Located at Tanjong Pagar Centre, Japan Rail Cafe is the first of its kind in Singapore and the world. Touted as a one-stop-shop, JRC is a cafe, rail ticket and travel information centre as well as event and retail space featuring region-specific tourist memorabilia. Its parent company JR East, not only operates rapid trains in the East region, the Shinkansen in North Tokyo but also various hotel and retail chains, as well as over 50 F&B brands under the “Eki Naka” or in-station concept from where it imports JRC’s menus.
On top of its fixed main menu of trendy donburi items, burgers and sandwiches, JRC offers a monthly special that we’ve been invited to sample for this article.
For the month of June, we have Unagi Tamago Don ($23). Grilled river eel with cubes of rolled omelette on rice. It’s an easy winner. The kabayaki-style unagi is fairly thick and amply coated with tare (sauce) that is decidedly more sweet than savoury. I imagine this will be an instant hit with kids of all ages! It comes with condiments of sesame seeds, wasabi and nori shreds, as well as a teapot of dashi (soup base made from bonito flakes) you can pour over your rice to instantly transform it to an ochazuke.
For July, we have Kani Chirashi Don ($24). Whole soft-shell crab with crabmeat and ikura (salmon roe) on rice, also served with teapot dashi. It’s my favourite of the 3 specials sampled. I love that the soft-shell crab is presented whole with legs and claws you can clearly count. This shows off not only the quality of the crab but also care and skill in its preparation and that always wins big points with this writer. The curry-based batter is crisp and seasoned in a way that accentuates the natural crab flavours.
For August, it’s Gyutan Teishoku ($25). Grilled beef tongue with rice, salad and pickles. Apparently, it’s a specialty of Sendai city of Miyagi prefecture. Tender with a rather satisfying bite, the beef tongue tastes a little salty on its own, but just right eaten with rice topped with a shiso furikake that imparts a bright herby note.
Accompanying these 3 monthly special main courses are beverages made from fruit puree featuring Japanese produce from various regions: Sparkling Suika (June), Sparkling Pear Mint (July), and La France Pear Tea (August). I liked August best. It’s the least sweet and quite fragrant and the only one without syrup and soda water. It’s made combining Yamagata’s La France pear puree with iced red tea. These special drinks are priced at $6.20 each.
JRC is a great place to drop by with friends and colleagues for a good meal or perhaps to kick back after work with a specialty draft or bottled beer. As a whole, the food is tasty and very easy to like. I would love for the portions to be a little more substantial and if the drinks were made less sweet, or better, presented with a sugar-free option. It’s a pity we did not get to sample anything from the dessert menu and signature dishes on this visit. Maybe next time, definitely before my next trip to Japan!
Japan Rail Cafe
Tanjong Pagar Centre, 5 Wallich Street, #01-20 Singapore 078883
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Written by Pierre Goh.