Sakurazaka – Infuses Japanese Shabu-Shabu with European Flair
Consultant Chef Masashi Horiuchi opens a new restaurant Sakurazak in the Greenwood enclave. Traditional shabu-shabu and sukiyaki are infused with European flair, in which Japanese and European ingredients, condiments, and stocks forge new, exciting flavour combinations.
Similar to the Chinese hotpot, shabu-shabu was invented in Osaka in the 20th century and got its name from the sound of meat swishing in the pot. The broth is poured into a cast iron pot, brought to a boil, ingredients are added, and the feast begins.
The cuisine of Sakurazaka is rooted in the authentic traditions of shabu- shabu, sukiyaki, and kakigori. With fresh, fine-quality ingredients as the cornerstone of his cuisine. Chef Masashi has developed 6 amazing shabu-shabu broths – Chicken, Pork Bone, Bouillabaisse, Ago Dashi, Beef, and Soya Milk — all pure and delicate yet full bodied.
At Sakurazaka, there are four different kinds of sets. Each set comes with starter, vegetables, mushrooms, rice or noodles and dessert.
– Pork Set ($95++): Kyushu Japanese Pork Belly (200g) and Pork Loin (200g).
– Beef Set ($128++): Aomori Japanese Rice-Fed Beef Striploin (150g) and Ribeye (150g)
– Bouillabaisse Set ($108++) comes with assorted seafood such as tiger prawns, white clams, scallop, red snapper, squid, mussel and prawn ball.
– Sukiyaki Set ($150++): Japanese Wagyu-Holstein Striploin (150g) and Ribeye (150g)
The dinner experience began with the Beef Ishiyaki (hot stone) and Onsen Tamago. Depends on which set the diner ordered, slices of iberico pork, Japanese wagyu beef or seafood is served. It is to be cooked on the the hot stone that is heated to 140 degrees. The cooked meat or seafood is then dipped into the Japanese half boiled egg with spring onion and sukiyaki sauce to elevate the taste.
Finesse is the key here. The shabu shabu broths are carefully developed to achieve fulsome yet balanced flavour; and dipping sauces calibrated to subtly enhance the meats and vegetables. Chef Masashi was born in Kyushu, a city in Fukuoka, and evidence of his Japanese origins and French classical training are everywhere at Sakurazaka. The ago dashi or dried flying fish stock is a signature ingredient of Kyushu, and there is Bouillabaisse stock and beef consommé — prime exemplars of the French kitchen – on the menu. There are three dipping sauces — Ponzu, Shiyo Ponzu, Goma – have been carefully blended to enhance and elevate the individual flavour characteristics of each ingredient. Honestly, I think the sauces are redundant because it is good on its own.
On offer are selections of prime Japanese and European meats, vegetables and seafood, including less common items such as Kyushu Shirobuta pork, Japanese Aomori rice-fed beef, F1 Joshu Wagyu beef, and F1 Wagyu-Holstein cross-breed beef. For beef lovers, add on your order with Joshu Wagyu Striploin ($45/100g) and Ribeye ($45/100g). The flavour is more beefy and intense.
At Sakurazaka, sukiyaki is the other highlight, offered both as starter and hotpot. First cooked in the 17th century, ‘suki-yaki’ or spade grill in Japanese, referred to food cooked on spades by farmers to save time. Initially a dish of fish and tofu, beef is today the primary ingredient of sukiyaki. The meat and vegetables are first cooked in a pan, followed by the addition of broth and condiments such as soy sauce, sugar and mirin, resulting in a dish sweeter than shabu-shabu. The cooked ingredients are eaten dipped in ponzu or sesame sauce, or for a stroke of indulgence, dip the meat into a whole raw egg.
Because the soups are so good, I drank too many bowls that I got very very bloated before the foie gras and rice arrived. If you are a huge fan, go for it. Personally, I thought the foie gras ($14) was too rich and creamy lah. The finale, however, ends with a bang. Choose from rice or noodle and add it into Bouillabaisse broth. The staff will beat an egg and two different type of cheeses into the broth which intensify the flavours further.
The desserts rounding off the meal are kakigori, extravagant summertime treats enjoyed in the imperial courts of Japan since the 8th century. In ancient times, Kezurihi, a sweetener and a very expensive medicinal item, was used. These days, kakigori is made of finely shaved ice, flavoured with syrup and condensed milk – similar to patbingsu, haluhalo, and ice kachang. Sakurazaka has re-imagined kakigori, adding refinements such as Ujikintoki Green Tea ($16) and Hokkaido Milk ($12), as well as European ingredients to produce the sensational Port Wine ($15) and Tiramisu kakigori ($14).
Like its sister restaurant, Shelter in the Woods, Sakurazaka is a social haven away from the city, a place to relax, titillate the taste buds, and enjoy the company of family and friends – and find renewed joy in traditional foodways given an exciting new twist.
The warmly lit ambience and bustling open kitchen, and the casual, friendly service put the diner instantly at ease. The food is fresh, finely sourced and expertly executed but never pretentious and always reasonably priced. The rituals of shabu shabu and sukiyaki focus attention on the very center of the table and heighten the spirit of community and sharing.
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