There are a few things a good new restaurant does well. It romances its guests with charming interiors, stellar service, and reveals novel ideas to keep the industry on its toes. But to truly blossom in a path, its set for itself takes time.

For Esora, that blossoming seems to have taken place in autumn. After repeated visits to this modern Kappo-cuisine style restaurant throughout the year, it was only when we dropped in for a weekday lunch that one message rang clear: Esora has finally found its feet.

The Experience

To be clear, the dining experience hasn’t changed. Diners are still greeted by a gorgeous foie gras monaka, carefully assembled and piped by the counter. In autumn, that meant unctuous persimmon disks arranged in a ring with a foie gras mousse, brightened with the twang of myoga and kaffir lime zest. The small, exquisitely handmade ceramics are still on full display against a backdrop of wooden trays and autumn leaves, adding to the serene vibe one would get at a Japanese restaurant. One thing, however, has changed: the flavours for some of its courses which once left much to be desired, have been heightened, tweaked and tightened.

The dashi

Esora
(Image credit: Esora)

It seems only right to start a Japanese degustation with dashi, one of the major building blocks of Japanese cuisine. While dashi is mostly used as part of a dish, Esora presents its dashi in its ‘pure’ form — clear broth poured out of a teapot and into a cup accented by handles that resemble bat wings. It seems only appropriate to give attention to this much over-looked stock, with its clean, umami flavours, as context to the entire meal.

Esora hassun

 

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Despite its modern approach, Esora still adopts aspects of traditional Japanese cuisine. That’s well-represented with the hassun, a seasonally-themed course typical of kaiseki menus. Here, bites are presented amidst an extravagant display Autumn foliage with gingko leaves and maple leaves. But this is all just a mere backdrop for the fantastic array of Autumnal ingredients. Every small dish, punctuated with surprises, demands thoughtful appreciation of flavours and textures. The rich smokey flavours of lightly-grilled shima aji fit in comfortably with shoyu. Bafun uni surfaces In a thick tomato consomme, dressed with marigold flower. A turnip head, hollowed out, hides a delicate chawanmushi of wasabi and caviar.

Shabu-shabu

Esora
The shabu shabu (Image credit: Lifestyle

 

The hassun is not the only thing Esora experiments with. Shabu-shabu is reinterpreted as a single dish with Japanese amberjack from Hokkaido. While the dish is often better associated with Wagyu, the fatty amberjack proves to be an admirable option as well. Cooked briefly in dashi, each slice still holds on to its melt-in-the-mouth textures, paired with a tantalising sauce with seasonable vegetables.

Omi Wagyu

 

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For mains, Omi Wagyu goes a brief dance over the binchotan grill, leaving behind a light smokey char. But this seemingly Western steak offering sees subtle Japanese touches. Maitake mushroom lends their umami flavour in the dish, dressed with aged kasazu vinegar for a piquant touch. It’s a simple dish that needs no other frills — just a side of freshly ground wasabi and a touch of sea salt for a quick lift.

Ochazuke

 

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This is perhaps the most comforting dish on the line-up, still tempting even on a full stomach. The humble Japanese favourite is amped up with grilled horse mackerel and Japanese rice, doused over with shiso leaves, sesame seeds and warm dashi stock — setting a heart-warming end to the meal.

Wasanbon Caramel Ice Cream

 

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Even then, Esora still has surprises up its sleeves. Who can forget Esora’s signature dessert? It arrives unassuming: a kernel of golden brown Wasanbon caramel ice cream over a warm puree of sweet potato. But it also comes accompanied with white truffles, generously shaved tableside. Even with this lavish touch, the combination makes great sense: a woody aroma melting in slowly with ice cream.

Verdict
It often takes time for a restaurant to find its feet, especially as it tries to break new ground and define for itself what it wants to be. But it’s only when the whirlwind combo of food, drink, service and staffing settles down that a restaurant truly blossoms. We think it won’t be long before the plate too blossoms into a star.

Esora will be going on hiatus from December 2019 to March 2020

Jasmine Tay
Senior Writer
Jasmine Tay is the dining, culture and jewellery writer. She makes fine silver jewellery and causes mini-explosions in the kitchen when she can't afford fancy dinners. Sometimes she tells people what she thinks about art, and binges on the music of Danzig when they don’t agree.