Japanese shabu shabu and sukiyaki at Sakurazaka in Greenwood Avenue

Beef shabu shabu at Sakurazaka

Beef shabu shabu. Photo: John Heng

Premium Japanese meats at an upscale Greenwood Avenue address may sound like a pretty expensive combination, but we’re happy to report that the prices at Sakurazaka are shockingly reasonable. 

While the concept is still decidedly Japanese – after all, chef Masashi is a native of Fukuoka ─ there are dashes of European influence, reflecting chef’s training in classical French cooking. 

The list of set menus is concise with four choices: 

  • Kyushu Shirobuta pork set ($48/adult, $24/child); 
  • Aomori Japanese rice-fed beef (choice of striploin or ribeye) shabu shabu set ($64/adult, $32/child), with an option to upgrade to the even more marbled Joshu Wagyu for a supplementary $25; 
  • seafood shabu shabu set ($54/adult, $27/child) with tiger prawns, white clams, scallops, red snapper, squid, mussels and house-made perilla-flaked prawn balls;
  • sukiyaki set ($75/adult, $37.50/child) with a choice of striploin or ribeye from Wagyu-Holstein crossbreed, also with an option to upgrade to Joshu Wagyu for an additional $18. 

sakurazaka - authentic shabu shabu and sukiyaki restaurant

Sukiyaki set. Photo: John Heng

The difference between shabu shabu and sukiyaki ultimately comes down to the cooking medium. For shabu shabu, you swish your seafood or thinly sliced meats in a large pot of light broth; for sukiyaki, the meat is first cooked in a shallow pot, then simmered with sukiyaki sauce ─ a dulcet concoction of mirin, soy sauce and sugar. If you have a sweet tooth or prefer stronger flavours, the latter would be more up your alley. 

All the sets come with an appetiser, assorted seasonal vegetables, and your choice of udon, egg noodles or Japanese rice for carbs. There’s also kakigori (Japanese shaved ice dessert) to round off the meal. 

Hot stone-grilled beef ishiyaki appetiser at Sakurazaka

Hot stone-grilled wagyu beef ishiyaki, part of the beef shabu shabu set

For shabu shabu orders, the very act of grilling your starters ─ wagyu beef, iberico pork, or prawn and scallops respectively ─ over a hot stone (known as ishiyaki in Japanese) and dipping the food into a quivering, sukiyaki-laced onsen egg will undoubtedly have your appetite thoroughly whet. We didn’t try the sukiyaki set, but we’re told that the opener of Sakurazaka chawanmushi is studded with seafood.

Besides the sheer quality of its meats, Sakurazaka is just as serious about the shabu shabu broths. Take your pick of two, from a collection which spans from classic recipes like chicken and pork bone broths, to a Fukuoka-style ago dashi broth concocted from dried flying fish, to European takes like beef consomme and fish bouillabaisse. 

Kyushu shirobuta pork shabu shabu at Sakurazaka

Kyushu Shirobuta pork shabu shabu. Photo: John Heng

Our conclusion? The beef consomme is a robust companion for the pork and beef shabu shabu, whereas the fish bouillabaisse feels almost as luxurious as tucking into lobster bisque. And take it from us ─ keep your swishing to a few brief seconds to do justice to these superlative cuts of meats.

If you’re still hankering for more shabu shabu action, you can add on orders from the a la carte menu.

Prime cuts of Japanese wagyu beef and pork at Sakurazaka

Prime cuts of Japanese wagyu beef and pork. Photo: John Heng

Prices for meats start from $8/100g for probiotics-fed Sakura chicken meat, and $12/100g for the Kyushu pork belly. Among the more unconventional items we spied were the foie gras ($14 for a good-sized slab) and wanton mozzarella ($9). The former was a little too unctuous for our liking, but the mozzarella dumplings proved to be chewy, moreish fun. 

The Japanese style of dining places carbs as the last course. While that may seem at odds with our Singaporean penchant for plonking in and cooking all the ingredients at once, we were quickly won over ─ that’s also when the broth is at its best, poignant with the essence of all the shabu shabu ingredients.

We suggest opting for the Japanese rice version, which the wait staff will cook down with egg and cheese into a pretty convincing risotto of sorts, plump with the flavourful broth. 

Kakigori (Japanese shaved ice dessert) at Sakurazaka

Kakigori, Japanese shaved ice dessert. Photo: John Heng

Kakigori is the Japanese version of shaved ice dressed in syrup and condensed milk. Once again, Masashi throws up both traditional and contemporary European options. Personally, we’ve been spoiled silly by the ethereal snow-like flakes of Korean Bingsu that the coarser ice shavings here felt rough in comparison. 

That said, the port wine kakigori ─ a fruity combination of port wine sauce, red wine jelly cubes, and citrus fruits ─ is a great palate cleanser.

Tiramisu kakigori (Japanese shaved ice dessert) at Sakurazaka

Tiramisu kakigori

But if it’s a caffeine kick you hanker, the tiramisu kakigori is the finale to seek out. This deconstructed version of the Italian favourite has coffee-soaked lady finger biscuits as a base, topped with ice cream, mascarpone espuma, crunchy chocolate pearls and a punchy, alcohol-spiked coffee syrup. This, in our book, is one of the best among numerous tiramisus and tiramisu-inspired creations we’ve encountered in Singapore. 

4 Greenwood Avenue, tel: 6463-0333. Open Mon-Wed, 6-10pm; Thu-Sun, 11.30am-3pm, 6-10pm.