Ootoya

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Ootaya has been in Singapore for a while and they just opened a branch in Suntec City. The mains were fresh and cooked fairly healthily, tasting like home-cooked fare. Mine was a mixed bag as the pork balls with tendon just tasted a bit gristly, though still a notch above the mystery-meat balls served at economy rice stalls. I loved the onsen egg, essentially a chilled soft boiled egg, but I have a soft spot for those and this was cooked just right till the whites turned, uh, white and the yolk hadn’t yet set. Shinta and CH both enjoyed their mains and I especially liked this grilled pork dish that we shared. The pork had a layer of fat on it that charred slightly and reminded me of the reason why pork is just So Good.

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CH went for the Kyoto Uji matcha green tea mousse that came with milk ice cream, mochi and red beans. The green tea mousse was very intense and quite excellent as the bitterness of the tea comes through robustly. Much better than most insipid green tea concoctions.

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Shinta and I shared the castella parfait, a trifle made up of cake cubes, ice cream and plenty of cream. Oh I think there was jam or some kind of fruit sauce in it, but who cares? Cake cubes soaked in melted ice cream and accompanied by good quality whipped cream make my day any day.

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Ootoya
3 Temasek Boulevard
#B1-057 Suntec City Mall
Tel: 6837 3718

Quick Eats: Soup and Salad

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There’s a new salad place at Citylink Mall that’s both good and shockingly good value for money. I went for the $10 set lunch consisting of a soup of the day, a basic salad (the cheapest one on the board), and a small freshly squeezed juice. The juice wasn’t as small as I expected and they didn’t cheat by putting a huge lot of ice. My green apple juice was still sweet (I’m assuming no added sugar) and very refreshing. I went for a safe choice for the soup: mushroom. It was velvety and smooth and very flavourful – not your usual Campbells stuff.

The soup and nicely toasted bread were themselves quite filling, but the generous salad rounded off the meal so much that I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish the portion! I liked how they had nice leaves like rocket, mizuna and baby spinach leaves. The system works so that you can choose a few kinds of each category according to the price of your salad. I was quite happy with the basic one because I wanted to go vegetarian for that meal. For the more expensive salads, the extra price goes for added meat and seafood ingredients. They had quite a wide range of dressings, just that I can’t quite remember what sorts they had. I went for the Asian dressing, which I quite liked even though it was slightly too sweet.

Mescluns
Citylink Mall (opposite HMV)

Casual Lunch at OChaCha

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I was pleasantly surprised by the food at Ochacha. I admit that I’m a snob and was a bit surprised that a friend would suggest here of all places for lunch. Since I’m trying to keep an open mind and be more open to new experiences, I gave it a shot. Of course it helped loads that my friend was giving the treat!

I had the salmon sandwich set lunch. For $7.90 I had a soup, sandwich and drink. Very decent value. I didn’t find anything special about the cold macha tea. It was, well, green tea. I don’t think I’m made to be a macha connoisseur.

True to its Japanese styling, the food came in nice crockery with fancy shapes. Too bad the tomato soup I had was too sour. I think they tried to make it from fresh tomatoes but couldn’t get decent ones to fit their price point. Try again with canned ones next time.

The sandwich was very good. The soft multi-grain bun was stuffed with good quality smoked salmon and lettuce. It was completed by a sprinkling of furikake, giving it lots of umami flavour. I liked the sandwich a lot, but not the salad. The salad was the typical Japanese fast food side salad with some wilted iceberg lettuce at the bottom and other miscellany on top. I don’t see why the lettuce was wilted and brown at the edges when they could do it fine for the stuff in the sandwich. The wasabe peas didn’t add anything to it, especially when they got soggy too fast. There were also some potato crisps with green powder on the side. I presume they’re some kind of Japanese flavoured ones to complete the Japanese theme.

In short for food, sandwich: PASS, everything else: FAIL.

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My friend had this vegetarian soba salad. He said it was good but didn’t elaborate any further. You’ll have to go try it yourself then.

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Service-wise, this place was great. The staff were super smiley and very obliging. They described the drinks to us to help us decide. When they served the food, they waited patiently for a break in conversation before putting the dishes before us. And when my tea was too sweet despite me asking for less sugar, they gladly replaced it with a no-syrup version. Well done, 10/10 for service!

OChaCha
252 North Bridge Road
#B1-44F Raffles City Shopping Centre
Tel: 6333 5886

Wagyu Promotion at Sun Restaurant

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Any branch of Sun Restaurant used to be my favourite place for a casual Japanese lunch. Little by little, they did small things that irked me. First, they removed from the menu my favourite lunch set of chopped medium-fatty tuna over rice (all branches), meaning a side order of maguro sushi if I had to have my tuna fix. Next, their sashimi quality went down (Central branch). It was stale like the stuff you get at the lesser kaiten chains. Last and probably least since it’s just a matter of indifferent service, I went to the Central branch for lunch on my birthday and produced a birthday discount voucher. They asked for my identity card as proof but did not breathe a word of happy birthday or even give a smile when they presented me with the bill.

Even though Sun Restaurant isn’t a favourite anymore, I thought I’d return to use up a $10 voucher. Good timing because they were having a wagyu beef promotion. My mum chose the Wagyu Sukiyaki & Tomato Salad and I went for the Wagyu Amiyaki Don & Age Tofu. There was also Hamburger Steak & Green Salad, boasting a Wagyu Score of 9+. Avoided that because I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t just drop the expensive wagyu and add a bit more beef fat into the mincer to make the hamburger.

My Wagyu Amiyaki Don & Age Tofu was good. It consisted of grilled wagyu pieces and a “soft-boiled” egg on rice, with a side of deep-fried tofu. The wagyu was excellent: it tasted of charred teriyaki-esque marinade on the outside and oozed decadent wagyu goodness on first bite. It went well with the preserved ginger and seaweed topping. The perfectly-done poached egg was a soft, comforting counterpoint to the well-seasoned beef, a successful pairing. I liked the deep-fried tofu side even though the tofu tasted more like local tau kwa to me. The deeply savoury dashi sauce further balanced the sweet barbecue marinade of the beef and the boiled vegetable topping was crisp and refreshing.

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The sukiyaki looked pretty appetising. Only a dollar more than the regular beef sukiyaki set in the menu, it had the same generous amount of beef slices. The wagyu worked well with the dish because one of the main problems I have with regular sukiyaki is that the beef gets too done. With wagyu you want it to be well-cooked so the fat melts unctuously in your mouth. It sure did with this dish. The only problem was that the sukiyaki sauce was a lot sweeter than normal. It was so sweet that it changed the taste of the salad and pickles, marring the meal. We had to down copious cups of tea to cleanse our palates in between.

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When I brought this up with the server, she obligingly checked with the chef. The message was that the sauce was normal and at the correct sweetness. The server was apologetic about it and suggested that we order it less sweet for our next visit. She also sent us a free scoop of macha ice cream with azuki sauce. That was lovely of her, anĀ  unexpected and extra-nice finish to our meal. That makes the Chijmes branch my almost-favourite place for Japanese lunch.

After a $10 discount from a Citibank voucher, we paid $36.60 for two set lunches that came with fruit and coffee/tea.

Japanese Dining Sun@ Chijmes
30 Victoria Street #02-01 Chijmes
Tel: 6336 3166