In Singapore’s saturated Japanese food scene, a new contender has appeared to challenge the notion of an interesting meal. Guenpin Fugu is an established Japanese restaurant chain with over 30 years of history and a whopping 96 outlets in its home country. Famous for serving up the elusive torafugu (tiger puffer fish), which also happens to be the most prestigious and the most dangerous edible species, the modest 32-seater on Maxwell Rd is now the brand’s first overseas branch.
Armed with highly skilled and experienced chefs, and an international patent for their unique ageing process, which preserves the freshness and quality of its fish, it is the rarely-seen element of danger when dining that makes Guenpin Fugu so appealing. One wrong move and you could end up in the hospital, or worse. Then again, for all its deadliness, puffer fish is absolutely delicious.
As testament to the chefs’ skills, the torafugu is served in multiple ways to highlight various facades of its taste and texture. The Parboiled Puffer Fish Skin Sashimi ($14), reminiscent of the Chinese jellyfish salad, is an excellent appetiser to start off the meal with its refreshing taste and strangely addictive crunch.
First-timers can opt for the traditional Thin-Sliced Puffer Fish Sashimi ($28), paired with a delicate ponzu soy sauce that adds a tart punch of flavour. For those who enjoy the fish’s chewy texture, the Thick-Sliced Puffer Fish Sashimi ($32), topped with radish, spring onion, and a generous helping of ponzu sauce is another way to experience this special identifying characteristic of torafugu.
A more filling alternative would be the Puffer Fish Hot Pot ($55), which comes with a heaping platter of fresh vegetables, tofu, konnyaku noodles and enoki mushrooms. At the end of the meal, the rich stock left over from cooking these ingredients together with the fish forms the perfect base for Guenpin’s Porridge ($12), a thick, velvety creation of Japanese rice, silky egg, bright chopped leek, and sweet dashi broth. This also comes with quite a bit of showmanship, as your waiter transforms what’s left of your soup into a second dish, right at the table.
Contrary to its very specific name, Guenpin Fugu also offers snow crab as a specialty, serving the crustacean in as many ways as it does with torafugu. The Snow Crab Sashimi ($32), served with part of the leg intact, allows you to experience the freshness of the restaurant’s premium offerings, rewarding your efforts with melt-in-the-mouth crab meat that brims with a subtle yet satisfying sweetness.
The meat develops a bit more bite with the restaurant’s Snow Crab for Grill ($48), a hands-on dish where the crab is grilled atop a broiler and served with an accompanying trio of garlic, soya, and sweet miso sauce for more dimension and weight. But perhaps the most unctuous way of tasting crab here would be the Deep Fried Snow Crab ($28), a lightly battered, piping hot creation that brilliantly marries the light flavour of snow crab with the moreish mouthfeel of a deep fry.
From 12pm to 3pm, you’ll find lunch sets such as the Snow Crab Tempura Rice Bowl ($19.90), Salmon Sashimi and Salmon Roe Rice Bowl ($18.90), and the extravagant Tiger Puffer Fish Set ($36.90). Those spoilt for choice can also opt for one of the many course menus available, ranging from the Guenpin Puffer Fish Course ($88) – which comes with puffer fish skin sashimi, a choice of thick- or thin-sliced puffer fish sashimi, puffer fish hot pot, porridge, and dessert – to the Zeitaku Course ($168), comprising all the puffer fish fixings along with snow crab sashimi, snow crab tempura, puffer fish for grill, and snow crab for grill. Something to note: though the courses are technically for one, portions are definitely big enough for two.
With its mission of expanding to some 80 restaurants in nine other Asian countries in the next five years, it’s likely that this is only the first we’ve seen from Guenpin Fugu.
Guenpin Fugu is located at32 Maxwell Rd, #01-06 Maxwell Chambers, Singapore 069115, p. +656634 2916. Open Mon – Fri 12pm – 3pm,6pm – 12am. Closed Sat and Sun.