For those who had been to Food Republic on Level 4 of Wisma Atria, you probably would have come across Koh Grill & Sushi Bar, a Japanese restaurant that always seemed so busy and packed with patrons. I’d long heard about the highly raved restaurant especially its signature ‘shiok maki’ of which I often see pictures on instagram at least every other day.
Hubby and I came by once when we were in the vicinity but were just put off by the really long queue for walk-ins. The second time we were here, we avoided the peak dinner hour and managed to be 4th or 5th in line. And it was still a 20-minute wait before an empty 4-seater table was made available and we had to share the table with another couple.
For drinks, we ordered Iced Green Tea without sugar ($1.50 per glass). Though I wasn’t sure what brand of green tea they were using, this was a good brew that was fragrant and thirst-quenching.
We started off with a Sashimi Salad ($12.00) that came with lettuce, purple cabbage, cherry tomatoes, salmon, tuna, squid and fish roe.
The portion wasn’t really big unlike the Sushi Tei’s one that was priced lower but as a starter, this was sufficient for sharing between us. The sashimi were fresh and the dressing had an intense gingery flavour. You really got to love ginger to like this sauce. Somehow this gingery taste already masked the natural flavours of the other ingredients. This was a decent salad which I could still eat again but it wasn’t anything extraordinary.
The Sake Sushi ($2.80) was ordinary but I liked that the ball of rice beneath was small so it was perfect for me as I didn’t want to be filled up with too much carbs.
The Shirane Tofu ($8.00) was the star dish that really blew me away. 4 pieces of fried tofu with crispy fried fish skin laced with this creamy, sweet sauce and topped with tiny fish roe, bonito flakes and dried seaweed shreds. Every element in this dish just complemented one another. You got to combine a little bit of everything in every mouthful to have that burst of flavours in the mouth. Truly dynamite. The tofu and fish skin were fried to perfection. The former had a crispy skin crust while the inside remained wobbly and soft. The fish skin was so addictively crunchy, it was probably the main lead that really added depth and dimension to the whole dish.
The yakitori that we ordered took quite some time to come as they were all grilled upon order but it was well worth the long wait. We had the Buta Bara ($2.00 per stick) which were grilled pork belly pieces and the Aspara Buta Maki ($3.00 per stick) which were rolls of grilled pork belly slices with asparagus. Maybe we had made the right choice of yakitori sticks cos’ these two were just amazing. I couldn’t stop hmmm-ing away as I munched on my sticks and I was a little embarrassed as the neighbours might have heard me, lol. But anyway, they were really good. Loved the smoky flavour. The pork belly had a good ratio of lean meat to fats and though the outside might be a little dry, it had a crisp to it. The asparagus were also tender yet crunchy.
And finally after finishing everything else above, our Shiok!!! 2nd Generation Maki ($16.80) arrived. This really took ages probably because there was such a huge demand for it – every table we saw had (at least) one of this. The 1st Generation one had eel in it which I didn’t fancy so I opted for the 2nd Generation which had crispy fried prawns in the innermost layer followed by rice and then salmon that was torch-seared before doused with a rich, creamy sauce and topped with plenty of mini fish roe.
While many said the sauce was either cheese or mayonnaise, I thought it tasted of neither. The sauce really reminded me of the dressing from the prawn cocktail salad at Ootoya Japanese Restaurant and somehow it had a hint of salted egg in it (or rather salt + standard egg). I asked one of the service staff on my way out if the sauce was made from cheese or mayo and she said it was neither. However she refused to reveal what exactly it was made of but added that the sauce from 1st Generation was sour and the one from 2nd Generation was sweeter and that all sauces were made from scratch.
Though the sauce was good, I didn’t appreciate the soggy rice that easily fell apart so overall even though this was quite a special maki that we don’t normally get elsewhere, it wasn’t a spectacular dish that I’d queue up for it. In comparison, I thought the Shirane Tofu was even more shiok!
Overall, we enjoyed our meal there. Though the food was good, it wasn’t out of this world. Service was also a little chaotic. Another gripe would be that there wasn’t any exclusivity for patrons (got to share tables with strangers) though we had to pay the same price as a full fledged restaurant. Prices were on the steeper side but I would return for their Shirane Tofu and Yakitori. Reservations are highly recommended.
Koh Grill & Sushi Bar
435 Orchard Road
#04-21, Wisma Atria
Tel: 6836 0609 (for reservations)
Opening hours: 11.30am to 10.30pm daily