This entry is titled: “May the force be with you!” But first, an intro. Decor: Light wood is a material that I detest because it looks cheap BUT this restaurant, predominantly in light wood with dim lights, looks elegant and sleek – a Japanese interior designer crafted it. Design is so important. That’s why lah, clean-cut and classy. There are private rooms available with a minimum spending of $200 for lunch and $300 for dinner.
Many ingredients are flown directly from Japan twice a week, bypassing the middlemen or women, so the fresh food can be sold to us at a relatively low price. Special mention: brown rice is flown in and is milled into white rice at Rakuzen so they can control the quality. (Interesting fact: there are only 4 milling machines in Singapore. The other three are owned by Isetan, another Japanese establishment!) You know lah, I’m very hiao, need to watch my hourglass figure, so I always order brown rice wherever it is available. I tasted so many varieties of brown rice but Rakuzen’s was totally different from other places. It felt very clean and had a bite. One of the best brown rice I had.
We had a few appetizers including himatsubishi (fried burdock root, $5), Ehire (grilled stingray fin $8), grilled corn with butter ($5), and Mame Aji Tsumami (fried small horse mackerel (pictured), $8). The ladies seemed to be taken by the grilled stingray fin with mayo, quite unique and chewy like dried cuttlefish, while I preferred the fried small horse mackerel – got meat lah, tasted like shishamo (pregnant fish) without the roe. While they were addictive and go very well with beer, my advice is skip the appetizers. Save your stomach for the awesome mains!!
You see now why I titled this “May the force be with you!!” It’s a Jedi’s lightsaber! The raw Fire Mackerel ($16) is marinated in rice wine vinegar and wrapped in seaweed for at least two hours. The searing, done at the table, melts the fats and gives the skin a crisp. Because it’s soaked in vinegar, it has a sourish tangy. Dip it in ponzu (a citrus soya sauce), it’s fruity sour-salty VS vinegar sour with the sweetness of the fish. Very shiok and appetizing. I thought this can definitely be an appetizer. However, perhaps the lightsaber was too powderful, and the flesh was cooked. I’d prefer a rawer and caveman-ish taste.
Return of the Jedi. I LOVE THIS! The moeyo beef roll ($18) has seared tenderloin on the outside, and fresh avocado and tempura batter bits inside. This is contemporary Japanese food at its best. The crunchy sweet tempura bits, the creamy avocado and the textured beef – awesome combination. There were 5 of us, 6 pieces—and I secretly took the extra piece. HEE HEE HEE. I was so smooth, like a thief in the night.
Okonomiyaki ($10), or Japanese pizza. I never like okonomiyaki much because it is often too starchy and heavy but this one was marvelous! You can taste the egg in the mixture. There are japanese yam, cabbage, carrots and mushroom in the mixture so each mouth is sweet, crunchy and savory. It is topped with mayo, okonomiyaki sauce and sakuri ebi or better known as hae bee (dried shirmps). Mouthwatering delicious.
For a long time I avoided eating sushi in Singapore because honestly, the chefs aren’t preparing sushi in the right way. The correct way is that the sushi itself should already be balanced–it should already have soy sauce and wasabi WITHIN the sushi so the customers don’t dip it in sauce or wasabi; the customers just eat it straight. So I was VERY, VERY impressed with the sushi. All the four sushi (ranging from $4-$8 per piece) actually came in a balance–you don’t have to dip it in any sauce or wasabi. The seared tuna belly (first in the photo), for example, had grains of salt on it, and wasabi beneath it, and with the vinegary rice—ready to eat! The Japanese chef–yes, he’s from Japan–is bringing balance to the force! The sushi, good as they were, need some tweaking to really bring out the flavors. But I was already astounded to find such quality sushi. So yes, the sushi at Rakuzen is awesome, without a doubt. I’ll come back for more.
Vegetarian set meal available.
Verdict: I came with very low expectations–neighborhood restaurants can be nice meh? Some more, it’s so affordable. But all the main courses were outstanding and blew me away. Tampinites – you’re in luck! Can go gym already, then come over to feast. Highly recommended.
300 Tampines Ave 5
NTUC Income Tampines Junction
t: 6786 8484
Rating: 3.833/5 lightsabers