Japanese food is a tough cuisine to dislike and here in Singapore you’ll find no shortage of options no matter how thin or wide your budget stretches. For those looking to luxuriate in meals that we dare say deserve the title of “life-changing", we’ve included a good selection of upscale omakase joints for you to indulge in stellar hand-pressed nigiri sushi, sashimi and the like.
But of course, if you’re looking to satisfy a specific craving be it for epic donburi, perfectly grilled unagi, fusion maki, yakitori or a hot, hearty bowl of oden for that matter, we’ve got them all covered as well. On that note, we bring you 10 of Singapore’s top Japanese restaurants.
If you crave adventure and would like to experience an elevated Japanese dining experience that goes against the current of traditional Kaiseki, you won’t be disappointed at Akira Back. Luxuriate your senses in an unexpected and unique culinary style of contemporary Japanese cuisine as internationally acclaimed chef Akira Back takes you on an exploratory journey that brings together both Japanese and Korean sensibilities with a focus on high-quality seasonal produce. A dish you absolutely have to try is the signature Tuna Pizza, where you get thinly sliced ribbons of fresh tuna tossed in an umami aioli neatly assembled atop a delicate crust before being topped with dots of truffle oil.
It’s hard to stay away from Wagyu’s stunning decadence and when the craving hits (and when the budget allows), there’s only one place to go to satisfy that craving — Fat Cow. The luxurious Japanese restaurant located on the first floor of Camden Medical Centre serves an extensive handpicked selection of the finest Wagyu from reputable farms in and around Japan. Absolute must-try items include the Fat Cow Wagyu Sandwich, the Fat Cow Premium Donburi which features the full works (wagyu beef, uni, caviar, foie gras) and Donabe Fat Rice. If you’d rather be surprised by what’s in season, the 8-seater Chef’s Table, led by veteran Tokyo-born Chef Shigeru Kasajima, brings a contemporary and creative approach to fresh seasonal produce.
Igokochi, which translates to “comfortable home” in Japanese, is a dual-concept restaurant where on one side, you’re treated to a buzzy izakaya replete with a well-curated beverage menu full of rare Japanese whiskies, sakes, wines and more as well as a stunning food menu spanning more than 50 items. Anything from sushi and sashimi to grilled, deep-fried, stewed and even stir-fried items is here too. If you’re unsure of what to order, the chef’s special section will not disappoint. And in the room adjacent to the main izakaya is a swankier, more refined space where diners can enjoy a proper omakase. At Igockochi, the service is impeccable and the service is stellar — what more could you possibly ask for?
Situated right next to a bustling food court on the fourth floor of Wisma Atria, Koh Grill and Sushi Bar is widely known for its sushi offerings and various Japanese skewers but it’s the delightfully elevated Shiok Maki that this unassuming restaurant is best known for. There are two versions of this iconic maki available — one with unagi and the other with crispy fried ebi tempura. They are equally delicious and the reason why they're such crowd favourites is because of their sauce. No one knows for sure what the sauce is made up of but it’s all kinds of buttery, cheesy, sinful goodness. Call to make reservations.
Looking for an indulgent meal but unwilling to spend a hefty amount? Treat yourself to a 10-course omakase at Kyuu by Shunsui over at Keong Saik Road. The quality’s sublime, the service is top-notch and we promise you won’t end up paying an arm or a leg for a memorable meal. That being said, you can rest assured that the restaurant doesn’t skimp on the quality of its offerings. On the contrary, the ingredients they procure are seasonal and of exceptional quality — think, seasonal fish and seafood sashimi, luxe offerings such as king crab and more. The highlight of the omakase, in particular, is being able to end it with a rice bowl overflowing with dashi-soaked ikura.
There’s almost always a snaking queue every day that Omoté is open and it’s all for the affordable chirashi donburi that not only hits the spot but features a heaping mound of diced seafood. Most people opt for the SGD12.80 version but feel free to jazz up yours to feature premium add-ons such as premium uni, fresh scallops, and other seafood items imported from Japan. Other hot favourites include the Mentai Chirashi Don, a creamier, more elevated version of the standard chirashi bowl. You get the regular accoutrements of your standard chirashi don but dolloped with an indulgent mentai sauce that’s both buttery and smoky, giving the standard affair an additional oomph.
If you’re looking for a place that evokes the same sort of vibe as Tokyo’s time-honoured back alley izakaya bars to hole up for the rest of the evening, Public Izakaya is just the spot that you need to hit up. Fuelled by tasty food — the chicken karaage, takoyaki and oden are absolute must-orders — and a wide array of drinks that aren’t too expensive, it’s no wonder why this place often draws a crowd. Oh, and did we mention it’s happy hour all day every day here as well?
With more than 20 outlets scattered around various prefectures in Japan and being in business for over a century now, highly acclaimed Unagiya Ichinoji is you will want to satisfy your craving for grilled unagi. Famed for their expert grilling techniques and super-secret tare that complements their grilled eel incredibly well, this place is always a pleasure to frequent. They serve their unagi in three different styles — Hitsumabushi sees grilled eel neatly placed over a bed of rice and served with three condiments. There's also Seiro Mushi, which is served with Hokkaido rice, egg, and a sweet sauce. Then there's Mamushi Donburi, which is served with Japanese yam, mentaiko, kinshi eggs and an onsen egg. The unagi that’s served in all three variations is marinated in a spice mixture made up of ingredients that are sourced directly from Tokyo. The unagi is then steamed to tender perfection before it is finished on the grill.
True gourmands looking to be captivated will know to make a booking for Waku Ghin's exclusive 10-seater Chef’s Table. It costs slightly more than half a grand per seat, but for the sake of sheer indulgence, we say it’s worth it. The bespoke dining experience is largely inspired by seasonality and through this specially curated degustation menu, the brilliance of Chef Tetsuya shows in his array of imaginative meat and seafood dishes that reflect his vast knowledge of what’s in season and how best to prepare them. For what it’s worth, you won’t regret trying the marinated Botan Ebi, uni, and caviar on egg yolk confit. They're a shot of pure brilliance so be sure to savour them for as long as you possibly can.
A warm, convivial space where good drinks and better food collide, Yujin Izakaya over at Zion Road was made for a memorable night out. The izakaya’s industrial-chic space provides a modernist feel that translates into the cocktails that they put out. But when it comes to their food, they keep it fresh, honest and simple with minimal intervention from over-the-top sauces. Their menu boasts a good variety of cold and hot appetisers as well as beautifully singed grilled items from lip-smacking skewers to charred vegetables and meat. Dishes you absolutely have to order include their Truffle Chawanmushi, Buta Kakuni Don and the divinely tender Gyu Kalbi (Beef Short Rib).
(Photos from: Alvin Tan)
Thinking of trying Italian food next? These are the dining spots you should visit.
Comments, questions or feedback? Email us at [email protected].