I’ll let you in on a secret. Follow me.
Take the escalator to the third floor of Far East Plaza, follow the sound of blaring hairdryers and sniff out the sticky-sweet aroma of unagi being grilled, or nose around for that whisper of a briny bouquet from freshly sliced sashimi.
You’re here. But don’t leave just because the sight of the restaurant is slightly off-putting. The stiff chairs and utilitarian tables, an open kitchen the size of three toilet stalls and that crappy noise of hairstyling equipment from a barber opposite might prod you toward settling for second best elsewhere. But once Chef Eugene Heng steps out and welcomes you into his establishment, you’ll find yourself very much at home, and a compulsive urge not to put down those chopsticks.
How can you stop at one when the silky Chawanmushi ($2.80) slides down your throat with such slippery ease, leaving traces of umami from a competent dashi base? How dare you order only the small portion of the Daikon salad ($6.90) when everyone’s going to delight in the crunch of the julienned Daikon and the kaleidoscope of avocado, crab meat, egg slivers, carrots and egg roe? Did I even mention the fun of tossing the ingredients in a sesame vinaigrette?
How can you be kind to your lunchtime colleagues when you realize yourself hogging the Unagi fried rice ($14.90), which is served slightly wet, redolent of garlic, and nicely see-sawed between sweet and savory? How can you not feel the towering ambition of this hole-in-the-wall when you pick up the smoky Scallop Mentaiyaki ($13.90)? Those thinly sliced carpaccio of scallop dressed lightly in soy sauce and drizzled with a disconcertingly delicious mentaiko mayonnaise?
How can you not applaud after the theatrical blowtorching of the domino-like Slices of Rare Sirloin ($14.90 for 100 g), with its even marbling and solid bite? Ten seconds was all it took to mop up the intricately-plated beef. And a split second for expressions of awe to emerge on my fellow diners’ faces.
More seconds, however, should be set aside to savor dessert. As the confident solo entry in the dessert menu, the Tofu Cheesecake ($4.50) will twist your mind a little. If panna cotta, jello and cream cheese had a lovechild, this would be it – texturally a little springy and dense but still light enough for what feels like a guilt-free sweet treat.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, there’s no excuse not to try this underrated gem called The Sushi Bar. Don’t let the generic name deceive you – first impressions seldom count.
Pictures courtesy of Eugene Heng