Wagyu Omakase by Ayumu
An enormously marbled hunk of Japanese wagyu may not an ideal candidate for a steak meal for obviously unctuous reasons. But leave the mottled meat in the hands of a talented Japanese chef and he will show you 10 different ways to savour it (Ok, 10 may be an exaggeration but you get the gist). It’s precisely for this reason that the new Wagyu Omakase by Ayumu (“Wagyu Omakase”) is a worthy addition to our crowded dining scene.
A stablemate of the year-old Sushi Ayumu at Mandarin Gallery, Wagyu Omakase now occupies what used to be the left wing of Sushi Ayumu. Now hived off and rebranded as a wagyu tasting menu eatery, the minimalist interior of the 15-seat blond-wood counter-style eatery looks no different from its former self but at its core, wagyu – instead of sushi – is now the protein of choice executed by a hitherto unheard-of chef who cooks with as much flair as he does restraint. Enter executive chef Fukashi Adachi.
A native of Shozuoka, Adachi is schooled in the ways of wagyu and Japanese cuisine in restaurants where he cut his teeth including Fat Cow Singapore and Zuma Bangkok. At Wagyu Omakase, he unleashes a parade of omakase courses at lunch ($120++) and dinner ($280++ introductory price) that not only showcase the marbled beef from his motherland, but also his deftness at pacing the meal and, at times, his unique style at matching flavours.
Out of the 12 courses served at the dinner omakase, a good fifty percent are beef-based dishes crafted with wagyu souced from Kyushu (and for now, some from Niigata).
A tartare of cubed wagyu enrobed in a heady and buttery soy-garlic-avocado gucamole with ikura and uni on lotus chip kick starts the meal on a flavour-high.
Two courses later, you are greeted with a delicate carpet of wagyu carpaccio hydrated with a savoury spray of housemade soy sauce. By no means new, this tried-and-tested dish is given a Japanese kiss of umami with a topping of dried kelp floss and shiso flowers, and shavings of summer truffles for a touch of luxury. It’s carpaccio par excellence.
As if to balance the delicateness of the carpaccio, Adachi sends his most rustic dish yet – slivers of thinly sliced wagyu dipped ”shabu shabu” style in an earthern pot of dashi by the counter. The wagyu itself, it’s suitably impressive, if a little cold, but the Japanese chef pairs the protein with a disc of onsen egg and a sticky puddle of tororo (grated and chopped mountain yam) muddled with citrus-pickled vegetables, freshly shaved bonito flakes and a dash of dashi. If the richness of the wagyu and egg ever gets to you, know that it is rightly tempered by the earthiness of the mountain yam, lifted by acidity of the pickles and buffered by the refined umami of the dashi.
For the fried (agemono) course, you are served a pair of rare on the inside and lightly crusted on the outside wagyu cutlets (katsu) – one drizzled with tonkatsu sauce and leaves of edible gold flakes and another, in fact more outstanding one, with a punchy, slightly spicy, daikon spiked with yuzu chilli pepper.
And since you are in a sushi-ya, you might as well be served a course of wagyu sushi. Two pieces in fact. Adachi rolls the slice of wagyu with rice, torches it and gives it a spray of his housemade soy sauce. After slicing the roll into two, he crowns the wagyu sushi with smoked Spanish caviar and gives it a dust of yuzu zest. Need I say that this is moist and excellent, made superlative by the pot of clear dashi-based consomme to help cleanse the palate.
If the ensuing wagyu course of a pair of binchotan-yaki (charcoal-seared) steaks (A5 Kagoshima tenderloin and A4 Niigata striploin) is predictable, it is also predictably juicy and tender. And if ever the richness of the wagyu becomes too much, you could partake in the trio of splotches of condiments provided – freshly grated wasabi, yuzu kosho and the stem of wasabi. Not that you’ll need it but the pungency of the latter is a perfect counterpoint to the buttery wagyu.
The other reason why this menu is stellar is how Adachi paces his wagyu courses with interesting in-betweens. Like the ”ate” snack of fermented western and Japanese ingredients-camembert marinated in saikyo miso (sweet white) and Danish blue cheese in moromi miso (barley) paired with a shot of sake from Hyogo prefecture. Also, a cup of chilled somen set apart from its somen brethren by the reduced sake broth streaked with ikura that coddles the oodles of fine noodles.
I don’t have a bone to pick with this meal but if I have to identify a weak link, it would be the one-dimensional shiso leaf sorbet with lime (where’s the lime?) that arrives before the sushi wagyu. Also the all-too-conventional goma (black sesame) ice cream that concludes the meal.
These are by no means a deal-breaker and one shouldn’t quibble about a great wagyu meal because of a garden variety dessert or palate cleanser. Still, it would have been a pleasure to savour perfection.
333A Orchard Road #04-16 Mandarin Gallery, Singapore 238 897; +65-9780 7002