Monday, May 21, 2007

Sushi Kikuzawa: A Very Long Lunch


Sashimi platter, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Today was a real treat! I finally stole away to Sushi Kikuzawa for a nice sushi buffet lunch. Had heard many nice things about this restaurant but never got the opportunity to try it until today. It's a tiny sliver of a place upstairs at International Building. We sat at the counter and were served immediately with edamame starters and warm takenoko wakasani (stewed bamboo shoots). Soon to follow was the plate of sashimi (you only get one portion) - one slice of ika (squid), two slices of shake (salmon), three slices of maguro (tuna) and some whitefish. The salmon was sweet, sweet heaven but the tuna wasn't very well-cut (a bit sinewy in some parts). The whitefish proved somewhat nondescript but was not unpleasant. As for the squid, it's not my favourite but what Kikuzawa served was quite acceptable - not too chewy.


This was followed by a small bowl of delicious broth with chicken pieces, radish, fried tofu and a gingko nut. Yummy appetiser.


Saba and Something, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

We were swiftly presented with this duo of saba (mackarel) and some fish of white flesh that I forgot. These went down quickly into our hungry tummies. Fresh and not fishy.



Aburi Shake (Seared Salmon), originally uploaded by Camemberu.

The next item is a highlight at Kikuzawa's - aburi shake. Seared lightly with a blowtorch on top, this item married two different taste dimensions of fatty salmon flesh - very gently-cooked and raw. Umai!!


Ikura and Uni, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Ikura (salmon roe) and uni (sea urchin "roe" but really its reproductive organs) arrived as a pair. Both extremely rich in flavour. I've grown to like ikura (in small amounts) but I can't say the same for uni. Maybe I just don't have the tastebud receptors required to fully appreciate the prized gonads of the hermaphrodite sea urchin (incidentally also a prickly object I stay away from when diving). This completely foreign, briny, bitter metallic taste always brings a mini-shock to my senses.


Kajiki (Swordfish), originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Kajiki or swordfish was up next. Nice, smooth and creamy but it still isn't a favourite of mine. Good thing I'm not addicted, as its mercury levels are one of the highest.

I was glad to hear and smell the blowtorch in action again. This time, unagi (river eel) arrived warmed and with a caramelised top - inimitably sublime! It came with awabi (raw abalone). Wow, a sushi buffet that included abalone?? To be honest, I am not a fan of abalone, I don't even like it cooked but I gave it a go. Surprise, surprise...it had none of the tough chewiness of the cooked version. Instead, what greeted me was a more powdery softness and a taste almost akin to fish cake (sorry, this must be sacrilegious to fans of this expensive shellfish). Unfortunately it also carried a strong, fishy after-taste.

I think I must have been too distracted by the heavenly unagi to hear what the next two items were (the junior-looking sushi chef was also very soft-spoken and did not always announce what he served). One tasted like finely-mashed sardines (very light in flavour) and some shellfish, possibly nama-hotate (raw scallop).


Chawan-mushi, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Chawan-mushi arrived in a generous bowl. Piping hot and lighter than clouds, the steamed egg was extremely smooth and soothing. Not too salty either. I think they only prepare/steam this on order, unlike some places which (I suspect) give you a reheated bowl.


Salmon in Ponzu Sauce, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Another warm serving arrived - this seemed to be salmon poached in ponzu sauce. My friend got a nice one (pictured), and I had something full of bones (big and small) and much harder to eat. In fact, the whole meal, the chef served my friend better-looking stuff for most of the items!


Negi-toro Temaki, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

A handroll! Mashed tuna with spring onions. A lot of rice and not enough tuna but still tasty. Actually handrolls would be a good way to fill up customers, so I'm not sure why the chef only gave us one.


Hokigai (Whelk), originally uploaded by Camemberu.

OK, I wasn't too happy to see hokigai (sea whelk) since I had a bad sashimi one at Keyaki recently. But this one was much fresher (and sliced much thinner), so it had none of the offensive chewiness. Not much taste either though.


Kakigai (Oyster), originally uploaded by Camemberu.

When oysters came next, I was surprised. This would be my first as sushi. I love oysters but I'm kinda avoiding them since I'm pregnant. My friend doesn't like oysters so it was a while of trying to pass it to each other in vain. I prodded the thing to see if it was cooked (it looked so) but it felt stone-cold. My friend then bravely decided to pop his into his mouth and so did I. Oh, the familiar burst of smoky flavour - no regrets. It was more delicious than it looked.



Kazunoko (Herring Roe), originally uploaded by Camemberu.

I like kazunoko (herring roe) which is fish roe that comes in one crunchy piece. Very fresh and very yummy. I only wish the portion was larger. The gunkan (boat-shaped) sushi here is quite miniscule. But that allows you to go for more variety.



Ika, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Oh no, we should have told the chef no squid! Another round again of trying to pass the sushi to each other, but we ate our own servings in the end. I'm not sure why I'm still squeamish about squid. It's virtually tasteless. I think it's the texture. You mash it in your mouth but some parts of it still stubbornly refuse to be masticated. Hmm, it's not unlike nata de coco, come to think of it, but I like nata de coco.



Ama-ebi, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

OK, ama-ebi (raw sweet prawn) I passed to my friend. I have never liked it and suspect I never will.



Tamago, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Ah, tamago, this is sometimes called the true test of a sushi chef's skill! It takes patience and expertise to get it right. The tamago here was very good - a perfect balance of sweet and savoury (some places make it too sweet). A generous slice that looked quite different from the sickly yellow, almost plasticky stuff that you sometimes see.


By this time, the chef had noticeably slowed down his pace of serving items to us. Still, this next one was a delight. Seared scallop with a dash of lemon (no need for dip, said the chef). Another multi-dimensional treat of savoury and sweet.



Maguro with special sauce, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

This one was nice. Tuna seasoned with a special sauce and sesame seeds. Melted in the mouth. No sinews this time.


Again, something new - sayori (half-beak), a seasonal item. Delicious with all its toppings. I wonder what the fish looks like...I keep visualizing the parrot fish (with their beak-like mouths).



Tobiko, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

We requested for tobiko and this cute little gunkan came. Nice but I wish there was more tobiko. Oh, the seaweed used here is fantastic. Extra dry and crisp, it's probably lightly toasted before being used in the sushi.



Sweet Salmon, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

We also asked for salmon. Sure, it's a plebian choice but it's just extra tasty here.


Our last sushi order, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

OK, by this time, the chef had slowed his serving pace to a halt. I think we breached their breakeven point some time ago. But we weren't totally FULL yet...so we requested a final four sushi items. That wonderful aburi unagi, shake, ikura and kazunoko. There were still items on the menu that we hadn't tried but we just couldn't resist an encore of these four.



Kazunoko with Ikura, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

I played with my kazunoko (herring roe) a bit. Put three ikura (salmon roe) on top for eye candy and flavour. Went quite well! Oh, there's some fish floss underneath the herring roe piece too. Good way to add flavour.



Mango Pudding, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Don't be disappointed by the lack of choice in desserts. There's only pudding but oh, my lord, how divine this lovely jelly-like concoction was! Excellent texture - not creamy or mushy but firm with lots of bounce. Very refreshing. Smelt like it was made from nectar of the gods. A superb way to round off a great meal. They only had mango flavour today (normally there's an assortment including lychee, papaya, pineapple, strawberry, apple and peach). But we were more than happy. Plus, we had fun with its uber-jiggly nature.


Udon, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

My friend still wanted more. We asked for udon and cold tofu. The udon arrived but they forgot our tofu. We decided to end this with another mango pudding.


I think Kikuzawa and staff were glad to finally see us go. But hey, gochisosama deshita! And we will certainly be recommending friends here for excellent value-for-money sushi. While not top-of-the-line quality, the sushi here is infinitely better than any of the conveyor belt chains. I think this is an excellent place for those who want an introduction to the different varieties of sushi (more than 40 available here). My friend, for example, had never ventured beyond salmon sashimi/sushi prior to this (not even maguro/tuna!). I was quite surprised he ate everything here. Bravo!

Prices: S$29 for lunch buffet; S$39 for dinner buffet (Mon-Fri)
Weekends and public holidays, add about S$10 more. They have a membership card promotion: for every six stamps (one buffet = one stamp), you pay only S$10 for the next buffet.

They also have fixed lunch sets and various other meals (unagi, chiraishi, etc). Shochu, beer and sake available to wash all that sushi down, although free-flow green tea is served.

SUSHI KIKUZAWA
360 Orchard Road
#02-13 International Building
Tel: 6738-3833

Open: 12noon - 3pm; 6-10pm

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18 comments

  1. Hi,

    I stumbled onto your blog quite by accident.

    I'm glad I did! To find a fellow foodie and diver, I can see my reflections in some way when you were blogging abt sushi and parrot-fish...lol

    Keep up the good work and keep on diving!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Verve! Glad you dropped by too! I really miss diving actually (can't go for the next 9 months!)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Been craving for good sushi since returning from Tsukiji. Heard about Sushi Kikuzawa and will definitely try it after seeing your post.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Adrian! Erm, OK, there's no way any sushi joint here can match Tsukiji's, so I do hope you will scale your expectations appropriately! Kikuzawa is great for affordable variety but for really top-notch sushi...there are other (ahem, pricier) places to go to.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Any recommendations? Have you tried any good sea urchin sushi in Singapore?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Adrian, I'm not a big fan of uni (sea urchin gonads!) - such an acquired taste - so I don't actively seek them out. But I hear folks raving about uni at Kaisan, Akane, Ten-jyaku and Akashi, I think.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi! I came across your blog while food blog hopping.

    I totally LOVE jap food so I was really glad to see your review!

    Can't wait to try Sushi Kikuzawa. It seems yummy! Is it really crowded druing the lunch buffet?

    ReplyDelete
  8. OMG!! Everything look so yummy. Luckily I have my dose of Japanese food yesterday but am still drooling over your pics. :p~~~~~~~~

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  9. they actually charge infants below 2. i find it so ridiculous.

    if u are charging child price for kids from 6, its acceptable, but for infants? first time i ever heard of a place charging infants.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Devolution: Wow charging for infants? But infants should not be eating raw fish/sushi in the first place! I guess best not to bring them then?

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  11. definitely didnt bring her there to eat raw food!

    she had her own food. at most, she was maybe gonna have abit of chawanmushi. and they said no u cant do that. PAY! if u're gonna feed her even 1 grain of rice.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Geez, devolution, that's harsh. They actually forbade you to let the baby take a bite of their food unless you paid? How much do they charge for babies, btw?

    If I ever go and bring Nadine (she does love Japanese food), I better call up in advance to find out!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi,

    is it necessary to make
    reservation if going on weekends?

    Darren

    ReplyDelete
  14. Well, reservations for dinner and weekends are probably wise since it's a really TINY place (only 8 counter seats and maybe 4 for a private room). It's been six months since I last visited, so I'm not sure whether they've become more or less crowded.

    ReplyDelete
  15. where's the best sushi in singapore? nice and reasonable

    thanks
    frois

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  16. worst sushi place ever. our first and last visit. We were told that we are expected to finish the sushi rice when the waitress saw us just eat the fish. I never ate so much rice in my life! Spoil our mood totally. They say they don't serve Ikura sushi on weekdays. The uni had a terrible smell.

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  17. yeah, it was the worst service I ever had. Telling you in the face that you have to finish all the rice is so rude. Its almost like forcing you to eat everything. Even Sushi Tei is so much better and cost less. Almost feels like being cheated... Dont be fooled by the pictures because not all are on the menu.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Wow Kikuzawa's still there? I blogged this in 2007. Of course, they have the right to change the items on the menu without letting me know.

    Anyway, curiously, is that how you normally eat sushi, i.e. without the rice? Even at Sushi Tei?
    This is a sushi buffet, not a sashimi buffet. If you don't take carb/rice, you should just order sashimi.

    ReplyDelete

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