Monday, April 4, 2011

Singapore - Maeda

Joo Chiat just went upmarket with newcomer Maeda on the scene.  They tout themselves to be Omakase/Kaiseki specialists.  But if you want something off the menu, the selection didn't look too shabby.  While more pricey than Wahiro on the other side of Joo Chiat, it is not a bad alternative.  It's a tad more formal in feel, quiet although like all true Singaporeans, it's not necessarily a dress up place, although our appropriately friendly yet professional server had a jacket on.

Maeda is helmed by young chef Maeda, who I understand has gone into partnership with the guy behind the wildly successful Aston's group.  The chef seemed quiet and shy but willing to indulge in a word or 2, while staying focused on the task at hand of feeding his customers and making sure they are happy.

Since it was our first time, Mr. Server suggested we go with the Chef's choice, or Omakase.  I ordered a Calpis Soda (they get brownie points for stocking this!) and happily played along, while B ordered a Nigorizake or unfiltered Sake, which is cloudy when shaken before serving.

Top down: Canadian Oyster with Ponzu, Clam Salad, Blood Tuna
Starters were pretty original. The Canadian oyster was nicely chilled, and the texture rendering a clean shot to the system, with a burst of sea water on the palate, accentuated by a tangy Ponzu dressing.  Refreshing as always.

The clam salad was served in the style of a Japanese potato salad, only not as heavy. The clams were cooked just right and a surprisingly good platform to carry the creamy Japanese mayo.

Close up of the Blood Tuna
The blood tuna is not coagulated/congealed blood, as us Chinese like to eat, but refers to the color of the tuna's flesh which is an unusual blood red.  Sealed in a very light batter and deep fried, then vinegared and served chilled, the meat is firmer but tasty from the cooking treatment, and a good accompaniment for Sake/beer.

Sashimi: Salmon, Vinegared Mackeral, Yellowtail, Seared Toro, Scallop
Our Sashimi platter was surprisingly not the highlight of the evening, even though I assumed it would be given the previews from reviews.  Don't get me wrong, it certainly wasn't bad. But it wasn't the most exciting. Cuts were fresh and decent but not top notch pieces. And for the price, I expected more exotics,  aside from the 2 good pieces of blow-torched Toro.  No sea urchin, no shell fish aside from scallop.  Interesting that we got 2 mounds of wasabi especially since the one on the right is the stuff we get from lesser places, albeit with a lot more heat.  Too much if you ask me.  The freshly grated one complements the fish a lot more without overpowering.

Japanese Garlic and Shisito topped with Mentaiko Mayonaise
This course was an unusual one.  I don't like garlic but was assured there was no pungency about this one.  True that.  The garlic had been steamed until it was short of mash, and so very soft and creamy.  Accompanied by the Shisito for crunch and paprika freshness, then topped with a wonderfully tasty Mentaiko Mayonaise and it's really quite good.  Too bad each person only got one serving.

Steamed Bamboo with Sweet Miso
Again, I'm not a huge fan of bamboo.  This was quite good because it actually tastes like steamed corn.  Crunchy to the bite although it peels back like an artichoke.  I was actually more enamored by the sweet miso.  I think honey and miso are soul mates.

Steamed Broad Beans or Soramame
These are not Edamame.  They look like giant Edamame but is actually Soramame or broad beans.  They are not crunchy as Edamame but a creamier, beanier bean that you can imagine making a soup out of.  Pleasant but it's not something to write home about.

Deep fried Kurobuta pork slice with sugar snaps
This was possibly the best dish of the evening.  Strongly marinated in Sake, the pork was thinly sliced and rolled up to achieve a tender effect, then given loads of sweet crunch from the sugar snaps buried within.  A novel way to serve pork, and with the drizzle of lemon juice, they are dangerously easy to put away.

Grilled Fish
This is just a simple way to showcase a fresh fish, although we thought it was a tad overcooked so that the meat was a little too firm.  Borderline though, so it wasn't bad.  The sea-salted fins were tasty and crispy and went well with each bit of meat.  Decent enough.

Chopped Tuna Belly on Rice
I am a fiend of this so as long as it's good tuna, I am sold.  I only wish it had been sushi-vinegared rice.  The rice here was good but it was a little too warm (out of the rice cooker) for the tuna.  But yummy anyway and I lapped it all up, despite the fact that I was uncomfortably stuffed at this point.

That left absolutely no room for dessert so thankfully, dessert was a paltry choice of green tea or sesame ice creams, which I could do without.

For the price, I thought we could have had a little more exciting stuff, but it's a period where I'm more forgiving since supplies are a challenge for Japanese restaurants.  Hopefully as Japan recovers from the disaster and control the damage from the reactors to crops and produce, that we can finally enjoy Japan's finest again.

I would visit Maeda again with the hope that there is more to Chef Maeda's repertoire.  What we got was decent but may be a little pricey for the area.  If it is to sustain its pricing, differentiation wold be necessary especially since the same type of course at Wahiro would only be at about 60% of the price.  Of course, the skills of the young Malaysian chef at Wahiro is not at the level of Chef Maeda but if sashimi is only one course (albeit an important one), query if most folks would pay Maeda prices.

467 Joo Chiat Road
Tel: +65-63450745


  1. hi, have been wanting to give this place a try for quite some time. May I know how much was the omakase set that you had?

  2. Hi there,
    We were offered the $120 one, although we didn't know at the time. Go enjoy and let us know what you think.

    PS. Great pics on your blog!

  3. This place is so terribly overpriced. It deserves to fail. I hope it does, so people will stop opening up these ripoff restaurants in neighbourhoods to cheat the residents there

  4. Wow Anonymous, that's a pretty harsh statement. Not quite fair based on my experience but do substantiate yours so others might benefit from learning why you would feel that way.