Craving for good Japanese food and not planning to visit Japan any time soon? Don’t worry, say “I trust you” to the chefs, and get the very best.
An omakase meal is an essential Japanese culinary experience. Omakase literally means “I trust you” or “I leave it to you”, not something the Japanese take lightly. The diner is giving himself over to the chefs, who will turn out a dizzying showcase of courses that are typically reflective of the season’s best produce and the kitchen’s signature cooking style.
Omakase is a fine, long-standing tradition but it doesn’t work everywhere. In general, large or chain restaurants are a no-go. Places that are smaller, intimate, and which bring in produce on a very regular basis, are the places for omakase. You want to be part of the experience, so do sit near the chef. Don’t, however, go for omakase if you’re a picky eater. You should be willing to try everything, and have few dietary restrictions.
Singapore has Japanese restaurants aplenty, but it’s only at these where the omakase experience is a cut above the rest.
Shoukouwa received two Michelin stars just four months after opening in 2016. This year, it partnered with master sushi chef Junya Kudo (of two Michelin-starred Sushi Ikko in Hokkaido), who provides culinary training and consultancy to the already-expert chefs at the eight-seat restaurant. The aim: to refine and maintain the standards of the restaurant. Here, quality seafood and attention to detail is at the forefront. The omakase courses boast exceptional seasonal produce, and ingredients are flown in daily from Tsukiji Market and Hokkaido. Shoukouwa is zen-like, but is a small space, so each guest enjoys personal attention — a hallmark of the omakase tradition. There is also a selection of Wine Advocate-rated sakes to complement the menus. Prices begin at $320++ and omakase is served at both lunch and dinner.
1 Fullerton Road, #02-02A One Fullerton, 049213; tel: 6423 9939. Closed on Mondays.
You’ll be taken to new heights (literally) at this fine-dining Japanese restaurant in town, which sits on the 24th floor in the Shangri-La Hotel’s Tower Wing. For $240++ per person, Chef Shigeo Akiba and his apprentices will present appetisers appropriate to the season, freshly flown-in sashimi, soup, sushi rolls, a rice bowl and nigiri. You have the option of pairing each course with sake ($99++), chosen by the in-house sake sommelier. NAMI is also the place to go to appreciate dashi — the kombu broth forms the backbone of a special $180++ dashi menu, where a variety of dishes are prepared, accented or elevated by Chef’s home-brewed dashi.
Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, 22 Orange Grove Road, Tower Wing, 258350. tel: 6213 4398.
This stalwart Japanese restaurant on Scotts Road exudes old-world charm. It is housed in a heritage black-and-white bungalow and features a kappo-style dining room with an L-shaped hinoki wood counter. It seats 11 people, and there are also two separate, private dining rooms. As a Kyoto native, Chef Hamamoto is tuned in to his home prefecture, and his omakase-menus go heavy on the produce from this region. This means the freshest seafood, such as top-quality Ensui Bafun uni (sea urchin), and the most melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef, are served in a carefully planned course-by-course culinary journey. Prices begin at $150 for lunch and $300 for dinner.
29 Scotts Road, 228224, tel: 6733 5251. Closed on Sundays.
Spanish tapas, served with sake pairings in an omakase-style meal? Admittedly, this is no typical Japanese restaurant but Bam! makes the cut in this list as its omakase menus feature Japanese ingredients. The techniques used are a fusion of Catalonian, Japanese and modern European cuisines. Expect dishes like a cold capellini with uni, and Sakura ebi and somen in dashi broth. When it comes to sake, do pair the meal with sake (which will cost an extra $58 to $78), as chef Pepe Moncayo believes that sake brings out the umami flavours in his dishes. The pairings progress from light and clear, to rich and robust.
38 Tras Street, 078977, tel: 6226 0500. Closed on Sundays.
Another value-for-money omakase meal can be found at this Keong Saik Road eatery, notable in part because pictures from diners here have been flooding our Instagram feeds. The reason for this overwhelming outpouring of enthusiasm: The overflowing Hokkaido Rice Nanatsuboshi, featuring huge mounds of Aomori ikura, which chefs keep spooning on until the diners tell them to stop. For $129++ per person, the omakase includes a sashimi assortment, king crabs, and dishes made with Kagoshima A4 wagyu. The ikura rice comes towards the end, so you must save room for that.
29 Keong Saik Road, 089136, tel: 6221 7098. Closed on Mondays.
This Tras Street restaurant is an oasis of calm in the busy CBD. The intimate hinoki-wood sushi counter is where you want to be seated, and where you can be impressed by the chefs’ deft knife skills as they work. Omakase prices begin at a very accessible ($180++, for dinner). Head chef Ryosuke Harada presents a traditional edomae style of sushi, but doesn’t hesitate to use a few modern touches (the inclusion of tare sauce, a bit of sesame salt and a sliver of uni for flavour, for instance). Service is efficient and personable. Most of the omakase courses include a mini don and, if you’re lucky, you might be served the uni and ikura don — a beautiful bowl of fresh, briny, ocean flavours.
60 Tras Street, #01-01, 078999, tel: 6438 2608. Closed on Sundays.
While most noteworthy omakase restaurants are seafood-driven, The Gyu Bar’s chefs are intent in showing you how you can enjoy the finest beef. The restaurant serves the Kumamoto Kuroge breed of A4 Black Wagyu, sourcing and buying the entire animal from its suppliers. Thus, the omakase is an exploration of the many cuts, prepared in ways that best showcase the beef’s fine marbling, delicate texture and rich mouthfeel. At $148++ per person, the omakase course allows you to try delicacies like an uni-topped wagyu tartare, shin tama, and yakiniku-grilled cuts like the chuck roll. The sirloin is served with Sukiyaki and Egg Dip (in which even the eggs are imported from Japan). You finish with a rich beef fried rice with delectable charred bits. We must say that for all this, and at this quality, this omakase comes at excellent value.
30 Stevens Road, #01-08, 257878, tel: 6732 0702. Closed on Mondays.
Most people who have dined at Shinji By Kanesaka (there are two outlets, one at Carlton Hotel and the other at the St. Regis) have described the experience as sublime. Both outlets boast Michelin stars and are omakase-only dining experiences. Tell the very capable chefs you are in their hands, and they will lead you towards the finest morsels of maki and nigiri, delicate soups, cleverly cooked dishes and the freshest seasonal desserts. From the understated and elegant decor, to the exemplary food, this is the best special-occasion omakase in town. Prices are at $300 to $500 for the chef’s special omakase courses. Steep, but worth every penny.
Carlton Hotel, 76 Bras Basah Road, 189558, tel: 6338 6131
St. Regis Hotel, 29 Tanglin Road, 247911, tel: 6884 8239. Closed on Sundays.
The local outpost of the much-lauded sushi-ya in the Ginza district of Tokyo has a steady following of regulars and connoisseurs, and is tucked away behind the lobby of Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel. Sushi is the chef’s forte, and you can enjoy a nigiri-only omakase ($220) or a complete omakase experience for $300-$430. The intimate, 14-seat eatery serves only ingredients imported from Tsukiji, and guests can thus expect fresh, season-driven produce. This, paired with the chef’s skills, make for a dining experience like none other.
#01-04 Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, 320 Orchard Road, 238865, tel: 6235 5514. Closed on Mondays.
Holding its own in this list of fine and award-winning omakase experiences is Ryo Sushi. This restaurant has made a name for itself thanks to its omakase menus that come at outstanding value-for-money prices. They begin at $18++ for a 10-course omakase. Yes, you read that right. They’re also limited to 18 portions daily and are available to walk-in customers only. This course includes assorted sushi, a hand roll and soup. Even the full-price omakase menus begin at just $38++ for 15 courses, The most princely feast is an 18-course sea urchin menu at $98++, which features an uni rice bowl, a truffle onsen egg and sushi rolls of fatty tuna and uni.
#01-06 Orchid Hotel, 1 Tras Link, 078867, tel: 6443 3463. Closed on Sundays.
By Priyanka C. Agarwal, Female, September 2018 / Updated by Muneerah Bee, February 2019
More on The Finder: