Saturday, April 25, 2009
Chiharu Weekend Chef Treat Omakase
I've often felt that good Japanese cuisine is a form of meditation unto its own. It simply commands you to partake in a moment of contemplative appreciation. Zen monks famously eat in silence, to fully be aware of and appreciate the food served (even though it's simple fare).
And this platter of freshly made sushi is nothing less spectacular than satori - the sudden flash of understanding and enlightenment. The maguro (tuna) melted so sweetly in the mouth. It was a surprise worthy of the Japan Hour "Umai!!!" exclamations of joy.
They are generous with the neta (fish topping), which is long enough to wrap around the appropriately small mound of rice (and good quality rice it is too). The sushi chef took great care assembling each one, as he did with the sashimi.
The sushi and sashimi is part of Chiharu's "Weekend Chef Treat Omakase" - a veritable feast of 38 dishes (S$48++ per person, weekends and public holidays). Each guest gets one serving of the sushi and sashimi (also incredibly delicious). Special mention goes to the ama ebi - succulently sweet and firm. I am normally squeamish of raw prawns but this one made me understand why people love ama ebi. I also enjoyed the marinated tako (octopus) stump - very savoury.
It was a rare weekend that Nic was in town. So I, Keropokman and Momo, Nic and XiuLongBao (whom I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time) came to Chiharu last Saturday. We came, we saw, we ate. Everything. And then some. Here are photos of the rest of the dishes, which are in freeflow tasting portions. I hope you'll enjoy them in meditative appreciation as much as we did.
* * * * * * * * * THE COLD DISHES * * * * * * * * * *
Top: Horenso Goma-Ae (Spinach with Sesame Dressing)
Left: Hiyaya-ko (Chilled Bean Curd)
Right: Wakame Kyuri-su (Vinegared Seaweed and Cucumber)
All these cold appetisers were very nicely executed.
Kamo Roast Yaki - Roasted Duck Breast: wonderfully done (and I'm not even a fan of duck). We felt like a second helping but we had to pace ourselves. Long journey ahead.
Chiharu Karupacho - Thinly Sliced Raw Fish Salad: If you didn't get enough of the sashimi, you can have more via the carpaccio. May not be the best cuts but the slices are refreshingly doused in a tangy ponzu dressing with shredded daikon, cucumber and carrots.
Hiyashi Tomato - Chilled Tomato: wonderfully sweet and invigorating.
Maguro Yamakake - Cubed Tuna with Grated Mountain Yam Paste: that grated sticky white yama imo paste is an acquired taste, so not everyone may like this. It went well with some soy though, as recommended by the waitress.
* * * * * * * * * THE GRILLED DISHES * * * * * * * * * *
Tori Tsukune - Grilled Chicken Meat Ball: amazingly moist and juicy! No char or hard exterior. Just a very light coating (egg white?) protecting the fine chicken mince within.
Tebasaki Shioyaki - Grilled Chicken Wing with Salt: you can tell it's grilled with care, the wings are not dry at all.
Shake Shioyaki - Grilled Salmon with Salt: grilled until very lightly crisp on the outside.
Shitake Kushiyaki - Grilled Fresh Black Mushroom: oh my, these were bursting with savoury juices. Too many places make overly dry versions, so this was a nice change.
Jagaimo Bacon Maki - Bacon-wrapped Potato Roll: what a difference good bacon makes! Or maybe it's the chef's grilling skills. Whatever it is, I can never get bacon to taste so good at home. Unfortunately, I see this is missing from Chiharu's menu this week. Instead there's grilled sanma and shisamo.
Atsuage Yaki - Grilled Dried Bean Curd: This item has also been removed from the menu, but it probably will raise little ire (except from hardcore tofu fans).
Satsuma-Age Yaki - Grilled Japanese Homemade Fish Cake: this was so good. It's simple fish cake but so sweet and umami.
* * * * * * * * * THE DEEP-FRIED DISHES * * * * * * * * * *
Kisu Nebuka Age - Deep-fried Sand-borer Wrapped with Welsh Onion: an unusual creation that I've not seen elsewhere. Kisu (the white fish often used in tempura) wrapped around negi, battered and fried.
Tenpura Moriawase - Assorted Tempura (Prawn and Vegetable): this was not too bad. I felt like having more, but tempura (unless it's of the Tenshin variety) can fill you up all too quickly.
Chiharu Cream Korokke: a small and compacted korokke, rather too firm and starchy. But at least something different from your run-of-the-mill industrial croquette.
Hamo Chikuwa Tenpura - Deep-fried Fish Cake: oh this was very, very nice! Chikuwa is that long hollow fishcake, and Chiharu's version is very tasty. Not too dry here.
Ika Tatsuta Age - Deep-fried Marinated Squid: these are a little too hard and dry. Somehow the deep-fried items seem to lack the finesse of the grilled ones when it comes to heat control.
Agedashi Dofu - Deep-fried Bean Curd in Warishita Sauce: the tofu they use in this is incredibly soft! I almost had difficulty lifting a cube off the bowl. How on earth do they manage to deepfry this and keep it intact?
Wakadori Tatsuta Age - Deep-fried Marinated Chicken: this is too similar to the deep-fried marinated squid. Again a little dry. I guess it didn't help that we were having all the deep-fried items at the same time, so after a while it got a bit "jelak" (satiating).
* * * * * * * * * THE WARM & MAIN DISHES * * * * * * * * * *
Buta Shogayaki - Pan-fried Sliced Pork with Ginger Sauce: delicious thin slices of pork (no foul porky aroma) pan-fried in savoury sauce.
Shira Konyaku Dengaku - Grilled Homemade Jelly Yam Topped With Miso: I liked this, but it's best taken in little bites. It looks like it's been replaced in the menu by Gyuniku Namban Yaki though.
Gyu Teriyaki - beef pan-fried in teriyaki sauce and sliced. As you can see, it's done just right. Almost like having a mini-steak. The sauce is incredibly good too. We had another serving of this!
Tori Teriyaki - Pan-fried Sauteed Spring Chicken in Teriyaki Sauce: If you don't take beef, there's spring chicken teriyaki. Also very nice.
Furofuki Daikon Ebi Miso - Boiled White Radish Topped with Minced Prawn Miso Paste: OK, this one was a little bit too exotic for us. I didn't think the minced prawn miso worked, but perhaps it's an acquired taste.
Top left: Chawanmushi - chockful of ingredients but a bit too firm.
Bottom left: Yasai Takiawase - simmered seasonal vegetables in light soy. Some mushrooms, Chinese broccoli (?) florets and a yam ball.
Top right: Nori chazuke - seaweed porridge
Bottom right: Ume chazuke - red plum porridge
The chazuke are clean-tasting and of good quality, but I usually find chazuke a bit bland. Perhaps something I will appreciate in my old age.
Zaru Soba - Cold Soba: gorgeously al dente soba noodles. I know we often try to avoid the carbo filler dishes in a buffet, but this is a must-try!
Zaru Udon - Cold Udon: again, very al dente. Talk about bite - this is beyond QQ! You can try it with the chilled dipping sauce on its own, and then with the grated ginger and onions. What we did was mop up the noodles with the beef teriyaki's sauce - a fantastic combination!
* * * * * * * * * SALADS & DESSERT * * * * * * * * * *
There are three rather similar salads to choose from.
Left: Kani Salad - crabmeat with tomato and assorted vegetables in wafu dressing
Top Right: Chiharu Salad - shredded chicken salad with wafu dressing
Bottom Right: Green Combination Salad - asparagus and vegetables in thousand island dressing
I wasn't expecting much for dessert but turns out Chiharu serves freaking good ice cream - we tried Passionfruit, Raspberry, Chocolate, Baileys and Tiramisu. The fruit-based ones are delightfully fragrant and tangy. The cream based ones are rich and smooth. A lovely ending to the long, indulgent meal.
On top of the good food, we had exceptionally good service. Discreet and thoughtful waitresses kept our table clean and even arranged for appropriately sized serving portions for our table of five. The assistant manager William also saw to our needs, and even gave us a quick tour of the premises. We had such a good time, we didn't realise we stayed beyond their closing hours!
Private dining available upstairs (two rooms divided by partitions), and there's even an al fresco balcony. There is also a sake bar upstairs.
On the whole, Chiharu was a pleasant experience - they do sushi and sashimi really well. It's a fairly high end restaurant, so the brunch is really good value for money.
Check out Keropokman and Momo's first and second post on this! Can't wait to see Nic's photos!
Sake Bar and Seasonal Specialties
779 Bukit Timah Road
The Weekend Chef Treat Omakase is from
11:30am to 2:00pm (last order) on Sat, Sun & public holidays.
P.S. This is officially my longest post ever!
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