Monday, July 2, 2012

Singapore - Hinoki

The Japanese restaurant community in Singapore is small.  Almost every sushi chef hails from Master Nogawa, who's recently made a comeback to Singapore after a difficult venture back in Japan.  The 2 lead characters who helm Hinoki are no different, having apprenticed under the master some 2 decades ago.  Lawrence, who is the Laurel of the 2, recently came from the failed Japanese venture at the Keppel club, and whose brother Ronnie is the brains behind the famous Tatsuya, now at the Goodwood Park Hotel.  Gary, who is the Hardy, also worked at Keppel before partnering with Lawrence at Hinoki.

Steamed egg custard - sea urchin and fish liver
Sake accompaniments - grilled Fugu and grilled dried baby sardines
The atmosphere is boisterous, and different from most other Japanese restaurants where the ambience is almost sombre, in reverence of the artistry at the counter.  The only separation here is noisy or noisier, with drinkers tending to be herded towards the Lawrence end.  While a little rowdy, it's all in good fun, with a lot of local Hokkien humor peppered throughout your meal.

Sashimi - salmon, yellow tail, botan shrimp, scallop and swordfish
Grilled geoduck
The style of food is not dissimilar to a meal at Tatsuya although the overall experience (food wise) is not as spectacular.  But prices are about half of that at Tatsuya so one can't really complain.  For a casual night out, it's not bad at all.  And since it was our first time, it was difficult for them to gauge what we like or didn't like so I thought Gary played it overly cautious (almost boring).

Grilled yellowtail collar
Seared foie gras and botan shrimp sushi
But the sushis were the highlight and like Tatsuya, they do specialise in Aburi (blowtorched) pieces for that smoky finish.  If you don't enjoy that, best to tell them upfront.  I do like a combination of fresh and Aburi so this worked for me.  Next time perhaps, I would just have a sushi meal and skip the others.

Mentaiko and Scallop sushi
Anago sushi

Green tea ice cream with red beans and Yuzu sorbet
My only complaint food wise is that my ice cream came melted (and the servers didn't know better than to not serve it).  Not the end of the world but there is sometimes a fine line between fun and professionalism.  Oh well.

Still worthy of a repeat if you're in the neighbourhood.  Word of caution though: don't mention Tatsuya, Ronnie or Keppel.  Any of these 3 words sets Lawrence off and that means listening to a very long story of brotherly feuds and business troubles.  My advice, just stick with the food and drinks.

Hinoki Japanese Restaurant
22 Cross Street
#01-50/53 China Square Central
South Bridge Court
Tel: +65 6536 7746


  1. I would just so love to mention Tatsuya or Ronnie etc, just to find out what exactly had happened between them and see if there's any permanent animosity. xD

    A nice review as usual! I am not that familiar with Singaporean restaurants in general, it's a bit patchy. Good to learn about the histories and visualize about the flow charts of what went where! Keep it coming please... : )

    1. I'm sure you'll get a good story if you have enough Sake to drink 'em over! :) Agree that Singapore restaurants come and go very quickly, and only the very good ones stick around. But then again, not too dissimilar in HK. Only the best in class survive. Function of the small markets and high rents.