Saturday 30 March 2013

Irrashaimase いっらしゃいませ

The minute you step into a Japanese restaurant, you are most likely be greeted with or get startled by a chorus of “irrashaimase” which loosely translates to “welcome” by the staff.

Japanese cuisine is one of my  favourite food in the world. The exacting standard that goes into the preparation and presentation of Japanese food, especially if you had seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, is undeniably an art that literally takes years to master. While the meal I had was not prepared by a shokunin (a skilled craftsman, someone who does the same exact thing every day to the highest possible level in the never-ending pursuit of perfection), they were good value for money.

The last time I had my meal here was on Mother’s Day 2012. En Japanese Dining Bar, specialises in Okinawa cuisine. Their menu is, therefore, composed of authentic ingredients from Okinawa itself. En Japanese Dining Bar builds upon the concept of modern Japanese dining bars known affectionately to the locals as ‘Izakaya’, which is extremely popular among the cosmopolitan crowd in Japan. The one I visited is located in Bukit Timah Road, Singapore. Its sushi counter, a long bar table that seats 7 guests comfortably, also doubles up as a sake bar. There are three private tatami rooms tucked away in a quiet corner for utmost privacy. Fitted with sliding ‘Fusuma’ styled doors, it opens up to an intimate space equipped with audio and visual facilities. This time round, I chose to sit outside so I could take photos of my food without disturbing the other diners.

I went there with Jerry, my friend of a quarter century, lol… now you know I’m a dinosaur, too! We ordered the Beef Shabu Shabu & Ala Carte Buffet, requesting that the steamboat be served last.
After about 10 months, I am eager to dig in and rate the food! There’s the appetizers, salads, deep-fried dishes, grilled dishes, sahimi, sushi, maki, temaki, rice, noodle, dessert and of course the Okinawa cuisine and soba! Their menu is so extensive I wish I had an extra stomach. On hindsight, I deeply regretted forgetting to order their wafu steak!
En Japanese Dining Bar at Bukit Timah Road.
This time round I chose to sit outside, al fresco style, instead of the sushi bar, which is my usual and favourite seating at a Japanese restaurant.
I can’t really make up my mind if this is sencha, matcha or just another form of Japanese ryokucha.
Jerry requested Edamame – a preparation of immature soybean pods boiled or steamed with salt. Here, the edamame is ever so slightly salted, if any, and slightly undercooked for my liking.
Next came the seafood salad which had some assorted fresh sashimi fish. I would be very pleased if there were some octopus bits in it to create more texture on the palate.
Since there were only two of us, we’ve ordered more appetizers than mains.
Carpaccio is a dish of raw meat (such as beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna), thinly sliced or pounded thin and served mainly as an appetizer. Here, we have beef carpaccio thinly sliced, drizzled with Japanese Shoyu, topped with sliced red onions, chopped scallions and a thin slice of lemon. The dressing was citrusy enough.
Pitan Tofu was served cold with some minced century egg white or egg black? What do you call the cooked albumen of a century egg?
The pitan was mashed and I suspect even sieved to produce such velvety texture. The orange sushi caviar tobiko of the flying fish gave some gustatory perception to an otherwise bland tofu. I enjoyed this dish very much – it is one item that I will always order when visiting here.
Assorted Sashimi - Hamachi (yellowtail tuna), Mekajiki (swordfish), Sake (salmon), Maguro (tuna) and one more fish which I do not know the name.
The word sashimi, meaning “pierced body”, has been integrated into the English language and is often used to refer to uncooked seafood emphatically fish preparations. Sashimi should be eaten before other strong flavours affect the palate, thus it is usually the first course in a formal Japanese meal, but it can also be the main course. Sashimi is normally eaten with a dipping sauce – Japanese shoyu with wasabi paste whilst certain fish like fugu is served with grated fresh ginger, minced scallions and shoyu.
Besides acting as a flavour, the reputed motivation for serving wasabi, Japanese horseradish root, with sashimi or sushi is the killing of harmful bacteria and parasites that could be present in the raw seafood.
Wasabi paste is sometimes mixed directly into soy sauce as a dipping sauce. Purists denounce the practice of mixing wasabi into soy sauce as they believe this to dilute the sharp hot flavor of wasabi. I like to mix the wasabi into the shoyu so as to infuse the soy sauce more subtly.
Japanese Gyōza - I would gladly trade this for wafu steak. Remind next time but Jerry wanted this, so…
 The Americans called these potstickers and the Chinese jiaozi but the most prominent difference of Japanese-style gyōza from Chinese-style jiaozi is the rich garlic flavour. Japanese gyōza is also very mildly seasoned with salt, soy and the gyōza dough wrappers are much thinner than other similar varieties.
Shiitake mushrooms – tasted woody and a tad dry since they were grilled.
Shiitake is considered a medicinal mushroom in the form of traditional medicine. It is cultivated in East Asia and consumed mostly in Asian countries. Albeit some people are allergic to mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms can produce high amounts of vitamin D upon exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D supplementation has been reputed to improve bone mineral density slightly and may reduce cardiovascular disease risk but these are of questionable clinical significance. I like the “meaty” texture of mushrooms and my belief in their nutritional value expound why shrooms are a mainstay in my diet.
Kaki furai – as you may have guessed is oyster fry! With furai being the phonetical sound of fry in Japanese.
At En Japanese Dining Bar, big fat juicy oysters coated in egg and panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) were deep-fried to stunning crunch and served with tonkatsu sauce.
Yakitori or Robatayaki?
The skin and flesh of the chicken wings were “butterflied” on the bamboo skewers and slow grilled to perfection. Minimal seasonings were used. The skin was crispy and the meat tender with sufficient juice, not overly dry as one would expect from barbecued food.
Tsukune pork meatballs.
Tsukune means kneaded by hand. Corn or potato starch are added to ground meat moulded into balls and then skewered. They are usually dipped into a sweet sauce called “tare” which is different from the teriyaki sauce and then grilled yakitori style. I’ve always appreciated handmade meatballs and En did not disappoint.
Kama Shioyaki.
The kama or the meaty collar of a fish came in the form of salmon. I would have enjoyed more if En had used Hamachi (young Yellowtail) or Buri (older Yellowtail) as the flesh is more tender, juicy and tastier than salmon. As is with tradition, the kama shioyaki here was served with a tiny mound of grated daikon (Japanese radish) and a wedge of lemon.
We ate like there's no tomorrow!
Jerry was wondering if I’m serious about the shabu shabu that’s yet to come. By now, I detect he would gladly agree if I’d suggested forgoing it.
Not a chance, Jerry!
Vegetables that goes well with shabu shabu.
The heavily marbled beef promises great taste! Indeed, after swishing them for a few seconds in the konbu broth, the delicate meat just melted on my tongue.
Delightfully tender.
Tada... beef and vegetables shabu shabu.
Do not over cook the beef.
Just a few swishes are all it takes.
There you go to the dipping sauce.
Delightfully tender.
With their version of mui choy, this Japanese garlic fried rice is uniquely fragrant!
Matcha ice cream to sweeten the deal.

We were full but we were not giving up. We just had to try their garlic fried rice. Everywhere else, all you get is garlic and egg fried with the Japanese short grains but here, the rice has more details. There were some bits of preserved vegetables not unlike the Chinese mui choy. I find it rather unique. The rice is definitely worth the struggle to stay on our gastronomic endeavour, the other dishes that we have not ordered today will have to wait. It would be very bad if my jeans’ button popped out and sent Jerry a blackeye :p

Jerry’s rating (out of 10)
food 6.5 to 7
service 7.5
value for money 8

I thought his rating for the food was a bit low but then again he may have more sophisticated tastebuds. As for me, this won’t be the last trip here.

En Japanese Dining Bar
River Valley Outlet
+65 6735 2212

Daily from 6pm to 8pm Enjoy 50% off Sushi and Sashimi.
Enjoy 30% off selected drinks.
Fri, Sat & Eve of PH 12am to 2.20am
Enjoy 50% off rice and noodles dishes and 30% off selected drinks

En Japanese Dining Bar
Bukit Timah Outlet
+65 6468 5710

$48++ /pax (Mon to Thu)
$52++ / pax (Fri, Sat, Sun, PH,PH Eve)
Lunch $48++ /pax (Sat, Sun, PH only)
$18++ /pax (6 years old to 12 years old)

Ala Carte Buffet featuring Sushi, Sashimi, Okinawa Cuisine, Hot Pot & MORE!
*Top up $35 per person to enjoy a 2 hour free flow (Selected Alcohol, soft drinks & juices)
Infomation of the operating hours and promotions subject to change without notice. Please do your due deligence.

Wishing all a meaningful Good Friday & Happy Easter in advance!

Happy eating

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