Saturday, November 15, 2008


Chiharu is a new Japanese restaurant opened by Mr. Loh (who recently opened Braise, a stunning French restaurant located in Sentosa also reviewed on this blog). Given his impeccable track record I was particularly eager to try his new restaurant, and even more so this time as Japanese food is what I am into.
Chiharu is located on Bukit Timah road, next to 6th avenue. The dining room is spacious, with double height ceilings and an elevated dining area, an exposed wine cellar, a bar and a sushi counter. Soft lighting and a simple and dark decor based on wood, glass and metal create the feeling of a traditional style Japanese restaurant.
The kitchen is supervised by the ex chef of Shiro, a reputable and exclusive Japanese restaurant that closed some time ago.

After taking a look at the menu, it became obvious that their food style is plain traditional. Dishes are subdivided into the main Japanese cooking techniques (agemono, nimono, yakimono, ...) and include a fairly large variety of Japanese classics.

We started with a selection of Nigiri sushi: Shima Aji ($12), Kampachi ($10), Ika ($8), Uni ($20). Rice and fish were of good quality and well assembled. I particularly like their style of ika nigiri, as they slightly roasted the surface of the squid slice. The only negative note is the sushi soy sauce plates, which were so deep (like mini cups) that dipping your nigiri into the sauce is a real challenge (if you follow the proper protocol). I appreciate design, but it needs to be functional.

The Gyu Tataki ($45) was quite nice, if it wasn't for its price. The quantity is ridiculously small and the wagyu beef is not the best I had (I would doubt that it's actually from Japan). A dish of this size and quality would be more adequately priced at $25 at most.

The Tara Teriyaki ($15, grilled cod with teriyaki sauce) was reasonably priced and very well prepared. The fish was extremely firm, moist and perfectly flavoured. The accompanying pickles were also a nice classic touch.

The claypot dish Nasu Yanagawa ($15, aubergines in claypot with eggs) was mild but tasty. They used proper Japanese aubergines, thinly sliced to fully absorb the flavour of the broth, mixed with simmered scrambled eggs and burdock root.

The Renkon Hasami Age ($15, lotus root deep fried and stuffed with chicken mince) was well presented, served with a couple of tasty green chillies and salt on the side. The lotus root retained its crunchiness and juices, while the coating was thin and crispy. This dish is not so commonly found in Singapore (it used to be served at Shiro) and it was an interesting find.

The Kaki and azuki Yokkan was a seasonal fruit serving of excellent Japanese persimmon. The fruit was crunchy, ripe and sweet, accompanied by a couple of cubes of red bean paste, very recommended with green tea.

The most interesting dish was the Kuri Yokkan ($8), which was actually a crunchy version of the japanese tea dessert classic. Filled with bits of juicy water chestnut rather than the more rich and filling classic autumn chestnuts, it was a light and cooling way to end the meal.

The total bill including tax and service charge was $180 for 2 people (including a diet coke and green tea). It isn't cheap, but it's the sort of price you would expect for this quality of food considering that the wagyu beef alone was $45 dollars. Another consideration is their service, which needs substantial improvement when related to this price range.

Taking into account that they have opened only 2 weeks ago, I think Chiharu delivers an overall nice experience, although I expected slightly more originality in their dish selection. There was very little on the menu that was unique both in terms of products and seasonal dishes. They have experienced chefs and the potential to innovate and distinguish themselves, but I am yet to see that spark in Chiharu.

779 Bukit Timah Road
Tel: 6769 1929

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