There’s never a dearth of Japanese restaurants in Singapore. But if it’s quality you’re looking for, then perhaps this very abundance is going to be more of a hindrance than a help since most seem to be aiming to outdo the rest with even-more-value-for-money menus while ditching quality. I will admit that I do sometimes cave in for more wallet-friendly sushi, just because they’re there and I’d gnaw a finger off if I didn’t get any.
Rakuzen, as I was pleasantly surprised to find out, has most of its ingredients imported directly from Japan, from its sashimi to its rice. No middleman is involved, so all you get is quality food without the burden of carrying any extra costs because of reselling. Their lunch and dinner sets are especially notable for that value-for-money quality that seems to be a constant criteria for most people.
Their second outlet at Tampines opened on the 14th of September, just a month or so back. The restaurant is welcoming, bright and airy, with light wood finishings and a pleasant ambience, and when I was invited to dine there for lunch on a weekday, I must say that their lunch crowd looked incredibly promising. It’s no wonder, really, when their set lunches (usually bentos) start from $14 onwards.
This beauty right here is but one of Rakuzen’s Special Broiled dishes, the Fire Mackerel ($16). The saba arrives lightly scored in diagonal cuts and is marinated for at least two hours with tangy rice wine vinegar before being wrapped in konbu for extra umami.
Now, I love pyrotechnics. Put me anywhere where there’s a light show, flames, and sizzling fat, and my eyes will be satisfied. All dishes from the Special Broiled section of the menu will arrive looking pristine and … pure … before a wait staff – armed with a blowtorch – starts searing each piece, the skin blistering and charring, releasing a beautiful smoky aroma, and then suddenly your dish has attitude. You know, the golden-brown, crisp, yet fatty and tender kind.
It’s your choice whether to drape a thin slice of sweet, pickled ginger over the mackerel, but personally, I loved how there was sweet crunch with smoky, tender fish. A slice of the saba alone is light, delicate, doesn’t particularly reek distinctly of mackerel, and should be savoured with the ponzu sauce that accompanies the dish.
We weren’t served this first, of course, we started out with appetisers, but I felt that this was one of the highlights of the meal and I have to share the cool stuff first. Read more of this post