Japanese food is more than just raw fish and rice as any foreigner who has visited Japan can attest. There are almost too many ways of cooking to describe and one can go out for Japanese food for a month in Tokyo and never eat the same thing twice. It’s an education in excellence as Thomas Jones finds out in Singapore’s Mikuni restaurant.
Taking its name from an ancient Japanese tale of a land of plenty, Mikuni is a multi-dimensional restaurant catering to three of the major styles of Japanese cuisine; teppanyaki, sushi and the grilling styles of robatayaki.These tie in perfectly with the translation of Mikuni; ‘three countries’, and mix age-old methods with modern theatrics and flair. Mikuni’s team of master chefs astound diners with their skills in each station, not only with the ingredients but their methods as well. And of course it’s all supplemented by an extensive list of sake.
Head Sushi Chef Yamamoto treats diners to the restaurant’s speciality of Edomae Nigiri style sushi that maintains a delicate balance between fresh fish and the other ingredients that set it off so exquisitely. Teppan Master Chef Eric Yong entertains patrons with his skill at the teppanyaki station, turning heads with his gravity-defying spinning of tools and the hot sizzle of the grill. Head Robatayaki Chef Nobukawa believes that guests first feast with their eyes so he artfully arranges his vast array of ingredients amongst handcrafted woven baskets, leaves and herbs as if they were jewels to create a wow factor as soon as guests enter his station. Overseeing all of this is Executive Chef Moon Kyung Soo, a man who can prepare a novel, multi-course kaiseki presentation that will leave you itching to return.
Being purists, most of the seafood is flown in directly from Tokyo, while their produce and meats are also sourced from the best locales in the region.
You don’t have to visit the stations, however, to enjoy the theatre. Take a table in the main room and dine à la carte and the drama is brought direct to the table. Examples include a percolating broth entitled Mikuni Syphon Soup: an engrossing and delicious spectacle that uses a coffee machine to infuse the broth with tuna flakes before pouring over a simple arrangement of mushrooms and clams. Another dish uses dry ice infused with yuzu that covers the table with smoke layering the immediate area with the subtle scents of Japanese food, but without drawing the attention of the rest of the assembled diners like a sizzling steak can do.
Who can resist the visual feast of the robatayaki station?
Being purists, most of the seafood is flown in directly from Tokyo, while their produce and meats are also sourced from the best locales in the region and reflect the seasons of Japan. The result is unabashed pleasure on a plate.
There is a good wine list, but with a certified kikisakishi (sake sommelier) like Restaurant Manager Nobuhiko Sano on hand, it would be a wasted opportunity not to ignore it in favour of the sake. There are thousands of types of nihonshu (sake in japanese) across Japan, and Mikuni’s menu is extensive. Sano san takes great pride in introducing novices to the intricacies of enjoying and appreciating sake. He serves it in wine glasses instead of the traditional sake cups, so one can experience colour, texture and draw of each variety, all the better for getting a wider nose on each drop.
There’s not much in the décor to stereotype Mikuni as Japanese. It’s mainly contemporary in design with nods to Japan that come with the lattice work screens between tables, the kimonos, sake barrels and relics of the restaurant trade. But the blue LED lighting in the recesses of the walls, the avant garde floral arrangements, and the non-Japanese music playing provide a very cool edge to the dining experience – a contemporary soundtrack to match the cool interiors and clientele of the restaurant.
If you have a group of people who like Japanese but can’t decide on the style they each want, then you are sorted. You will also learn a thing or two along the way.
80 Bras Basah Road,