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In our food dominated city, it’s hard to keep a secret for long. Tucked amidst a row of shophouses along North Canal Road, Tamashii Robataya is the best kept secret serving up one of the best robatayaki in town. I have been to this 3-month old restaurant not one, but THRICE – once invited and the other two times on my own. While the concept of robatayaki is not new here, the experience we had at Tamashii Robataya definitely is.

Robatayaki is the original traditional Japanese barbecue cooked in front of customers and served direct, similar to the style of sushi. Just like any other robatayaki, Tamashii let diners sit around a large U-shaped counter overflowing with gourmet seafood, meat and vegetables, and have your selections grilled right before your eyes. When your food is ready, it is delivered to your seat on a long, wooden paddle, paying homage to fishermen from North-eastern Japan centuries ago who served their catch-of-the-day with wooden oars. Be parepared for the constant shouting of orders and welcomes and farewells whcih always keep the atmosphere lively and fun.

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Owner behind Tamashii is Chef Patrick. Being a chef for 14 years, Chef Patrick picked up his culinary skills while working for Tatsuya and M Hotel. In 2006, he started a robatayaki restaurant named Robataya Yoyogi with his partner but the partnership dissolved. So about 3 months ago, he set up Tamashi. For many Japanese restaurant, they always like to name the restaurant after their surname. But for this restaurant, Chef Patrick named it Tamashii, which means soul in Japanese, as he believes that a meal should not only satisfy your appetite, but also your soul.

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So after coming here for lunch twice with different friends, I am back again to finally try their omakase. Omakase is a Japanese phrase that means “I’ll leave it to you”. Basically, the meal can be likened to an artistic performance by the chef.

Before Chef Patrick begins, he first asks us if there is anything we don’t eat. Of course not, show us what you can cook! We want surprises! Here comes a plate of seasonal salad with tomatoes and fig. It is simple enough for great tomatoes to shine, but adding fig keep things exciting.

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Amber Jack Mackerel with pieces of truffle and drizzled with truffle oil is an excellent dish. The thinly sliced fish is sweet in their own way and truffle oil provided a perfect finishing to the dish.

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For your information, they have alot of seasonal seafoods and vegetables which is air flown from Japan every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. So you know when you should come ah!

Bi-coloured corn from Hokkaido is brushed with butter and lightly grilled. It is served with jade green ginko nuts which is in the season now!

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Kurobota is known for its rich marbling and soft translucent fat. This makes it extremely tender and if you want to enjoy its original flavour, just simply steam it. Our kurobuta pork belly is steamed with cabbage and mushrooms, just dip it with ponzu sauce (or dip your vegetables with sesame sauce) and it is good to go.

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Kinki fish (rock fish) is considered a delicacy in Japan for their succulent and fatty white flesh. Their bright red skin turns orange when grilled and is only slightly flavoured with a little salt. It’s quite tricky to eat but with one taste you will understand why so many people persist picking every piece from the bone. Chef Patrick requests each kinki fish to be at 400g because the meat is fatty and oily.

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Fan clam was cooked with abalone mushrooms and butter sauce. Unfortunately, it was too chewy for my liking.

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Two donburis were served. One is pork cheek donburi. The thin slices of grilled pork cheek have an amazing texture – tender and, I’m not kidding, silky.

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Here’s the finale: Saga beef donburi! Wah this one is really shiok. Pink and tender Saga A4 beef striploin sits on a bed of marinated short-grain rice, topped with a runny onsen egg, drizzled with truffle oil. Break the yolk and mix it into the rice. Every mouthful you can taste the aroma from truffle, the silkiness from the egg and the flavours of the beef. Pricey, but worth the splurge!

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Dessert is passable with sea salt vanilla ice cream, green tea cheese cake, mochi and some fruits. All the ice cream is made in house.

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Chef Patrick was also kind enough to offer us a slice of flourless pumpkin cake with pumpkin ice cream. It is steamed with maple syrup. Sweetness is controlled and I quite like this.

Omakase meals start from $80. You can also sip a range of Japanese beers (from $8), sake (from $30), shochu ($88), Japanese whisky ($108) and wine (from $68).

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If omakase is not your thing, you can try their lunch or dinner set menus! For the two times I visited Tamashii, I went for their lunch set which is very affordable. Big thank you to Amanda for bringing me to this lovely restaurant. Each set lunch comes with salmon sashimi, salad, rice, miso soup and dessert.

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The first time I had Teriyaki Chicken ($18.80).

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The second time I had Gyuniku Teriyaki ($25.80) while my dear Su Ann had Grilled Cod ($23.80). My favourite is Gyuniku Teriyaki. It’s done just right. Almost like having a mini-steak. The sauce is incredibly good too.

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And I like their homemade black sesame ice cream.

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You may have problem finding the place, so I thought I can do a little guide here. The restaurant is located at North Canal Road but it is hidden in one corner. It is located at level 2, the lift is in a quiet corner near the famous Whitley Road Big Prawn Noodles.

Dining at Tamashii is like watching a performance where the chef puts his craft in plain sight of the diners. This is not a place to rush through a meal, as the food has to be grilled slowly, but a great place for a loud, fun dinner with lots of laughs and sake. The grilled meats here is packed with a lot of delicious tastes. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Tamashii and I hope my photos have done justice to the restaurant. Guess what, I will bringing another friend there for lunch on Thursday again!

Tamashii Robataya
Address: #02-01, 12 North Canal Road
Tel: 6222 0316
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday. Lunch from 12 noon to 2:30PM. Dinner from 6:30PM to 10:30PM. Closed on Sundays.
Website: http://www.tamashii.com.sg/ (Facebook here)