Kaiseki is Japanese cuisine at its most refined - requiring much of the chef's skill, creativity and knowledge of ingredients, cooking methods and presentation to fashion a meal that is harmoniously in balance and pleasing.
At the kaiseki-only "Goto Japanese Restaurant", fresh seasonal ingredients are shipped in from Japan four times weekly to create very traditional Kyoto-style kaiseki meals. Chef Hisao Goto formerly cooked for Japanese diplomats and ambassadors, and is used to the highest expectations for his cooking. He and his very sweet wife run the place at Ann Siang Road.
I'm glad Foodbuzz chose to include my kaiseki idea in June's 24,24,24 series of posts. We had a ten-course kaiseki dinner (S$280+ or US$193+ per person), spanning three hours. Each course was an operatic homage to the blessings from nature. Right off the bat, we discovered exquisite new aromas, textures and tastes. Some of them completely defy definition!
1. Appetisers - kazunoko (crunchy herring roe) in glass, aoume or Japanese plum, anago (sea eel) sushi, tako (octopus), zuiki (stem of taro) with ikura (salmon roe), yam with miso, edamame beans. What a festive platter! I especially loved the aoume, so lovely and sweet.
Goto's wife takes great care in introducing each individual course and item, and she was even kind enough to write down for me the whole menu!
2. Soup - ainame (green ling, a fish). This clean-tasting soup had a surprise ingredient in it that tickled me to no end - junsai, a summer delicacy. The young sprouts sport a transparent jelly shield that looks so beautiful suspended in the clear soup. The sprouts themselves are springy and crunchy, whereas the jelly is slippery - what a marvellous juxtaposition!
3. Sashimi - easily the best and freshest we've ever had in Singapore! The presentation is simply a work of art! Served with real grated wasabi.
The intricately decorated cup yields really rich and creamy uni (sea urchin).
The hirame (flatfish) has a separate ponzu dip. We loved the Momiji oroshi (spicy grated daikon radish with chili peppers) it came with.
Close-up of the main portions - fatty and lightly seared tuna that tastes like steak, kampachi (amber jack), hokkigai (surf clam), tairagai (pen shell), ika (squid), hamo (pipe conger eel), and shimaebi (striped shrimp).
Even the sliced green honeycomb-like stem was an eye-opener - so delicately crispy, it felt as though it was fizzing in your mouth.
4. Takiawase (vegetable and fish cooked separately but simmered together) - steamed lotus root with eel and lily bulb. Underneath the brown ginger gelee, you will find the pureed lotus root atop the eel, sliced kikurage and lily bulbs.
5. Yakimono (grilled dish) - nodoguro (black throat sea perch). Wow, this blew us away. The fish is so unctuous, silken, and tasty. You just want more of it!
6. Agemono (fried items) - red Manganji pepper (from Kyoto) and small lady's finger in the foreground. Behind these are prawn with potato, ayu (sweet fish), juicy sweetcorn.
You eat these from left to right, with a squeeze of Japanese lime and a special leaf-infused salt. Everything was so cute and so delicious!
7. The meat course - beef steak. Oh we were thrilled! This is my first taste of Hida-gyu, and it's gorgeous. This beef comes from Japanese black cattle, and is almost as luxurious as Kobe beef.
8. Rice course - we had lovely pickles, rice with ginger, and miso soup with nameko mushrooms.
9. Desserts - Custard Pudding, Orange Jelly with Kyoho Grapes (them that taste like wine!), Japanese melon and peach, Melon ice cream. Japanese fruit is such a treat! The orange jelly is very intense.
10. Warabi Mochi - wonderfully soft and chewy. Interestingly, it came with gula melaka (palm sugar) syrup, perhaps a nod to local ingredients.
Not sure if this is the eleventh course, but we finished with a freshly whisked bowl of good matcha (green tea). It refreshed the palate completely. The best thing is - you feel like you've eaten well, but also healthily too.
Decor at Goto is starkly simple yet cosy (photography was quite challenging, due to the lighting). The place only has a few tables, seating less than 20.
They serve a mini Kaiseki for lunch at S$68+ (US$47+), and two options for dinner - Kaiseki at S$180+ (US$124+) and Chef's Special Kaiseki at $280+ (US$193+). There's a 10 per cent service charge but no taxes. Rreservations are required.
This is no doubt my most extravagant meal ever, but one that's also truly sublime. Stepping through these doors is like being transported to Japan for a few hours of culinary bliss. Goto's kaiseki is a celebration of what life has provided for us in nature. It's certainly the place to go for the most special of occasions and with very loved ones.
14 Ann Siang Road #01-01
Lunch (noon to 2.30pm, last order 1.30pm)
Dinner (6.30pm to 10.00pm, last order 8.30pm)
Closed Sundays and Monday