Like many other travel-deprived Singaporeans, I sorely miss going overseas to stuff my face with food and my number one destination for this was Japan.
So, when I heard that Japanese restaurant Tajimaya Yakiniku had a new omakase menu, you bet I was stoked.
For the uninitiated, omakase means "to trust" in Japanese and that is exactly what the entire meal is all about — leaving everything up to the chef with faith that he will take your tastebuds on a gastronomical journey.
The establishment mostly specialises in charcoal-grilled meats so it was interesting to see them come up with an omakase-style concept.
What also caught my eye was the price point. The eight-course lunch costs just $88++ per pax, while the 10-course dinner sets you back by $128++ per pax.
To me, this is pretty well worth the money, especially since both the sets come with A4 Miyazaki striploin, the second highest-rated wagyu beef grade in Japan.
In general, omakase experiences in Singapore usually cost around $200 to $400 depending on the establishment. To provide some context, fine-dining Japanese restaurant Sushi Jiro charges $220 for an eight-course omakase and $260 for a 10-course omakase. Taking that into consideration, Tajimaya Yakiniku's omakase is on the more affordable end.
Additionally, as the ingredients used are seasonal and air-flown in from Japan, the menu here is switched up almost every day, keeping things fresh and exciting. If you have any dietary restrictions or preferences, feel free to let the chefs know so they can curate a different menu for you.
This means that if you were to visit the eatery yourself, you would probably enjoy a different menu. But read on for our verdict, which might help you decide whether this omakase experience is worth the money.
Kaisen chawanmushi with cod fish, lobster, crab meat, kinome and ikura
As a massive fan of ikura (salmon roe), I was excited when my mushimono — which essentially is a steamed dish — turned out to be a kaisen (seafood) chawanmushi blanketed in shiny balls of ikura.
When I dug deeper, I was pleased to find more gems like a slice of cod fish as well as chunks of lobster and crab meat — it's definitely one of the more luxurious chawanmushi I've ever had!
Wagyu beef with wasabi shoyu zuke
We were also served three different pieces of sushi. While all of them were pleasing to the palate, the one that stood out the most for us was the one topped with a gorgeous slice of wagyu beef.
As expected from a meat specialist of Tajimaya Yakiniku's calibre, the beef was of exceptional quality and melted in our mouths.
A4 Miyazaki striploin, shishito, Momotaro tomatoes and sweet potato chips
And of course, the piece de resistance -— the A4 Miyazaki striploin. Handling such a luxe piece of meat can be challenging but the chefs at Tajimaya executed this excellently, allowing the natural flavours of the beef to shine through.
The meat also came accompanied by a carved piece of lime, shishito — a type of Japanese pepper — in ground and sliced form, Japanese Momotaro tomatoes and sweet potato chips. I tried consuming the beef with a little bit of each of these components and each combination provided an interesting new flavour profile that I never imagined would work.
Kurashikku Hokkaido milk pudding with seasonal fruits
After all those savoury elements, it was nice to end off the meal with something sweet. For dessert, we were served Hokkaido milk pudding laced with kurashikku, a type of Japanese wine. This also came garnished with seasonal fruits such as Japanese peaches.
While on the denser side, the decadently creamy pudding managed to complement the other courses on the menu and it wasn't as heavy on the palate as I expected it to be.
Charcoal cone with spicy miso salmon and ebiko
For the amuse-bouche, which is a a single, bite-sized hors d'oeuvre, my dining companion and I were presented with a charcoal cone that was topped with a dollop of spicy miso salmon and ebiko, which looked a little like a sashimi 'ice cream'.
This course left me feeling a little conflicted. While the execution was definitely creative, I personally wasn't a fan of the overall mouthfeel and combination of the sashimi and cone.
The cone was also on the sweeter side and I would have preferred a savoury version, but to each their own.
Ume jelly and konjac noodles with uni, edamame, ikura, onsen egg and oscietra caviar
The zenzai — or appetiser — was another innovative creation that was a conglomeration of premium ingredients including ume (plum) jelly, uni (sea urchin), ikura and oscietra caviar.
I have to admit, there was a lot going on here — maybe just a bit too much. When sampled alone, the ingredients were fresh and delicious but when eaten all together, my palate was pretty overwhelmed as there were just too many flavours and textures going on at once.
No doubt, it was still an interesting course, but I feel like it could have been better if they had been a little pickier with the ingredients used.
Overall, I'll admit that this isn't the most stellar omakase experience in the market, but I personally feel like it is one of the more value-for-money ones.
For the price point, you definitely get plenty of bang for your buck. While there were a few misses, the star of the show — the A4 Miyazaki Striploin — was executed well, which was the most important factor for me.
You can also tell that the chefs put in plenty of effort into experimenting and curating the menu, evident from unique courses like the sashimi 'ice cream'.
Additionally, as the menu is switched up often, it'll be interesting to see what else they have to offer, warranting a potential future visit.
Address: 1 Kim Seng Promenade, #B1-115, Singapore 237994