Esora

Wine & Dine - - RESTAURANTS - 15 Mo­hamed Sul­tan Road. Tel: 6365 1266

Seated at the chef’s counter, we feel a bit like we’ve scored a back­stage pass to a pol­ished pro­duc­tion. An ethe­real in­te­rior de­sign by Take­nouchi Webb and im­pec­ca­ble ser­vice set the stage. As din­ner tast­ing menus (from $198 for seven cour­ses) un­fold with op­tional tea, sake or wine pair­ings, front and back of house flit back and forth seam­lessly.

The lead­ing man in this pro­duc­tion is chef-owner Shigeru Koizumi, pre­vi­ously of Odette, Sin­ga­pore and Ni­hon­ry­ori RyuGin, Tokyo.

At­ten­tion to de­tail is ev­i­dent from the way swirls of washi pa­per are af­fixed on the ceil­ing like fish scales, so that when sun­light streams in, there are cas­cades of pat­terned light. Or the way pre­mium hiba wood is used for the counter, its sur­face clean and so smooth you just want to run your fin­gers down it for no par­tic­u­lar rea­son. To the way the staff no­tices you eat with your left hand and moves your chop­stick rest un­ob­tru­sively.

If you are a tee­to­taller and even if you aren’t, worth a try is their tea-pair­ing op­tion (from an ad­di­tional $38), where Koizumi serves up per­son­ally hand-blended teas to go with the meal. At the start of each course, tea leaves are pre­sented in glass ves­sels and in­tro­duced.

A trio of snacks kicked off our meal. The origami ‘rab­bit’ potato chips among them were al­most too pretty to eat. Next came a foie gras mon­aka starter. In­stead of tra­di­tional red bean, this mon­aka was filled with foie gras, fig jam made from freshly picked figs from South­ern France, a peanut pra­line and a dash of kaf­fir lime. A flute of cold sparkling Ori­en­tal Beauty tea blended with hi­bis­cus flower and yomeishu am­pli­fied the sweet­savoury flavours.

The next course saw us look­ing into the eyes of a ku­ruma ebi from Mie, en­cased in a fried shell akin to the Turk­ish kataifi. A cold Tsuyuhikari green tea from Shizuoka, to­gether with a sashimi trio of maguro and su­jiara or blue-spot­ted grouper fol­lowed. In quick suc­ces­sion, a chawan­mushi, el­e­vated with Hokkaido kegani, mat­su­take mush­rooms, rounded up the first act.

But it was re­ally the next few cour­ses that shone. There was kin­medai from Shizuoka, aged for a week in a high-hu­mid­ity fridge, then grilled over bin­chotan and served with kara­sumi or dried mul­let roe, Ky­oto veg­eta­bles and dried gingko nuts. Served with a cold Gyokuro and yuzu tea, the aged fish was rich in flavour, its melt-in-the-mouth tex­ture a foil for the crunchier el­e­ments on the plate.

An­other high­light was the Omi wagyu from Shiga pre­fec­ture, served with bur­dock done two ways—fried and puréed—to­gether with amanaga pep­per and an aged akazu or red vine­gar sauce. This went re­ally well with the only hot tea served in the meal, a whisky­like smoky blend of irib­an­cha, ho­jicha and a touch of cin­na­mon. A don­abe or clay­pot of black­throat sea perch with Yumepirika rice, topped with fresh ikura, made a sat­is­fy­ing end to the sec­ond act.

At dessert, we loved the wasan­bon caramel ice cream with white Alba truf­fles. Herald­ing au­tumn, sweet potato smoked with ban­cha tea formed a pil­lowy bed. On top lay a silky-smooth ice cream of wasan­bon or fine­grained sugar made from a type of sug­ar­cane. So, a cheese-like in­gre­di­ent made with milk skins, and gen­er­ous shav­ings of sea­sonal white Alba truf­fles com­pleted the dish. Smoky, sweet, savoury and earthy notes melded ef­fort­lessly in this con­struc­tion. Paired with a sim­ple roasted tea from Miyazawa, this per­fect end­ing was only trumped by an even dain­tier serv­ing of wa­gashi pe­tit four star­ring sweets such as cot­ton candy and a melon mochi.

Chef Shigeru Koizumi

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