KOMA at MBS, by US-based Tao Group Hospitality which also opened Marquee, is a Japanese restaurant and sushi bar that serves modern Japanese cuisine. Aligned with their modernity, they play a lot of white men’s top 40s (Maroon 5, Imagine Dragons, Charlie Puth, Shawn Mendes). Hey #BLM, yeah?
You enter restaurant through a 20m corridor of torii-gate reminiscent of Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. Then you come upon the bar area with a 2.5m tall Japanese “bell,” dramatic as Rupaul. The dining area is on the other side of the bell, you know, like a flat-screen tv on a wall that can be flipped between the living room and bedroom.
The dining room is cavernous with super high ceiling, and equipped with a Japanese foot bridge. Although I’m not comfortable with the cultural appropriation, the restaurant is spectacular. Even more ornate than many restaurants in Dubai or Macau.
Despite the ostentatious decor, the food is comparatively affordable. For dinner, starters begin from $8, sushi from $6 a piece, and mains from $25, although there are also expensive items like steak at $180. We were there for lunch, and the 2-course lunch is priced at $39++, 3-course at $49++. Go for the 3-course. The items for lunch and dinner are similar, so lunch is worth it.
For appetisers, the crispy chicken is really kaarage, Japanese fried chicken. It is sprinkled with truffle salt and coated with crispy rice. It is nice but we had kaarage at a casual ramen joint a few days ago, and that was better. I don’t understand why they added crispy rice; it’s extraneous and doesn’t add anything to it. The truffle salt smells nice, but there is no truffle taste; again, it’s pointless. It would perhaps be better if they just present an honest kaarage. The frills are distracting to the already crunchy and juicy fried chicken. Execution is great but concept is iffy.
Salmon tataki, as an appetiser, comes in three thick slices with baby arugula in a pool of ponzu. Evenly seared at the edges of salmon. There is something spicy—not very Japanese, perhaps to suit local palates—and on the whole, it is satisfactory.
Koma is known for their sushi, so for mains, the assorted 12-piece sushi is on almost every table in the restaurant. But it is disappointing. Firstly, it’s strictly speaking not 12 pieces, it’s more like 3 pieces + assorted maki sliced in 9 pieces.
The 3 pieces of sushi—tuna, salmon and yellowtail–are decent. Traditional fancy Japanese restaurants serve sushi with just a piece of seafood, a dot of wasabi, a stroke of soy sauce, and shari rice. But here, they hide things behind the blanket of seafood. Which is a pleasant surprise.
I understand that if one cannot serve the best traditional sushi, one can be innovative, so one plays by a completely set of rules; You can’t judge an innovative tuna sushi against a traditional piece. But their 3 maki, sliced into 3 each to count as 9 pieces, are not nice. Spicy tuna maki, spicy yellowtail maki, and California maki miss the mark, you can’t taste what you’re eating as the rice overwhelms the ingredients.
Koma is a sushi restaurant but their sushi is disappointing. I’d rather that they give 8 proper pieces of sushi, instead 12 pieces with mini maki.
For the second main, the barbecued short ribs is more Korean BBQ than Japanese. Like in Korean BBQ, you can wrap the beef with lettuce and kochijan. Or you can eat it with rice. Ironically, in a Japanese restaurant, we enjoyed this Korean dish more than the sushi. The beef is marinated well enough to go either with rice or lettuce. The big-headed beansprouts give a nice crunchy texture.
The desserts were the best part of our meal. The dark chocolate mousse at the bottom of the bonsai pot is bitter and sweet like love. The pot itself is made from chocolate, edible. Even the vanilla ice cream is great; it takes a long time to melt, indicative of a high fat content. It is fun and delicious.
The Japanese cheesecake is equally excellent. The bottom crust tastes like oldschool digestive biscuits, and the cheesecake itself isn’t too rich (which I prefer), topped with slices of strawberries to undercut the richness. The accompanying raspberry sorbet complements the salty cheese really well.
Overall, the experience is a wonderful one because the service is top-notched, polite (but they could do with more service staff). The food is decent enough and not too costly, bolstered by such gorgeous environment. Because of the impressive decor, we wouldn’t mind returning. But not for the sushi. We paid $115 for two persons.
Marina Bay Sands #B1-67, 2 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018972
tel: +65 6688 8690
M – F: 11.30am – 3pm
M – Sun: 5pm – 12am
Price / value: 7.5/10
Decor / ambience: 10/10
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Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.