Dinner @ ESORA

January 28, 2019 in Japanese

Opened in August 2018, ESORA was one restaurant which opening I was looking forward to. And as taken from their website… Set in a heritage shophouse on Mohamed Sultan Road, ESORA is a kappo-style fine dining restaurant helmed by head chef Shigeru Koizumi. And guided by chef Koizumi san’s affinity with nature, ESORA showcases modern Japanese cuisine.

However I only got to dine at ESORA in December, 4 months after their opening. You see… I prefer to wait it out a little before visiting a new restaurant. And by the time I was ready to visit ESORA (ie, in November), most of my friends had already visited ESORA. Yes, they are super fast.. So the only way to entice them to return with me was when ESORA started serving the winter menu.

It would be nice to dine in a big group. But at ESORA, one should dine in pairs because the restaurant interestingly oddly only assign counter seats to groups with 2 or less. And from the menu (pages 1, 2), we ordered:-

1) 9 course menu, $278 comprised of:-


(A) Pre-appetiser (above) – Broth made with dashi, kelp (kombu), yuzu and bonito flakes.


  

(B) Foie gras monaka (above) – With persimmon, kaffir lime and sesame. And for my friend who preferred not to have foie gras, she was served monaka with sea eel (anago), pumpkin and mandarin instead.


(C) Kaviari caviar (above) – With celery roots, clam (hamaguri) and yuzu.


(D) Fugu karaage (above) – Shiokombu salad and sudachi.


  
  

(E) Sashimi selection (above) – Bonito, Spanish mackerel (sawara), barracuda (kamasu) and sea urchin (uni).


(F) Steamed abalone (above) – With white maitake mushroom and yuzu.


(G) Grilled kinki (above) – With spinach.

(H) Smoked duck (above) – As we don’t take beef, the ‘omi wagyu with shiitake mushroom, onion and aged akazu’ dish was replaced with duck. We didn’t quite like this though cause of the texture.


  

(I) Snow crab donabe – For this, the staff came up with the claypot and showed us the crab within. And my friend had super sharp eyes because she spotted the tag on the crab. Ha! So obviously, the shells were only for display. After which, the staff brought it back to the open-concept kitchen where chef Koizumi san started portioning. And it was noticed they had done most of the works beforehand when containers of crab flesh, etc were brought out. My friend had a valid point by saying that actually gave our crab rice bowl less ‘wow factor’. Ie, they should only deshell the crab on the spot even if it meant we had to wait longer. But… I had 2 bowls nonetheless. Keke.

(J) Miso soup (above)



(K) Palate cleanser, Complimentary (above) – This was simply awesome. I would never look at pears the same way anymore. So good.

  

(L) Wasanbon ice cream (+ $38, Alba white truffle) (above) – Sweet potato (anno imo) and Japanese sugar syrup (kuromitsu).


  

(M) Petit fours (above)

(N) Matcha (above)

Although I had not dined at Odette yet, I felt a lot of familiarity between Odette and ESORA due to the largely similar colour palette used in the restaurants’ decor. My friend shared some of the staff were also transferred from Odette to ESORA, which one shouldn’t be surprised since the restaurants are managed by the same group (The Lo & Behold Group).

  

And as we made our way out of the restaurant, the staff were standing by at the exit with small paper bags. And in it, we were given castella cake. Such a nice gesture.

Would I recommend ESORA? I honestly loved the space and the service. I could feel the staff’s sincerity and warmth especially as they introduced every dish detailed-ly with wide smiles. So lovely! Food wise… Let’s say it was a promising start. I love the attention to details. But something just felt amiss. Couldn’t quite put a finger to it. But I am pretty sure ESORA will just get better with time. Give them a few more months! And counter seats are highly recommended for a more intimate experience. Since it’s facing the open-concept kitchen where one could watch experience everything. Keke.

ESORA
15 Mohamed Sultan Road, Singapore
6365 1266, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Thur – Fri : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tue – Sat : 19:00 – 21:00
Value: 7
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon, Sun

Dinner @ Kappo Shunsui (Revisit)

January 22, 2019 in Japanese

My siao-on instagram foodie friends were keen in visiting Kappo Shunsui for their supper menu. And since Kappo Shunsui’s head chef had changed from Tomo Watanabe to Nobu Nishi from my past visit, I thought “why not.” And since we were visiting for their supper menu, we agreed to dine at 9pm.

However, when the call was made to make our reservation, we were informed there was no supper menu. Ie, only dinner menu. Hmm… And in the same tele-conversation, the staff mentioned there’s $150 (8 courses) and $250 (9 courses) for us to choose from. Since the main difference between the 2 menus was a beef dish, we decided to go with $150.


On the day of our dinner, my ‘siao-on’-sters agreed to meet straight at the restaurant. And to enter, one was required to press the console for the staff to open the door. But regular customers would be able to open the entrance door easily just by scanning one’s finger print as the restaurant would have regular’s fingerprints registered into the digital lock system. And since we had pre-selected our menu, we commenced mizu course ($150) with:-


1) Dish #1 (above) – Bonito.


2) Dish #2 (above) – Fish cake with scallop, melon skin and eggplant in dashi broth.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Sashimi assortment of medium fatty tuna (chutoro) and lean tuna (akami).


  

4) Dish #4 (above) – Sweet fish (ayu) tempura served with seasonal vegetables (yam, corn and green pepper).

5) Dish #5 (above) – Big-eye snapper (kinmedai) and winter melon.


6) Dish #6 (above) – Rice topped with sea urchin and salmon roe (ikura) in claypot.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Miso soup.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Sweet corn pudding.

9) Brown rice tea, Complimentary (above)

Would I still recommend Kappo Shunsui? Well… I really ain’t too sure. There wasn’t many “wow” moments except for the bonito dish. I am sure the ingredients served depended on the season, but I doubt it would have been any more impressive had we opted for the $250 course. You know… Like better ingredients would be used.

But if one was in Somerset and needed a quiet-yet-can-still-impress eatery to go for late dinner or supper, Kappo Shunsui would be the place. Although walking within Cuppage Plaza to get to Kappo Shunsui wouldn’t be that quiet. Ha.

KAPPO SHUNSUI 割烹 旬水
5 Koek Road, Cuppage Plaza, #04-02, Singapore
6732 0192, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tue – Thur, Sun : 18:00 – 01:00
Ambience: 7
Fri – Sat : 18:00 – 02:00
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon

Dinner @ Ginza Shinohara 銀座 しのはら (Tokyo, Japan)

December 29, 2018 in Japanese

To dine at Shinohara was a ‘dream come true’ for me. Actually, to dine at any of the highly-rated restaurants in Japan is a ‘dream come true’ for me. Am always grateful when it happens.

So I got to know about Shinohara back in early October 2016 through a Japanese instagrammer. At that point, Shinohara had just relocated to Tokyo; Renaming themselves Ginza Shinohara from Shinohara Mikumo. Called them in mid October 2016 to make reservation for my November 2016 trip, but was told they were fully booked till December 2016. And to be really honest… Since then, I gave up all hopes of being able to dine at Shinohara in my next trip (which could only happen 1 year later, earliest) because they were gaining immerse popularity at an exponential rate. Even gaining 1 Michelin star in less than 1 year of operation. If even the Japaneses found it extremely difficult to book, what about me (a tourist)?

But I guess one shouldn’t give up. With plans to return to Tokyo in January 2018, I got my hotel concierge to call Shinohara in August 2017. But despite the 5 months advanced planning, I was given the bad news that they were fully booked. That’s when I decided to give it another try and asked my hotel concierge to check their availability for February. And with a stroke of luck, I was fortunate to secure a slot for early February 2018. And with that, I adjusted my travel dates to work around my Shinohara reservation. Got to admit I am a real hardcore.

  

For my 8.30pm reservation, I reached the place at 8.25pm. Upon entering through the entrance, the staff took my coat before directing me to my seat. And I noticed the restaurant could sit up to 8 customers in one seating.

The staff knew I was a non-local. So while everyone was settling down, (what definitely seemed to be) the sous chef came up to me and apologetically informed that they speak very little English. But they were too humble, honestly. Their grasp of English was pretty good. I understood them well. And once everyone was ready, chef-owner Takemasa Shinohara kick-started dinner by giving a short speech. I didn’t understand a word of it cause he said it in Japanese, but I assumed it must be his introduction to welcome everyone. And with that, I commenced my ¥23,000 dinner with:-

1) Japanese tea (ocha) (above)

2) Dish #1 (above) – Japanese spotted prawn (botan ebi) and ark shell clam (akagai) sashimi, kelp (kombu) and flower in dashi-vinegar sauce.

Just as we finished our sashimi dish, a staff went round with a bowl of live river fish (moroko). He tried to introduce the fish to me in English but ended up speaking Japanese. And it was cute because head chef Shinohara san and the sous chef were watching him from the counter. Just like how parents would peer through the window to watch their child during their first day at school. So when they heard him speaking in Japanese, they laughed and teased him with “moroko fish?” And that’s also when sous chef stepped in like a bigger brother and helped him out by telling me it’s river fish. And yes… No surprises that I was really liking the fun, relaxed ambience, and the chemistry within the team by then.


3) Dish #2 (above) – Milt (shirako) wrapped with tofu skin, in soup with grated winter melon (I think that’s what it was since it didn’t taste like grated radish) and yuzu.

4) Dish #3 (above) – Sashimi assortment of Spanish mackerel (sawara), flat fish, lean tuna (akami), medium fatty tuna (chutoro), and abalone.


5) Dish #4 (above) – Monkfish liver (ankimo) and crab on rice. And we were told to mix everything up. So, so good!


  

6) Dish #5 (above) – I didn’t manage to catch the name for most of the ingredients, but the plating was gorgeous. And for the pigeon, it was prepared at the grilling counter that’s visible to all. So I got to watch the entire process of grill-marinate-grill by sous chef.

7) Dish #6 (above) – DIY handroll with pickled radish, minced tuna and sesame seeds


8) Dish #7 (above) – Persimmon and foie gras sandwiched between wafer biscuit (monaka).

9) Dish #8 (above) – And the river fish made a returned appearance! Charcoal-grilled river fish (with accompanying vinegar sauce) and soft-shell turtle, and pickled radish which tasted more like pear to me. Haha. But it was not any plain radish. I initially thought they served 2 pieces because I noticed it was sliced. But when I picked it up, I realised they introduced a slit to smeared something within. I liked their attention to taste!

10) Dish #9 (above) – Soba.


11) Dish #10 (above) – Duck soup with sliced duck, meatball, mushroom, tofu and vegetables.


12) Dish #11 (above) – Claypot rice with crab. And it was a sight to see the entire team working together on the crabs to remove its flesh from the shells. Such great teamwork! After which, head chef Shinohara san went on to mix the freshly extracted crab meat with sea urchin and rice. Urchin sauce and seaweed flakes were further topped to the individual portions. And this was brilliant! I loved it so much.

  

13) Dish #12 (above) – Egg porridge.


14) Dish #13 (above) – Japanese confection (wagashi) of white bean and matcha filling.

15) Matcha (above)

Dinner was really fun. The dishes certainly lived up to all the raves I read on Instagram. And I really liked the friendly atmosphere which head chef Shinohara san created in his restaurant which allowed everyone to join in the group conversation and laugh at jokes together. Head chef Shinohara san looked stern but had a warm heart and a beautiful smile. Keke.

A male customer seated 2 seats from me was very fluent in English and became the unofficial translator. And head chef Shinohara san was noticeably less shy halfway through dinner; He made the effort to initiate conversations with me despite his broken English and without the help of our unofficial translator. It was really cute and I really appreciated it.

But as a solo diner, I also found myself needing to find stuff to do in order to kill time in between the dishes. At Shinohara, the preparation of food was an art itself so it’s done at the counter in front of customers. Since most customers came in groups, they would pass time by chatting. But I didn’t had much to do because there was no (mobile phone) signal at the restaurant which was located in the basement of the building. Sob!

Would I recommend Ginza Shinohara? For sure! It’s a must, although securing a reservation at this 1 Michelin star restaurant is a challenge in itself.

GINZA SHINOHARA 銀座 しのはら
Habiulu Ginza II, 2-8-17 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 中央区 銀座 2-8-17 ハビウル銀座2 B1F)
+81 3 6263 0345, Tablelog
Overall: 9
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Mon – Sat : 17:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 9
Value: 8
Service: 9
* Closed on Sun