This is a long overdue post on an invited tasting at IKYU Japanese Restaurant that I didn’t have the time to finish before Chinese New Year. A modern Japanese restaurant helmed by Executive Chef Takuma Seki, formerly Chef de Cuisine at Hide Yamamoto at Marina Bay Sands, IKYU means “Take a Break” in Japanese.
Located within hip yet quaint Tiong Bahru, IKYU’s interior combines raw cement walls with matte metal finishings and is lit with warm lights. It had an industrial feel that’s quite a change from the traditional interiors that most Japanese restaurants have. One could almost say that this might pass off easily as an industrial chic watering hole.Seasonal fish (Conger-Pike) with Ponzu @ S$18.50
IKYU prides itself on the quality of the produce served thus an emphasis on seasonal items on the menu. We started with a seasonal fish, which happened to be Conger-Pike, that was deep-fried with an airily light tempura batter and served with Ponzu. The moist fish chunks, encased in a crisp and light batter, had a sweet flavour that went very well with the slight tartness of the Ponzu and the rich creamy sauce that was slathered on top. This is worth a try!Cod Fish Sperm & Shiso Leaf Tempura @ S$12.50
I think every Japanese Chef takes a slight sadistic pleasure in watching squeamish patrons squirm when confronted with Fear Factor-ish food. When this dish landed on our table, I hoped that I would somehow not be served any. However, luck was not on my side. Chef Takuma popped by and took pains to explain to us that this was a beautiful seasonal ingredient that’s a delicacy. While he was explaining the dish in an affable manner with a mischievous glint in his eyes, my mind was in overdrive: “OMG! Do I really have to eat this?” He assured us that it was not going to be as bad as we probably think it is and urged us to give it a try. Oh, fine! Thankfully, it was quite bland though mushy-ish mass which was flavoured by the tempura batter. Chewing on it was quite a mind-blowing (heh!) experience for me, I took a deep breath and swallowed. I happily moved onto the slightly peppery tasting Shiso Leaf Tempura. I love Shiso Leaf (a type of herb belonging to the mint family) in any form but it was the first time I’ve eaten it deep-fried with Tempura batter. The versatile leaf was as delicious in this form as it is raw.Sashimi (usually 5 types @ S$68.50) Chu Toro, Kanpachi & Hotate
Next we shared some Sashimi, which comprised Chu Toro, Kanpachi (Amberjack) and Hotate served with freshly grated Wasabi. I loved the clean flavour of the sashimi slices which were enhanced by the accompanying premium quality shoyu and wasabi. This will please fans of quality sashimi.Taraba King Crab with Soy Butter @ S$48.50 The image shows a tasting portion of the actual dish.
That was followed by Taraba King Crab that had been broiled with soy butter resulting in smoky and umami-filled chunks of crab flesh that went quite well with the Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese 7 spice chili powder) that accompanied it. A Must-Try!Kagoshima Wagyu Sirloin (120g) @ S$68.50
We shared a portion of Kagoshima Wagyu Sirloin. This was the highlight of the meal. The perfectly marbled beef was grilled over charcoal rendering a smoky taste on the exterior that married perfectly with the succulent sweetness of the meat. It was served with fragrant, golden brown garlic crisps and Yuzu Ponzu dip. The garlic chips added a nutty flavour while the Yuzu Ponzu dip added a citrusy tartness that cut the slightly oily flavour of the beef. This is a Must Try!Torigai Sushi (Japanese Egg Clam) Assorted Nigiri Sushi (5 types) @ S$25.50 Assorted Aburi Sushi (5 types) @ S$28.50
We then shared some assorted sushi. As the lighting at our table was extremely dim, phototaking was a massive challenge so here’s a half-decent picture of some Torigai Sushi to represent the rest. Though I am not big on shellfish sushi, I must say that the sweet flavour and slightly crunchy texture that this shellfish had was pleasant. However, my favourite sushi for the evening at IKYU was Hirame Engawa Aburi (Hirame = Flounder, Engawa = flesh around the fin area & Aburi = flame-seared) sushi which had a smoky yet clean flavour. It was the first time I was trying Hirame Engawa Sushi so it cast the remaining sushi, Kanpachi (Amberjack) and Maguro (Tuna), into the shadow because I eat the latter two types of fish more often. That said the fish here is of high quality which should please sushi aficionados.Grilled Mentaiko Rice Ball, 2 pieces @ S$12.50
I was already feeling quite full after the sushi but our host for the evening, Ann, said that I should give the popular Grilled Mentaiko Rice Ball a try. I’ve never been a fan of Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) but the prospect of having one flavoured with Mentaiko (Spicy Cod Roe) and grilled was too tempting to pass up. I was glad I didn’t give it a miss as the smoky and flavourful rice grains were comforting and went very well with the well-balanced Miso Soup with Fresh Seaweed (S$5). The Grilled Mentaiko Rice Ball and Miso Soup with Fresh Seaweed are Must-Tries!Japanese Musk Melon Seasonal Fruits from Japan @ S$15
We ended the meal with some Japanese Musk Melon. It was, as expected of a Japanese Musk Melon, very fragrant, sweet and juicy. A delightfully fruity end to the meal. A Must-Try if you love melons, it will alter your perception of melons for life.Executive Chef Takuma Seki formerly Chef de Cuisine at Hide Yamamoto at Marina Bay Sands
If you’re feeling a little adventurous, let Chef Seki put together a 7-course Omakase (Japanese for “It’s up to you.” or what I call “Chef’s choice, Japanese Stye”). Priced at S$128++, IKYU’s Omakase includes an appetizer, Sashimi, a steamed dish, a grilled dish, fried dish, Nigiri Sushi and a dessert. All the dishes are prepped using the freshest ingredients for the day.Mio Sparkling Sake @ S$26
At the heart of the Japanese culture is Sake (rice wine). IKYU stocks a wide range of Japanese Sakes in addition to sparkling wines, whisky, fruit liqueurs and beers. As many of my friends and regular readers know, I don’t drink…not much anyway. So, it’s not very often that I find an alcoholic drink that I like. Not entirely crazy about Sake, I soon found myself bubbling with excitement after drinking Mio Sparkling Sake at IKYU’s opening party. Delicately sweet with soft bubbles that tingled on the tongue, this is a great alternative to Champagne if you want something a little lighter. This is definitely a Must-Try!