Update (Aug 2017): This restaurant has ceased operation.
Yokowa Japanese Restaurant has recently opened on Duxton Road.
I was invited for a food tasting session last weekend to have a preview of what they have to offer before their Grand Opening Day on the 24 November 2016.
At the moment, they are serving Kaiseki Bentos until the grand opening day from which the full menu will then be available.
Yokowa specialises in Kaiseki, a traditional multi-course Japanese meal, which is also a work of fine culinary art that not just involves the usage of the freshest produce but also the combination of different cooking techniques and presentation/plating skills. In other words, it is Japanese food at its finest.
The restaurant is helmed by Tachibana Hideaki Sensei who aims to bring authentic Japanese flavours to Singapore.
On Level One of the restaurant, you can take a counter seat if you would like to see the Chef live in action.
Alternatively, you can go up to the second floor where there are table seatings that are cleverly partitioned by hanging noren (fabric dividers) that provides the much needed privacy to diners.
Private dining space is also available if you’re dining in with a large group.
Because there were so many courses, all the dishes had to be sent to our table via a trolley. The service staff would then lay out everything neatly on the table like this. Looked really amazing. I loved the colours and the variety.
It was also very thoughtful of them to provide hot towels so we could clean and sanitise our hands before eating.
Each lunch bento set came with 6 different side dishes, daily okowa (rice) and miso soup.
The one on the left was the Matsu set (S$28) and the one on the right, Take set (S$28). Both sets looked almost similar but 3 out of the 6 side dishes were different.
These bento sets were fixed so the dishes couldn’t be changed. If there is something from the bento set that you don’t normally like, skip the set and customise your own meal with your preferred okowa and dishes from the a la carte menu. It gives you all the flexibility to mix and match.
The okowa is basically Japanese traditional steamed glutinous rice with various ingredients. This one was the Sansai (wild vegetables) flavour.
The rice was moist and sticky but not soggy, in fact the rice grains were still separate. It was lightly seasoned and thoroughly infused with the aromatic flavours of the vegetables and mushrooms. Tasted pretty good on its own.
The mildly sweet rolled egg was very soft and moist.
A humble-looking dish of simmered vegetables but these were so good because the vegetables were fresh and naturally sweet.
The fried chicken was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Batter coating was very light and nicely seasoned.
The grilled silver cod was fresh, sweet, silky and smooth. Skin was nicely caramelised, however had to watch out for small bones.
The agedashi tofu was encased in a nicely fried crust and the inside remained wobbly and soft. Sauce was well balanced and refreshing which really lifted the flavour of the tofu.
The pickled vegetables was mainly made up of burdock plus other wild vegetables. Though very thinly sliced, they still gave a good crunch. Reminded me of our local popiah’s jicama filling but this was slightly on the salty side and more flavoursome.
This stewed sliced pork & potatoes really blew me away when I put one piece of that pork in my mouth. It was so tender and almost effortless to chew the meat. The meat, carrot and potato had absorbed all the essence of that moreish braising liquid and were simply flavoursome. Delicious!
The deep-fried salmon with breadcrumbs was crispy and crunchy and not oily at all. Had to watch out for bones though. The accompanying dipping sauce (like tonkatsu sauce) was savoury and sweet with a hint of Worcestershire sauce.
The grilled eggplant was tender and still had a slight crunch. Loved the texture and fragrance of the bonito flakes on top.
The Chawan Mushi or Steamed Egg Custard (S$6) was light, silky, smooth and wobbly. It was perfectly seasoned so the flavour of the egg custard really stood out. In it, there were prawn meat, chicken meat and gingko nut.
This Sashimi Mori (S$39 for S, S$59 for M and S$88 for L) was like a piece of art – too pretty to be eaten. Loved the little touches of the flowers. There were salmon, tuna belly, swordfish and probably one of the sweetest prawns I had ever eaten. All were fresh, chunky and very sweet.
The Tempura Moriawase (S$15) came with prawns, green bell peppers, mushroom, sweet potato and pumpkin. The batter coating was really light and crispy – didn’t ooze oil when bitten into. And it was a delight to dip each piece of tempura into that green tea salt that flavoured every bite of the tempura while giving it an extra matcha aroma. The prawns were crunchy and I liked that the sweet potato and pumpkin were very thinly sliced so they weren’t too heavy.
The Inaniwa Udon (S$15) is only limited to 10 orders per day because the special green sauce that consists of at least 10 different vegetables is not easy to make. While I thought the sauce was more of an acquired taste and texture, I really enjoyed the udon noodles that were much thinner than the regular ones. The sauce was slimey (similar to the characteristic of okra) and tasted somewhat ‘green’. The noodles were springy like soba cooked al dente.
Having the Chanko Nabe (S$36) after eating everything else was really comforting. This was actually a meat and vegetable stew that’s traditionally served to wrestlers in Japan.
The broth was clear and light but very flavoursome in a homely way. The udon noodles were perfectly cooked. The sliced pork belly with a good ratio of fat to meat tasted somewhat crunchy and the vegetables still had a nice crunch.
The Anninhu Milk Pudding or almond flavoured milk pudding with seasonal fruits (S$8) was a nice finish to the meal. The semi-solid pudding (could easily slurp up with a straw) was light and delicate and wasn’t overly sweet.
The things that I appreciate the most in a Kaiseki meal are that the cooking process is kept at minimum and the food is never heavily seasoned so the original flavour of each ingredient will stand out. It is especially true for this meal that I’ve just had – none of the dishes was over the top and I could slowly savour every one of them in its purest form. I left the restaurant with a satisfied tummy, feeling all happy and healthy.
If you’re new to Kaiseki, come to Yokowa to kickstart the experience. The food and service will not disappoint.
Yokowa Japanese Restaurant
21 Duxton Road
Tel: +65 9770 2122
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/YOKOWA.sg/
11.30am to 12.00am (Mon-Sat)
Closed on Sundays
Disclaimer: This was a hosted food tasting session. All opinions expressed here are solely my own personal views.