Splurge on these!

Luxe Japanese dining has gone niche. Here, our favourite omakase, robatayaki and izakaya nosh spots worth indulging in.

ROBATAYAKI

This is a method of cooking, where fresh produce is skewered on sticks and then slow-grilled over hot charcoal. It places emphasis on the purity and freshness of the produce, as little seasoning is added.

Mikuni
Level 3, Fairmont Singapore, tel: 6431-6156
Average of $150 per person

The beautifully arranged live robatayaki station boasts a wide selection of seafood, meat and vegetables that are imported from Japan. The grilled items are well-executed and memorable, especially the Tairagai Shell Fish (market price), which is grilled in a flavourful lemon butter sauce. It can also be served as sashimi topped with Hokkaido sea urchin, caviar, ginger flowers and lime. Also worth a mention is the Bone-in Kurobuta Pork Belly ($42), which is prepared in a sous vide machine for 24 hours, then grilled. The result: incredibly tender, juicy slices of pork belly. If you really want to indulge, order the Kagoshima Wagyu Beef ($78) - tasty squares of beef paired with sweet grilled pumpkin. Two thumbs up!

Akanoya Robatayaki
#01-01 Orchard Parade Hotel, tel: 6732-1866
Average of $100 per person

This restaurant gives you a complete Japanese experience - everything, from the fresh food to the predominantly wooden interior, the cheerful staff and the convivial, almost raucous atmosphere, is unmistakably Japanese. Sit at the robatayaki counter, take your pick from the display of fresh meat, vegetables and seafood that are flown in directly from Tsukiji Market, then let the chef work his magic right in front of you. The must-try: the Wagyu Beef ($38), which is seasoned with a touch of salt and pepper, and served medium rare. Also good: the grilled eggplant ($10), which is soft in the middle and crisp around the edges.

OMAKASE

This Japanese phrase means "I'll leave it to you". In other words, let the chef whip up a customised meal for you. Usually on the menu: starters like chawanmushi and heavier main courses that include meat and seafood. Expect to be pleasantly surprised.

Tatsuya
Level 1, Goodwood Park Hotel, tel: 6887-4598
From $280 per person

The omakase set at this established restaurant is pricey (from $280) but worth every penny. Items (mostly vegetables and seafood) vary from season to season. We had the sashimi set, an incredibly fresh and sweet selection of scallop, tuna belly, salmon, prawn, flounder and sea urchin. The flounder, in particular, was a divine sweet-salty mix. Another standout dish: the Aburi Sushi Moriawase, a sushi platter that included scallop with foie gras and crispy whitebait.

Sushi Kuu
#01-07 Palais Renaissance, tel: 6736-0100
From $150 per person

This 70-seater eatery has a seven-course omakase set (from $150) that comprises an appetiser, a sashimi platter, two mains, a soup, a sushi platter and dessert. Two dishes worth a mention: the "Tobanyaki" Beef Steak, which is topped with a tasty homemade brown sauce, fried garlic and chives, slices of zucchini and tofu; and the Sea Urchin with Black Truffle Egg Custard, a heavenly combination of sweet sea urchin sashimi, silky egg and fragrant black truffle oil. These dishes are also available on the a la carte menu ($70 for the wagyu and $25 for the egg custard).

IZAKAYA

The term refers to Japanese drinking establishments that serve food to accompany the drinks. In English, it means "to stay" and "sake shop". The concept originated from sake shops in Japan that encouraged customers to drink and eat on the premises.

Izy
27 Club Street, tel: 6220-3327, www.izy.com.sg
Average of $130 per person

The restaurant's menu is made up of seasonal ingredients and varies from day to day. The Tori No Karaage Balsamico Mayonnaise ($20) - pieces of tender, juicy chicken served with charcoalgrilled lettuce, fresh shiitake mushrooms and a tangy balsamic mayo sauce - is delicious. The Miyazaki Wagyu ($68) is also an excellent choice - the juicy beef cubes are served with fermented black garlic and comes with thin slices of onion, a small heaping of sea salt and fresh wasabi on the side. When eaten together, the combination of flavours and textures is divine. Izy also offers a wide range of tipple - choose from champagne, wines, Japanese beer, sake and whisky. Try the Lemon Grass Daiquiri ($18) - a mix of rum, fresh lemongrass, lemon and grape juice - or the Moscow Mule ($18) - vodka with fresh ginger and brown caster sugar.

Satsuma Shochu Dining Bar
#01-10/#02-10 Gallery Hotel, 1 Nanson Road, tel: 6235-3565, satsuma.com.sg.
Average of $90 per person

Located in Gallery Hotel, which is a stone's throw away from Clarke Quay, this is the perfect spot for pre-party nibble (and tipple). Bar bites like the Chicken Skin Mixed with Cod Roe ($10) - deliciously crunchy without being oily - and the Meat Bar Served with Raw Egg ($8), make great munchies. We also love the Candied Sweet Potato ($12) - strips of deep-fried sweet potato drizzled with molten sugar. The extensive selection of shochu - Japanese liquor that is usually distilled from barley, sweet potatoes, buckwheat or rice - is impressive. The lychee shochu cocktail ($10) is a favourite.

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