Fine Dining

Ki-ten 喜天 @ China Square

There’s a new kid on the block, and we were attracted to check it out for their attractive pricing for the kaiseki dinner.

Ki-ten is located at the Cross Street end of China Square. If was quite difficult to locate and with the checks on Trace Together, it was really important that you didn’t enter the building. It is not located inside Cross Street Exchange.

The team came from Nami of Shangri-la. And the head chef was trained in the legendary Nadaman. Promising start having heard such credentials.

Devil’s in the details

And if you are having hot tea, there’s two choices instead of the usual green tea only.

9-Course November Kaiseki Course

Winter is the season for maitake mushroom, pumpkin, persimmon, sawara 鰆 (Spanish mackerel),

November Kaiseki menu

The dinner was described as per the sequence below. The purist would have questioned the order of the presentation of courses, why the pickled course came before the sashimi course

Zensai 前菜 – Appetiser Course

The appetisers came in beautiful chinaware presented on a lacquered plate.

Zensai Course

We were advised to partake the appetisers in a clockwise fashion starting from the seasonal long cabbage with dry beancurd skin Nibandashi (二番だし) style. It tasted like those pickles you would get with your rice. Grated Japanese mountain yam topped with wasabi on its own seemed rather out of place in a Zensai course – I get this usually in an Izakaya. The next two were specials for the day and not on the menu. Fried salmon with pickled radish and seaweed in ponzu were also similar to the quick bites in an Izakaya.

I always look forward to the appetiser course of the kaiseki as it showcases the range of techniques and seasonality on offer. I had to say I was a bit disappointed when it was presented, maybe because I was too spoiled by all those fantastic kaiseki dinners I had in Tokyo.

Sunomono 酢の物 – Pickled Course

I thought this was the fifth part of the appetiser. I only realised it was one course when I saw the menu later.

Sunomono Course

The konbu seaweed and sliced Japanese cucumber were pickled with sweet cider vinegar and the sauce was used to dressed the grilled unagi and Myoga. This is a very good vinegared item but I would not expect it as course. It would qualify maybe as one of the items in the Zensai.

Tsukuri つくり – Sashimi Course

They get their fish from Toyosu three times a week. Toyosu is the new seafood distribution centre in Tokyo that has taken over from the reverent Tsukiji. Tsukiji is still there, and you can still visit the place for some really good sushi and sashimi.

Tsukuri Course

The sashimi course featured sawara (Spanish mackerel), Hokkaido uni (sea urchin), tai (Japanese sea bream), chutoro (fatty tuna) from Toyosu market. They threw in one more piece of aji (horse mackerel) which I suspected it’s because there was not enough chutoro to go around. Nevertheless, I was appreciative of the variety of fishes that went on the platter.

The quality and freshness were top notch. Besides kaiseki, they offer sushi and sashimi for lunch and dinner. And we were seated at what seemed to be a sushi counter. Mental note to self: come back to try their sushi.

Suimono 吸い物 – Soup Course

Maitake mushroom, white fish, chicken dashi mushi teapot soup served with a slice of lime.

Maitake 舞茸 means “dancing mushroom” in Japanese. The mushroom is said to have gotten its name after people danced with happiness upon finding it in the wild, such are its incredible healing properties. I wondered why it was referred to as “hen in the woods” in the West. I love maitake for its flavours and prettiness. It is always a joy to see this mushroom in a pot or tempura. While the mushroom flavours came through, the overall taste of the dashi was really underwhelming.

Nimono 煮物- Simmered Course

Kamaboko (蒲鉾), horenso ほうれん草 (Japanese spinach), beancurd, shitake, leek, all cooked in nitsuke (boiled) style

Tempura Course

You can also call this the vegetable tempura moriawase course with a selection of maitake, ohba (perilla leaf), capsicum and pumpkin.

Tempura Course

They are not a tempura specialist and the finished product was under battered. And when you soaked the vegetable in the sauce, the crust simply disintegrated into the sauce. They should have served this course with Himalayan salt.

Yakimono 焼物- Grilled Course

You had a choice of either the wagyu or the seasonal fish for the grilled course. I had the fish and Princess went for the wagyu of course.

Seasonal Sawara Yuanyaki Style with Hajikami Ginger

Seasonal Sawara Yuanyaki Style 鰆幽庵焼き

Sawara 鰆 is at its oiliest in early winter and can be enjoyed in many preparations including teriyaki, shioyaki (salt grilled), saikyo-misoyaki and yuanyaki 幽庵焼き, which uses a simple marinade made with slices of yuzu and kabosu (Japanese lime) soaked in a brine liquid made with soy sauce, mirin and sake. Usually yuanyaki will produce a moist piece of fish. But this one was too dry for my preference and under flavoured too.

A5 Miyazaki Wagyu with Homemade Apple Sauce, Capsicum, Shishito, Baby Corn, Erygnii Mushroom

A5 Miyazaki Wagyu 宮崎和牛

Erygnii Mushroom is commonly known as king trumpet mushroom. The cap of the mushroom was grilled and served, when usually the stalk was the fleshy and tasty part. That’s not important as the highlight of this course was the A5 Miyazaki Wagyu 宮崎和牛 served at medium rare. Simply melt-in-mouth texture, you don’t need any seasoning than a dash of salt.

So of the two choices, and if you take beef, go for the wagyu always.

Gohanmono 御飯物 – Main Course

The main course for the evening was kani tama donburi 蟹玉丼(king crab and egg rice bowl) with akadashi 赤出し (red miso soup) accompanied with the mandatory pickles.

Gohanmono Course

Princess and I looked at each other and frowned. The topping of the rice was totally bland. The sweetness of the king crab did not stand out in the onsen egg. I had to ask for some soy sauce.

Amaimono – Dessert Course

The last course of the evening was a well-thought dessert making up of Japanese persimmon, Hokkaido cheese cracker with homemade wine jelly.

Amaimono

Persimmon is one of my favourite fruits because of their naturally sweetness. Most of the persimmons these days come from Israel and China, but Japanese ones are really sought after for their high sweetness level and intensity of flavour. Paired with the saltiness of the cheese cracker and slightly sour white wine jelly, this was a really good ending and excellent recovery after a couple of mishaps through the dinner.

Sake Pairing

For a little more ($38), you get to try 5 sakes with meal. It was one of the most economical wine pairing I have seen in fine dining, so I wasn’t expecting much.

Modern sake pairing

The world of sake is so spectacularly rich and complex that, like with wine, whiskey, and many other types of alcohol, it is virtually impossible to know everything about it. Sake is categorised either by its ingredients (ie. whether brewer’s alcohol has been added to it) or by how much the rice has been milled, or polished. So if the tasting notes are not up to scratch, it’s entirely my fault.

Zanzai – Appetiser Course

We started the meal with the first sake – an unfiltered junmai from Hanagaki. This nigori or ‘cloudy’ sake, is a pure rice wine made from Japan-grown rice polished to 65% of its original size, with some of the rice particles (rice lees) left in for extra texture and fuller flavour. It has nice bouquet, and kickstarts the dinner with a sweet, full body.

Tempura – Fried Course

This is a sharp and dry tokubetsu junami (special pure, one grade higher than junmai) that reminded me of a cold chablis. The adoption of a classical yeast strain for this sake offers a clam and rustic profile, as its name suggest. It feels somewhat a fruity (peach? apricot?) but refined fragrance in this clear and dry taste sake. Love this one.

Amaimono – Dessert Course

OK, I would not consider this as a sake, but a sparkling alcoholic drink that one can get from a 7-11. Very fruity, with a nice yuzu scent and taste, and especially popular with ladies. Princess drank the whole thing.

Tsukuri – Sashimi Course

A clear, dry junmai bottled by Ozeki best served cold. Ozeki exclusively developed a new way of making sake to accentuate the tastes while keeping it easy to drink. The unique brewing process of RAI creates a pleasant earthiness that is not too bold nor meek with subtle hints of caramel in the nose. A sweet and light bodied sake, after the “shocking” first nigori.

Yakimono – Grilled Course

A rather strong, nutty tasting tokubestsu junmai. The naturally soft water used in its brewing comes from snow that melts off the peak of Mt. Hakkai, hence the name Hakkaisan. The dry body is preceded by mild and creamy texture. A flavour of almond and vanilla with a hint of a lactic character melts across the palate. My second favourite. 

My Favourite

It was quite obvious that my favourite was the Nabeshima tokubetsu junmai 鍋島特別純米酒. I always like wines or sakes that are dry, and it’s quite difficult to get one that would be so crisp it’s almost like drinking a chablis or sauvignon blanc.

Afterthoughts

While $198++ for kaiseki was definitely why I was attracted to dine here, I wouldn’t exactly called it worth the money. I considered this place a kappo or omakase restaurant, not exactly to the culinary level of kaiseki. While some of the courses were quite good, there was still rawness in the techniques and presentation that a top-notch kaiseki restaurant would not have done. Too many of the flavours repeated and some courses were seriously bland.

However, there’s a lot of potential as it was a young and passionate crew. The service and enthusiasm of the team rubbed off positively with us that evening. Give it another 6 months and this place would have overcome its teething problems and dished out excellent dinners. I would definitely bring my guests to come try their sushi and sashimi.

Ki-Ten 喜天
181 South Bridge Road #01-04 & #01-K-3 Cross Street Exchange Singapore (058743)

Date Visited : Nov 2021

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