Monday, June 1, 2009

Rakuichi: a taste of Japan in Singapore

retirement party for Larry the Great, with his friends

When Duncan sent out the confirmations for Larry's retirement dinner was going to be at Rakuichi, I got increasingly excited. I have been to the Far East branch several times, and always they have managed to impress. It was going to be interesting. Good food, great company.

The evening's meal was omakase by the Head Chef.

First off, the amuse bouche of seaweed in a spicy, sour liquid - possibly a vinegar.

apologies for grainy was rather dark in the restaurant

Next came the appetizer of broad bean, baby squid, Japanese tomato, pi tan tofu, mozuku seaweed served in vinegar and semi-grilled tuna belly

This was a delectable appetizer. It actually manages to tease the palate, after the bitingly sour amuse bouche. The Japanaese tomato was a great surprise, very sweet, firm.

Next up, fresh oyster served with ponzu sauce

This was served as individual servings in a huge ice sculpture. The presentation was certainly first rate.

Each of us got a whole, fat, succulent oyster:

Reminded me of a meal I had with some of my Japanese colleagues in Tokyo some years ago in a restaurant specializing in kaki (Japanese for oyster)...we had oysters for appetizer, soup, main course, and even oyster for dessert and the alcoholic cocktail.

Rakuichi's oysters were very fresh, almost live...and the taste of the sea, coupled with the rich, fat taste of the oyster was luxurious as it slid down my throat. Nice!

Next was a piece de resistance, the mixed Sashimi.

This was no ordinary sashimi moriawase you find at your neighbourhood sushi-ya. The presentation suggested that it was something special.

Comprising of very fresh Japanese Kyushu flounder, tuna belly, salmon, amberjack, sea urchin, ark shell and botan prawns. The sashimi was sliced quite thick, and was about as fresh as I have ever eaten outside of Japan.

Zoom in to a slice of tuna belly or toro:

As you can see, the marbling of this tuna is superb. Not quite a cut of otoro like those in Tsukiji, but it was beautiful. Fresh.

Wasabi was a whole root of the plant, served on a platter of sharkskin, partly ground.

This was the proper way to serve wasabi. And the thick root was testament that the Chef had indeed taken his time to select even the wasabi himself. Wasabi grows in cold, clear, running water in the streams of Japan. And large, thick ones are rare. The type normally found in tubes are more horseradish than true wasabi, and even then the wasabi is fertilizer fed. True clean green wasabi is organic, and is not fertilized.

Ground wasabi is extremely perishable, and should only be prepared minutes before being served for maximum taste.

Next was a very special beef. Matsusaka is a grade of wagyu not often found outside of Japan. In fact, I believe AVA does not allow the commercial import of Matsusaka into Singapore. Chef must have hand carried this himself, as AVA does allow a small amount for personal consumption to be brought in.

Matsusaka is prized for being one of the highest grades wagyus available. Finely marbled, in addition to just generously marbled, the flavour and intensity of the beef is amazing. Some slices of semi-grilled Matsusaka beef with burdock sauce. Semi-grilling is important as because of the fat content, the flavours are easily destroyed by heat, so rare is the way to eat this high grade beef.

I preferred the taste of the beef on its own, so removed the sauce and accompaniment, and enjoyed the beef a la naturale.

Next course was a deep-fried barracuda fish.

apologies again for poor quality of the picture. Somehow the white balance is off by a mile here, and I am not able to bring it back to normal with PS

Barracuda is not often finds itself in our local plates. This predator fish is often angled for game, and have a strong taste - similar to tuna. The flesh is very soft, moist, with a slightly oily mouth feel, and immediately melted in my mouth. Two fresh Japanese ginko nuts adorn the Y shaped leaf, and was rather tasty too.

Grilled kinki fish with kinome leaf sauce

Kichiji or “Kinki” fish is a rockfish that is found in Hokkaido. It is a rather rare fish, and seasonal. I would have preferred a more fleshy cut, but the fin/gill portion is considered prized because it is often fatter, though it is a bit more bony than flesh from the body. The portion was expertly grilled, just so, not the slightest bit overcooking a fish is the surest way to destroy its flavour. My portion was sweet, mild flavoured fish, slightly oily to the palate. Very nice.

Next up, Oven grilled abalone with bean curd skin:

Whole abalone half shells were covered with a bean curd skin, and within revealed the treasures of sliced abalones lying on a bed of Japanese straw mushrooms. I found the abalone a bit tough, and as it was cooked on its own instead of being stewed for long hours in rich chicken and seafood broth like the Chinese way of preparation, it was a bit bland. But the Chef managed to draw out the true taste of the abalone.

Next up, another surprise. Aburi sushi - very lightly blow torched tuna belly, flounder, and sea eel

I always love aburi. The light blow torch grilling and a sprinkling of sea salt and perhaps a tiniest bit of ponzu sauce bring out the flavours of fish. This was a delectable dish. Absolutely first rate. Fresh fish, done well.

I particularly loved the unagi...which was lightly grilled in the traditional terayaki style sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

And finally, souo: Asari clams served in clear soup.

By this time, we were stuffed full. The soup was clear, and clean tasting, and the clams were very fresh and succulent.

And the final palate cleanser, mixed fruits served. The grapes were very sweet, and intense in flavour. The presentation, as can be seen is superb.

For me, a very highly rated degustation of fine Japanese food in Singapore, perhaps one of the best I have experienced outside of Japan. Highly recommended.

10 Dempsey Road
#01-22 Tanglin Village (Dempsey Road)
Tel: 6474 2143
Daily: 11:30am - 2:30pm, 6pm - 10pm

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