23 November, 2012

Restaurant Reviews - IKYU

IKYU (pronouced as “E-Q”), which means “Take a Break” when translated to English, is one of the latest contemporary Japanese restaurant that aims to be a respite away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Thus, it was no wonder that the restaurant was tugged away at the quaint, yet hip cluster of Tiong Bahru estate at No. 5 Yong Siak Street.

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Headed by Executive Chef Takuma Seki (formerly Chef-de-Cuisine of Hide Yamamoto), IKYU serves creative interpretation of traditional Japanese cuisine with East-meets-West culinary techniques – drawing from Chef Seki’s extensive culinary experience in USA, Paris and Japan.

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The tone was set for the dinner with the introduction of the Pear Sake that was clear and pristine with a slight sweet finishing. A good refreshing start HFB must say. Diners could also enjoy sakes over at the Sake Bar located at the back of the restaurant – which was a little too dim for HFB to get a good photo.

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Amuse bouche that evening was Cream Cheese with Snapper’s Stomach that surprisingly paired really well with the sake that balance off the richness of the cream cheese. The stomach of the snapper was interestingly chewy and thus provided a distinct contrast in texture.

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The first starter that HFB sampled that evening was the Century Egg Traditional Potato Salad ($8.50). The century egg provided an added body to the carb-loaded dish, but it was the simple addition of cucumber bits that shone through with its crunchy texture and cooling, uplifting finishing.

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Most diners at Japanese establishment would have indulged in edamame at any one point in time, but Grilled Edamame flavoured in Truffle ($8.50), well that’s a first for HFB! A tad extravagant, but overall in a good way – the truffled flavour harmonised well with the charred finishing of the edamame.

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What can you not like about the Wafu Marinated Salmon Carpaccio ($16.50) that was topped with Salmon Roe, and Coral Seaweed? One of IKYU signature dishes, the savouriness and bite of the salmon roe went well with the marinated salmon and the seaweed provided the added layer of texture to lift the dish.

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HFB loved how the Deep fried Sakura Ebi ($8.50) was lightly salted, thus letting the natural sweetness of the baby prawns to shine through. Highly addictive and definitely make a good bar snack during Happy Hours!

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The Breaded Oyster from Hiroshima ($12.50) was a real winner for HFB! Really meaty and juicy when HFB sank his teeth into one of them, HFB really enjoyed it, and why shouldn’t you?

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The Assorted Vegetables wrapped in pork ($15.50) were grilled with nice charmed aroma, and the bacon provided the savouriness to the grilled veggies, but HFB did find it a little too dry for his liking.

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An exotic off-the-menu Smoked Whale Salad was dished to us during our tasting. How it managed to get here, HFB do not have the answer. However the excitement only lasted a moment as soon as he tasted the smoked whale – it tasted salty (it was smoked remember?) and almost just like ham – a pity he must add, considering he was expecting more from the anticipation.

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Hoping to maintain the hype during the dinner, the Blow Fish Tatsuta-age with Sansyo ($16.50) was up next. If memory didn’t serve HFB wrongly, he was told the fish was gutted with its poison removed in Japan by license chef before being packed and flew over to Singapore; the fish was fresh and firm with hint of natural sweetness. However in all honesty, the name was more fanciful than the dish itself – it was pretty decent, but regrettably wasn’t enough to blow HFB away.

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Later, we were introduced to the Grilled Pair Quail Legs ($5.50 each) under the Happy Hour Menu. Grilled to perfection with the meat still tender, those sexy legs were really flavourful and came with a distinctive peppery finishing. The chilli garnish also provided that little added oomph to the dish. HFB only grumble was – why are quails born so tiny? He wished he had more of these fascinating creatures.

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The Crème de la Crème of the evening surely belongs to the 120g Kagoshima Wagyu Beef Sirloin ($58.50) – just look at the marbling goodness!! Words simply cannot express the actual experience, but HFB shall attempt to – melt-in-your-mouth, juicy and even natural sweetness were what he could conjure of, but nothing describe better than tasting the actual dish. Pairing the beef with the garlic chips provided at the side was also an excellent option as HFB thought it enhanced the overall flavour and lift the dish to another level. HFB also urged everyone to experience dipping the beef in the Yuzu Ponzu sauce as the acidity helps to cut down the richness of the dish and give it a refreshing lift.

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Just when you thought what else could rival the previous dish, HFB was quickly reminded that IKYU was nevertheless still a Japanese Restaurant – thus it was befitting that we were served Blue Fin Tuna Otoro Nigiri ($35.50 for 2pcs) subsequently. For a moment, it did remind HFB of the nigiri he had in Tsukiji Market – after all Chef Seki proclaimed that he used rice from Hokkaido and the fish air-flown from Tsukiji Market! OhMmmm… The explosive burst of omega goodness and umami flavours came forth with every bite, what an alluring piece of meat! HFB was thoroughly seduced.

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It was slight unfortunate that the Anago Tempura with Vegetables Roll ($16.50) came right after the Otoro Nigiri. There was a definite disparity between the two, but it wasn’t the anago’s fault – in fact the roll was pretty awesome in its own right with the anago being deep fried to a crisp and the sweet sauce that came with it was a delightful pairing.

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HFB found out that one of Chef Seki favourite ingredients for his nigiri was the Engawa ($10.50 for 2 pcs) – the thin muscle of the dorsal fin which is located on the side of the Hirame.

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This part of the fish is said to be very developed compared to the rest of the body and unlike the other parts of the fish, it has a higher fat content which makes it a delicacy. HFB truly enjoyed the Engawa due to its complexity of flavours and textures – it was very soft, but slightly chewy at the same time, more concentrated in flavour yet delicate and light on the aftertaste. Brilliant!

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The dinner was rounded off with seasonal fruits from Japan ($15.00) – and HFB was served the Rock Melon, Persimmon and Grapes that evening. In all honesty, that was the first time he tasted Japanese fruits as they had always been so expensive in the local supermarkets. It was love at first bite (as oppose to sight… hehe)! He especially enjoyed the texture and sweetness of the Japanese grapes, and couldn’t resist taking another serving of it.

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Disclaimer: No ratings would be given, as this is an invited media tasting. HFB would also like to take this opportunity to thank IKYU for their hospitality.

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