In place of the defunct Han kushikatsu Restaurant at Odeon Tower springs another kushikatsu restaurant, Ginza Rokukakutei. First established in 1980, the flagship store at Osaka received one Michelin star in 2009, and every year after that. The success of the outlet spawned a second one at Ginza, Tokyo. And now the team at Ginza has been transplanted to Singapore.
Helmed by Chef Hideyuki Tanaka who has 15 years of experience, Rokukakutei offers kushikatsu or Japanese deep-fried skewers of meat, seafood and vegetables. Most of the ingredients are imported from Japan. They only serve omakase, which changes based on the chef’s selection of ingredients: 10 skewers or 15 ($118++) or 20 ($134++).
“Rokukaku” means six senses: the five human senses and the sense of creating. Tei means torch, a word chosen by Chef Hideyuki Tanaka’s master in hopes that many people will gather around and be drawn to this torch.
What is the difference between kushikatsu and tempura? Both are deep-fried but tempura does not come in skewers. It does not use panko (bread crumbs). And you dip tempura in a light tentsuyu sauce (made from dashi broth, mirin rice wine, and shoyu) OR you sprinkle salt on it. Kushikatsu, on the other hand, is always presented as skewers. It uses panko and it is served straight or with a dense tonkatsu sauce.
But at Rokukakutei, they serve kushikatsu with 6 sauces and condiments, none of them tonkatsu sauce. How do you know which one to dip? Look at where the skewers are pointing. In the first photo, the angel prawn points at the salt-and-pepper. In the second, the wagyu beef points at the red wine sauce. Of course, these are merely recommendations from the chef, and you can dip your stick in other sauces.
The skewers lie on a piece of bread which absorbs excess oil, although there is none. That’s because they spin the skewers after deep-frying to get rid of the oil, like the centrifugal force of a washing machine. #FoodScience
Eating is about experience, and I only have two points of reference to mark Rokukakutei: defunct Han Restaurant which stood at the exact location of Rokukakutei, and Kondo, a 2-Michelin-starred tempura restaurant at Ginza Tokyo. Compared to Han and Kondo, I felt that Rokukakutei is boring.
Don’t get me wrong. Rokukakutei serves very fresh and excellent skewers. None is greasy, all are crisp. The batter traps the heat within, steam rises when the skin breaks. The scallop is so fresh that shreds of it come off as you nibble. The green peas croquette, their signature, is sweet on its own, and, when you dip it in salt, it gives a complexity, a gestalt, bigger flavors than its sum of parts. The chicken breast with mountain “caviar” tonburi is tender and piquant. The standard is high.
But like a sushi omakase, the omakase here progresses from light to heavy flavors, and, by the end of 15 sticks–the last three being Japanese yam, sticky rice with shrimps, and cheese–the flavors are too heavy and the omakase set becomes boring. Everything becomes one big blur.
These are the areas the restaurant can improve on:
-give a rice dish at the end of the meal. This is usual for omakase, and it signals the meal has ended.
-In between skewers, give palate cleansers or soups or cooked dishes to break the monotony.
-End the omakase with a high. When the meal ends memorably, people will remember the restaurant. Right now, the excitement of the first few skewers plateaus out towards the end.
331 North Bridge Road #01-04, Odeon Towers, Singapore 188720
Tel: +65 6266 1077
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Written by A. Nathanael Ho.