When it comes to Japanese fine dine, three factors determine whether a dining experience gets the ichiban-oishii squeal or you wished you were on a kamikaze mission. The trinity that makes or breaks a Jap restaurant, to me, is Freshness, Authenticity, and Beauty (plating, presentation, decoration). I call it the FAB rating.
While the freshness of ingredients is expected of any restaurant regardless of cuisine and artistry in plating definitely whets the appetite further, authenticity can sometimes be a dirty word. By ‘authentic’, I mean the traditional taste of a dish. Not that tradition is bad, but if there are a gazillion places using the same heritage recipe, the marketing spiel could get kinda tired and stale.
Then once in a while, something like IKYU Sushi & Bar happens to redefine tradition and raises the stakes in competing for the eyes and stomachs of Singaporeans.
Snuggled amongst a plethora of avant-garde nouvelle restaurants and cafes in the retro-hip part of Tiong Bahru’s residential estate, IKYU can be found at No. 5, Yong Siak Street.
IKYU (pronounced as E-Q, 一休) means “take a break”. The restaurant is swarthed in a bold copper skin that befits an art gallery.
Interior of IKYU viewed from the main entrance. It can seat about 50 diners.
View of the IKYU from the restaurant’s restroom.
Retro taps at the restroom provided a link between the restaurant’s modern design with Tiong Bahru’s reputation for nostalgia.
Food is a little pricey considering the Smurf portion they come in but the taste and creativity patches the hole in the wallet.
Started the food tasting session with a refreshing sip of chilled Pear Sake.
Grilled Edamame flavoured with Truffle Oil – S$8.50.
Chef’s special creation of the day – Cream Cheese with Snapper’s Stomach (not in menu). Depending on the exotic fresh catch of the day that suppliers bring to the kitchen, diners can be surprised by special items not on the menu. Ask the staff for the day’s special and prepare to be delighted. This Snapper Stomach appetiser just blew my tastebuds away. Nice!
Wafu Marinated Salmon Carpaccio – S$16.50.
Deep fried SAKURA baby Prawn – S$8.50. Very fragrant and flavourful.
Blow Fish Tatsuta-Age with Sansyo – S$16.50 and Smoked Whale Salad (not in menu, you have to ask for it). So very exotic! My first time having Blow Fish meat and it’s pretty good.
Blow Fish (a.k.a. Puffer Fish) is well-known for sending adventurous diners to meet their maker. I’m surprised it is available here for I am under the impression that it can only be had in Japan.
Yup, I survived tasting the notoriously toxic delicacy to write this blog. Heh heh.
Breaded Oyster from Hiroshima – S$12.50.
Assorted Vegetables Wrapped in Pork – S$15.50.
Hirame (2 pcs) -S$10.50. First encounter with Flounder Nigiri and I love the taste plus texture.
Blue Fin Tuna O-Toro (2 pcs) – S$35.50. The meat kinda just slippery-melt in the mouth.
Kagoshima Wagyu Beef Sirloin (120g) – S$58.50. Juicy, tender and totally worth busting a diet plan over.
Grilled pair Quail Legs – S$5.50 each (Happy Hour menu). So who’s the man behind all these exotic salivates that fused classic Jap with some French / Italian twists?
No compromise. The Executive Chef behind IKYU is Executive Chef Takuma Seki. The former chef-de Cuisine of Hide Yamamoto at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is such a jovial and funny guy. His vision for IKYU is a new breed of Jap restaurant that takes tradition to the level of excitement.
For dessert, we had a platter of honeydew, persimmon and Kyoho grapes imported directly from Japan. A perfect sweet ending to a FAB dinner!
As a keepsake for the food tasting session, we were presented with this beautiful Zen-style thumbdrive. Love it!
Everything that we had tonight at IKYU tasted really good and unusual. Ingredients were fresh, the fusion flavours were delightfully unique, and aesthetic appeal from restaurant decor to food presentation were a sensory odyssey.
All of us bloggers and media who were fortunate enough to get invited for the food tasting agree that this place is definitely worth coming back for seconds, or thirds. Definitely ichiban-oishii!