Situated in the basement of Palais Renaissance, Ishinomaki is a dainty Japanese grill and sake restaurant with noble roots. After visiting the tsunami-wrecked region of Ishinomaki in rural Japan, the owners (who also own The French Table in West Coast Plaza) decided to commemorate their sufferance by naming their restaurant after the Japanese land. Somebody start the slow clap please!

Another impressive attribute of Ishinomaki is their black box, a combination of seasonal seafood handpicked by fishermen themselves instead of pre-ordering ingredients based on the menu. Quality and freshness assured, it also means that guests will be pleasantly surprised on return visits by the different types of seafood available.

As soon as you step inside, a beautiful brown decor reminiscent of fishing villages in Ishinomaki, as well as intricate cutlery flown all the way from Japan lined neatly on the table, awaits you. Short of having a Japanese food & drink encyclopaedia surgically implanted in her brain, our server had an excellent knowledge of the menu and was enthusiastic is making recommendations.

Maguro Zuke Salad

The first dish to arrive was the Maguro Zuke Salad – marinated tuna and mesclun salad served in yuzu and wasabi dressing. The freshness of the fish was apparent from the first bite while the yuzu and wasabi dressing complemented it impeccably. And this is a massive compliment as I’m not the biggest fan of salads.

Next up, the grilled Iberico Pork Collar with yuzu miso, which I was slightly disappointed with because the outer layer of the pork wasn’t as crispy as I expected, but the yuzu miso papered over the cracks and covered up the lack of texture. Did we mention they make their sauces in-house too? Following that, it was back to seafood with the Asari Jiru, Asari clams drenched in miso soup and sake. The combination is a match made in heaven with the aftertaste of sake providing the perfect contrast to the juiciness of the clams and the saltiness of the miso.

As with any Japanese establishment, we just had to try the sashimi. The Bara Chirashi Ozen ($23), sushi rice topped with a selection of the restaurant’s various fishes (there’s swordfish, yellowtail, salmon, and tuna) of the day, is actually one of Ishinomaki’s value-for-money set lunches. As with the tuna we’ve tried before, the sashimi was deliciously fresh. We also tried another set lunch, the Unaju, a delectable grilled eel on top of rice in a lacquer bento box. Once again, it was a definite value for money choice due to the generous portions and the tenderness of the unagi, but it’s nothing much to shout about.

The desserts, however, raised the standards once again. We had a Japanese influenced Creme Brûlée, which was every bit as good as its French counterpart, albeit with the addition of Japanese Azuki beans at the bottom. Fans of Japanese confections will love the Matcha Azuki Shiratama, since Ishinomaki’s version comes with green tea ice cream, azuki red beans, deliciously chewy homemade glutinous rice balls, and condensed milk.

Also, if you’re keen on having drinks, the sake list at Ishinomaki features mostly small sake breweries that pay incredible attention to their produce, though one thing we’d like to see is more Japanese craft beers on the list.

Overall, as fans of Japanese culinary, Ishinomaki is definitely a worthwhile place to drop by for bona fide Japanese cuisine with a lot of heart.

Images courtesy of Ishinomaki

Written by Joel Conceicao

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