$20-$40

Nobu-ya 信屋, Fortune Centre

nobuya fortune centre
Nobuya izakaya is a hidden find that even Hungry Go Where and Open Rice have no entry on the Tokyo-sized (read: small and cramped) Japanese eatery. At a food tasting at Shinzo Restaurant, I asked a Japanese customer sitting next to me what her favorite Japanese restaurants were. She replied the usual suspects, “Shinzo, Tatsuya, Hashida…and Nobuya.” My ears pricked like a bloodhound on the scent of a hare. Two days later, I was at Nobuya.

Opened since mid-February, Nobuya serves seasonal produce from Japan. The ingredients are personally selected by Chef-owner Nobukawa Yoshiyuki to ensure best quality. Both Chef Nobukawa and sake sommelier-cum-manager Nobuhiko Sano worked at fine-dining Mikuni for 10 years.

nobuya izakaya fortune centreTwo very interesting incidents: An angmoh couple walked in without reservations and Sano-san rejected them, saying it was full house. 30 seconds later, a couple, who were regulars of the izakaya, walked in without reservations and they got a table. Moral of the story: Make reservations, until you’re a regular. This is the Japanese tradition. Tip: If you want them to remember you, buy Chef Nobukawa, Sano-san, or assistant chef Grace Koh drinks. Another Japanese tradition. 

A second incident: when you make reservation, they will ask if you are drinking. There is only ONE correct answer: YES!!! And if you’re a kiss-ass teacher’s pet with daddy issues who needs to score A+ in every test, then the A+ answer is YES!! I LOVE SAKE. After all, Sano-san is the sake sommelier and the manager. If you answer NO, you get a F; they will reject your reservation. It is a tiny space, they need people who drink to increase the income, and besides this is an izakaya (translation: drinking house).

To be fair, the alcohol, like the food, is affordable and very delicious. My friend said his draft sapporo (S $7/ M $9) tasted much better than elsewhere. There are 9 types of sake, and I prefer a sweet sake, and had Sow (glass $12, carafe $20, bottle $80). Not the best sake I had, but it might be because I didn’t chose wisely. Should have opted for the other sweet one, miw. 

Nobuya Singapore
The food, as this is an izakaya, came in small portions and the menu was extensive. Chef Nobukawa is known for his robatayaki (skewers grilling over charcoal). But the kitchen is tiny, allowing for a microwave (which is used to heat up rice and some items), a few stoves, and a grill oven. There are a few grilled items – order all of them. Today’s grilled fish ($18)–that day was kamasu fish–was so sweet and fresh, and such beautiful crisp skin. Just a dab of soy sauce, and it tasted like heaven.

nobu-ya izakaya fortune centre menu
My friend’s favorite dish for the night, oumi tataki ($12), beef sashimi that was lightly grilled on the surface, was umami. It had quite a bite: as you masticate it more and more, the taste changes as the tendons and fats break down. You want to chew longer because it is so juicy, but you also want to swallow it because your stomach is begging you. This is a hell of a dilemma.

nobuya singapore review
If there is a must-order, it is oumi nikomi or braised oumi beef ($18). It came only 2 thumb-sized pieces but WORTH IT! There was an extremely smoky aroma that I relished, and it had a nice bite, like the oumi tataki, which wasn’t jerlat like excessive fatty beef.

nobuya singapore price
At first, I didn’t like the hot mess spring tempura ($15), but as I ate more of it, I realized how the ingredients–Alpine leekrape blossom, and baby fish–complemented each other. The rape blossom was bitter, the leek pungent, giving a boost and contrast to the bland fish.

nobuya sg
Skip
the naka-ochi don (S $13/ L $18), “chopped tuna belly refuse with rice” (quoted from the menu). Too dry.

Nobuya Japanese restaurant fortune centre
You must end the meal with a soup: tori nabe ($15) was exceptional. I thought, from the colour of the soup, it would be bland, but it was bursting with dashi umami-ness and a refreshing tinge of yuzu. Even the chicken balls in the soup were sweet and delicious. I want to eat this on every rainy day. Correction, I want to eat this on days that end with “-day.”

The service was considerate, the food was homely and rather reasonably priced, and the ambience was as close to an izakaya in Japan as can be. Call me a Japophile, call me racist, but the Japanese do things way better than anyone else. You’d better rush down ASAP as this will be the next Teppei Restaurant that requires 4 months’ reservation. “You’re welcome,” says my future-self to your future-selves who are thanking me for saving you a 4-month wait. We paid $115 for two persons. No GST, no service charge.

Nobuya Singapore

190 Middle Rd, Fortune Centre #01-05 Singapore 188979
T: 6338 3450
Tue-Sun: 6-11pm
Rating: 3.863/5 stars

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13 replies »

  1. My wife and I just had dinner there. At first they asked whether we drink and we asked whether they had 梅酒, a Japanese plum alcohol drink, they said yes so we sat and ordered our food with 1 glass of it.

    The food was alright relative to its price, I should say. Everything went well until we asked for the bill. The boss went to give us with the credit card receipt for me to sign and everything falls apart.

    That Japanese boss rudely said that “Next time if you do not drink, we will not accommodate. Do you understand?” I was silent in shock because this was the first time I was treated like this in my whole life dining experience. That made my gut sick and if I could spill it all out I would.

    Such a bad experience after a long day at work. I would not recommend anyone this restaurant (if it is at all a restaurant that respects minimum standard of service). I think the boss tried to make himself famous by doing this, well there is no such thing as bad publicity right? The fact that I am writing this is a proof of it. But I personally cannot tolerate bad behavior such as this.

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    • I dropped by the place yesterday. I didn’t have any reservation nor read about the place before. It was just that I had walked past this place once when it was packed and the place looked nice, thus I decided to come back to try it with my friend. I asked for a menu and was greeted by a Japanese guy (who seemed to be the boss everyone talked about). He mumbled something like a drinking place in Japanese accented English when he passed me the menu. He didn’t look at us when speaking. Also, the sound and his gesture was so rude and arrogant and it was as if he didn’t want us to dine at his place. After that we left feeling angry and embarrassed at the same time. This is the first rude Japanese service I have ever experienced. I don’t ever want to go back there again.

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