For japanese haute cuisine in Singapore, there's always that one name that gets thrown up regularly: Shinji, a name synonymous with excellence. Distinguished as the finest Japanese restaurant in all of Singapore (it is the highest ranked on just about every dining list there is), Shinji is one of those places that is reserved for special occasions, the food here being absolutely sublime, and the bill costing a pretty penny.
At $300 a pop for the cheapest omakase dinner option, Shinji is also renown to be the most expensive Japanese restaurant in Singapore. The multi-course meal is well worth it though, sparkling fresh, immaculately finessed and exquisitely plated.
The restaurant, a pinewood-ed space of tranquility, is split up into several dining rooms, each one kept small so a single chef can helm it, and each room it can be switched up into a private space.
Service was intuitive, attentive, and unobtrusive. The waitresses were stealthy like ninjas, I never really saw them around, but my teacup was always filled to the brim, and barely a second after we whipped out our credit card, they appeared with the bill!
We actually looked up to see if there were cameras in the room watching our every move.
I've got this thing for the strong silent type (the Hubs is like that), so it wasn't a surprise that we liked our chef, Yoshi-san, very much. Pensive and reserved, his cherubic face belied his quiet demeanor and formal bearing. When a bourgeois woman jokingly asked the chef if he could deep-fry the fish, we noted the insult flash affrontingly across the chef's placid face. Despite the saying that "the customer is always right", I would have cheered if the chef had thrown her out the restaurant. She was churlish and loud and crass. Then again, my dinner wouldn't have been that hilariously entertaining. She was an enormous braggart (pun intended), so I learned her entire job history, how old her kids are, where her kids go to school, which country club she's in, that she hadn't played golf in ages, the juicy rundown of ex-classmates at her school reunion, who got fat, who got divorced, who lost their hair, yadda yadda yadda.
First up on the Omakase Wa ($300) was the sea eel appetizer with a chilli yuzu jelly and seaweed pearls.
Next up was a shooter of slimy Mekabu seaweed, soft Japanese yam and crunchy radish drenched in a pool of ponzu.
Shima Aji (Yellow Jack) sashimi, rich and sweet
The creamy sweetness of the sea urchin was a wonderful complement to the milky chew of the squid.
Clockwise from top left, sesame tofu block topped with a snow crab dice; grilled ayu fish; aburi barracuda
I really liked the Flying Fish sashimi dressed in peppery basil strips and sesame seeds.
Lightly battered and fried garoupa settled on a bed of velvety tomato sauce dotted with baby corn and asparagus
A refresher of micro tomatoes, corn and eggplant
Red Snapper (tai) - firm, delicate taste
Grant fish (it's like seabass) - milky and soft
Chu-Toro (medium fatty tuna) -melts-in-your-mouth
Otoro (tuna belly) - incredible marbling
Horse Mackerel (Aji) marinated in shoyu and slicked with lime for balance
Conch Shell, umami much like abalone, marinated and scored because it's so crunchy - not my favourite seafood
Uni (sea urchin), brushed with sweet sauce to enhance its sweetness.
Marinated Tuna - firm and clean
Tiger Prawn (ebi) - cooked and sliced into 2 for the womenfolk for more dainty dining
Eel (anago) - done 2 ways, the first sprinkled with sea salt with yuzu for a piquant finish
The second brushed with sweet sauce
The sushi finisher - Tuna Maki, Tamago, White Radish
A comforting Miso Soup enriched with sakura shrimp
A fruity saccharine round-off to the substantive dinner, a slice of musk melon with a couple of cherries
Shinji by Kanesaka
Raffles Hotel #02-20
1 Beach Road
Tel: 6338 6131
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner