It’s been at least 2 years since I’ve travelled to Japan. But I’m glad that there’s at least a small part of town that could invoke the same feeling. Located 5 minutes away from Clarke Quay MRT Station, Shinzo Japanese Cuisine is an authentic Japanese restaurant in Singapore that specializes in Omakase.

Shinzo Japanese Cuisine interior design, restaurant interior

Omakase, translating to leave it all to me, is a unique dining style originated from Japan that leaves the decision making to the chefs. Shinzo was a small eatery with an open kitchen for the chefs to showcase their crafts. The restaurant was embellished with wood tones and a rustic muted blue palette which were illuminated with a lowlight.

Omakase Set Course

An Omakase Lunch Set starts from S$80 while Dinner starts from S$188. There are some promotions going on, which I will mention at the end of the review. I decided to go big or go home and ended up with the most premium course, Kasen (S$288++) which included 5 appetizers, 8 sashimi, 3 cooked dishes, 9 nigiri, 1 bowl of soup and 1 dessert.

Appetizers and Sashimi

The appetizers came together on the same plate. I have to admit, I lost my appetite when I heard some of the names. Most of them were something that I would’ve never thought about ordering on my own. Starting from the top lies a bowl of Shirako in Ponzu, essentially cod sperm doused in a citrus-based sauce. Who would’ve known I had such a desire for sperms. The shirako itself was creamy, which juxtaposed against the sharp flavours of the ponzu which featured sourness with a touch of spice and bitterness in the background.

Shinzo omakase appetizers - shirako (cod sperm) in ponzu, seafood mountain yam roll, ankimo (monkfish liver), shirobagai (sea snail), uni yosen (sea urchin in jelly)

On the left, was a Seafood Mountain Yam Roll, which was a refreshing change of pace from the first appetizer. It had a mellow flavour, with waves of sweetness from the yam which was accentuated from the steamed prawn.

The Monkfish Liver was another dish I wouldn’t have considered ordering. Internal organs just aren’t my thing. However, instead of a strange unexplainable flavour I was expecting, it was nice and umami, resemblant of mentaiko, but minus the sharp notes. The sprinkle of flaky salt atop intensified the flavour of the liver paste and gave it an additional crunch.

Next, was a Shirobagai (Sea Snail), which had a crunchy texture and Uni Yosen, which was sea urchin encased in jelly.

kanpachi carpaccio - thinly-sliced amberjack doused in soy sauce and truffle oil, caviar and Ikura fish roe

The second course was an assortment of sashimi. Without a doubt, the fish tasted fresh, as they should, considering the chefs at Shinzo only orders the best catches of the week. My favourite was the Kanpachi Carpaccio– thinly-sliced amberjack doused in soy sauce and truffle oil and embellished with caviar and ikura.

Cooked Dishes

baked oyster in white sauce and shimeji mushrooms, Hokkaido crab leg with uni sauce

Our first cooked dish was impressive from the get-go. Oyster with white sauce and Hokkaido Crab leg with Uni Sauce. The Hokkaido crab leg featured a chunky crab leg that tasted like the ocean; its freshness only underscored by a thin coating of an uni sauce. The fragrance of the sauce was subtle, with a bitter note lingering backstage. But it did wonders highlighting the innate flavours of the crab leg. Meanwhile, the oyster, drenched in a thick coating of white sauce and paired with stir-fried shimeji mushrooms, one would expect the flavour profile to be too rich. —

The Steamed Abalone served as an intermission between the two heavily-flavoured dishes. Frankly, it was the least appealing dish with its bland appearance. But steaming seafood is the best way to preserve its natural flavours. It was slightly sweet and had a soft but not mushy texture.

a5 wagyu beef, kasen omakase meal at shinzo

It’s no wonder A5 Wagyu are so expensive. This wasn’t meat. It was beef-flavoured butter that disintegrated on your tongue. The flavour and texture were immaculate. The chefs only prepared 4 thin strips and while it might seem stingy, it was an appropriate amount given its richness. It’s paired with fried garlic slices and a green chili pepper, which serrated the oiliness of the dish.

Nigiri

The Nigiri was definitely my favourite part of the omakase course since I got to witness decades of training and experience condensed in a span of a few seconds. Don’t take moulding nigiri lightly as even though the motion seems easy, applying the right pressure is no easy feat. The rice should be gently packed, just enough to be held together. Any harder, it results in a dense rice ball that’s hard to bite into and the opposite would cause it to fall apart.

Here are some of the highlights:

An ika (Squid) that breaks apart easily when bit into was an interesting surprise compared to other squid nigiri I’ve tried. Usually, it has a chewier and tougher texture. Of course, this had to do with the quality of the squid itself. But, the chef’s expertise played a part too. By gently scoring the squid in a checkered formation, it tenderizes the fish.

akagai nigiri, ark shell, red clam sushi

Next, hokkigai (Surf Clam) bore fruity notes that reminded me of a tropical island, where you listen to gentle waves fold and sip on a glass of Seafoam Sangria. Meanwhile, the akagai (Ark Shell), shown in the photo, had a sharper profile featuring woody notes. Think autumn, lounging in the cabin nestled in the woods with a cigar in your hand.

We also had a kimedai (Golden Red Eye Snapper). I thought this was a fish that people commonly steamed in Chinese recipes. But it was a fine piece of nigiri, with a subtle smoky aftertaste.

uni sushi, sea urchin

My favourite had to be the uni (Sea Urchin). Fun fact, Chef Xiang made it without seaweed as it would overpower its natural flavours. Now, I’ve had uni before and surprisingly, the ones I’ve had at more lower-class restaurants have a sweeter flavour compared to Shinzo. However, the uni here had a more complex profile. Aside from sweetness, it displayed a fruity top note with a gentle thrum of bitterness that sinks down beside you like a tabby cat.

S$60 for a bite?

mini chiraishi don, sanshoku don, rice bowl with uni, tuna, caviar and ikura

Chef Xiang served us this Mini Chiraishi Don as a special treat. Also known as sanshoku don, translating to ‘3 colours bowl’ to reflect the three types of seafood featured here, this was a luxurious bite that could cost up to S$60.

Apparently, this counts as 3 nigiri in the course. The chefs will typically serve this to regulars to spice up their meal every now and then. So if you’re new, you might have to make a request for this.

Soup and Dessert

The Hamaguri Clam soup was a clear soup that was a little heavy on the clam flavour.

omakase dessert at Shinzo Japanese Cuisine

Lastly, dessert was two types of mochi with a slice of melon.

Verdict

Omakase meals are generally an emotional rollercoaster ride as you venture unchartered territories. As mentioned earlier, the beauty of an omakase meal is the opportunity to be exposed to new dishes. At Shinzo, you won’t get your basic Salmon Nigiri or Tuna Nigiri that you would commonly see at Genki Sushi or wherever. If you’re a picky eater, you can let the chefs know your preference beforehand so they will adjust the dishes accordingly.

$288 is definitely on the pricier side and while it was a pleasant meal, it’s something that I wouldn’t be able to afford in awhile. Instead, I might go for the cheaper courses that serve 1-2 dishes fewer and utilize slightly fewer premium ingredients. Shinzo is also currently having an Earlybird Promotion every day from 6pm- 7pm which is priced at S$68++. Alternatively, get 20% off when you dine on Monday nights. Free Sake Pairing is also available on Tuesday dinners starting from March 2021.

Due to the intimate setting of the restaurant, making a reservation is highly recommended.

Location: 17 Carpenter St, Singapore 059906
Tel: +65 6438 2921
Opening hours: 12- 3pm, 6:30- 10pm (Mon – Sat)

Website

*This article is written in collaboration with Shinzo Japanese Cuisine

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