[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

Lunch @ Shoukouwa | Sushi Restaurant at One Fullerton

February 25, 2022 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

I have been meaning to check out Shoukouwa for the longest time ever. It was especially intriguing when Shoukouwa was awarded 2 Michelin stars just a few months after opening in 2016. 4 months to be exact. And we are talking not 1 but 2 Michelin stars! SAY WHAT!!! However, the head chef that led Shoukouwa to their first Michelin is no longer with Shoukouwa. But it’s assuring to know the current head chef Kazumine Nishida has been with Shoukouwa for a while now, and has maintained Shoukouwa’s 2 Michelin stars.

Reservation was made via Chope for mid January ’22. Be careful though. Chope offered many time slots, but raality is that Shoukouwa only does 1 seating (12.30pm). However a week before my lunch, Shoukouwa informed me through WhatsApp-ed me that it had to be rescheduled because they received notification from Toyosu fish market (Japan) that there will be a delay in shipment. Hmm… So my meal was rescheduled to mid February ’22 instead.

I was unfortunately 10 minutes late on the day of my meal. Was so stressed because I took the bus instead of the train, and the bus was crawling! Please be punctual because there’s only 1 seating and chefs start everyone at the same time (12.30pm). And yes, there’s 2 chefs at Shoukouwa. Each with their own sushi counters in different spaces. I specifically requested for head chef in my reservation and was thus seated at head chef Nishida san’s counter.

Upon seated, the staff went through the menu and explained there are 3 options; Miyabi ($320), Hana ($480) and En ($650). I was contemplating between Hana and En. The staff went on to explain En, which was $170 more expensive than Hana, had 2 additional ‘Chef’s Special’. 1 of which was chef’s signature steamed abalone. I usually opt for the most expensive menu, but I decided not to this time round. And with that, I started my Hana menu, $480 with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Rock seaweed (mozuku) with sea urchin.


2) Dish #2 (above) – Steamed snow crab (matsubagani) with gazami crab sauce.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Smoked young tuna (meji maguro) with seaweed sauce. Was told this was smoked with straw from Japan and skin seared with binchotan charcoal. And this was really good; The smokiness and how the seaweed sauce paste complemented the tuna. Would have been perfect if the tuna was sliced thicker. Each slice was gone with just 3 bites.


4) Dish #4 (above) – Fourth dish was supposed to be rockfish (kinki) soup. However, we were informed by the staff that head chef Nishida san wasn’t pleased with the outcome. As such, he replaced it with his signature steamed abalone dish. And the abalone was amazing! Cooked for 10 hours and served with sauce made with the abalone liver, miso and sea urchin. And it was an interesting observation that head chef Nishida san was preparing the abalone dish not just for our counter, but also for the other counter.

5) Dish #5 (Chef’s special) (above) – Monkfish liver (ankimo) with dashi-ponzu sauce.

  
  
  

6) Dish #6 (above) – Sushi assortment of baby seabream (kasugo), needlefish (sayori) with ginger, spanish mackerel (sawara) topped with what’s made with grated white radish and ponzu sauce, rosy seabass (akamutsu) with sweet plum sauce, white tilefish (amadai) with yuzu zest, and Japanese spotted prawn (botan ebi). If I could ask for seconds, I would have definitely gone for the baby seabream and spanish mackerel. So good.


  

7) Dish #7 (above) – Fatty tuna (toro).

8) Dish #8 (above) – Tuna handroll (toro maki).


9) Dish #9 (above) – Black throat sea perch (nodoguro). Topped with thick dashi gravy, I really enjoyed this. I normally skip the fish skin if the fish is braised or steamed, but I finished everything in the bowl.

10) Dish #10 (above) – Miso soup (misowan).

11) Dish #11 (above) – The egg omelette (tamago) was like soufflé. Loved its airy texture.

12) Dish #12 (above) – Instead of the usual roasted tea, Shoukouwa surprised us with bobo tea; Tea made with burdock and 4 other vegetables.

13) Dish #13 (above) – Seasonal fruits (mizugashi).

Head chef Nishida san didn’t speak much during the meal. Most of the dishes were introduced by the staff. And it was pretty cool that the staff used tablet to show pictures of the ingredients. I could recognise some fishes in its sliced form, but definitely not in its fish form. Haha. So I thought that was a nice touch. And they did it for every dish.

  

I was glad I didn’t opt for the most expensive menu. The 2 additional ‘Chef’s Special’ were stuffed squid (replacement for the abalone dish) and rice bowl with cod milt (shirako) and sea urchin.

Would I recommend Shoukouwa? Well, there were a good handful of dishes that I enjoyed very much from my lunch. But I didn’t think the meal was worth $480. One can definitely get an equally good meal but for lower price elsewhere. So I say… Go to Shoukouwa if money isn’t a factor of concern, or if Shoukouwa is a place that you want to try at least once in a lifetime… But for the latter, don’t go beyond the Hana ($480) menu. And in all honesty, I didn’t quite think Shoukouwa was worthy of 2 Michelin stars. At most, just 1. But that’s me, and taste is subjective.

SHOUKOUWA SUSHI RESTAURANT
1 Fullerton Rd, One Fullerton, #02-02A, Singapore
Website, 6423 9939
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sat : 12:30 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon