Food Review: Chikuyotei 竹葉亭

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    When one thinks of semi-casual Japanese business lunches in town, one will inevitably think of Chikuyotei. Located within InterContinental Hotel at Bugis, Chikuyotei has established a reputation as an authentic Japanese restaurant that serves high quality dishes.

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    The restaurant’s kitchen is led by Chef Akihiro Maetomo, who trained and worked at the original branch in Ginza, Tokyo. He has a keen eye and palate for the freshest ingredients found in Japan. Together with his nimble hands and creative mind, Chef Maetomo is constantly creating new dishes to surprise and please his guests.

    Famed for their omakase sets, we headed down to check out their 12-course dinner ($178++).

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    Our meal started with Raw Hokkaido Hotate (帆立貝, scallops) and Salted Kumamoto Tomato in Nalta Jute Sauce. The scallops were fresh, creamy and succulent. The Nalta Jute sauce added a uniquely green flavour and the tomatoes were juicy and firm. The okra flower toppings were floral and unexpectedly sweet.

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    Next on the menu was a generous cut of Senzaki kuro awabi (黒鰒, black abalone). The abalone was tender, chewy and had a slightly herbal taste.

    Chef Maetomo shared with us that he uses only male abalones due to their firm texture and flavour. The abalone is steamed for three and a half hours and sits in a special chicken skin broth overnight before it’s served.

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    Following the abalone was the osuimono (おすいもの, clear soup) dish. The lightly roasted Setouchi anago (穴子, salt-water eel) had a slightly gritty, meaty texture while the okra gave the soup a slightly sticky, thick feel. The dashi (出汁, soup stock) takes two days to make and its ingredients include rishiri konbu (利尻昆布, rishiri seaweed) and 2 year-old bonito (鰹, katsuo).

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    For our fourth course, we were served delicately sliced fresh Chiba hirame (平目, flathead) with shaved Australian black truffle and Kanazawa gold flakes drizzled with the chef’s secret sauce. The sashimi had a clean, clear flavour that was complemented by the earthy, garlicky taste of the black truffle. Chef Maetomo’s secret sauce was the perfect balance of sweet and salty and really brought out the light flavour of the fish.

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    The next dish was a bit of a novelty: Smoked Saga kensaki ika (剣先烏賊, kansaki squid). Before serving the dish, Chef Maetomo filled a glass a jar with smoke to lightly smoke and opened it with a great foggy flourish. Chef Maetomo uses apple wood to create a sweet smoky flavour that teases your nose as your palate is pleased by the squid’s mild taste.

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    The oshinogi (bite-sized course) was something of a deconstructed sushi. For this dish, Chef Maetomo placed a good amount of uni (海胆, sea urchin) and a thick slice of ootoro (大とろ, bluefin tuna belly) on top of red vinegar rice. The red vinegar rice does not taste as tart as normal sushi rice. Having less of a sour bite enhances the meaty fish and briny sea urchin flavour.

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    The star of the evening was the charcoal grilled Nagasaki taichuo (太刀魚, largehead hairtail). The fish is lightly salted and moist. Its flesh was soft, flaky and had a clean taste. The hint of lime was a nice touch as it added a little tartness without over powering the fishThe green pepper burst with watery flavour as soon as we bit into it and the lotus root chips were crisp.

    Chef Maetomo was inspired by the fish’s ability to live in both salt and fresh water created the dish’s look to reflect it. The decorations used were imported specially from Japan just for the presentation of this dish. The shaved piece of wood had a wet, forest-like smell which was truly reminiscent of autumn in Japan.

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    Chikuyotei uses only Kagoshima black wagyu, and for good reason. The parboiled slices of beef were juicy and had a slightly sweet, meaty taste. The soft-boiled egg gave the meat an extra creamy texture while the watery eggplant chunks were a refreshing palate cleanser.

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    Next up was Chikuyotei’s famous unagi don. Sweet, delicately flaky, the unagi is served with a special Kyoto spice. The eel is roasted just right, is tender and the sauce is not overly sweet. The rice is fluffy, fragrant and has a smooth pebble-like texture.

    According to Chef Maetomo, the best part of the eel is the area near the tail, because it has the highest amount of muscle.

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    Along with the unagi don, there was also a bowl of unagi liver soup. It’s supple, with an unexpectedly clean taste with a slightly sour aftertaste. The soup is heartwarming and is a great way to draw a close to the savoury portion of the meal.

    Eel liver is high in vitamin B and is a very special treat as you only get one liver per eel.

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    The first dessert we were served were two slices of fresh momo (桃, peach). The peach had a slightly stringy texture but it was crisp, sweet and refreshing. The peaches were soaked in Cointreau, giving its sweetness it an extra punch.

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    While the body of dinner was indeed delightful, the true surprise of the night came in the form of a jar of Chikuyotei Wasanbon Sugar Pudding.

    Unlike the usual caramel syrup, the wasanbon sauce does not have the bitter, burnt aftertaste. It has a nice roasted scent and isn’t overly sweet. The custard itself is thick, soft, firm and eggy.

    The pudding is made with wasanbon (和三盆, traditional Japanese sugar), which is the most expensive sugar and is produced exclusively in Japan. In the past, wasanbon was used only to produce sweets for the emperor of Japan.

    If you’re looking for a place to splurge on, Chikuyotei is the place for you. The experience is good, the food authentic and hospitality warm.

    Chikuyotei Singapore
    9725-5311 / 6825-1064
    80 Middle Road #01-01
    InterContinental Singapore 188966

    Daily
    12-2.30pm; 6.30-10.30pm

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