September 25, 2015
it’s, at once, a scary and exhilarating feeling to have your meal decided for by someone else, but step into the cosy interior of chō omakase, chat a little with the affable chef chong, and you’re immediately at ease. the place looks like a fine japanese restaurant, right down to bottles of umeshu that line the wall, but while it offers omakase, or “chef’s choice”, dining, the chef wishes to do away with its traditional formalities. instead, he affectionately calls the casual restaurant “my kitchen”. another thing of beauty is that there’s no fixed price – just state how much you’re willing to pay, what you feel like having, and a meal will be specially tailored for you. the only prerequisite? trust, and a bit of an adventurous spirit. By Amelia Tan
WHAT TO TRY
These might not be there when you’re at the restaurant, after all, the menu changes daily according to the fresh ingredients that are flown in, twice a week, from Japan – it’s best to check their Facebook page for updates. But here’s what I got to try: an eight-course meal, priced at $80++, consisting of an appetiser, sashimi, sushi, petite portions of mains, and dessert. Here are the highlights:
It’s like looking at a dream – and how this fits into the pocket-friendly menu surprises us. Vibrant colours make the dish something you’d want to Instagram, but act fast because raw fish, kinda like revenge, is best served cold. There was fresh seabream, yellowtail, salmon belly and octopus, and this was white and thinly-sliced instead of regular poached tako. Chef Chong also added some sweet shiro ebi at the last minute. According to the chef, the Japanese tend to eat in order, from the lightest shade of fish to the darkest – he says it’s fine to bend the rules though, just never, never mix wasabi into your sauce! Which brings me to this: they have authentic wasabi. Now, I steer clear from having the usual green stuff near me, at all costs. This grated wasabi though, was the real deal, and adds a mild heat that complements the fish, rather than packing nostrils-flaring blaze.
This comes in a plate instead of a cup, which means all its flaws are in plain sight. Thankfully, there are none. The warm steamed egg, layered under a glistening bed of sauce, was prepared pure, without other ingredients that might affect its cook. To test it out, the chef says: scoop some up and let it hang from the end of your spoon. If it doesn’t split, it’s quality stuff. I do miss those juicy mushrooms, but the silky texture, perfect when warm, more than made up for that.
Black Cod Marinated in Miso
As gathered from Masterchef, here’s how to judge cod, perfectly cooked: first, the glaze, second, crispy skin, and third, a fillet that flakes off beautifully, effortlessly. This passed on all counts. I usually like Japanese-style fish served shio, or salted, as sauces can get cloying, but here, the sweet miso sauce was light enough that it didn’t overwhelm the natural sweetness of the cod, but still distinct. The dish was also accompanied with garlic paste and potato salad on the side.
Spicy Sesame Cold Noodles
You know how there’s a point during a multi-course Chinese dinner when you’re stuffed, and then, finally, the carbs come and you can’t finish those? This isn’t like that at all. Instead, the springy cold noodles, along with egg roe and strips of crabmeat, cucumber and tamago, form a fragrant dish, and it comes dressed in a sesame paste – one that’s elevated by a spicy kick, thanks to a smart dash of Japanese chilli oil. Way to up the flavour profile. Yep, we slurped up every last bit.
Get a seat by the counter, and you’ll see Chef Chong prepare this like an artist; with neat precision, he slices the fish, sculpts the room-temperature sticky rice, then finishes off with a brush of soy sauce. One by one, each piece of sushi was placed in front of me. Yellowtail with a delicate amount of yuzu, salmon belly topped with paper-thin sea kelp, and the kicker, one the chef jokingly calls “watermelon” as he torches the marbled fish, preparing it aburi-style – otoro, or bluefin tuna, lightly seared and so tender it melts.
A Chō Omakase course begins at $50++, a Chō Signature Omakase course begins at $80++, and a Chef’s Signature Omakase course begins at $120++. For the latest updates, follow them on Instagram at instagram.com/choomakase.
Tel: 6532 2068
Address: 14 Lorong Telok, Singapore 049027
Opening Hours: 12 – 3pm; 6pm – 10pm