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 slice your sashimi and roll your sushi, get some expert personalized 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.
Nanbantei ,14 Scotts Road, Far East Plaza #05-132, P. +65 6733 5666, Daily: 11:45am – 2:30pm, Mon- Sat: 6pm – 10:30pm, Sun: 5:30pm – 10pm
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.
Marui Sushi 5 Keok Road, Cuppage Plaza #04-01, p. +65 8611 4636, Mon – Sat: 6:30pm – 10:30pm
You may remember Yoshi as Kaiseki Yoshiyuki, a Japanese spot that did elaborate kaiseki-style meals. Well they’ve gone ahead and rebranded with a much more approachable vibe. The chef and the space are the same, but the menu now features tasty donburi lunch sets, seasonal themed menus that focus on quality ingredients like uni and Japanese beef, and innovative omakase menus in the evenings.
Yoshi Restaurant, Orchard Road, #B1-39, Forum The Shopping Mall, Singapore 238884. p. +65 8188 0900. Open Mon – Sat 12pm – 1:30pm, 7pm – 9:30pm
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.
Find Kappou Japanese Sushi Tapas Bar on Facebook, 190 Middle Road, Fortune Centre #02-10A. p. +65 9819 2058, Hours: Mon – Sat: 6pm – 11am
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.
Visit Kakure’s website, 29 Scotts Road, p. +65 6733 5251. Hours: Mon – Sat: 6:30pm – 1am