Where do you go when you’re craving really good Japanese food with an intimate atmosphere as well? Lately we’ve been all about hidden hole-in-the-wall gems that offer great food, but in much smaller spaces than your popular sushi chains and busy ramen spots. If you’re looking for a cozy corner where you can chat with the chefs as they knead and roll your sushi, get some expert personalised advice on handcrafted sake, or sup on seasonal small-batch ingredients, these are our top picks for hidden Japanese gems in Singapore.
Yakitori is the focus at Nanbantei, a casual Japanese spot tucked away on the fifth floor of the Far East Plaza. Here Chef Tanaka skewers fresh veggies, premium meats and seafood and sears them over charcoal flown in from Japan. There are plenty of cozy corners to settle into, but we suggest sitting at the counter so you can watch all the grilling action going on and see what everyone else is ordering. Top picks here include the tebasaki (chicken wings), Butabara Yuzukosho (pork belly with yuzu citrus paste), and the Nasu Shiso Maki (eggplant wrapped in shiso leaf). If you happen to swing by for lunch, they also do great bento sets with your choice of yakitori, sushi, udon and more.
14 Scotts Road, Far East Plaza #05-132
Tel: +65 6733 5666
Hours: Daily: 11:45am - 2:30pm, Mon- Sat: 6pm - 10:30pm, Sun: 5:30pm - 10pm
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Cuppage Plaza is a haven for Japanese food fans, and Marui Sushi is definitely one of the best of the lot. Blink and you might miss this tiny three-table spot hidden amongst the KTV bars, but do put in the leg work to find it because the atmosphere is warm and inviting and the sushi is to die for. Chef Katayama takes his craft seriously, using only top-grade fish expertly sliced into thick buttery slabs of sashimi and nigiri delicately flavoured with subtle sauces. Be sure to to ask him about the specials, as he often has stashes of seasonal goodies like Kinki fish from Hokkaido or plump, juicy Japanese oysters.
5 Keok Road, Cuppage Plaza #04-01
Tel: +65 8611 4636
Hours: Mon - Sat: 6:30pm - 10:30pm
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Brought to us by the same group behind Horse’s Mouth, Kaiseki Yoshiyuki is named after award-winning chef Yoshiyuki Kashiwabara, who has years of experience preparing fine Japanese cuisine for diplomats and connoisseurs in Japan and abroad. The concept at this chic 10-seater spot is traditional Kappo-style kaiseki dining where guests are treated to multiple courses, each featuring seasonal ingredients that are in their prime and seasoned lightly to accentuate their natural flavours. Since the only seats are at the counter, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to chat with Chef Yoshiyuki and see him work his magic.
583 Orchard Road, Forum the Shopping Mall #B1-39
Tel: +65 6235 1088
Hours: Mon - Sat: Lunch: 12pm seating and 1:30pm seating, Dinner: 7:30pm seating and 9:30pm seating
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Kappou Japanese Sushi Tapas Bar
It’s rare to find a Japanese spot in Singapore helmed by a female sushi chef, but Kappou Japanese Sushi Tapas Bar is anything but normal. Squirrelled away in the labyrinth of shops in Fortune Centre, this tiny locale is run by Chef Aeron Choo, who serves up affordable omakase sets with artful plates like tender fish she’s aged herself, abalone steamed for hours in sake, and silky homemade tofu. If you’re planning to go with a group, we suggest booking all 12 seats, bringing your own music and having your own private party. Omakase sets go for $98++ for 11 to 12 courses or $128 for 13 to 14 courses. Definitely go for the latter.
190 Middle Road, Fortune Centre #02-10A
Tel: +65 9819 2058
Hours: Mon - Sat: 6pm - 11am
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Situated on the second floor of a black and white bungalow above Japanese restaurant Ki-Sho, Kakure is a softly lit sake den where Chef Kazuhiro Hamamoto and sake sommeliers John and Makoto serve up this quintessential Japanese tipple along with refined Japanese bar bites. These guys really know their stuff, so they can suggest the perfect pours for your unique tastes and even the perfect cup to allow the flavours of your chosen sake to really shine. For the full experience, we suggest making an evening of it and going for the omakase menu with sake pairings.
29 Scotts Road
Tel: +65 6733 5251
Hours: Mon - Sat: 6:30pm - 1am
Read the full review here
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