|Interior of Mikuni Japanese Restaurant|
Nobuhiko Sano of Mikuni Japanese Restaurant (“Mikuni”) told me that the one of the greatest allure winter brings is the chance to flirt with fugu (also called blowfish, puffer fish or globefish), an expensive Japanese delicacy that is known to be 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide.
“The Japanese will swoop down on fugu sashimi and fugu chiri (hotpot) when the fish is in season,” says Sano-san. “We like to pair it with hirezake (dried fugu fin steeped in hot sake).”
At Mikuni, where Sano-san works as General Manager and Sake Sommelier, tora fugu (tiger blowfish) is available for a limited time-only period from now till mid January 2014. Its fugu course (S$220++ per head) is a 9-course appreciation of various parts of the prized fish served in multiple ways. Thankfully, the puffer fish’ ovaries, eyeballs and liver – its most toxic parts – are not on the menu.
Yes, the experience of feasting on fugu has been likened to a game of Russian Roulette but under the watchful eyes of Moon Kyung Soo (“Moon”), executive chef of Mikuni, who is a licensed fugu practitioner, your dinner – and life – is in good hands.
Still, some diners may approach this experience with trepidation. If it is of any assurance, a cadre of Japanese farms has started mass-producing non-poisonous puffer fish. Moon confirms it but he is cheekily keeping mum about his fugu source.
For his fugu tasting menu, Moon doles out a string of blowfish creations that are, for lack of a better word, to die for.
Paper-thin slices of raw fugu are intricately arranged on a plate and served sashimi-style, alongside delicate strips of rather sinewy blanched fugu skin, finely sliced Japanese baby leek, a ball of chilli-laced Japanese radish and a bowl of ponzu dipping sauce. The fugu sashimi has a delicate – almost mild – taste that takes on on the full flavour of the accompanying ponzu dipping sauce. More notable is its delicate yet firm texture that provides a perfect counterpoint to the accompanying chewy skin.
|Otoushi course: fugu skin jelly, fugu sushi ball|
The same blanched fugu skin makes another appearance as otoushi (small appetizer): first embedded in fugu broth jelly with fugu sushi ball alongside a smidgeon of miso, then again in a salad with Japanese water parsley.
If raw fugu is exhilarating, cooked fugu is all the more riveting.
|Fugu shirako in daikon bowl|
Who can resist a delightfully mellow and velvety fugu shirako (fish milt) dashi-infused egg custard served in a daikon bowl with gingko nut?
|Grilled fugu with eringi and shitake mushrooms|
|Deep-fried kaarage-style fugu|
The grill course showcases grilled fugu chunks served in a sweet and savoury teriyaki sauce with eringi and shitake mushrooms that will have you rapt. Bone-in fugu chunks are also deep-fried karaage-style, the plump meat envelops the palate with a mildly sweet taste.
|Bun stuffed with grilled fugu, eel and foie gras|
At intermission, a Chinese bun-inspired snack arrives – fluffy bun stuffed with grilled fugu, eel and foie gras (we could barely detect the foie). On the surface, it looks no different from a char siew bun, but Moon’s fusion rendition oozes refinement and more umami then you can imagine.
For fugu aficionados, the pièce de résistance at dinner is fugu chiri (fugu hotpot) where thick slabs of fugu join a sizzling hot pot of vegetables – turnip, enoki and white cabbage – and rice cake basking in a simple broth prepared with nothing more than kombu (kelp).
“In Japan, the remaining broth from fugu chiri is taken back to the kitchen to create a thick Japanese porridge,” says Moon. “But at Mikuni, we have dispensed with this step and present the concluding zosui (Japanese rice soup) with basil seeds alongside heavenly smoked pickles.”
|Matcha ice cream with warm pistachio soup|
Moon sweeps you off your feet even with the concluding dessert, the only non-fugu item on the menu: a scoop of matcha (green tea) ice cream with warm pistachio soup.
If you’re planning to come for Mikuni’s fugu course, don’t miss the sake pairing (S$90++ additional for 4 shots of sake pairing) by Sano-san. A highlight is the smoky and alcoholic hirezake (dried fugu fin steeped in hot sake) cupped with a lick of matchstick flame, even if it has a dubious reputation of being popular among older Japanese men.
Mikuni Japanese Restaurant | 80 Bras Basah Road | 65 6431-6156
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published in this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.