Christmas in RWS, all the good restaurants came out with special Christmas menus. Guess what? All were priced at $288 per person. We had 3 hours to spare before the Christmas fireworks in Universal Studios, so Princess chose teppanyaki for dinner.
Teppan by Chef Yonemura is one of the latest change in the lineup of fine lining in RWS after Joel Robuchon gave up his two Micheline-starred restaurants. Chef Yonemura was one of the guest chefs that came for one of their Curate experience of pop-up restaurants. That experience actually persuaded him to setup a permanent stop in Singapore, his first restaurant outside of Japan.
Who is Chef Yonemura?
Kyoto-born Masayasu Yonemura 米村昌泰 got his French culinary training in the kitchens, not from any formal French culinary schools. He worked at Kyoto Okumura and received all his training from the kitchens of the famed French restaurant.
Chef Yonemura struck out on his own after 20 years in Okumura to start his first namesake restaurant in Gion, Kyoto, and subsequently at Tokyo. When Michelin Kyoto guide was publish in 2010, he got his first star. 2010 proved to be the best year of his career, and he received another accolade – he was appointed one of the celebrity chefs for ANA for their “Connoisseur” series for business and first class travellers.
Combining the best of the seasons in a reference to his Japanese roots with French techniques, he invented the “Yonemura-Style”, a sensory gourmand experience that starts with the plates and bowls that he uses in each of his restaurants. In Teppan, this is further enhanced with the theatricals of fire and smoke to excite the diners. Cheesy but effective.
The cozy dining room accommodates just 21 guests along the teppan grill so everyone gets a front row view to the action.
Like a good 忘年会 kaiseki, you always start with a toast and so as part of the dinner there’s almost always a welcome drink – a shot of sake or shochu or other sweet liquor. The welcome cocktail invites diners to participate in mixing their shot of Grey Goose Vodka and fermented yuzu liquor, and then spraying a mist of Angostura bitters on a flaming slice of Barcardi-soaked candied orange.
The cocktail without a name was more a gimmick. Taste ok as I am not fan of cocktails.
Dinner began with a duo of amuse bouche. “Sake Kasu” soup with Kyoto taro, black truffle and mitsuba leaf. Contrasting in texture and flavour, they marked the signature style of Chef Yonemura cuisine for the courses to follow – seasonal ingredients like taro and sake kasu were used, and French preparation technique emphasising the sauce, texture and flavour profile.
“Sake Kasu” soup is a creamy soup made from leftover lees from making sake. Sake kasu (酒粕) can be used as a pickling agent, the main ingredient of amazake, a cooking paste to add flavour to food and as a marinade. Kasujiru or sake kasu soup is typically drank as a winter soup because of its warming properties.
The sake taste was pronounced and the sweet, fruiting bouquet of fermented sake mash was obvious as well. A dash of shichimi (seven spice) raised the flavour profile ever so slightly and gave it the slight heat it needed. Mitsuba leaf (Japanese parsley) gave the sweet soup a touch of freshness. And to complete the flavour profile, enokitake mushrooms were added to give it that earthy taste that Japanese associated with winter.
The Japanese word for taro root, satoimo （里芋）means “potato (or starch root) of the homeland (sato).” Satoimo has a texture that divides people sharply into two camps: sliminess. Japanese people in general, unlike most peoples of the western hemisphere, love foods with slimy textures. Whereas in the American South okra is battered and coated and deep-fried to minimize the slime as much as possible, in Japan the sliminess is even enhanced and celebrated in many okra dishes. Taro root is not as aggressively slimy as okra innards, but it definitely is rather slippery.
Chef combined Kyoto taro (smaller than the regular taro you get in Singapore) with a slice of black truffle, and toped it with a sweet teriyaki sauce. The sticky, savoury, sweet sauce complimented the almost tasteless taro, but it was the truffle that stole the limelight in this amuse bouche.
The dinner continued with a quartet of appetisers. First up, a sashimi dish – Japanese flounder salad with Kyoto turnip, mikan, nanohana. Mikan (Japanese mandarin orange) is the fruit of winter. The leaves of the Kyoto turnip (another winter vegetable) were made into a salad with citrusy-vinaigrette dressing. Nanohana (なのはな、菜の花, rapeseed blossoms) is welcomed in late winter as a harbinger of spring. It is often mistaken as broccolini, but they are distinctly two different vegetables. It is usually served as a cold dish by simply blanching it in salted water, chilled and mixed with mustard and soy sauce. And hirame (Japanese flounder) is also a winter fish.
Chef used the mild flavour fish to highlight the dressing that was used for the salad. The dressing was citrusy, I believed it was mikan but I also detected a hint of yuzu, perhaps from the yuzu vinegar that was used. Coupled with sea salt and EVOO, this was quite refreshing salad/sashimi to start with.
Fruit tomato farci with Japanese sea abalone, spiny lobster and Fuji apple. Farci is the technique of stuffing seasoned bread crumps or other savoury ingredients into another food receptacle like tomatoes. Japanese fruit tomato (momotaro tomato) – this summer-maturing fruit can be bought all year round with the interesting consequence that tomatoes ripened in winter are sweeter than their summer cousins as they contain less water, earning themselves the name of “fruit tomatoes”, a great oxymoron.
Chef stuffed one half of the tomato with Fuiji apple bits, topped with slivers of abalone and smothered with a tangy, mustardy sauce, and the other half with apple, topped with a slice of poached lobster and a buttery, lemony sauce. Two contrasting texture, very complex display of techniques.
Hokkaido scallop bouillabaisse. First of all, there was almost just a small cup of soup that you drink with a teaspoon. And then, you could almost not find the scallops. However, this became the highlight of the evening because the warm bouillabaisse was so rich, we could not stop once we had the first sip.
There were these two pieces of baguette toasts with melted Gruyere cheese, those were absolutely delicious.
Snow crab cold pasta with sous-vide quail egg and Bottarga. Bottarga is the Italian name for a delicacy of salted, cured fish roe, typically of the grey mullet or the bluefin tuna. Called karasumi or 乌鱼子, they were considered a delicacy that fetch high prices during New Year festivities.
Chef used angel-hair pasta, caper for zing, bottarga for saltiness and umami, a soft-boiled quail egg for sauce and nori strips for texture. It was a masterpiece that would be my second favourite part of the dinner if not for the bouillabaisse.
Chef did not get his star from teppanyaki in Japan. Gion Yonemura got its star for innovative fusion cuisine. I am not sure what inspired him to open a teppanyaki restaurant in Singapore because his previous experience was not teppanyaki as well.
His style asked for spectacular theatricals. All the teppanyaki courses will be flambé with an alcohol (sake or rum). The technique is quite simple – a liberal amount of high alcohol content liquor will be lighted in a small sauce pan and then poured over the meat or shellfish. The result is a big ball of fire. As the Teppanyaki table is quite narrow, you can feel the heat from the flames.
For our first course, an a la carte course of Wagyu hamburg steak with foie gras and black truffle. A hamburger patty made with wagyu and foie gras bits was steamed in a hot bath of sake. When it was almost done, it went through the baptism of (alcoholic) fire to create the crisp on the outside and tender, juicy on the inside.
The hamburger steak was accompanied with a grilled zucchini slice and simmered turnip, and a small dab of dijon mustard. Remember these two side dishes. They were delicious. The steak was glaced with a generous amount of brown sauce and sour cream. The glaze was made beef stew and was so nice that we even told the chef to let us eat our lobster course with this sauce instead.
Next a la carte course, Live spiny lobster with pumpkin sauce. Lights off, flame on, what’s that burning?
It was a bit overcooked and burnt. I find this was the worst course for the whole evening. The chef did not do any justice to the crustaceans, and I can see equally disappointed looks of my fellow diners in the other side of the room.
Next up on the special dinner set, Teppanyaki A4 Miyazaki Tenderloin steak with Simmered Turnip, Zucchini and Onion and Fried Shallots. On with the theatricals, the lights were dimmed and then the flambéed proceeded with pomp.
The well-marbled Miyazaki Grade A4 tenderloin Wagyu Beef (approximately 120g) was very tender on its own, and my preference is to enjoy it without any additional condiments though some light salt would do just fine as well. This is also served along with ponzu sauce with grated radish and peanut butter garlic sauce.
But the piece de resistance on this plate was the garlic flakes. Crisp but not over-fried until they turned bitter, the garlic was very well executed. Of course there’s the turnip and zucchini. By this time, it had become a bit repetitive in terms of plating, and lack of ideas.
A4 Kagoshima Sirloin shabu-shabu. This variation of the grilled steak was an innovative twist. Two slices of Kagoshima sirloin were cooked lightly in the lukewarm water-bath (it does not really qualify as shabu). The beef was then used to wrap some radish and micro greens into a maki like shape and ate with a ponzu sauce. Innovative and yet delicious.
Japanese dried baby sardines garlic rice with mountain burdock pickles. I was hoping for the okonomiyaki dish that the reviews had, but I guessed being a seasonal restaurant, they had to change the courses once that very often. The rice was undercooked (very al dente) and not suitable for frying. The hard red baby sardines made the whole gohan dish really hard to swallow (disregard the puns). It was really a badly executed dish.
For desserts, the classic French Crepe Suzette is flambéd in yet another theatrical fashion using the teppan grill. Grand Marnier is added very generously before the dessert is served along with housemade vanilla ice cream.
As a result of the Teppanyaki chef making a mistake during the course (she dropped a piece of our lobster), we were served an assortment of cakes like cotton-soft roulade and soy milk blancmange. It was too much of a sweetness overload for me and I will be more than happy to swap this for another savoury dish.
Although we did enjoy the fire show, the repetitive dramatization of the flames by turning off all the lights in the room became a little too repetitive. The food was good, but I felt a bit underwhelmed. Compared with traditional Teppanyaki restaurants like Teppanyaki Yasaiya, I found the techniques unpolished for a Michelin star chef establishment.
I felt the hot plate was a tad small, and when compared with the huge knife that the chef was using, the cutting angle was a bit awkward. She was struggling with cutting some of our teppanyaki courses, resulted in slight overcooked in some cases. Most of the plating were done behind in the kitchen. You only got to see the cooking process. That was disappointing. The space was just too tight for a good teppanyaki experience.
TEPPAN by Chef Yonemura
8 Sentosa Gateway, The Forum, Level 1
Tel : (65) 6577 6688