Thursday, January 17, 2008

Minori Dining and Sake Bar

Sushi counter at Minori, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Minori Dining and Sake Bar has been open at UE Square for a while now. The former owners of Hanabi set up Minori with a similar a la carte buffet concept for Japanese food. There have been a flurry of mixed reviews despite a positive press article. So I did not come here with high expectations, only curiosity as to how the place actually fares.

I had heard it can get really crowded but it was empty when I arrived today at lunchtime with my friend. As such, we didn't encounter any service problems or slowness that seemed to plague the restaurant in its earlier days. However, it did fill up considerably still past 12.30pm but service did not suffer too much. The waitresses (some seem to be from Myanmar) were quite patient and even took the effort to recommend popular dishes when we seemed stumped by the wide menu choices.

Sashimi moriawase, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

One of the chief reasons Singaporeans love a Japanese a la carte buffet is the unlimited orders of sashimi. At Minori, you get a choice of salmon, tuna, yellowtail, snapper, black king fish, octopus and cuttlefish. However, I think sashimi at Ikoi's is sliced much more generously, and tastes better too.

Jagaimo sarada (potato salad), originally uploaded by Camemberu.

I will go through the rest of the food just very briefly. We ate a lot of dishes - really easy to do so as the portions served are very small. The potato salad was creamy but light-tasting, served on an interesting raised glass platter.

California maki, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

The California maki was messy but tasted passable. We had a repeat portion of this.

Handrolls here are not spectacular. Mainly because the dried seaweed sheets they used had a musty odour. Probably an inferior quality or type of seaweed used. And it wasn't crisp nor easy to bite through.

Minori also differs from Hanabi in that it offers grilled skewered items, mostly of chicken parts. The "buta to garlic" is probably the only pork item there, fatty pork belly cubes strongly laced with garlic. The tebasaki (chicken wings) strangely butterflied here, tasted a bit too plain. Kawa (chicken skin) was not crisp enough.

Yakitori and tsukune, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

The tsukune (minced chicken meat balls) were huge. They and the yakitori tasted alike. Just all right. Lacked serious punch.

Tempura moriawase, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

This is the SMALLEST ever tempura moriawase set I have ever seen. Two prawns and three thin slices of vegetable. I guess it's a small eater's single portion only. Average tasting, and the batter could be lighter.

This was a pleasant surprise. Sweet creamy pumpkin mash greets you as you bite through the crisp breaded exterior. It can be really hot though, so beware.

Plain looking but intensely garlicky beansprouts from the teppanyaki section. Not bad.

Refreshing kyuri (Japanese cucumber) in this appetiser but I didn't care much for the miso bean paste - a bit too close to "taucheo" (Chinese bean paste) for my liking.

Sushi isn't their forte, I guess. Or maybe I just really don't like that dried seaweed that they use. It made me long for the good quality, crisp seaweed that Sushi Kikuzawa uses.

Hiyayako, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Two bites and this one dish is gone. Cold tofu in soy sauce topped with bonito flakes and scallions.

Everything here is in tasting portions. Which is nice too, it lets you try more dishes from across the menu. The saba shioyaki is all right but your mind is on the next item already.

Momo sarada (peach salad), originally uploaded by Camemberu.

This was quite nice, a sweet fruity salad with a tart, soy-sesame dressing. The peach is of the canned variety, of course.

There are two kinds of chawanmushi here, the kabocha (pumpkin) one just has the addition of a layer of pumpkin puree on top. The mixture is a really surprising attack of flavours on your palate - both sweet and savoury combining to jolt your senses. The egg custard is quite smooth. and has lots of nameko mushrooms at the bottom. Yum.

This was one of the unexpected highlights. I thought they did their tori karaage really well. There is no oilyness on the surface and the meat inside is tender and juicy. Nicely seasoned.

I have seen people rave about this here. It's like a richer-flavoured version of Yoshinoya's beef. The soft beef slices taste almost buttery. We got served a really large portion too.

The salmon teppan special dish was too salty and sweet for me. Very strong hint of mirin (sweet rice wine) in the soy mixture.

Salmon sashimi, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Understandably, they aren't the most generous with their sashimi servings. Don't expect the best of fish slicing skills here either. Some of the sashimi were still sinewy. But for the price, I don't think anyone will complain.

This is very similar to the tori karaage, just that it involves the breastbone cartilage. I just love cartilage. Is that really odd? I remember even my Japanese friend looking at me strange when I ordered this at Nanbantei in Tokyo some years back.

Minori serves free-flow green tea and water as part of the buffet. Alcoholic drinks and desserts (mostly ice cream) are available separately. If you don't want the buffet, you can opt for their set meals.

In summary, Minori's food is fairly competent across the board but is still very average. Much like a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. The variety is undoubtedly better than at most joints, but many of the dishes involve same ingredients done differently (as sushi, maki, handroll etc). Personally, in terms of all-you-can-eat places, I'd rather head to Ikoi or Sushi Kikuzawa for a more fulfilling experience.

(full buffet menu available online but prices not updated)
81 Clemenceau Avenue #03-15/16 UE Square
Tel: 6737-3353
Open: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6 to 10.30pm
Lunch $28++
Dinner $33++ (price raised)



  1. Went there last year. I am quite disppointed with the grilled stuffs, most of which are dry except for the pork belly. Chicken wing is dry and bland, leeks are dry too. Maybe I didn't order the right stuffs. Sushi's quality is bad, I thot it's was worse than sakae. =(

    However, the fried food are pretty ok. I had the pumpkin croquette, chicken karrage. Can't rem much, but I won't go back for that price I paid. The only comfort is the free flow sashimi that I can order. lol

  2. hi, are you a food writer?
    coincidently, i was also invited to do a tasting at this outlet.

    find it not bad too.

  3. i thought most japanese buffet places would only allow a single serving of sashimi only. what a pleasant find! =)

  4. the food looks expensive though, or is it your photo-taking skill too good? hahaha

  5. Didally: Yeah the sushi is pretty bad but then again most sushi at buffets are. They're just fillers. The fried stuff is good indeed - great karaage! Everything else is so-so.

    Thoo2: Lucky you! I went on my own as a paying customer. I'm not a food writer (not professionally anyway). Congrats, I see your blog got featured in the Chinese papers!

    Ice: Hanabi, Ikoi and Minori are the three Japanese places that I know offer unlimited sashimi. :)

    Ladyironchef: Haha, thanks. The food is as it was presented. In fact, the photos were taken rather hurriedly cos the dishes arrived quickly and we just wanted to dive in and EAT!

  6. Hey, great picture of the sashimi moriwase.

    Checking out your blog through the link you posted at IeatIshootIpost's site.

    You should really try the dry version of Mr Wong's Seremban Beef Noodles if you had not really done so.

    I used to work part time during my school holiday around that area and the dry version of the beef noodles made me coming back for more =D

  7. Whoops...typo...moriawase

  8. Hi Chris, thanks for the recommendation - I have tried the soup version but not the dry one. Will check it out again.

  9. Hi, I am a Japanese Food Lover! Hence, I've always been looking out for excellent Japanese Restaurant... You can probably give Hoshi Restaurant at IMM and Honjin at Robinson Road a try... For me, these 2 restaurants serve pretty decent sashimi in their Buffet but pricing is pretty steep though ... ...

  10. I'm sorry, but I NO LONGER eat anything chinese. Chinese food is suspect at best, deadly at worst.

    I think that ALL chinese food should be banned in the great USA.

  11. Who's talking about Chinese food? This entry is about Japanese food. Sorry, chiffonade, if you can't even tell the difference between the two, I don't know what kind of "Chinese food" you's been having! Touting your grand ignorance like this is just going to further diminish any tiny bit of remaining respect the world has for the 'great USA'.

  12. I wish I can try out this restaurant,
    Too bad I'm in CA!

  13. hello!
    im looking for a nice and affordable sashimi buffet, with wide range of variety of food. prices ranging from $30-$40 if possible. saw some of your food reviews on ikoi restaurant and minori. wanna ask, which would be a better place for dining as it's my anniversary, heh. and btw, of cos, the buffet includes my favourite food like chawanmushi and salmon sashimi. cos i realized minori's menu inly include food like sashimi and sushis? would like to find something like sakae's menu for buffet. is ikoi the one? but it's very squeezy right? ): do reply! gladly appreciated and thanks a million in advance! :D

  14. Try Kushi Dining Bar at Macpherson, Hotel Windsor

  15. i think their foods quality are quite good and tasty... i think if you think their foods are bad. then you ordered wrong one. their pan fried dishes. deep fried dishes, and samshimis are very good. spider handroll is rock.....


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