Boruto: Japanese Sake Bar and Izakaya with all the right moves
It could so easily have gone wrong. Young tenacious chef, deep-rooted in Japanese Cuisine banks hard in pursuit of Georges Escoffier’s precision techniques. After a stint in Les Amis, Angus Chow joined the big boys to found the kitchen of Catalan tapas bar FOC, before planting himself firmly in Boruto. The aim, to combine and refine the excellence of Japanese gourmet produce and finesse, with European cooking techniques to modernise traditional izakaya selections. Since we’ve had a good run with bars churning our mediocre grub as of late, it’s going to take quite a miracle to reverse my snobbery.
It’s tempting to plug your ears, close your eyes and wait for the boom.
There’s noise coming from the dining room now, but it isn’t the death rattle of contemptuousness. It’s the sound of appreciative buzz, interrupted intermittently by sighs of resignation and audible euphoria. And this, even after 2 years of opening its doors. They must be doing something right.
Boruto is one of the most likeable restaurants on my radar. It has had a considerable amount of time and money lavished on it, powered by the same owner behind Tamashii Robataya (just a stone’s throw away), Chef Patrick Tan, yet steered with the humble finesse of Angus Chow’s fusion cuisine vision. It has personality. It has a mighty vault on the second floor with all sorts of rare sakes to lubricate the impressive eats. It promises much. And it delivers with aplomb.
By unanimous consent, the atmosphere at Boruto Singapore is exceedingly pleasant. There’s no gimmick to the concept here; the colour schemes understandably stark to reflect its precedent bank origins—basic and industrial, outfitted with now ubiquitous concrete finishing. Regardless, it’s an izakaya and tapas bar, the ample roaming space filling naturally with boisterous laughter and the shuffling of feet, configuring the most graceful method to dismount the high stools. It’s a public holiday, there’s a convivial roar that isn’t quite deafening, and the white collared rallied up folk you would expect to see seem less of a feature here.
There’s an epic array of sakes on a separate menu, making me rather smitten but my liver is hosted by a slew of new cocktails. The Yuzumond teases the palate, yuzu sake offering a nicely tart corrective to the underlying sweetness. This is accompanied by Yellowfin Tuna, seared but still an endearing shade of red in the middle, avruga caviar of glorious poise drapes over, while olive oil crumble adds on to the preceding richness.
The next trick comes in the form of Taraba Kani Salada, the natural brininess of the king crab engaging in playful banter with the creamy stack of avocado and cherry tomato. Diners get an unadulterated taste of the sea, followed swiftly by golden pillows of Kani Croquettes. What amps this dish is the velvety creaminess from cooked béchamel combined with sweet blue swimmer crab contrasting against the golden crunchy exterior. You’ll want to sip on your Galician Grand Esprit while you’re navigating the dish, albeit the balance is a little off-kilter (the elderflower liqueur converges with cucumber to exude a peculiar medicinal taste).
The meal progresses at a steady pace, and watchful servers dart quick glances across table tops in between light steps. Service here is unobtrusive—miracle workers get their job done in stealth mode. Food at Boruto is plated for fashionable appetites, but at reasonable price tags—allowing you to work through a number of dishes without burning a hole in your pocket.
If you don’t order the Ebi Niniku Yaki, you are an idiot. More sophisticated than its humble billing; white king prawns and deshelled, deveined and simmered in sake instead of the orthodox Chinese wine in Drunken Prawns. It is a splendid bowl of warm comfort—priced at $18.80. I would take seconds and perhaps thirds if my gut allowed. Unfortunately, a well calibrated narration of the tasting menu brought Tori Charcoal Karaage to the table. Chicken thigh cooked to tender disposition is best when doused in glugs of glorified creamy Mentaiko Mayonnaise.
By this point, I was stuffed. Not a complaint. Being slapped around the face by fried chicken, air flown seafood and booze is my idea of a good night out. My bulleit bourbon fantasies are answered in the soothing Healing Tamashii cocktail; healing garden tea, umeshu and the final flourish of cinnamon sticks and dehydrated lemon slices designed to make you less overwhelmed.
One dish, the Gindara Pumpkin Miso may look a little drab (like Cinderella sans the magic touch. Pun intended) but it turns out to be one for the culinary books. Thin slices of cod sporting a crisp seared skin reveal formidable prowess in the kitchen. Aged miso together with sweet grilled Japanese pumpkin emulates the creative modern cuisine of acclaimed restaurants but in humble settings. It’s again, $18.80 worth of lip-smacking and sake-worthy accompaniment.
I gripe often that restaurants tend to serve the thin-bodied and saline-lacquered Fine de Claire oysters as house oysters. Fortunately, Boruto has some immaculate alternatives. Hiroshima Oysters hand-sourced by Chef Angus Chow are plump and creamy, swathed in the icy realms of ponzu granite and spiced grated radish; a concoction of such intensity and certainty, you will be hard pressed to say no. Chalk up a couple of these and call it a day.
If you still have space in there, which I would implore you to muster; there is one dish on the menu at Boruto which sums up the restaurant. Looks and tastes collide in the Uni Truffled Somen. It’s a hefty, satisfying bruiser. Opt for the version bereft of Bafun Uni for less than half the cost and you’re still guaranteed a good time nonetheless.
Chef Angus Chow is a precise poet, the sweet science of his cooking and pedantic curation of ingredients will capture your imagination and palate. This is a kitchen where lavish produce is placed on a pedestal and acidity deployed with a painterly touch. The food tells a story of seamless cumulation of work experience and gives ballast to the extensive sake and spirits list. This is seriously gratifying food at a good price and without a doubt, its stay will be long-lived.
Address: 80 South Bridge Road #01-01 Golden Castle Building Singapore (058710)
Tel: 6532 0418