An omakase meal is an essential Japanese culinary experience. Omakase literally means “I trust you” or “I leave it to you”, not something the Japanese take lightly. The diner is giving himself over to the chefs, who will turn out a dizzying showcase of courses that are typically reflective of the season’s best produce and the kitchen’s signature cooking style.
Omakase is a fine, long-standing tradition but it doesn’t work everywhere. In general, large or chain restaurants are a no-go. Places that are smaller, intimate, and which bring in produce on a very regular basis, are the places for omakase. You want to be part of the experience, so do sit near the chef. Don’t, however, go for omakase if you’re a picky eater. You should be willing to try everything, and have few dietary restrictions.
Singapore has Japanese restaurants aplenty, but it’s only at these where the omakase experience is a cut above the rest.
A glowing addition to the local drinking and dining scene, Shin Terroir is an intimate ten-seater omakase concept that is poised to impress with its expertise in honest-to- goodness grilled specialties.
Backed by an impressive inventory of top labels from Burgundy and Champagne, the restaurant proffers an uplifting and immensely satisfying Japanese Grill experience finessed with fine ingredients and a shokunin, or craftsman approach.
Here, Singaporean Chef Nicholas Lee and Hokkaido native Takeshi Nakayama work their magic over a custom-made three-tier grill from Osaka filled with hot Kishu bincho coals; made purely from Ubamegashi, a Japanese oak from Wakayama that is highly coveted for its ability to achieve searing temperatures with excellent heat retention qualities.
Stoking the glowing embers of tradition with contemporary flair, Chef Lee and Chef Nakayama have conjured a scintillating 15-course menu ($198++ per person) that traverses lighter to punchier flavours; with a few surprises in between.
A signature item, Mille Feuille (pictured left) is an intricately layered creation comprising chicken gizzard and chives draped over with a single piece of chicken skin which blisters and crispens in the most perfect way during the grilling process – this is a unique Shin Terroir touch.
Another Shin Terroir specialty, the homemade sweet tare-glazed Tsukune; a proprietary mix of finely minced chicken and pork with mountain yam, is matched impeccably with a sunny ‘dip’ of tamago shoyuzuke or soy-marinated egg yolk – a more savoury accompaniment than the conventional fresh egg yolk.
Shin Terroir is at 80 Tras Street, Singapore 079019
There’s a new omakase in town and it’s none other than Kakushin. Located in Scotts Square, you can expect a gastronomical experience like no other of which you can expect a wide variety of premium and seasonal produce from Japan.
Helmed by Chef Chan, you can expect dishes like the Awabi served with liver sauce, Uni toast, topped with Nukazuke Moro-kyuri and an Oba Chimichurri, and of course, a wide selection of Nigiri Sushi that is all handmade to perfection. Kakushin’s ingredients are also carefully handpicked and flown directly from well-known markets including Toyosu Market and they also bring in produce from the most elusive of speciality farms in Japan too. Some of the noteworthy dishes that we love from our recent tasting at Kakushin include the Chargrilled A5 Kagoshima Wagyu with Truffle Balsamic Sauce and Snow Crab with Uni Chawanmushi.
Kakushin is at #02-03, Scotts Square, 6 Scotts Road, Singapore 228209
Prefer something cosy and more intimate? You might want to check out Shinsora. Boasting a cosy 10-seater dining space, this Japanese restaurant located in Odeon Tours is helmed by award-winning sushi chef-owner Sky Tai Koon Siang. Recently, it launched its new and improved lunch menu which is perfect if you’re looking for a quick respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Choose from a 9-piece menu (S$90++) or opt for something a little more extensive like a 15-piece menu (S$200++) for lunch of which you’ll find premium ingredients like the Matsukawagarei (barfin flounder) served with sea salt and freshly grated wasabi. Depending on the set you choose, you will also get to enjoy other dishes like the Iwashi (sardine), seasonal Saba (mackerel), savoury Awabi (abalone), Nodoguro torched to perfection (blackthroat seaperch), as well as Caviar with Hasu Imo.
Shinsora is at 331 North Bridge Road, # 01-04 Odeon Towers, Singapore 188720
We can’t talk about omakase without including Hashida, which is highly regarded as one of the top sushi restaurants in Singapore. It shuttered in 2020 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, but reopened in 2021 at a new location in Telok Ayer under new management, OUE Restaurants.
Hashida’s latest iteration revolves around the concept of sandō – the pathway that leads into a Shinto shrine. Upon entering, you’ll be greeted by a torii gate, and the pathway leads you down to its three dining rooms: Ei, which means ‘moon’, is a 12-seater space with contemporary décor inspired by moonscape and yin and yang philosophy; Bi seats eight and is modelled after a traditional sushi restaurant; while Ou, which means ‘sakura’, is a cosy 7-seater that is reminiscent of a Japanese house and features a chef’s table made from sakura wood.
Highlights from our lunch served by Chef Atsushi Kuroki include the hirame (flounder) and cuttlefish sashimi, served with a fragrant gin salt derived from botanicals used in gin production, and ankimo (monkfish liver). The latter was a flavour bomb in one bite – creamy, sweet, and velvety on the palate. The array of nigiri sushi hit all the right notes, making it hard to pick a favourite at the end of the meal. But if we had to, it’ll be the tachiuo (beltfish) and uni, and of course, Hashida’s signature hand-carved otoro (tuna belly). One of the joys of Japanese omakase is seeing the food being prepared right in front of you, and our jaws dropped when Chef-owner Kenjiro ‘Hatch’ Hashida brought out a gorgeous slab of tuna with beautiful marbling to prepare our hand-carved otoro. It certainly whetted our appetites again, even though we were on our 18th course by then.
The meal ended on a high note with dessert – which consist of Japanese fruits, a sakura jelly, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream with strawberry jam. The dining experience was certainly enjoyable – the chefs were chatty and more than happy to elaborate on each dish. The attention to detail was impeccable, right down to the house-made pickled ginger and radish (so good that we asked for seconds!).
Hashida is at 77 Amoy St, Singapore 069896
Shoukouwa received two Michelin stars just four months after opening in 2016 – a testament to its high quality. Here, quality seafood and attention to detail are at the forefront. The omakase courses boast exceptional seasonal produce, and ingredients are flown in daily from Tsukiji Market and Hokkaido. Shoukouwa is zen-like, but is a small space, so each guest enjoys personal attention — a hallmark of the omakase tradition. There is also a selection of Wine Advocate-rated sakes to complement the menus. Prices begin at $320++ and omakase is served at both lunch and dinner.
Shoukouwa is at 1 Fullerton Rd, #02-02A One Fullerton, Singapore 049213
This Tras Street restaurant is an oasis of calm in the busy CBD. The intimate hinoki-wood sushi counter is where you want to be seated, and where you can be impressed by the chefs’ deft knife skills as they work. Omakase prices begin at a very accessible ($180++ for dinner). Head chef Ryosuke Harada presents a traditional edomae style of sushi, but doesn’t hesitate to use a few modern touches (the inclusion of tare sauce, a bit of sesame salt and a sliver of uni for flavour, for instance). Service is efficient and personable. Most of the omakase courses include a mini don and, if you’re lucky, you might be served the uni and ikura don — a beautiful bowl of fresh, briny, ocean flavours.
Sushi Mitsuya is at 60 Tras St, #01-01, Singapore 078999.
While most noteworthy omakase restaurants are seafood-driven, The Gyu Bar’s chefs are intent in showing you how you can enjoy the finest beef – namely, wagyu. The omakase is an exploration of the many cuts, prepared in ways that best showcase the beef’s fine marbling, delicate texture and rich mouthfeel. Choose from two different 8-course omakase menus, each with a highlight of quality beef prepared yakiniku-style. There’s also a 9-course wagyu-focused omakase menu ($238++ per person; 24-hour advance notice required for reservations) highlighting various regional livestock. You’d be taken on a wagyu journey through seven different prefectures of Japan, from Furano in the north to Kagoshima in the south. Each wagyu breed is prepared in a style that best showcases the beef’s flavour. It’s a gastronomic education beef lovers will appreciate.
The Gyu Bar is at 30 Stevens Rd, #01-08, Singapore 257840
You’ll be taken to new heights (literally) at the newest fine-dining Japanese restaurant in town, which sits on the 24th floor in the Shangri-La Hotel’s Tower Wing. For $240++ per person, Chef Shigeo Akiba and his apprentices will present appetisers appropriate to the season, freshly flown-in sashimi, soup, sushi rolls, a rice bowl and nigiri. You have the option of pairing each course with sake ($99++), chosen by the in-house sake sommelier. NAMI is also the place to go to appreciate dashi — the kombu broth forms the backbone of a special $180++ dashi menu, where a variety of dishes are prepared, accented or elevated by Chef’s home-brewed dashi.
NAMI is at the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, 22 Orange Grove Road, Tower Wing.
Most people who have dined at Shinji By Kanesaka (there are two outlets, one at Carlton Hotel and the other at the St. Regis) have described the experience as sublime. Both outlets boast Michelin stars and are omakase-only dining experiences. Tell the very capable chefs you are in their hands, and they will lead you towards the finest morsels of maki and nigiri, delicate soups, cleverly cooked dishes and the freshest seasonal desserts. From the understated and elegant decor, to the exemplary food, this is the best special-occasion omakase in town. Prices are at $300 to $500 for the chef’s special omakase courses. Steep, but worth every penny.
Shinji by Kanesaka is at Carlton Hotel (76 Bras Basah Road), and the St. Regis Hotel (29 Tanglin Road)
This stalwart Japanese restaurant on Scotts Road exudes old-world charm. It is housed in a heritage black-and-white bungalow and features a kappo-style dining room with an L-shaped hinoki wood counter. It seats 11 people, and there are also two separate, private dining rooms. As a Kyoto native, Chef Hamamoto is tuned in to his home prefecture, and his omakase-menus go heavy on the produce from this region. This means the freshest seafood, such as top-quality Ensui Bafun uni (sea urchin), and the most melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef, are served in a carefully planned course-by-course culinary journey. Prices begin at $150 for lunch and $300 for dinner.
Ki-sho is at 29 Scotts Road, Singapore 228224
The local outpost of the much-lauded sushi-ya in the Ginza district of Tokyo has a steady following of regulars and connoisseurs, and is tucked away behind the lobby of Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel. Sushi is the chef’s forte, and you can enjoy a nigiri-only omakase ($220) or a complete omakase experience for $300-$430. The intimate, 14-seat eatery serves only ingredients imported from Tsukiji, and guests can thus expect fresh, season-driven produce. This, paired with the chef’s skills, make for a dining experience like none other.
Ginza Sushi Ichi is at #01-04 Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, 320 Orchard Road
Holding its own in this list of fine and award-winning omakase experiences is Ryo Sushi. This restaurant has made a name for itself thanks to its omakase menus that come at outstanding value-for-money prices. They begin at $18++ for a 10-course omakase. Yes, you read that right. They’re also limited to 18 portions daily and are available to walk-in customers only. This course includes assorted sushi, a hand roll and soup. Even the full-price omakase menus begin at just $38++ for 15 courses, The most princely feast is an 18-course sea urchin menu at $98++, which features an uni rice bowl, a truffle onsen egg and sushi rolls of fatty tuna and uni.
Ryo Sushi is at 1 Tras Link, #01-06 Orchid Hotel, Singapore 078867
Another value-for-money omakase meal can be found at this Keong Saik Road eatery, notable in part because pictures from diners here have been flooding our Instagram feeds. The reason for this overwhelming outpouring of enthusiasm: The overflowing Hokkaido Rice Nanatsuboshi, featuring huge mounds of Aomori ikura, which chefs keep spooning on until the diners tell them to stop. For $129++ per person, the omakase includes a sashimi assortment, king crabs, and dishes made with Kagoshima A4 wagyu. The ikura rice comes towards the end, so you must save room for that.
Kyuu by Shunsui is at 29 Keong Saik Rd, Singapore 089136
Spanish tapas, served with sake pairings in an omakase-style meal? Admittedly, this is no typical Japanese restaurant but Bam! makes the cut in this list as its omakase menus feature Japanese ingredients. The techniques used are a fusion of Catalonian, Japanese and modern European cuisines. Expect dishes like a cold capellini with uni, and Sakura ebi and somen in dashi broth. When it comes to sake, do pair the meal with sake (which will cost an extra $58 to $78), as chef Pepe Moncayo believes that sake brings out the umami flavours in his dishes. The pairings progress from light and clear, to rich and robust.
Bam! Tapas and Sake Bar is at 38 Tras St, Singapore 078977