What a wonderful surprise from my love this Valentine’s Day! We never really celebrate it. Usually, a home-cooked meal, or just us spending some quiet time together. A part of me finds the overpriced flowers and exorbitant set dinners a little contrived. Why do these things on just one day a year? But this year, I had the day off. And Sean surprised me with a super memorable dinner at Shoukouwa. It’s an 8-seater sushi restaurant in Singapore that won and kept its 2 Michelin stars just 4 months into its opening!
Funny story, I’d actually booked the exact same dinner for his birthday the following week. Talk about ESP.. Haha.
Can you tell how excited we were? We were led into a small but cosy private room that seats a total of 6 people and had a clear view of the chef who painstakingly prepared our beautiful meal.
Shall we begin? Presenting the Hana Omakase Dinner ($480/person). It consisted of 5 cooked dishes, 10 nigiri sushi, 1 handroll and dessert.
Here we have our first starter of Shiroamadai or Tilefish.
The skin was slightly seared for flavour but otherwise the taste was mild, with a firm texture. And it went perfectly with sea salt and freshly-grated wasabi.
Next, a very interesting dish of Komochiyariika or Grilled Squid stuffed with Squid Egg and Sea Urchin.
So much work went into this little morsel of deliciousness. The soft, tender squid was stuffed with sweet bafun uni and that gorgeous milky, gelatinous texture of the squid egg. It all came together in a giant mouthful of umami that’s incredibly unique.
Our next dish was the Meji Maguro or Baby Bluefin Tuna.
The baby tuna came in cuts of varying degrees of fattiness. And while it wasn’t as strong in flavour as its more mature counterparts, this was super fresh and went superbly with a semi-sweet black bean sauce along with the leaf from a pepper plant which added a subtle spice.
Our next cooked dish was another labour of love. Here’s the Mushi Awabi with Kimo Sauce or Steamed Abalone with Abalone Liver Sauce.
Yes, you heard right. Abalone liver sauce. But let’s start with the abalone itself which was cooked to soft yet firm perfection. It was cooked for about 6 hours in a clay pot filled with sake and water. This brought out its briny flavours along with the sweetness of the sake. It was tender and delightfully chewy.
And to top things off, the savoury liver sauce. I had no idea you could use an abalone’s liver. And it was really creamy and addictive. The chef gave us a ball of rice to clean up all the sauce from the plate.
Before we started with our much-awaited sushi, we were treated to this visual and gastronomic work of art — Kegani or Steamed Hairy Crab with Dashi Sauce.
Don’t be fooled by how simple it sounds. This was made of super fresh Hokkaido crab and you can see here just how luscious the texture was! Combined with the light dashi sauce made with dried tuna, and light floral aromas, this really brought out the natural sweetness of the crab which was just absolutely a total mouthgasm. Unforgettable.
And now, for the main event. The SUSHI! At Shoukouwa, these are prepared in the Edomae style which showcases cured fish. Before we get into the delicious toppings, I have to say, Shoukouwa’s sushi rice is exceptional.
The proportion of premium vinegar, the temperature of the fluffy, polished rice grains and how well it held together. We were impressed and this was definitely on par with if not better than Hashida’s.
First up, the Sayori or needlefish.
This was served slightly aburi to bring out the depth of flavour. I’d never tried needle fish before but it was fairly light in flavour and not incredibly memorable.
Then, we had the Kinmedai or Golden Eye Snapper.
The chef informed us that this was from Chiba prefecture which is supposedly the best place to get delicious kinmedai. Apparently the flounder tastes best between December to March when the meat is more oily and tasty.
This next sushi was my first time having Shiroebi or Sweet White Shrimp.
It was actually super soft and melts in your mouth. And true to its name, it really was naturally sweet! Very refreshing and interesting.
Then came the Kamasu or Barracuda.
The chef told us this was a Japanese barracuda that was quite small in size, unlike our usual idea of a scary monster fish. This was light, refreshing and not what I’d expected.
And now for the highlight of almost every sushi omakase — the bluefin tuna!
Let’s begin with the Akami, or the leanest cut of the tuna.
And this is the Chutoro. My favourite cut of bluefin tuna sashimi and sushi has always been the chutoro. I find it has the best balance of melt-in-your-mouth fatty goodness and enough firmness which provides a better overall texture than the prized Otoro.
But this time, most surprisingly, the Akami madea bigger impression. Trust me, coming from a person who doesn’t like lean tuna usually, this is high praise. There is just something about the sweetness and sublime flavour of the akami this time that really made an impression.
But that doesn’t mean the Otoro wasn’t anything short of spectacular.
Instead of serving it straight up raw and sliced like sushi places usually do, chef actually made it slightly aburi-ed with rare charcoal called binchotan.
This not only intensified the complex flavours of the tuna, but it also imparted a gorgeous smoky aroma to the sushi. It was heaven in the mouth.
Another one that really impressed was the Anago or Sea Eel.
I’m not the biggest fan of eel. But this anago really changed my mind! There was absolutely no fishy aftertaste whatsoever, no small bones that got stuck in the back of the throat, and no sticky texture. Just beautifully soft meat laced with mouthwatering sweet sauce gliding down the throat.
Another hot favourite that night was this Nodoguro or Black Throat Sea Perch.
We were told to mash the fish oils into the rice until the grains were coated before eating. And oh my goodness. The flavour was intoxicating! Especially when coating the perfectly vinegared sushi rice.
And naturally, no sushi course is complete without the ubiquitous Uni or Sea Urchin.
This was bafun uni which was creamy and sweet. Can’t go wrong with fresh sea urchin.
And finally, a refreshing twist on a classic Maguro Temaki or Tuna Handroll.
This freshly-chopped tuna is mixed in with pickled radish and served in a handroll with shiso leaf which added an herbal aroma that brought all the flavours out so well. We gobbled our final sushi down with great satisfaction, and washed it down with some delicious and comforting warm miso broth.
To end things off, we were also served a sweet Japanese omelette or Tamago.
Look at that texture! It’s almost confectionery more than omelette. I’m so curious how they get it this way.
And finally, we have dessert. A saccharine sweet musk melon, and quite possibly the most delicious strawberry I’ve ever eaten — sweet, fragrant and you know those strawberry-flavoured candy that always have such a potent flavour? This tasted exactly like that. It’s almost impossible to find strawberry this sweet in our part of the world. We felt so thankful being able to try it.
To end off the meal and to help with digestion, we were served this special Gobo tea.
The tea is made with a mixture of flowers and herbs like Angelica, mint, chrysenthemum and burdoch root. All of which have fantastic health benefits that aid in digestion, as well as cleansing the blood and lymphatic system.
What a fitting way to end a most unforgettable meal. I couldn’t have been more thankful for the chance to partake in such amazing food prepared with so much skill and effort. And most of all, it was such a great experience for both of us to share together. My heart and belly are full (: