Sunday, December 26, 2010

Singapore - Tenza Izakaya

One of the things I did to prep for Christmas was to eat non-Christmas food.  Aside from going vegetarian, which I cannot do in a sustained fashion, going Japanese is always a good option.  Instead of doing the usual rounds, we decided to try something a little different, and out of neighbourhood as well.  Venturing into the heartland of Sunset Way's new-feel neighbourhood of five-foot ways lined with eateries and bars, we maneuvered our way through the old HDB estate to arrive at Tenza Izakaya, which just passed its 6-month birthday.

We changed our minds about sitting al fresco, and landed ourselves in front of Chef Donny's work area, perched on 2 high chairs, and overlooking a very open kitchen.  It wasn't a very cool kitchen to peer into, but we still like to see our food prepped in front of us, and the 6 chefs in their different stations at work.  Unfortunately, it was a fairly quiet night so some were just observing.  With that, we just instructed Donny to "hit us" with his best shot.  Even then, he was quite polite to tell us what he planned ahead of each course.  

Some cold appetisers to get us started while we each ordered a Yuzu cooler and a cold Junmai Ginjyo to begin the ride.

Norwegian Salmon roe with cameos by threads of omelet.

Ankimo liver slice with a sharp Ponzu sauce.

Pregnant Kelp garnished wtih Bonito flakes.

Steamed Rape Blossoms with clams.

The appetisers were of good quality, although since not all of us were having sake, I might have gone with a more balanced selection that was not so heavy on salt.  The 2 types of roes while enjoyable, can be overwhelming without alcohol, and detract from the liver and the sweetness of my favourite of the rape blossoms.  

Assorted Sashimi Platter of Hirame, Shima Aji, Smoked Makceral, Ark Shell Clam and Toro.

The Sashimi Platter was the winner of the evening.  A good balance of lean to fatty, textures of crunch to creamy and of course, each very fresh having arrived the day before.  Apparently they don't ship everyday, or they ship different items daily.  Even then, good storage ensured that the cuts were delightful and each retaining their individual goodness.  

Shirako (Cod milt or sperm) in clear soup.
The quality of the Cod Milt was fresh and creamy, but given that, I may not have selected soup as a platform to showcase this.  In other places, my favourite is to tempura (just like enjoying fried milk), or lightly sear this to lend it a smoky flavour.  Even sashimi with a Ponzu sauce would work.  The soup unfortunately did not do it justice and for those not used to eating it, may cause a little squirminess.  

Grilled Fish.
I forget the name of the fish that was grilled for us.  It was an "ok" at best, since there wasn't much flavour to it, and the flesh was just a tad to firm. 

Sakura Shrimplets

Chef Donny was also kind to offer us some Sakura shrimplets which can only be enjoyed for a short window before they are typically sun-dried and used for flavouring dishes.  They were fresh-water sweet but because there is very little flesh, I thought the shells, etc. interfered with total enjoyment of the miniature crustaceans.
11-hour braised Kuro Buta Pork

My suspicion with this dish was unfortunately played out.  Failing to seal the meat before braising or just over braising caused this to be shoestring tough.  While the sauce was very hearty and tasty, the cooking process did not do the good pig justice, and only the bamboo and spinach garnishes were enjoyable.  

Ume Onigiri

To end, we shared a rice ball stuffed with preserved plums and this is always a nice finish especially for Asians who love their rice.  And the rice here is pretty decent, still fluffy and there was just enough plum to favour but not overwhelm.

Home-made Mochi dusted with icing malt sugar
The mochis were well done, very soft and chewy and came apart easily with a bite.  I would have preferred a drizzle of Kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup) over this to give it a little more kick but otherwise the icing did little to enhance the quality of the mochi.  

Home-made Goma ice cream

Just to add to our bursting waistlines, Donny wanted us to try his home-made Sesame ice cream.  I'm generally not a fan of this flavour since it tends to leave an oily aftertaste, but I have to admit this was very good.  Perhaps having bits of sesame (rather than grinding it too finely) lends bite while not allowing too much oil from the toasted seeds to mar the texture of the ice cream.  Well executed.  

Overall, a decent experience, and a casual place to enjoy fresh catches from the waters of Japan, in Singapore's favourite garb of casuals.  Just don't come in your pajamas.

106 Clement St 12
Sunset Way
Tel: +65-6773 0093

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