Singapore: Shabu-hana Japanese
- FourSeasons May 31, 2008 12:44 AM
There have been many discussion of hawker food and chilli crab on the Singapore Board, a few fine dining and Italian as well, but not one Japanese that I can recall until klyeoh wrote the Inakaya thread. So I am adding another one now.
I just had a wonderful authentic shabu shabu dinner at Shabu-hana restaurant at 14 Mohamed Sultan Road #01-01 (tel: 6235-8216). There are very few shabu shabu places in Singappore, let alone one that is good and authentic. So I am surprised at this new discovery. The restaurant just started late last year, rather quiet on the main room but filled with Japanese expatriates on its tatami rooms behind. Only opened for dinner.
We took our time to explore their small appetizer dishes for the first 30 minutes, trying their izakay-style small plate cooking. Ordered Magurio no tororoae (maguro sahsimi marinated with yam), Satsumaage (different style of fish cakes), Buta no kakuni (braised pork belly) and Dashimaki tamago (Japanese omelet with dashi). They were all delicious.
We then proceed to order its Waygu marbled beef, Kurobuta Pork loin and Pork belly for the shabu shabu. Vegetables and tofo are included and ended with the udon cooked on the pot as well. I thought everything was done well.
So if you want to try shabu shabu in Singapore, this is the place to go.
I just realised, when the shabu-shabu hotpot was presented at my table last night at Shabu-hana, that I'd never really cared for hotpots, be they Chinese, Japanese or even Swiss. In fact, I've never had shabu-shabu in any of my dozen or so trips to Japan in the past decade, preferring instead Tokyo/Osaka's beguiling kaiseki dinners, with their myriad of carefully-arranged & beautifully-formed comestibles, some of which really looked too perfect to despoil for one's palate. I mixed up "shabu-shabu" for "sukiyaki" when I invited a British guest there for dinner last night. When I eat out, I actually preferred not to have to cook my own dinner at the table.
But I must admit that the dining experience at Shabu-hana can be quite a satisfying experience, given the right atmosphere & dining crowd. That said, my experience yesterday evening was quite different from the one whence you were there, FourSeasons - Shabu-hana was packed to the rafters with a noisy mix of family diners & local businessmen types on a busy Friday evening. Two babies were bawling intermittently throughout the evening. Japanese salarymen were conspicuously missing - perhaps congregating at the popular Japanese-style Taiwanese restaurant down at Robertson Walk nearby.
But one must give credit to the elegant, perfectly-coiffed Tokyo-ite Ms Ayuko Koyano, perhaps the most gracious hostess this side of the Singapore River. Orders were taken & drinks were swiftly served - plum wine with soda on the rocks, and some chilled Kirin beer.
The buta-no-kakuni was perfectly fatless, with a satisfying bite - it's always been my favorite Japanese dish, an irony because its very origins lay with Chinese cooking of the Tang era, and with Suzhou's dongpo-rou in particular.
I didn't quite take to Shabu-hana's rendition of the dashimaki - I'd have preferred mine drier & sweeter.
Then came the shabu-shabu part. We chose the kurobuta pork (S$50 per pax/with a minimum two pax order). The servings were generous: a platter each of pork loin & pork belly, and an accompanying wicker-tray of crisp mizuna (love it!), shimeiji mushrooms, harusame, tofu, carrots, etc. Ramen was served towards the end with the now-rich & ambrosial broth. The quality of produce was excellent: fresh & top-grade.
We skipped dessert - Japanese sweets, like bawling babies, are not exactly my cup of cha.
The Japanese have close cultural links (culinary included) with the Middle Kingdom from the Tang Dynasty onwards, influencing their dress (kimonos closely resembled Tang costumes) & architecture.
But you're right, the subtle differences between buta-no-kakuni and the later era Song-dynasty dongpo-rou are a result of the evolution of two dishes with similar origins through the centuries.
In Tokyo, we often find buta-no-kakuni served with hard-boiled egg (which is similar to Singaporean "tau-yu bak"), but Japanese restaurants in Singapore seemed to have omitted that.
I love hot pot, as you have perhaps discovered in my previous threads. Though I agree this love affair is not shared on this Board. I wrote 2 reviews on hot pot on China Board that gets 0 response.
Good to hear that the business is picking up as I want to go back there again. I was at first worried the shabu shabu business is not sustainable in Singapore.
You should try the Wagyu beef on your next visit. It is really good, better than the pork loin & belly.
there are tons of great hot pot places. I really like the Magic of Chongqing in Tanglin. There are a lot of Shabu Shabu places in cuppage too that are very good. one of them has an all you can drink sake ... i think on the fourth floor of cuppage ... and also up there in cuppage is probably the best robata grill place in singapore i think ... but it's expensive.