Before even leaving Canada I had made reservations to spend New Years Eve at IKYU Japanese restaurant. Singapore is an amazing place for food from all corners of the world and it attracts passionate chefs who establish unique restaurants like IKYU. When I was researching for our gastronomic adventures I spent a lot of time reading Dr. Leslie Tay’s opinions and recommendations on food. His wonderfully decorated food blog, ieatishootipost contains years of food reviews and suggestions. During a period of sushi obsession Dr. Tay blogged about his sushi experiences and his visit to IKYU. After speaking with him over email he suggested it as the must try place for a great omakase meal.
IKYU restaurant is unforgettable from the first moment. Opening the iron-clad rust-covered huge front door you walk into a “post-apocalyptic” inspired decor. Different, intriguing, and certainly unlike anything you’d see in Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I liked it. We were greeted by shouted welcomes in Japanese from the staff and introduced to Donny, the restaurant manager. We were seated at our reserved locations at the bar when we met Chef Takuma Seki, the executive chef of IKYU and the man who’d be orchestrating our meals for the night.
Chef Takuma Seki
Our service was incredible from the first moment. I politely asked Donny if it would be acceptable for me to take photographs for the evening, photos of the food, Chef Seki-san, the restaurant, and he agreed generously. Not stopping there he brought over an additional bar chair exclusively for my camera bag and gear to rest next to me so it wouldn’t need to be on the floor.
I’m in love with most things Japanese and the Japanese culture is extremely exotic and appealing to me. Japanese food too and the search for a true Japanese experience at a Japanese restaurant can start by ordering omakase style. Omakase is a Japanese term which means “I’ll leave it to you”. It’s used in restaurants to show that you’d like the chef to serve you what he desires or believes you’d enjoy most. Instead of ordering à la carte (“off the menu”) you can order Omakase and you’ll recieve special daily items and creations suiting the current occasion or season. IKYU brings fresh seafood flown in from Japan’s Famous Tsukiji Fish Market throughout the week.
It was great to see the Chefs prepare the different sushi and plates of wonderful food. The way they slice and plate the dishes was really interesting to watch.
I had long ago decided to eat omakase but Leanna wasn’t as sure. She isn’t the biggest fan of sushi itself and much prefers to eat her raw fish (Sashimi) in the form of sushi rolls (Maki). The restaurant manager Donny gave us a menu and we were assured to take our time. We were given a glass of Proseco to enjoy as we read and after making a tough decision Leanna decided to eat à la carte.
I dreampt of an authentic japanese experience from the cuisine to the service. Having never ate omakase in front of the chef, I was unaccustomed to the experience, how to order and eat, but Donny and the staff catered to me perfectly and made us feel like royalty. I really felt special eating there. The experience exceeded what I had hoped for.
The price, honestly, wasn’t an issue. I was prepared to pay whatever it cost to eat how I wanted. At Leanna’s brother Dan’s suggestion I had the drink pairing to go with my meal. Not knowing if I’d ever eat omakase again I didn’t want to be limited by price.
I got my camera ready and took out my notepad and pen. Yes, a notepad and pen with my meal. I needed it to write down all of the courses I would have (the omakase was described to be 7 courses) and make notes on the dishes and food. Throughout the evening I would ask Chef Seki and Donny to describe my plates to me using the english names of the fish instead of the japanese names. Thankfully their english was great and they were pleased to explain things to me. The waiters were also incredibly knowledgeable.
Starting off lightly I was served a pair of Oyster imported from Hokkaido Japan. Seki-san explained that these Oyster are illegal to have in Singapore, but IKYU had a license to import them. The Oyster were topped with a small amount of seasoning which was nice but they weren’t freshly shucked, or if they were they were drained of a lot of their natural liquid in the shell which to me is the best flavour in an Oyster. It was nice to have for a new years celebration and I drank Proseco with it.
It was around the same time that Leanna had edamame: Charcoal grilled edamame drizzled with truffle oil. So simple, incredible, and the best edamame I’ve had. So many satisfying qualities. Leanna’s thought it was great! Leanna drank Proseco with them.
Charcoal grilled Edamame drizzled with truffle oil
My second course was my sashimi. Wonderfully presented I was served two pieces of medium fatty tuna (Chūtoro), Amberjack (Kanpachi), Big Eye Tuna (Maguro), and Salmon (Sake). At this time I was also served a Sicilian white wine with my meal (I didn’t catch the variety – I was excited and all over the place at this point). The sashimi was good and I got to have a few types of tuna I’d never had before. The Salmon and Amberjack were great condition and familiar.
Sashimi! Clockwise from bottom left: Salmon, two pieces of medium fatty tuna, Amberjack, and Big Eye Tuna
New for me was the big eye tuna which was very lean and firm. The texture was enjoyable. I most enjoyed the medium fatty tuna which had a great combination of soft flavour and soft texture. I’m glad I received two pieces of it.
I received a delicious warm bowl of “soup” perfect for the “winter season”. Pieces of pumpkin, shrimp, and scallop with juliened white radish served in a sesame dressing. The dressing was nice and thick, syrup-y and lip-smacking. The pieces of pumpkin were so satisfying. Leanna loved this as much as I did and we shared it between the both of us. Rich and sweet.
Warm winter season “soup”/”salad”
Leanna ordered a roll off the menu after she had her edamame. She had the Spicy Salmon Maki which was quite good, but very big for her mouth.
Spicy Salmon Maki (roll)
Seki-san is a master and by serving small portions of everything he allows you to enjoy the entire dinner to it’s full extent. Everything in moderation. My fourth course was my meat course. I chose Miyazaki Champion Wagyu beef. Wagyu beef is a famous breed of Japanese beef which is genetically predisposed to intense marbling of fat in the meat. Wagyu cattle may be fed beer or sake to increase their appetite and may be hand massaged to promote tenderness and the best qualities of the meat.
Miyazaki Wagyu beef! It’s served with Ponzu to dip.
“Miyazaki Prefecture is the 2nd largest producer of Japanese Black, and only the highest quality cattle from this region can be dubbed “Miyazakigyu.” In 2007, this class of cow boasted the “Champion Cow” of the “Wagyu Olympics,” and the fame is gradually gaining momentum. Its beautiful color is one of its attractive factors. In official sumo [wrestling], it is custom to present the champion sumo wrestler with one Miyazaki cow.” – Japan National Tourism Organization
Their plaque, allowing them to serve Miyazaki Wagyu
I am obviously new to wagyu and the science behind enjoying a good plate of beef this way. I found myself longing for a larger mouthfull. I’m used to having a filet mignon, Texas style with baked beans and potato. I’m used to cutting a big slice of meat and slowly chewing it to release the flavours and juices and I found that with the small pieces of wagyu I couldn’t extract a bulk of flavour as I like. Not to say it wasn’t delicious, which it was, but I just dream of taking a bit chunky bite which had the chance to rival Cattlemans.
Things started to get slightly fuzzy at this point because I was served a glass of red wine from Sicily with this course. I had to pace myself so I tagged in Leanna to help me with my glass of wine, which was also really good and she enjoyed it.
This was may be the highlight of our meal and I owe it all to Leanna. She had the wonderful idea to order a plate of Hokkaido scallop carpacio in a truffle oil. She loves truffle oil and she’d eat shoe leather if it was drizzled in the stuff. Unlike shoe leather eating the scallop was heavenly. I’ll never forget the soft buttery texture of the scallop and the indulgent rich truffle oil flavour together. Melt in your mouth flavourful. Leanna was blown away by this dish. She says it was one of the best things she has ever eaten in her life. If I’d have had my way we’d have ordered a second plate.
Hokkaido Scallop Carpacio in truffle oil: The best dish of the night, and one of the best of my life.
It was also time for my fried course. The fifth course brought me fried shrimp and fried Fugu. The shrimp were fried whole, head and all. Intimidated and unaware of how to eat it I politely asked chef Seki and he told me to remove the tail parts because they are too hard to eat and then just crunch away on the head, eyes, arms, and everything else. It was awesome! Shrimp flavour without the shrimp meat.
Crispy Fried Shrimp
I got a kick out of it, but I was also half drunk having been given a glass of sweet sake to drink (Yuki no bosha Hidden Yamahai, Akita (+3 Med)). I would love to try this sake again one day but I think it was over $110 / bottle. I think it may have been vintage.
Yuki no bosha Hidden Yamahai Sake. Incredible.
I also mentioned fried Fugu. Fugu is the famous “Pufferfish” in English. Yeah, the one that’s lethally poisonous unless prepared correctly. I had some nice meaty fried pieces and I’m still alive! Woohoo. Dave 1 – Pufferfish 0.
Potentially lethally poisonous Pufferfish. I didn’t die. Yaaay!
SUSHI! Yaay sushi. More sake? Ok, a nice dry Sake from Niigata. I liked it. My handwritten notes are getting pretty bad by this point… I think that says “drunk!” but it’s hard to read. Haha.
My sixth course brought me some wonderful pieces of sushi. I had Amberjack (Kanpachi) which I noted to be a soft round flavour. I had marinated tuna “Tokyo Style” with a sprinkle of dry yuzu skin on top. I had a full flavoured shrimp sushi (Kuma Ebi) and finally Anago, which is sea eel. In Canada we always get unagi which is fresh water eel. I liked the anago a LOT, and if you’re a fan of unagi you’ll like anago even more. I remember the rice to be extremely light flavoured – not like these heavy chunks of rice we get with our sushi in Canada. The rice they use is famous: “Uonuma” Koshihikari from Niigata prefecture in Japan (Chef Seki is from that prefecture). The second most famous sushi rice in the world.
Plaque for their “Uonuma” Koshihikari Niigata rice
“Tokyo Style” marinated tuna with dry yuzu skin sprinkle
“Peace” from Singapore
While I was enjoying my sushi Leanna had asked Donny to have chef Seki prepare a special roll which wasn’t on the menu. Her last roll had fried tempura bits in it and she was desiring something fresh in a roll without that crispy fried flavour and texture. Seki-san made her a roll of medium fatty tuna tartar with scallion. He once again included small fried pieces inside which kinda sucked. She was looking for something without that but oh well. Miscommunication most likely but it was still good.
Medium fatty tuna tartar with scallion Maki
A relaxing bowl of soup. Radish, mushroom, and fish cake. Chef Seki explained that the soup was a Japanese New Year soup specialty. It was nice to include that and it’s the things like that which made for a really enjoyable New Years eve experience.
New Year soup specialty
Strange asian photo time…
Desert! Chef Seki disappeared into the back and came out with a decorated cheesecake with persimmon, strawberry, grape, mango, and a cream. It was nice because persimmon is a nice christmas time fruit.
When he came out they all started singing happy birthday to us. I guess they don’t know any New Years songs to sing. It was hilarious. Everyone signing and Leanna and I sitting there saying “But it’s not our birthday”. We laughed, and enjoyed the desert with a final glass of Peach Sake – a great desert drink.
We hung around for a while after and told stories of Canada and asked questions about the food before walking back to our hotel to ring in the new year. It was a great New Year!!
Happy New Year
Well that’s it everyone, the last blog on the subject. We hope you enjoyed our trip to Singapore as much as we did. Until our next adventure …