After that disaster of a dinner at Sushi Mieda, the Hubs was turned off sushi for a spell. I, on the other hand, couldn't wait to exorcise that dinner with properly good sushi. And where else better to do that than Shoukouwa, Singapore's most distinguished Michelin-studded Japanese restaurant.

There's just two omakase menus for dinner, the Miyabi for those of the genteel appetites at $320, and for the gluttons, the 19-course Hana ($480), the latter which we had, because #FatLifeChoseMe. I use "course" loosely, because they were mostly single mouthfuls of sushi. And while Shoukouwa is priced at the very top of the range, dinner was indubitably worth every penny. Well, of the Hub's wallet, that is, heh.

Shoukouwa was subliminal. The seafood was unbelievably fresh (any fresher, it'd be alive and kicking), and treated with an almost reverent restrain by Shoukouwa's chefs. It was exquisite in its straightforward, uncomplicated approach. A bonus: the menu comprised my favourites, and none of my dislikes, so there wasn't a need to replace the akagai this, or surf clam that. All things considered, Shoukouwa was the perfect antidote to curing a bad sushi-resultant aversion to Japanese food.

Service was faultless as well. The pace of dinner was Japanese train clockwork-precise. The chef, and the staff, took the time to elaborate how each fish was prepared, what cut of the tuna we were eating, and even took out an iPad to illustrate what the fish in its whole form looked like. Great learning for sushi virgins, less so for the experienced regulars.

And then there was the world-class entertainment, courtesy of this epically pompous buffoon and his young date. We'd already noticed them when they sauntered in, one a pot-bellied, over-the-hill Caucasian with a grey horseshoe for hair, and the other, his vapid, clownishly-made up barely-coherent SPG. But we really sat up and took notice when he very sagely explained to his date that the abalone had been steeped in sake for 3 days "to disinfect it". He then asked, without irony, the chef "since when was bonito a fish?". And when he saw the chef searing the tuna nigiri with white-hot coals, he educated the airhead that it was "to heat up the fish". I thought they hit peak stupidity when they got into a conversation about different "sal-men car-viars", but then they queried the chef how he kept the eels so soft, I was sorely tempted to tell them it's coz the Japanese massage their eels with baby oil. They were so odious, so repugnant, it's remarkable the chef kept his composure. I mean, we were barely keeping it together giving our friends a blow-by-blow account of dinner. There's the ill-informed, but they weren't it. They were simply obnoxious, which only served to aggravate their dismally low IQs.

First course was the Makogarei, marbled flounder sashimi, clean clear light.

Next up was the Kinki Ponzu, kinki fish poached shabu-shabu style and drizzled with ponzu sauce.

The Mushi Awabi was a plump juicy abalone steeped earlier in sake for 3 days (not to disinfect it!), steamed, and then draped in a rich abalone liver sauce.

The Katsuo Norisyouyu, of bonito, was topped with a soy-sauced seaweed.

The Kegani, was a medley of steamed hairy crab, Mozuku seaweed, uni, shrimp, and shiso flowers.

And we get to the sushi courses: Kasugo - baby seabream

Kinmedai - golden eye snapper

Akami - tuna

Chu-toro - medium fatty tuna

Otoro - fatty tuna

Uni - sea urchin

The sushi courses were punctuated by the Nodoguro, a grilled black throat sea perch served with sushi rice. Simplicity at its finest.

Hotate - scallop seasoned with Himalayan salt

The Ikura, of salmon roe was enlivened by the bed of soy-dressed sushi rice.

Botan Ebi - sweet shrimp

Anago - sea eel burnished with sweet teriyaki

Misowan - miso soup

Tamago - omelette

We rounded off the gut-buster of a dinner with the dessert course, or Mizugashi, with an impossibly sweet musk melon and iced grapes.

Shoukouwa Restaurant
1 Fullerton Road
#02-02A One Fullerton
Tel: 6423 9939
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner;
Sundays from 6pm to 11pm for dinner;
Closed on Mondays
Website: www.shoukouwa.com.sg


XO Sauce Chicken & Broccoli Stir-Fry

I also whipped up another easy peasy stir-fry. And because I'd done all the prep work over the weekend, I managed a homecooked dinner after an interminable bluesy Monday, in under 15 minutes!

Ingredients (feeds 2-4 pax):
400gm chicken fillet, diced into 1" cubes and marinated in tare
2 medium heads broccoli, cut into florets, makes approx 5 cups
1 punnet shimeiji mushrooms, cleaned and separated
1/2 cup XO sauce (any bottled one from the supermarket will do, I personally like Crystal Jade's version)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
dried chilli flakes for garnishing

1) Fry garlic in canola-sesame oil mix in pre-heated pan at low-medium heat until fragrant, taking care not to burn the garlic, about 1 minute.

2) Add shimeiji, turn up the heat to medium-high and toss through.

3) Add about 1 tbsp heap of XO sauce, stirring through, about 1 minute.

4) Turn up the heat to high, add chicken and toss through.

5) In the meantime, blanch broccoli in salted boiling water, about 1 minute stirring through.

6) Returning to the pan, add remainder of the XO sauce, toss through with the chicken.

7) The broccoli should be done by now. Drain.

8) Turn off the heat to the frying pan, and add the blanched broccoli. Toss through.

9) Garnish with a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes, for a bit of heat, before serving.

Soy-Brown Butter Chicken Tagliatelle

It's been a while since I last cooked...I've been laid up recuperating from a torn patella tendon, and while it was wonderful being waited on hand and foot by the long-suffering Hubs, the lack of mobility got stale real fast. Also, having to ration visits to the loo was quite the pain in the ass.

But I'm all well now, and so I returned to the kitchen to tinker...Also, after a couple weeks of takeaway food, all I wanted was the familiar comfort of homecooked fare.

This is an East-West fusion dish, inspired by the Japanese who ingeniously thought to blend butter and soy sauce into a most umami sauce. Here, I first browned the butter, for a toasty edge, before dousing it with light soy sauce.

Ingredients (feeds 2-3 pax):
about 4 rolls of tagliatelle (we wanted to keep this low-carb, but feel free to increase the amount of pasta, and use any other type of pasta you prefer)
400gm chicken fillet, diced into 1" cubes, marinated with tare
250gm baby kailan, trimmed
600gm white button mushrooms, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp light soy
1/3 cup sake (or a dry white wine)
3 tbsp butter (get the very best butter you can find, it makes a difference)
2 tsp oyster sauce
a drop of dark soy sauce for colouring
freshly ground pepper to finish

canola oil

1) Fry chicken in about 2 tsp canola oil in a pre-heated pan, on medium-high heat until cooked through. Set aside.

2) Using the same pan, fry minced garlic with 1 tbsp canola oil on low-medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3) Add mushrooms and fry until water released is almost entirely evaporated. Salt to taste and set aside.

4) In the meantime, blanch kailan in salted boiling water, about 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

5) In another pot, cook pasta in salted boiling water until 2 minutes before its cooking time.

6) Brown butter in pan (that was used to cook the chicken and mushrooms separately) on medium heat, until a deep brown hue is achieved and then add in soy sauce, sake, oyster sauce. Stir, and add in mushrooms and drained kailan. Continue stirring through, about 1 minute.

7) Add drained pasta, toss through, letting it steep in the sauce, about 1 minute. Add a drop of dark soy sauce for colouring.

8) Add chicken, toss through, another minute.

9) Serve with freshly milled black pepper, it really makes this punchy.


Venue by Sebastian

I was devastated when celebrated Chef Sebastian Ng exited the food business entirely. Restaurant Ember, which he steered to glory as Chef de Cuisine, was never the same after that. So when I heard that the good chef returned to the scene, with an iteration wholly owned by him this time, I was ecstatic. I'd missed his chilean seabass (that truffle butter was awesomesauce), and crossed my fingers that he'd bring it back at this new venture.

The cherry on the already delicious parfait: the new restaurant, Venue by Sebastian, is now super duper convenient to get to: it's right smack in middle of the CBD at UOE Downtown. The corresponding downside: even with the bigger premises (compared to Restaurant Ember's 40-seater space) it's ridiculously packed EVERY weekday mealtime, i.e. reservations are, as before, a must.

Clearly, the break away has not diminished the chef's craft. I've dined at Venue several times since it's opened, and tried just about every dish on the menu, and he's hit it out of the ballpark every. single. time. The food's hearty, yet polished, and the produce is finessed with an effortless flair. No pig, or lamb, or fish ever dies in vain for Chef Sebastian's kitchen.

But what's most incredible about Venue is how, despite serving up one of the best modern European fare in Singapore, prices are managed within the $20's range. Usually, when I see restaurants priced in this range, it's usually an indication of mass-market mediocrity. But here at Venue, the price points belie how sensational the food is. Everyone's always surprised when the bill arrives, because it's always several ticks below expectations. And to be honest, I'd gladly fork out more money for Venue's food: it's just that remarkable.

The kombu-flecked and truffle-burnished Cold Pasta ($23), umami and aromatic, was refreshing and possessed a delightful bite.

The bittersweet notes of the Grilled Asparagus ($12) was contrasted with the salty richness of the miso butter and Parma ham crisps. A perfectly poached egg lent texture to the crunch of the asparagus.

The Prawn Stuffed-Shitake Mushrooms ($9) was addictive AF. Like Pringles, you can't stop at one. The juxtaposition of the earthy shitake and juicy prawn mince was absolutely scrumptious.

The popcorn-like Cauliflower Florets ($10), sided by a lightly spiced mint aioli, was excellent, I'm generally not a fan of aioli, but this was delightfully light and bright.

The velvety smooth Pan-Seared Foie Gras ($27) paired with a poached egg, roasted maitake mushrooms, and cep jus, was exquisite. 

Ahh the house signature, Chef Sebastian treats a Chilean Seabass ($36) like no other. The exterior was beautifully golden, and the flesh moist and flaky. This was set atop a scrummy mushroom-bacon ragout, and a bed of truffle yuzu butter sauce.

A riff on chilli crab, the 12-Hour Braised Lamb Foreshank ($28) was fork tender, its full-bodied heft was picked up by the sumptuousness of the spicy burnt pepper paste-like sauce. Glorious. A couple of fried buns were on hand to mop up that fantastic sauce.

The Grilled Iberico Pork Jowl ($18), imbued with a smoky char, was superb. Lemon and a herbaceous gremolata lent brightness and levity.

The Tiramisu ($12) is luscious and potent and nuanced. I particularly liked the kirsch-steeped cherries generously dotted throughout the little cup.

The Textures of Coconut ($14) may look a stodgy whiteout, but this was fantastic. A friend who loves anything and everything coconut, went nuts over this.

Another must-try signature, the Chocolate Fondant ($14) with vanilla ice-cream and fresh strawberries was fantastic. I loved that they use semi-sweet chocolate, so it never gets cloying. 

I actually don't like camembert, but the Alleosse Camembert ($15) was brilliantly matched with pickled beetroot and a stout port reduction to balance out the intense pungency of the cheese.

VENUE by Sebastian
6A Shenton Way
Downtown Gallery #01-02
Tel: 6904 9688
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 9.30pm for dinner;
Closed on Sundays
Website: venuebysebastian.com
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