Initially, we planned to visit another restaurant, but it was packed and I don’t like to queue. In a bad mood, we anyhow anyhow entered Sabar, a shy and inconspicuous restaurant hiding at a corner of Japan Food Town, like a fish behind a rock. When the food came, dark clouds above my head cleared, a crepuscular ray of sunlight broke through, and the angels sang. The food is AMAZING.
The shop name Sabar is a portmanteau word made from “saba” fish (angmohs know it as mackerel) and “bar.” Originally a crowdfunding project, Sabar, established in 2014, is from Osaka and uses toro-saba. To be called torosaba, the mackerel has to (1) be fished from North Pacific coast of Japan, (2) contain over 21% fats, and (3) weigh over 550g.
Sabar has two signature fish dishes (hereby known as fidishes), and we ordered both of them. The grilled toro-saba ($25) is 38cm long. When people say size doesn’t matter, they are lying. The bigger, the better!
Food courts sell saba fish at $5 or $6, and $25 is 5 times the usual price. But it is de-FIN-itely worth it. As you break the extremely crispy skin, there is a cracking sound as if you are crushing paper. (Please recycle after crushing paper.) Offsetting the crispy skin, the super juicy flesh is so sweet, almost as sweet as fructose.
One thing they can improved is the rice. In Japan, they allow unlimited refills of rice, but here, the rice bowl is small and there is no refill. My stomach cried, I asked for refill, and the server took pity on me and offered to add a bit of rice.
The grilled fish was so delicious that I refused to let it go; I had to finish every bit of the fish. Mr Fitness was amused by my determination to pick out scraps of flesh. At this moment, I hated myself for not knowing how to enjoy fisheye. I need to learn how to appreciate fisheye and return here to eat the WHOLE fish.
The other signature fidish, sushi teishoku ($25), comes with 2 pieces of marinated torosaba, 2 pieces of grilled torosaba, and 2 pieces of matsumae sushi. Mr Fitness was amazed: “How can saba fish’s texture be like this? So indescribable.” The marinated torosaba is ordinary to me, but the grilled torosaba is surprising. It is buttery! How can fish taste buttery?
Unlike nigiri sushi which comprises of aged fish, matsumae sushi means that the mackerel is treated with salt and vinegar. Matsumae sushi goes all the way back before there was refrigeration.
It is my favorite of the three types of mackerel sushi presented by Sabar: the treatment educes the sweetness of the fish, almost melon-sweet, giving it a strange and wonderful complexity.
Sabar is the 5th restaurant we have eaten at Japan Food Town, which houses 14 eateries, and the restaurants are good. That’s why we named Japan Food Town as a “Special Mention” under Best Restaurants in 2016.
And Holy Mackerel! Sabar may be the best of them all. The food is f***ing fantastic. Including two green tea, we paid $61.20 for two persons. I need to acquire the taste of fisheye eating, and then return to eat the whole damn fish.
Sabar is most likely to be in “Best Casual Restaurants 2017.”
435 Orchard Road, #04-50 Japan Food Town, Wisma Atria, Singapore 238877
T: +65 6262 3453
Overall rating: 3.75/5
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.