Monday, December 20, 2010
A KINKI Christmas!
Single roulade of tai carpaccio with truffle dressing and shio konbu
Kinki is such a catchy word. It can refer to many things, including the beautiful and historic Kinki 近畿 region (Kansai) in Japan, or the delectable red Kinki fish. I think by now, you will also have heard of Japanese restaurant Kinki at Customs House that's shaking up the Japanese dining scene with its "urban attitude".
Kinki is also a play on "kinky" and they sure are not afraid to be cheeky. They've taken to serving modern Japanese cuisine in dark, funky surroundings with an industrial edge. This is the manga-style wall mural next to the DJ console, by local urban artist ANTZ. It's a whole lotta hip!
They also commissioned this floor mural featuring a fish tattoo by Chris Garver of Miami Ink fame. We noticed the lighting fixtures above us were in the shape of fish hooks too.
What about the real fish? It's fresh, all right. The seafood is flown in FOUR times a week from Japan, in order to keep up with demand. Business is pretty good here. Even on a weeknight, the place was packed and buzzing with people, many of whom were having laughs over dinner. This certainly isn't a stuffy or formal Japanese joint. You can chill, relax and enjoy yourself. The wait staff here are friendly and forthcoming, always more than happy to make sure you are well served.
For Christmas and New Year eves, they have special festive menus. The Hungry Cow, The Little Teochew, a ½ food blog, Keropokman, Momo and I got a preview of what the Christmas Eve menu offered.
Executive Chef Wing Lam who designed the menus, has trained for more than 11 years in the U.S., including at Gordon Ramsay's in West Hollywood. So the dishes here do have a Californian influence, and the chef has innovated with non-conventional ingredients like foie gras, ricotta and pomegranate.
Foie Gras on Toastlet with Ginger and Yuzu. This is the creamiest foie gras I've come across. It's quite mild-tasting, and contrasts very well with the crispy sweet balls that it's topped with. If you don't take meat or are a pescetarian, they are happy to replace this with an alternative, like the tai carpaccio in the first photo.
Assorted Sashimi (two person portion shown) - and yes, you are seeing otoro in this ensemble, and it's good stuff! For those curious, otoro (fatty blue fin tuna) goes for S$80 for five pieces here.
The five different sashimi on a bed of ice were all melt-in-the-mouth wonderful. It's been a while since I've had sashimi this good. Granted the pieces are not large, but they are certainly memorable. Better a morsel of the divine than boatloads of the crass, I say.
Sushi of Kajiki, Hiramasa, Salmon, and Hirame (left to right, center row), all very good.
On the upper left - a sublime nigiri of pan-seared foie gras with raw scallop - this is not in the Christmas Eve menu, but is a signature item they wanted us to sample. It's available separately at S$22 a pair. Yes, just pop the whole thing in your mouth, and your eyes will light up. I'd love to come back for this.
Soft Shell Crab Maki (front); Pork Floss Maki (background)
The former is wrapped in this unusual skin - I reckon it's seaweed-laced soy paper, and the savoury fragrance is simply alluring. Meanwhile, the pork floss maki has ricotta cheese and avocado in it.
For the mains, you can either choose fish or beef. Although I always go for red meat, I had a hunch the fish would be better. Wouldn't you too, if you read "Hokkaido Milk Poached White Cod with Crispy Ginger?" And I was right. It was beautifully buttery and tender.
The fish is actually served with meat sauce (but you can request them to omit this if you don't take meat).
The other main course is Ginger Teriyaki of US Prime Beef Ribeye, but as some ingredient did not come in on time, the chef gave us the US Prime Beef Teriyaki instead, which is similar. Although well-seared on the outside, the beef is very tender. But it did have a thick wad of fat in the centre - if you love beef fat, this will be juicy heaven for you.
Dessert - Black Sesame and Mochi Parfait. So many textures here - sandy goma (black sesame ice cream), creamy peach, chewy mochi, crispy wafer and soft adzuki red beans. Almost sinful to finish, but go on, indulge yourself.
We also had some items from the a la carte menu to share.
Momotaro Tomato with ginger sesame dressing (S$16). It's momotaro! Nuff said!
Spiced Miso Chamame (S$8) - chamame sauteed in spicy miso, garlic and soy. A different take from the usual steamed and lightly salted version (also available, S$6). The flavours were robust, and we could not stop eating this appetiser while we waited for our food.
Tai Carpaccio with truffle dressing and shio konbu (S$30). It may seem pricey but good produce is never cheap. And this was very fresh, no fishy taste at all. The truffle dressing is quite addictive too.
The bar serves champagne, sake, cocktails and mocktails (from S$8 to $20). The mixologist even customised a couple of drinks just for us. I'll have to say those were the best!
There is a new rooftop bar too, decorated along the same vein. As you can see, the graffiti continues upstairs as well. The bar will serve more snack-like items along with drinks.
Bright red lanterns greet you as the lift doors open onto the rooftop, giving you a decidedly Oriental welcome.
And the view is even grander out here, with the full panorama of Marina Bay. Actually this is also the view you get from your window downstairs when you are dining. This is one of the best reasons to come here. The view is just stunning.
I know I'll be back to check out the rest of the interesting menu items.
Many thanks to Germaine from Refinery Concepts, and to Foodnews for arranging this gorgeous meal.
The Christmas Eve menu is S$128++ with a glass of wine.
The New Year's Eve menu is S$168++ with a glass of Moet & Chandon champagne.
They open from 6pm til late at 3am. Reservations are advised.
Level 2 Customs House
Tel: +65 6533-3471
Lunch weekday 12pm-2.30pm, Dinner weekday & Sat 6pm to 1030pm
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