Tamashii Robataya: Japanese Food Fuelled By Old-School Mannerisms
What’s worse than sitting through a lengthy dinner in a bargain basement? If you’re going to spend good money on an omakase, you might as well pour it into a place that wears the extra cost on its gilded decor. Your food is stretched out over the open kitchen counter with a long wooden paddle. Your eyes are lured by the spectacular spread of gourmet seafood, meat and vegetables on wooden trays interspersed with lush foliage as barricades to the live stations. Why not throw caution to the wind with a comprehensive sake list too? With some ritzy wagyu items that might cost quite a pretty penny on the menu, dabbling with sake may seem like a dangerous proposition. But in time, you’ll see its advantageous involvement in the debauchery. Besides, the A5 Grade Miyazaki Beef Sandwich takes no prisoners; all it takes is a mere glance at your neighbour’s serving and you’re filled with lust.
Tamashii Robataya is one of the few robatayaki-style Japanese restaurants in Singapore. Its rarefied surroundings elicit unique dining experiences for many self-acclaimed Japanese food lovers. Diners sit around a large U-shaped table guarding mountainous stacks of fresh gourmet produce that are summoned upon your order and grilled before your eyes. A grand visual spectacle not to be missed.
The 8-course Semi Omakase dinner is priced at S$168++. It isn’t inexpensive, and could well be a direct response to the financial institutions surrounding it, filled with a certain kind of clientele that has no qualms about stretching their wallets for a bit of after-work entertainment. We start off with the Zensai, Oysters from Tokoyama have the pronounced salinity of sea grapes in their flavour index, served alongside the acquired tastes of monkfish liver, Ikura and fresh tomatoes from Hokkaido. Freshness is translated in the form of piquant seaworthiness and your taste buds are primed for the profound exquisiteness.
Ingredients, quality, and cooking techniques are impeccable in everything. And the kitchen has no qualms about taking the presentation one step further with radical processes, grounded by the basic desire to make the end result twice as delicious. Take the sashimi moriawase for instance—slender cuts of Salmon belly, Toro, Amberjack and Baby Squid stuffed with fish roe is served next to a shallow dish of intensely umamified soy sauce foam. A tiny touch that relays inventiveness and sensitivity to the delicacy of the fish at hand.
The symphony continues with Hokkaido Abalone steamed in sake, accompanied with a delicate saucer of steamed abalone liver sauce infused with truffle. I might possess ever-shifting dining whims when it comes to abalone, or truffle, but this succinct combination combined with the fresh seasonal produce is mesmerising. The kind that would ruin a first-time abalone consumer, forever. Their expression of the grilled Black Throat Sea Perch is devoted to the art of cooking simply—crisp skin is sided with grilled baby eggplants and onions, lightly flecked with sea salt. It’s nothing special, but the level of expertise demonstrated commands your attention.
On your visit, there will be truffle chawanmushi. It carries a sweet vibrancy that’s unlike regular renditions. Here, there is no need for the festoon of gingko nuts, fish cakes or prawns; the proof is in the egg custard—where a shower of Italian truffles are the final flourish and it’s a game changer in its earthy provisions. There’s no denying the appeal of a meat-piled rice bowl huddling the likes of a soft boiled egg: The Tamashii Robataya’s Saga Gyu Donburi ticks all the boxes with A4 grade Wagyu cooked to perfection on top of fluffy Japanese rice made lavish with an onsen egg, and the final curtain call of seasonal shaved Italian truffles. Being a purist at heart, this hot, hearty and meaty treat without the appearance of modish frou-frou additions to the mix, rounds up all the expected bits of formulae in there—and it’s hard to deny the level of finesse.
On days that you feel like a complete baller, Tamashii Robataya has got the goods to pander to those flashy needs. There’s the A5 Wagyu Saga Beef topped with Uni and Caviar ($45). All of a sudden, we are back in hipster land, the precisely stacked morsel is an Instagrammer’s dream. But what matters most, is how freaking delicious it is. The beef is filleted and seared with delicate precision that it melts in tantamount to the creamy Hokkaido uni.
You know those Wagyu Katsu Sandos that have taken Instagram by storm? Tamashii Robataya has taken that up a notch by employing the likes of Grade A5 Miyazaki beef between homemade bread. The lemon-like bites of homemade apple vinaigrette acting as welcome rays of sunlight breaking through the ostentatious nature of the prized marbled cattle. Its $98 dollar price tag is clearly high-minded, but I would go as far as to make a sweeping statement that all grievances are tossed out the window right at that elliptical moment when you tear through the pillow soft finger sandwich. Beef juices and citrus hits mingle in a euphoric tango in your mouth.
Tamashii Robataya makes the kind of earnest, fashionably austere, handsomely appealing food that is more often than not faultless. Attention to detail and the usage of premium products are so tediously sourced, yet they’re rarely verbally flaunted. And in all honesty, there is no need to. The restaurant’s regulars who fill up the seats on a subdued Wednesday night is a clear sign of their consistency at work.
12 North Canal Road, #02-01, S(048825)