Only people who have been to Japan’s tempura restaurants understand why Nicole (pinky piggu) and I were willing to part with $75 each to eat deep-fried food for lunch. That’s 35 Old Chang Kee’s chicken wings. (Dinner goes up to $250+.) In Japan, you sit at the bar and let the chef feed you, deep-fry item by item, omakase-style, till you cry stop. My tempura experience at Kondo, a 2-Michelin-starred restaurant, gave much bliss and I was hoping to replicate the joy at Han.
Starter: Hirame and salad in background
The entrance was promising, eluding a Zen-like feel and the decor transported me to Japan. There are three areas to choose to sit: dining area, sushi bar, and kushikatsu bar. Since Han specializes in Naniwa (Old Osaka) cuisine, especially kushikatsu, we naturally sat at the kushikatsu bar. Kushikatsu isn’t tempura: tempura uses batter while kushikatsu uses batter and bread crumbs (panko).
Scallop dipped in sweet plum sauce
The restaurant is helmed by Chef Seiichiro Arakawa who worked at one-Michelin star A-Bon in Japan. There are quite a few options for lunch (click here for lunch menu). Instead of choosing the kushikatsu 7 sticks set ($75+), I very intelligently chose Ohmi beef tendon omelette rice & kushikatsu 3 sticks set ($45) and kushikatsu 3 sticks ($18), which gave me 6 sticks of kushikatsu and an omelette rice at a cheaper price than the 7 sticks set. I am 省钱王!!
Originally, the beef omelette set comes with 3 sticks of pork but I requested for 6 different sticks and the chef acceded to my request. Thank you, chef.
I found everything, besides the kushikatsu, delicious. The salad was fresh and had a tangy, appetizing sauce. The cold starter, a cooked flounder fish (hirame), came creamy. The miso soup was outstandingly delicious with a hint of char, as good miso soups should be. The omelette rice was so addictive that I, on a diet, swallowed it all. The rice was tinged with tomato to give it a sweetness, and the beef was so tender it melted as one with the rice. Just a lace of curry to give life to the dish. Even the dessert (choice of green tea biscuit, black sesame biscuit or yuzu sorbet) was fantastic: the yuzu sorbet was refreshingly, face-scrunching sour and the black sesame had a nice char flavor.
Now the bad part, their specialty, kushikatsu, deep-fried in lard, was disappointing. Though not at all greasy, out of the 6 sticks–Kyushu pork, lotus root, unagi eel, scallop, angel prawn and tomato stuffed with cream cheese and topped with sundried tomato paste (pictured above)–I only liked the tomato and the scallop. The tomato was bursting with warmth, like gentle sunshine after a cold rainy day and was milky, sweet and just a bit of acidity for balance. The scallop was dipped in sweet plum sauce, an invigorating call to the senses. Its texture was more similar to fish-flaky than scallop-shred, which I thought was special but Nicole objected. She preferred the prawn to the scallop, but I thought the prawn could be fresher. The other sticks were limp and colorless.
The service was very attentive. When I dropped my chopsticks, they took the initiative to get a new pair for me. This is the best kind of service–being taken care of without asking.
Although I didn’t receive the joy I was hoping for, the ambience and service were done perfectly. The food was okay but overpriced. If they lower the price, especially for lunch, they might have a booming business. We paid $150 for two, or $75 for one.
331 North Bridge Rd, Odeon Towers #01-04 Singapore 188720
T: 6336 2466
Rating: 3.563/5 sticks
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.