Kurama Robatayaki – 2-in-1 Sake Bar & Delicious Japanese Restaurant
Yoi Sake Bar and Kurama Robatayaki opened its doors in early August 2016. This 2-in-1 destination is a collaboration between two passionate, highly-experienced and very talented chefs, Raymond Tan and Max Lai. The two distinct spaces enable customers to not only enjoy authentic Japanese dishes, yet at the same time, let loose and unwind with Japanese sakes. In October 2016, a dessert chef from Hong Kong’s Tenku RyuGin, the first overseas branch of prestigious Michelin 3-starred Nihonryori RyuGin in Japan, has joined the team, introducing finely-crafted Japanese desserts.
Step into the entrance and you’ll be greeted by a riot of colours at Yoi Sake Bar, from the row of dancing “koinobori” (carp streamers), bar tables made out of plastic crates to the anime-inspired imagery that decorates the walls. Yoi Sake Bar is inspired by the tiny watering holes lining the narror alleys in Japan where hordes of “salarymen” head to after work for a drink, or ten. Housed within the chillers at Yoi Sake Bar are more than 50 types of sake, of which Kokuryu, Jyuyomdai and Isojiman, are exclusive. Warning: this isn’t a somber place to hang your head after a long day’s work.
You’ve to fill your tummies before beginning your round of sakes hence, embark on a gastronomic journey at Kurama Robatayaki, an intimate space further inside. You’ll be awed by the culinary performance as chefs prepare a feast in full view of customers, with produce imported from Japan and other parts of the world. Thus, on any given day, customers can expect to savour scallops from Australia, king crabs from Alaska, lamb from New Zealand, as well as, beef and vegetables from Japan.
We started with the Truffle Onsen Salad, a colourful bowl of fresh lettuce, cherry tomatoes and garden salad, topped with a wobbly onsen egg and sprinkled with aromatic truffle oil. Toss everything together and you’ll get the contrast of crunchy vegetables against the silky texture of the egg. If you’re wondering why your onsen egg has a missing yolk, fret not as it might have been broken and flowed to the bottom of the bowl. Or, you can tell yourself that your bowl of salad is healthier – the “no cholesterol” version.
Most of the seafood at Kurama Robatayaki are flown in from Japan and we had the Grilled Hotate (scallop). The chefs would de-shell and clean the plump fresh scallops right in front of your eyes before dicing and plating them attractively back into the shell, adding mirin rice wine and generous amount of butter. Grilled to perfection, you can taste the natural sweetness of these succulent scallops, which finishes with a hint of smokiness.
Kurama Robatayaki are famous for their skewers and our favourite dishes are the Tsukune and Lychee Ham. The former is made up of a mixture of minced chicken with hidden chopped-up soft bones and drenched in a savoury sauce. It is served with a single raw egg yolk. Dip your chicken skewer into the egg and you’ll get a fantastic combination of taste and textures!
The latter, on the other hand, leans towards a sweeter note as lychee, flown in from Thailand or China, depending on season, is enveloped within slices of ham before being grilled. This dish is specially curated by the chefs and one bite gives a surprising burst of sweetness in the middle, which is balanced well with the savouriness of the ham.
Other skewers include grilled chicken, chicken wings and wagyu omi beef cubes. Japanese believed that omi beef was originally used over 400 years ago to show hospitality to the warrior, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Later on, in the Edo period, it was presented as a gift to the Shogun, and the average person only began to eat it after the country was reopened in the Meiji period. Kurama Robatayaki is where you can try how fatty yet tender omi beef is.
We also had Mackerel Pike, where the chef explained that the stomach area of this fish is meant to be a little bitter as this would mean that the fish is fresh. Mackerel Pike fish is only available during autumn. If its stomach doesn’t taste bitter, it would mean that the fish isn’t in season anymore. The cooking process is very simple as the chef only sprays sake (not the drinking type) to keep the meat moist before grilling and season the fish only with salt. Dip the fish meat in Ponzu sauce and you get a nice flavour.
You can also order grilled sweet potato, kinoki butter yaki (mushrooms), garlic fried rice and many more items on their menu.
We had not one, but three, sweet-treats to end off our night. The best dessert was the Houjicha Crème Brulee as the custard was smooth and neither too eggy nor overwhelmingly sweet. It has a subtle flavour of roasted tea running throughout, simply enjoyable. The beautifully curated dessert – Peach Bavarois – is peach compote with Bavarois cream and raspberry jam, decorated with rose gelee and gold foil. This was amazingly light, with a pleasant sweetness. Lastly, the Gooseberry Panna Cotta looks impressive but unfortunately, didn’t manage to impress our palates.
Kurama Robatayaki is the place to go if you want an intimate and exclusive dining experience as there are only 15 seats, ensuring that the chefs get to interact with customers properly while doing the cooking. You can drop by after work and challenge Godzilla to a round or two of sake too! If you want a bottle of sake to enjoy at home, Yoi’s range is also available for purchase. Overall, we had a great dining experience at Kurama Robatayaki and enjoyed watching the chefs work their magic and serving our food on oars.
Address: #02-07, 9 Raffles Boulevard, Millenia Walk, Singapore 039596
Phone: 6341 9668
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 12pm to 2pm (lunch) and 6pm to midnight (dinner). Closed on Sundays.
Note: This is an invited tasting.