as me except less the snow crab chawanmushi, sakura masu nigiri, bafun uni nigiri and peach dessert.

And to manage expectation on the other aspect of the dining experience like the ambience of the restaurant. Do note the interior decor is very simple. Nothing fancy. No expensive hinoki or Japanese cypress used to make the sushi counter, etc. But don’t get me wrong. I actually like this no-frills experience. One can also see where chef-owner Leon’s focus is in setting up his new restaurant. He chose to place his priority on getting better ingredients for his customers (including stocking a wide range of sake) and keeping the menus at affordable prices for more to have access to enjoying quality Japanese food. For those who are hesitant because Hatsu may not sound fancy enough to impress a date, I say make it into an experience beyond Hatsu. Royal Hotel is pretty cool in the sense one feel like time had stand still because it’s so dated.

So yes, I can’t wait to be back to try Hatsu’s dinner menu!

36 Newton Road, Hotel Royal, #03-01, Singapore
8654 7200, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 9
Service: 7
* Closed on Sun

Dinner @ Sushi Yujo | Sushi Restaurant in Tanjong Pagar

July 26, 2022 in Japanese, Singapore, Singapore, Sushi by thywhaleliciousfay

I usually book myself in for a sushi meal only after my craving kicks in. But what I realised is that I typically miss one whole season by doing such. Not to say trying to make a booking with just 2-4 weeks advanced notice isn’t quite possible now, post-COVID. So these days, I try to be more diligent by securing 1 to 2 sushi meals every month, with or without my craving.

In fact, I further divided my to-try list of of sushi restaurants into expensive and affordable. Coincidentally (or not), the expensive ones are helmed by Japanese chefs while the affordable ones are by non-Japanese chefs. So yes. To manage budget, 1 expensive sushi meal and 1 affordable sushi meal per month. =)

Opened recently in mid 2022, Sushi Yujo is new to Singapore sushi scene. But not Sushi Yujo’s head chef Desmond Fong. He was previously at Sushi Jin. Though I didn’t find him familiar, but that’s because I dined at Sushi Jin back in 2014 when it was under the helm of Raymond Tan. But I digress…

Reservation was made via Chope for a weekday dinner. And in my reservation, I specifically requested for head chef. Glad I did cause it turned out there was more than 1 chef behind the sushi counter. And 2 days before dinner, the restaurant dropped me a WhatsApp text with their dinner menu. There were 4 options; Hogo Sushi set ($198), Chusei Omakase set ($198), Yujo Signature Omakase set ($288) and Premium Omakase ($348). After much contemplation, I texted back with the selection for Yujo Signature. Uh huh, I stopped going for the most expensive menu. Gasp.

I was unfortunately running late on the day of dinner and texted the restaurant at 6pm that I would only reach at 6.45pm. Thankfully it wasn’t an issue because they don’t start everyone at the same timing. Located at level 2 of Amara Singapore, the interior decor of Sushi Yujo certainly stood out with its kinetic flower sculpture which pulsated with blooming movements. I made eye contact with chefs far too many times because I kept staring at the sculpture (while trying to figure out the design). Ha. After taking my order for drinks, I started my Yujo Signature Omakase, $288 with:-

1) Appetiser (above) – Water shield, baby abalone, river crab, and baby white shrimp (shiro ebi), salmon roe (ikura) and caviar.

2) Carpaccio (above) – Sea bream with sliced truffle, caviar and drizzle of truffle oil.

3) Sashimi (5 kinds) (above) – Premium fatty tuna (otoro), scallop, medium fatty tuna (chutoro), flounder and sea urchin, and amberjack.


4) Chef’s Signature (above) – Abalone served with its liver sauce. This was really good. I wasn’t sure if I be served with any rice thereafter, so I tried to clean up the sauce as much as I could. So when the sous chef came round later with the rice ball, head chef Desmond must have noticed the (very) little sauce left and asked if I wanted more. “Yes. A little bit,” I replied. Keke. And it was also from this that I noticed their sushi rice (shari) was on the stickier side.

5) Cooked Dish (above) – King crab.



6) Sushi (5 pieces) (above) – Lightly torched (aburi) spotted prawn (botan ebi), short spine sea urchin (bafun uni), aburi tuna belly with chopped tuna, caviar and gold dust, aburi barracuda (kamasu) with yuzu pepper, and aburi scallop with foie gras, sea urchin, caviar and gold flakes.

7) Chef’s Finale (above) – Sushi roll (temaki) of chopped tuna, crispy bits and salmon roe. This was really enjoyable.

8) Soup (above) – Clam soup.

9) Dessert – Musk melon, mango and grape.

Head chef Desmond took charge of all the fish preparation. That meant he also sliced the fishes for his sous chefs to make their sushi. And it’s probably because he was busy with the fish prepping that his sous chef would do the plating of the non-sushi dishes. Including for customers seated at head chef Desmond’s end of the counter. But don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the food dished out at Sushi Yujo. Both non-sushi and sushi legs of the meal.

In fact, because I went with the $288 omakase course instead of the $348 premium omakase course, I was pretty surprised when my course included ingredients such as abalone, truffle, premium fatty tuna (otoro) and sea urchin. It made me wonder how more premium the ingredients could get in the $348 course. So knowing that I didn’t go for the most expensive course yet was able to enjoy premium ingredients, it felt good. Keke.

However, I thought they could go on easier with their blow torch. 4 out of the 5 sushi were aburi. There’s a sushi course for dinner (Hugo, $198) which serves 12 pieces of sushi. I hope the aburi pieces are kept to a maximum 4. But that said, I really enjoyed the 2 fusion sushi pieces. They were fun and tasty!

Will I recommend Sushi Yujo? Yes! But do manage expectation, and know that the food here are not 100% traditional.

165 Tanjong Pagar Road, Amara Hotel, #02-26, Singapore
8877 8831, Website
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tues – Sun : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tues – Sun : 18:30 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon

Dinner @ TOWA Singapore | Teppanyaki Restaurant in Clarke Quay

July 22, 2022 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

Food is definitely my love language. Not ‘Quality Time’. Unless… Talking about food = Quality time? *Sheepish grin*

So while conversing about food, my girlfriend recommended me to check out TOWA. Now, that was back in November 2021. But teppanyaki doesn’t excite me the same way sushi does. So it got pushed down my to-try list until a foodie (whose taste bud I trust) raved about his meal at TOWA on Instagram in mid January 2022. That made me contact TOWA immediately via Whatsapp.

Unfortunately they only had bar counter seats left. But that didn’t stop me from trying. And in late March, I managed to secure counter seats for mid May. I wasn’t sure if TOWA practised two seatings as there wasn’t much information about their reservation system on the internet. Upon query, they replied with a text saying “Is 7pm ok for you?” And thus, dinner was fixed for 7pm.

Now… I have a goldfish memory. Having made my reservation at least 1.5 months ago, I actually forgot I specifically requested for counter seats. Upon arrival at TOWA, the staff led me to the (high) table seats. I probably was confused and didn’t think much of it, because I saw no empty pair of seats left at the counter. But I got my memory back when this guy finished his drink, stood up, and said “I should get going. All your guests are here.” It’s only then, did it dawn on me that this guy (safe to assume is a regular or chef’s friend) had taken the counter seats meant for my friend and I. We could have requested to change to our rightful seats (from table to counter) before our meal started, but we realised the counter seats wouldn’t give us much view of the teppanyaki grill. The set up of the place is a little odd. A proper teppanyaki place would have its grill right in the middle for all to see. But theirs was positioned at the corner. Hmm… And I definitely wouldn’t recommend anyone settling for the bar counter seats because it’s right at the entrance, with zero view of what’s happening at the main area.

There’s no physical food menu at TOWA as they only served 1 menu ($138). And with that, my friend and I commenced our dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Cuttlefish (ika) with egg yolk sauce. Served somen style.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Homemade sesame mochi with wasabi. I enjoyed its nutty taste.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Bonito sashimi with tosazu (vinegar-based Japanese dressing) sorbet.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Spanish mackerel and oyster tempuras served in a thick, sticky sauce made with dashi and seaweed. The oyster was unfortunately fishy for me. This would have tasted better if the tempura pieces weren’t served in the sauce because by the time the dish reached us, the batter had become soggy.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Firefly squids.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Grilled tiger prawn.

7) Dish #7 (above) – And they replaced the beef dish with chicken due to my dietary requirement. And this was pretty good although it wasn’t worth the 40 minutes wait. Yeah, kid you not.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Okonomiyaki. Of just cabbage and flour. Am intentionally mentioning ‘cabbage and flour’ because the other diners (who were evidently regulars) had noodles in theirs. Hmm…

9) Dish #9 (above) – Dorayaki (Japanese red bean pancake) with milk ice cream.

Did we enjoy our meal at TOWA? Will I recommend TOWA? Unfortunately, no.

Firstly, we were already missing out on the experience of sitting in front of a teppanyaki grill. I want to see some fire action! =( Then, the food was very mediocre. Nothing shone from the dinner. In fact, there were more misses than hits. And lastly, I wasn’t too thrilled when the staff said I be charged $5 for water when she came round to take our drinks order and I hadn’t quite made up my mind. On hindsight, I should have ordered a $4 soda than the $12 lemon sour chuhai from the drinks menu. Ha! That’s me being salty. Keke.

45 Hongkong Street, Singapore
Instagram, 9245 0780
Overall: 6.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 6
Mon – Sun : 18:00 – 22:30
Ambience: 7
Value: 6
Service: 7