Spot the ex-celebrity.
An upscale yakiniku (barbeque) restaurant, Ito-Kacho imports its grade A4 wagyu beef chilled–not frozen–from Kyushu. The smoke from the bbq is sucked right at the edges of the bbq pit so no smoke escapes and you won’t smell when you leave the restaurant. The quality of the food and great ventilation may account for why so many celebrities visit this place: we heard Tay Ping Hui, Chen Tian Wen, and Zhang Hui Mei have dined here before. Look, when we were there, we even spotted a former TV host!
For starters, the dashimaki tamago ($6.80) was rather different from elsewhere. Instead of being cold, sweet and in a block form, it was freshly cooked, still wobbly, warm, and had a more eggy taste–very comforting. But you may skip the kimchi moriawase (assorted kimchi, $9.90) and namuru moriawase (assorted vegetables in Korean style, $8.90), which were rather normal. If you wonder why there are so many Korean dishes in a Japanese restaurant, it is because the concept of bbq meat came to Japan from Korea, just like how ramen came to Japan from China. That is why in any yakiniku restaurants, there are several Korean dishes.
Wagyu Tongue (Australia, 80g – $29, 120g – $39)
Lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and accompanied with a dip made of leeks, the beef tongue was so excellent that even Chiobu who usually was grossed out by beef tongue, enjoyed it. “Not as chewy as others,” she commented.
Assorted Wagyu Beef (starts from $180)
The grilled beef was indeed the highlight of the restaurant. Just before they are served, they are drizzled sparingly with a special homemade tangy sauce of Chef Michael. Among the four cuts of wagyu we tried, the two best were definitely sasami (flank steak, 80g-$50, 120g-$69) and toku-jo-bara (short rib, 80g-$50, 120g-$69). Chiobu preferred sasami for its balance in meat and fats while I liked toku-jo-bara because the fats made it so juicy and tender.
For those people who dislike the fats of wagyu, there is jo-karubi (US Short rib, 80g-$22, 120g-$29), which honestly couldn’t hold a candle to the wagyu.
A good alternative to beef is tzubo-zuke kurobuta pork collar (180g-$19). Marinated for more than 24 hours, the edges got charred when grilled (we suspected there was honey in the marinate), giving it a very good crunch but still possessing a tenderness. The taste was mildly sweet and complex, and can rival the wagyu beef.
The kaisen moriawase (assorted seafood with king crab, giant tiger prawn, hokkaido scallop and squid, $56) was so-so to us. Black pepper overpowered the seafood pot, which was too lightly seasoned.
Soon to be launched in the new menu next month, the grilled tiger prawn ($18), however, was delectable. The tiger prawn came already grilled and was topped with a homemade sauce of miso, mayo and sake. It was sweet and creamy but if you dislike sweet food, add lemon on it, which neutralizes the sweet and gives it an extra zing.
Equally yummy was the epi tempura (tiger prawn tempura, $26) par excellence, so gigantic that chopsticks couldn’t pick up up. Use your fingers. The batter was light and not oily; the prawns were sweet and firm.
The Ishiyaki Sundubu-Chige ($15) or spicy clam soup with tofu for two tasted like kim-chi soup. And we had it with Ishiyaki bibimbap ($15). Chiobu liked it and likened the texture to ice cream, and for that exact reason, I disliked it, thinking it was mushy. I prefer rice to be firm and each grain separated.
Off the menu, this traditional red bean soup with mochi is made upon request, usually by Japanese who miss their home food. Decadent and zen at the same time, like a haiku loaded with meaning, the mochi was super delicious, chewy but soft. Opinions were divided on the red bean. The beans themselves were already very sweet, and were sweeter in this sugared water. Although both Chiobu and I drank it to the last drop, people who dislike sweets may not appreciate this.
Overall, the food was delicious but can get costly, although there are some items that are rather value for money (such as kurobuta pork) and set lunch starts from $26, quite a steal. A place suitable for big groups and families.
333A Orchard Road
#04-08/09 Mandarin Gallery
T: 6836 0111
M-F: 11am-2pm; 6-11pm
Sun & PH: 11am-10pm
Rating: 3.163/5 stars
PS: Thank you, Er Han, Chef Michael and Zhen Hong, for the invite.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.