Of all the ways we can consume Japanese food, there’s probably nothing finer than the art of Kyoto-stylekaiseki ryori, characterised by meticulous preparation and beautiful presentation over multiple courses. And in Singapore, where Japanese restaurantsare aplenty, not many do this better than YOSHI Restaurant. Previously known as Kaiseki Yoshiyuki since its establishment in 2012, the name change is part of their efforts to be more accessible to the man on the street.
That’s not to say that Chef Yoshiyuki Kashiwabara and his team will be cutting back on the quality of ingredients – in fact, most of them are still flown in from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market – or a downgrade in the dining experience. Seating 16 around the counter and seven in the private dining room, the cosy outfit in the basement of Forum The Shopping Mall in Orchard is intimate and guarantees a prime view of the meal being prepared, as well as interaction with Chef Yoshiyuki.
With 14 years spent at the respected Kyoryori Hosoi honing his skills in the art of kaiseki, he’s also spent seven years in foreign service as the personal chef to Japanese ambassadors – so, you know you’re in for quite a treat.
In addition to the Omakase ($328++), YOSHI has started doing themed menus available during both lunch and dinner, each featuring a prized Japanese ingredient that most would be familiar with. Between the Maguro Menu($158++), the Beef Menu($178++), and the Uni Menu ($188++), we went for the latter two and also the sake pairing at $48++ for four glasses.
Each course on both menus are categorised by cooking method so guests can sample new flavours throughout the meal. To start, a glass of sparkling Mizubasho Pure sake – uncloudy, crisp, and relatively big on the sake rce flavour – and a Sakizukeof sea urchin with beancurd skin and a thick dashi sauce. Creamy and silken might not ordinarily be my go-to for the first dish, but a teaser of what’s about to come certainly whets the appetite.
Three types of seasonal appetisers follow in the Hassun(literally, seasonal platter). The creamy Hokkaido sweet corn soup hides baubles of tomatoes for a burst of contrasting yet complementing acidity while the horse mackerel sandwiched between layers of chrysanthemum petals and cucumber is a fragrant yet moreish morsel with the egg dressing. However, the umami bomb of mini eggplant with miso dressing was the star here. Suimono– Japanese clear soup – followed in a light and citrusy eel broth that’s cooked with sake. Pairing with this course and the next is Kamokinshu, a junmai ginjo that’s smooth yet sharp and enhances the sweetness of seafood.
The next course, Tsukiri, is where the themed menus diverge. Those on the beef menu will get a beautifully smoky wagyu tataki grilled over binchotan and seasonal fish – in this case, it was stone flounder and maguro toro from Nagasaki.
Uni fans can look forward to more than a spoonful of fresh uni with the fish sashimi. For the Kobachi, we got a chawanmushi topped with sea urchin that’s briner than those we’ve had before. It appeared that the egg custard was deliberately kept plainer for a sharper contrast with the uni.
The next sake is the most interesting of the night. Made with Akita’s Miyama-nishiki instead of Yamada-nishiki (the most used brewer’s rice), the Aramasa Rapis junmaishu carries the umami and sweetness of rice that we’ve never tasted before. It stood up well to the more robust and oilier dishes of the main course. This is also where folks on different menus will get different plates. There’s Hokkaido beef that’s hay smoked and grilled over binchotan that came with an apple dressing that keeps the dish from being too heavy. It’s hard to have a uni main course (let face it, it wouldn’t be substantial, for one) so we get a grilled Spanish mackerel from Kyushu with grilled sweet potatoes and a citron dressing to help with the oiliness of the fish.
To make sure you don’t go home hungry, the last savoury course brings forth an onsen-egg topped wagyu beef don and an uni barachirashi don. There’s not much to say about these dishes, excepting its utter satisfaction. Seafood continued to be fresh, beef grilled perfectly, and rice well vinegared. Both rice bowls were served with a red miso soup, stronger in flavour and thicker than the one most are used to, which we slurped up with delight. The last of the sake pairing is the Isojiman Emerald junmai daiginjo and the most complex. A limited bottling from the brewery, located in Yaizu between Suruga Bay, Izu Peninsula, and Mount Fuji, it’s rich, crisp, and slightly fruity with a floral nose.
Dessert is classic and traditional at YOSHI. The red bean jelly is pretty much what you get in Japan, perhaps a little more refined. The Kyoho grape and musk melon on the side are certainly important from the motherland, given how sweet and juicy they are. You’re served tea throughout the meal, and it was changed one before when we shifted into the heavier courses and once again at dessert, where matcha made traditionally with whisking is served.
At the end of the day, yes, the restaurant has now adopted fixed menus – and fixed suppliers – instead of focusing solely on seasonal produce. Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that since the devotion to quality produce is same as before, and for what you get, the prices at YOSHI are decently. A great night out on the Orchard Road strip, to be sure!
YOSHIis located at 583 Orchard Road, #B1-39, Forum The Shopping Mall, Singapore 238884, p. +65 8188 0900 . Open Mon-Sat 12pm-2pm, 7pm-10pm. Closed Sunday.
All food images in-text courtesy of Sylvester Fedor.