The growing popularity of kaiseki among Japanese food aficionados has lured an interesting new entry into the city’s slowly blossoming kaiseki scene. Instead of showcasing seasonal Japanese ingredients as Kyo-kaiseki does, this new kid on the block fields wagyu kaiseki.
Named Ushidoki Wagyu, the 26-seat Tras Street newbie by the former head chef of Kumo, Nobuaki Hirohashi, an Osaka native, dishes up Ozaki wagyu in a boutique space with rustic exposed brick walls and thick hunks of sakura wood tables. Served in typical kaiseki fashion, i.e. over multiple courses of dainty dishes, each showcasing a different cut of the wagyu prepared in a different style, the kaiseki is atypical in that it celebrates Ozaki wagyu rather than the changing of seasons.
Ozaki wagyu is named for beef from wagyu cattle raised on a farm owned by Manuharu Ozaki in Miyazaki. Unlike most types of Japanese wagyu cattle, which are slaughtered at around 28 months of age, the Ozaki wagyu cattle live to between 32 to 36 months. This is because the owner believes that the flavour of the meat will continue to develop as the cattle age. According to the restaurant, the Ozaki herd destined for Singapore is fed a controlled diet during the final two months of its life to yield meat that is not as rich as other Japanese wagyu, yet full on flavour.
This prized wagyu can now be savoured via one of two tasting menus – the Ushidoki course (S$200++ per head) and the Omakase course (S$300++). If you are hungry for caviar and truffles and don’t mind a splurge, pick the Omakase course by all means. For first timers however, the 10-course Ushidoki course offers a suitably satisfying peek into the possibilities of Ozaki beef.
|Beef tongue in white miso broth|
The opening act from the Ushidoki course starts light with a slab of fork-tender beef tongue basking in a sweet and heartwarming bath of white miso broth. In case you’re wondering, Japanese offals are not approved for importation into Singapore at the moment and Hirohashi uses American beef tongue for this dish. (3.75/5)
Ozaki wagyu then comes to the fore with the ensuing course, a trio of beef sashimi.
|Yuzukosho-perfumed tartare of ribeye kaburi|
The first is the most delightful, yuzukosho-perfumed tartare of ribeye kaburi flecked with pickles and shallots. Smoked just before serving in a glass dome, the disc of rough-chopped meat arrives crowned with ikura pearls and shiso flowers, offering just enough refreshment without complicating the palate. (4.25/5)
|A tongue of sea urchin wrapped in a roll of Ozaki tri-tip wagyu|
A tongue of sea urchin wrapped in a roll of tomosankaku (tri-tip) and torched just before serving is sweet, savoury and lush. To be sure, this is a safe but popular dish but it is not mind-blowing. (4/5)
|Kombu-steeped Ozaki wagyu, oyster|
Thin slices of kombu-steeped Ozaki wagyu shoulder served with French oyster in the mollusk’s own shell alongside olive oil “caviar” and sprigs of spring onion conjure up images of an umami bomb. The surf and turf combination, however, has its limitation – the briny oyster does not provide the perfect fodder to embrace the lushness of the beef. (3.5/5)
|Yukke-style Ozaki beef tartare sushi|
The momentum plummets with the sushi course – Ozaki beef tartare prepared Korean yukke style, i.e. seasoned with shoyu and sesame oil, arrives as sushi on hand-pressed shari. Showered with grated Parmesan cheese at the table, the clash of flavours is, to put it not so lightly, brazen. The idea of serving the Ozaki beef yukke holds strong potential though. (2.75/5)
|“Roast” Ozaki beef|
There is also a course of “roast beef” slices in herb garden. Technically a braised beef dish that bears a strong physical resemblance to roast beef, the meat is first seared then slow cooked in a cocktail of shoyu and red wine. Before serving, it is sliced and buried completely in a riot of 15 different types of herbs and edible flowers drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a dash of braising liquid. It’s not my favourite course of the meal but it passes muster. (3.5/5)
|“Rosanjin” style sukiyaki|
The dinner cruises on ascendo from here. “Rosanjin” style sukiyaki arrives with paper-thin slices of Ozaki wagyu loin blanched briefly in a warm bath of 3 month-old sukiyaki sauce prepped with Miyazaki shoyu. It is served with a dollop of perfectly formed slow-cooked egg rained over with generous shavings of Perigord truffle and just enough sukiyaki sauce to envelop the palate with umami. (4.5/5)
|Char-grilled Ozaki wagyu beef|
Char-grilled Ozaki beef two ways is also a delight. Beefy-with-a-good-bite uchi momo (a cut of lean wagyu from the inner thigh) is served with garlic chips and freshly grated wasabi; and melt-in-the-mouth sirloin with shoyu-drizzled horseradish. Both are grilled by the counter on bincho and served rare but still tender and succulent with a hint of smoky tang alongside sauteed seasonal vegetables. (4.5/5)
|Cold somen with oxtail jelly in dashi refreshed with yuzu|
The finale ends the dinner on a high – cold somen with blobs of oxtail jelly in a dashi broth refreshed with yuzu. Simple but simply stunning. (4.5/5)
|Milk ice cream, burrata, gula Melaka|
It concludes with a light, subtly creamy and pristine-white dessert of milk ice cream with burrata finished with a drizzle of gula Melaka (palm sugar). Even with no hint of acidity, this dessert still ticks some important boxes (particularly the “not too sweet” one) in my books although it may not appeal to everyone. (4/5)
With Ozaki wagyu as its main headline, Ushidoki Wagyu has a strong anchor concept that will endear itself to food cognoscenti. With a few fixes, we don’t see why it will not take off in our wagyu-obsessed city.
57 Tras Street Singapore 078 996 | +65-6221 6379 | ushidoki.com
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on 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.