Where to eat and shop authentic Japanese produce in Singapore
While far away from the land of the rising sun, Singaporeans are more than familiar with Japanese cuisine. In the local dining scene, Japanese restaurants are a dime a dozen and one can easily enjoy good sushi within reach. Yet, only a few are committed to ensuring authentic dining experiences by using Japanese ingredients.
With this in mind, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, is working with restaurants and grocers around the world to promote Japanese ingredients. Under its latest initiative, Taste of Japan, certified partners are officiated as a ‘Japanese Food Supporter.
In Singapore, Japanese restaurants and grocers are standing by their native ingredients. Pledging to use quality Japanese ingredients, these establishments are also taking a stand on providing top-notch food.
If you’re looking for quality Japanese fare, look no further. Here are the Japanese Food Supporters to check out in Singapore.
This restaurant, led by Korean-born celebrity chef Akira Back, showcases Japanese cuisine with modern American flair. The fusion label aside, the restaurant is committed to representing Japanese flavours with quality, seasonal produce. Diners can expect classic offerings like sushi and sashimi as well as wackier creations featuring innovative interpretations of Japan’s great ingredients. Take for instance Back’s signature Tuna Pizza which sees a different take on sashimi, with slices of fresh tuna neatly topped over a crispy disc of aioli-slathered crust. There are also some humorous takes on sushi rolls, say with Brother from another Mother — unagi and anago eel bound together in Japanese rice, then topped with shaved foie gras and ponzu mayo. It’s certainly not traditional, but nonetheless refreshing.
Chikuyotei doesn’t call itself ‘the unagi specialist’ for nothing. Since opening in 1992, the high-end restaurant has built an indomitable reputation for having one of the best unagi dons in Singapore. Chikuyotei uses only Japanese unagi, simply grilled over binchotan for more bite or steamed and grilled for softer flesh. Now with chef Kishio Watanabe on the helm, Chikuyotei has introduced a breadth of authentic dishes through elegant kaiseki courses. Watanabe imports most of his produce (besides unagi) from Japan, offering diners regional specialities like Kagoshima Kobe beef, aged soba and Hyoga beancurd. Chikuyotei has an extensive list of Japanese sake to check out for diners who want to try more than just Japanese produce.
Wagyu isn’t just about rich streaks of fat. Modern steakhouse Fat Cow introduces to diners a stunning range of steaks from various prefectures in Japan — each Wagyu different and unique. On the menu, one can find leaner Nagasaki striploin steaks to premium Kobe and Ohmi beef cuts. Beside grilled steak, the restaurant offers various ways of enjoying the prized Wagyu. Steaks can be done hobayaki-style where meat is wrapped in a hoba leaf and grilled over bincho, leaving behind a sweet fragrance on the tender meat. Otherwise, Fat Cow also offers shabu-shabu and sukiyaki for a more authentic Japanese dining experience. Fat Cow’s dedication to Japanese produce extends over to its drinks selection too. The restaurant collaborated with award-winning sake brewery Watanabe Sahei for an exclusive Daiginjo label brewed from fresh spring water and Yamada Nishiki rice.
Japanese produce doesn’t just belong solely in Japanese cuisine. Chef Masahiro Takada weaves quality produce in his modern Italian fare, lending a unique Japanese flair along the way. At his eponymous restaurant, Takada flies in produce from Japan four times a week. These precious ingredients are set on the same pedestal as luxury European produce, such as foie gras and truffle. Diners here can expect gorgeous signatures like Hokkaido uni with squid ink tagliolini for appetisers and an indulgent A5 Miyazaki wagyu tenderloin steak. The passion for seasonality means that diners will find lots of delicious seafood surprises on the menu.
Dining on Japanese produce isn’t all just an expensive affair. Chef Teppei Yamashita’s restaurant chains are proof that enjoying quality, fresh ingredients can be an affordable treat all year round. Teppei Syokudo is popular for its customisable kaisendon, a rice bowl with fresh cubes of salmon, tuna and scallops. The casual restaurant also offers pocket-friendly bento boxes and Japanese curry don, perfect for the busy weekday lunch crowd. To keep standards high, chef Yamashita sticks to using Japanese produce as much as possible.
Midtown Mart may not have any fresh produce to speak off. But this store is a gold mine for Singaporeans craving popular snacks from Japan. One can find all manners of chocolates, sweets and biscuits here that aren’t commonly found in regular supermarkets. Best of all, Midtown Mart is committed to keeping prices affordable for all. For unfussy home cooks, this store also stocks a good number of instant food products and sauces — think instant yakisoba and curry stock.
Isetan may be best known for its departmental stalls, selling everything from fashion to household appliances. What’s not as well-known is its grocery section which is regularly stocked with fresh Japanese ingredients and food products. Here, shoppers will find an impressive range of premium fruits and vegetables for cooking. The grocery section is also stocked with ready-made sauces, soup bases and seasonings. Think instant dashi packets, teriyaki sauces and bottles of tare stock, making cooking at home a breeze for amateur cooks. Isetan also has an online store, making for convenient grocery shopping.
For foodies, Meidi-ya is a haven for Japanese groceries. The massive supermarket sees large offerings of seasonal fruits (think yuzu and melons) and vegetables. What’s also impressive here is the range of meats and fish available here. Fresh Wagyu steaks and slices are available all day, great for satisfying last-minute hotpot cravings. Shoppers might even find items like Koshihikari rice and artisanal teas — quality products that are also used in Japanese restaurants. The supermarket is also popular for their bento box selections and fresh sashimi.
Japanese department store Takashimaya is one of Orchard’s landmarks and it’s only fitting that Singapore’s premier shopping belt is home to at least one certified Japanese Food Supporter outlet. Nestled in the food basement of Ngee Ann City and inside Cold Storage is the Japan Meat Counter which carries a range of prime Japanese meats. Expect a rotation of varieties here, but on if you’re lucky, you might be able to bag rare cuts like the Hokkaido Snow Beef which is only available in Hokkaido itself, the US and now Singapore.