From late Apr onwards, renowned Chef Hirotaka Murata, with more than 20 years of experience, presents two kaiseki sets, 10 courses at $100++ or $150++. On the first and fourth Saturday of the month, Akari will also host private kaiseki dinners strictly on reservation basis at $200++ per person.
The difference between omakase and kaiseki is that omakase means “I leave it up to you, chef.” The chef will then prepare the freshest for the day; this could mean only sushi, and nothing else. Kaiseki, from what I extrapolated from the novel, The Teahouse Fire, is a traditional form of dining, showcasing a wide range of skills such as stewing, grilling, steaming, frying, dressing, drying, and fermentation. There is a careful attention to details, because everything has meaning. The food has meaning, the chopsticks have meaning, the bowls have meaning, the drawing on folding panes has meaning, the kimono has meaning, and so have the cups–I kid you not.
And on that day, I suppose the meaning was in new beginnings, and hopes, for many dishes had sakura, the flower of spring. And it was an auspicious start, a beautiful beginning, an exquisite one, setting the tone for what is to follow.
For the 10-course $150+ set, each dish was delicate like a flower; the opening and closing dishes were best. Chawanmushi (above), topped with sakura, uni and a pinch of freshly grated wasabi, hid a baby-fist Hokkaido oyster–so sweet of the summer sea I lifted the cup and slurped the last drop.
Grilled vegetables from the appetizer platter (above), littered with sakura motifs, were a breath of spring breeze. There was a lingering smokiness and sweetness in the clear soup lightly rippled by a kinome leaf, a leaf from Japanese mountain that had a lime-like, mint-like flavor.
Sashimi is imported from Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo three times a week. A white fish–I think it was tai (sea bream), a fish eaten for new beginnings–was wrapped in a sakura leaf, to be eaten together.
The bamboo in the clear soup in the 3rd course made an appearance in the 5th course as an erect asparagus with the grade A4 wagyu beef. Both bamboo and asparagus, of course, are metaphors of growth, and hope. Some around the table commented that the garlic beef sauce should be placed by the side, instead of slathering it on the beef. For me, I saw it as a boldness that maturity and growth bring; I accepted it as it was.
The ending was a full cycle: we started with egg, and ended with egg. Furthermore, many items on the 10-course menu were round. This dessert was an egg–yet another symbol of beginning and birth–encrusting a custard. Not the smooth, light custard, but a heavy, dense one, which balanced the ethereal plum-sauced mochi that dissolved in the mouth; the yin and the yang. Another circle.
Not all culinary endeavors can be considered as art, but nobody would dispute that Akari’s kaiseki set is pure artistry; there is beauty, there is taste, and there is a philosophy behind the food. If the launch of the kaiseki menu at Akari is so poetic, well-crafted, and delicious, I hope the food will never end.
8A, Marina Boulevard, Marina Bay Financial Centre, Ground Plaza, #01-02 Singapore 018984
T: +65 6634 0100
M-Sat 12-3pm, 6-10pm
Rating: 3.225/5 stars
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
Thanks, Jaslyn and Amanda, for the invite.