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Mar 19, 2008 07:32 PM

Inakaya Singapore - a Little Piece of Japan in the Tropics

After being away from Singapore for a month, a new restaurant caught our eye in Orchard Road last night. Inakaya's giant fan-like facade at Orchard Parade Hotel (taking over from the premises left by the defunct Manchester United store) was striking.

Stepping over the threshold of the restaurant's front door was like stepping through the magic cupboard door in "The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe" - one instant, you're in Singapore, the next, you're in Tokyo! Such was the effect Inakaya has upon a diner. The noisy, theatrical-style presentation at the robatayaki counters, the spectacle of seeing grilled meats, seafood & vegetables served to customers by kneeling Japanese chefs (their kimono sleeves tied-up) on giant wooden paddles, all the yelling, and eager Japanese waiters (clad in Edo-era yukatas) scurrying around, their constant bowing & heads bobbing up & down like drinking-bird toys, was absolutely amazing.

The food was great, too - I particularly liked the seasonal kinki fish (the last time I had this was in a Japanese restaurant in Dagu-lu, Shanghai, exactly a year ago). Marinated wagyu beef was delicious.

The only thing I DIDN'T like about Inakaya was - we were presented a bill which amounted to nearly S$200 per head, and which was not itemised, at the end of the evening. In other words, this is like the Tiffany of Japanese restaurants - if you need to ask the price, you shouldn't be here.

BTW, a friend told me later that it was a local homegrown restaurant, and no relation to Tokyo's famous Inakaya robatayaki restaurant chain. Heck, I could have sworn this one was the genuine article. Anyway, it was all great fun & am planning my next visit there already.

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  1. Just an update on Inakaya with pics from last nite's visit. Inakaya still serves some of the freshest seafood I've had in Singapore. Do ask the prices when you order though - a giant mussel-like shellfish cost S$50 each, a stick of Wagyu beef S$40, etc.

    1. A robatayaki meal of S$200 per head is just simply too expensive!!!

      8 Replies
      1. re: FourSeasons

        Don't think it's cheap to maintain 6 skilled Japanese chefs (two to each of the 3 service counters). Our waitress was also Japanese. Also, most of the ingredients are flown in from Japan - seafood, meats (wagyu beef, pork, chicken), eggs, corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, leeks, etc.

        The restaurant's full every night though - I guess Singaporeans are willing to pay top dollar if the food's really good. Prices will probably remain high until some serious competitors come along.

        1. re: klyeoh

          You will pay less than half of that for robatayaki in Tokyo. Ok, kinki is expensive too in Tokyo so probably that is why your bill is so expensive. Did your have the kinki grilled or braised?

          1. re: FourSeasons

            The kinki's perfectly grilled - moist yet crisp, sweet yet salty. But you should also not miss their wagyu beef (3 cubes of pure nirvana on a skewer) & their grilled pork belly - it was simply the best pork belly in the world! I never knew pork could taste this good.

            Inakaya Singapore's pitched (very intentionally) at the higher-end of the dining spectrum. Even though they are not related to the popular Inakaya Tokyo (Roppongi/Nishi-Azabu), they copied the concept wholesale (including the prices, plus a hefty markup):


            You'd expect to pay around JPY12,000 (SGD160) per head in Inakaya Tokyo. But like I said - until Inakaya Singapore gets some serious competition, they're going to get away with this. Mea culpa - we let them get away with this. But then, really good Japanese food is hard to come by in Singapore, unlike our ultra-competitive Chinese & Indian food scenes, with no place for wanton wontons or lazy lassis.

            1. re: klyeoh

              Inakaya Roppongi is rather touristy, that is why it is much more expensive. Most robatayaki will certainly cost much less than that.

              Anyway, intrigued by what you wrote above with the 6 imported chefs, so I may just go there tomorrow night. Just made a reservation (tel: 6732-1866).

              1. re: FourSeasons

                Request for the centre seats so you have a really theatrical experience - some diners last night were disappointed when they were shunted into the seats by the side! Our chefs (in the pics) were Tokyo natives.

                And order the Alaskan king crab legs.

                1. re: klyeoh

                  That is why you paid $200 per head...kinki + alaskan king crab. Both extremely expensive. What else did you order?

                  1. re: FourSeasons

                    Wagyu beef, pork belly, sweet corn, maitake mushrooms, eggplant, white asparagus, tomato & pumpkin.

                    BTW, the restaurant manager (very friendly chap) can also suggest a menu degustation - works out to about S$180 per head.

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      If I was living in Singapore and wanted the occasional taste of Japan (and fun ambient), I would probably occasionally go to the Inakaya. It may be overpriced, but klyeoh describes it very temptingly, and clearly it is not just the food that is special there.

                      However, I would like to SERIOUSLY warn anyone coming to visit Tokyo not to go to the Roppongi Inakaya. It is the closest Tokyo has to a bona fide tourist trap. Absurdly high prices for food that is fine, but no more than that, pretty unimaginative and the fish is by Japanese standards certainly no fresher or better than in an average and much cheaper restaurant. I have been several times because my firm likes to take foreign visitors there for the spectacle, and I have rarely seen Japanese people in there.

      2. Hi klyeoh:

        You are right, it is an expensive place but yet a full house in all the three counters. I love Japanese food, but not really a big fan of robatayaki, but was intrigued by your review, so brought my wife there last night. We ordered sweet corn, garlic, shiitake mushroom, tomato, golden mushroom for the vegetable part, then proceed with tairagai (a type of shell fish), squid, kinmedai (red fish), chicken wing, one stick of wagyu beef and alaskan king crab. 1 bottle of Asahi beer + 1 sochu + 1 fruit punch and the whole bill came out to S$420, about $210 per person, right around your budget.

        The food was ok, I thought the entertainment part was a bit cheesy. If I come back again, I don't think I will order the wagyu beef and alaskan king crab. I thought they were too expensive ($40 for a stick of 3 waygu cubes, and $70 for king crab), the taste did not really make up for that price and I can order those stuffs at much better bargains else where. Kinmedai was really good though, not often you can find this fish in Singapore. I did not order kinki because I prefer it braised (nitsuke style) rather than grilled. Also the tomota, shiitake, golden mushroom, all imported from Japan, are really delicious. The others are just average. They were quite generous to provide complementary melon (real expensive, imported from Japan) as part of the desert.

        Overall, the meal was good but not spectacular. I thought it was interesting that they opened from 6:30pm to 1am. Few restaurants in Singapore would open that late; I guess they brought the Tokyo's late night dining scene to Singapore as well.

        On other note in response to Aso, I don't see any Japanese in Inakaya Singapore too.

        1. While I have never actually paid for a meal at Inakaya in Roppongi (always expense account signed by the boss), I remember being told that typical bill (with lots of sake and beer of course) ran somewhere around JPY 25-30k (OK so we drink a lot...). In that sense Inakaya Singapore doesn't sound so bad.

          I don't think Robatayaki at the Harbour Plaza Hotel in HK is particularly cheap either...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Peech

            Like what Asomaniac wrote above, Inakaya Roppongi caters for tourists and business corporate market, so they way overcharged for their food and ambiance. Robatayaki is not supposed to be refined and expensive food; you will get them at much cheaper price outside of Inakaya Roppongi.