Celebrating my sister’s birthday, I brought the families out for a nice omakase dinner at a high quality, value-for-money place that has not disappointed me for all the different times I have been there.
Koji Sushi Bar has two branches, one in Raffles City and this one in Nankin Row. Although its address says Pickering Street, they are facing the pedestrian street parallel to Pickering that used to be called Nankin Lane.
Nankin Row @ 3 Pickering Street is a cluster of conserved shophouses in traditional Art Deco architecture within China Square Conservation Prime Business District Area.
I brought them to Koji for omakase. Omakase is short for “omakase shimasu,” which roughly means “I trust you, [chef].” For an experience built on trust, the customer must feel comfortable and open to new experiences, but be vocal about the foods they cannot or will not eat. We have one person that don’t eat beef, so it would be interesting to see what they would replace the wagyu with.
First up, four different appetisers that showcased the seasonal catch.
- Sea urchin with cold yuba
- Marinated scallops with boiled eggplant
- Zuké yellowtail with truffle oil and shichimi powder
- Firefly squid with seaweed ponzu
I love hotaru ika ホタルイカ (firefly squid), and I could not get enough of them in Singapore. They signify the arrival of spring. Usually they are marinated in soy sauce or its own guts, but they had done a refreshing way with konbu and ponzu.
Fresh yuba 湯葉 (tofu skin) goes well with strong tasting sashimi like uni and ikura and is usually paired as an appetiser as such.
2/8 Sashimi platter
The platter came with 5 pieces of different sashimi – Botanebi 牡丹海老 (Botan prawn), otoro 大トロ (fatty tuna), saba 鯖 (mackerel), shima-aji 縞鯵 (striped jack), buri 鰤 (yellowtail).
My favourite was the shima-aji. It resembles aji in both appearance and taste, although shima-aji‘s flesh is white. When aged for a few days, the firm, fatty flesh developed an even better flavour profile that was just delightful. It was just strange that the freshly grated wasabi was yellow and not greenish.
3/8 Abalone Rice
Next course, a piece of boiled awabi 鮑 (abalone) on shari rice seasoned with akazu 赤酢 (red vinegar).
Of course this is not a abalone sushi. It was a mouthful of rice and abalone, topped with a sauce made abalone liver and further enhanced with shaved black truffle.
While the additional of truffle was good, the liver sauce was the soul of this dish. It has the gamey liver taste but exploding with umami.
4/7 Tochigi A4 Wagyu
Tochigi prefecture 栃木県 is the sixth largest beef cow raiser in Japan. About 30,000 wagyu cattle are raised, of which about 3,500 are certified as “Tochigi Wagyu” a year.
I personally like the “normal” beef but would occasionally indulge in wagyu. Wagyu has good melt-in-mouth texture but not much of beef flavours. And this A4 grade wagyu was lightly salted and seared on a pan. It was really soft and juicy. Luckily it was a small portion, or the greasiness would overwhelm me.
Special / Somen with scallops, caviar and truffle
My brother does not take beef for religious purpose, and they replaced the course with somen with scallops, caviar and truffle.
Sōmen (素麺,そうめん) are white Japanese noodles made of wheat flour and they are very thin, about 1 mm in diameter, and they are usually served cold. The cold somen was dressed with ponzu sauce and mixed with ikura and caviar, and finally topped with truffle and gold flakes. Very pretty but not filling for a big guy like my brother.
5/7 Five Specialty Nigiri Sushi
Otoro 大トロ (fatty tuna), kinmedai 金目鯛 (splendid alfonsino), buri 鰤 (yellowtail) tai 鯛 (Japanese sea bream), uni 雲丹 (sea urchin), kawahagi 本皮剥 (thread-sail filefish).
The piece of otoro is branded with the amber red charcoal to cause an instant sear on the fish. You can hear the hissing sound, you can smell the caramelising of fats from the otoro, you can see the charred marks on the pink flesh of the fish.
The skins of the buri and tai were lightly seared (as pictured above) “aburi” style to tenderise them and release umami flavours from the oils. The taste of the kawahagi was quite delicate, but the addition of its liver added a decadently creamy element to the nigiri. First time I had this fish liver sushi.
A la carte / 5 pieces of nigiri sushi
After the 5 pieces of sushi, the omakase course only had a soup and a dessert remaining. We were still hungry and added another 5 pieces of nigiri sushi.
Chef added shime-saba しめ鯖 (cured mackerel), kamasu 魳 (barracuda), kuruma ebi 車海老 (Japanese tiger prawn), buri 鰤 (yellowtail), shima-aji 縞鯵 (striped jack).
Only very high-end sushi-ya serve wild-caught shima-aji. The fish was aged for a couple of days and it developed a buttery flavour. Kuruma ebi are usually served boiled, but they are prepared striaght from live prawns in Japan. I don’t think they were still alive when they flew over here with the airlines, but the sweetness of the prawn was so different from local farmed tiger prawns. Delicious.
6/7 Hamaguri Osuimono
Hamaguri Osuimono 蛤のお吸い物 (Japanese clam clear soup) signalled the end of dinner.
A must-drink soup for Girl’s Day celebration, the clam clear soup was added to celebrate my sister’s birthday.
It was a rather dull soup to end with although the clam provided a lot of seafood umami to the soup. Perhaps I was sitting under the air-con vent and needed more hot soup. I was given another bowl of miso soup instead.
7/7 Seasonal Fruits
Dessert for omakase or even kaiseki has been quite boring – either seasonal fruits or a sweet pastry if sweet fruits are not available. We had a bit of both.
The dessert for the evening was a fruit platter with kinkan 金柑 kumquat, マスクメロン Japanese musk melon, hoshigaki 干し柿 dried persimmon, and ストロベリーチーズケーキ strawberry cheesecake. Each one of them hit the spot with their natural sweetness.
If there was one complaint, it would be the environment. There were only high tables and bar stools. And if you want to see the action (and enjoy the indoor air-conditioning), you have to squeeze in the dining area around the counter that double as a makeshift kitchen.
If you want omakase, you have to do an advance booking. Else only the standard menu will be available. But even so, there’s a good range of sushi and donburi sets to choose from, and the quality of the sushi and sashimi will not disappoint.
Koji Sushi Bar – Pickering Branch
3 Pickering Street #01-42
Nankin Row Singapore 048660
Tel : +65 6225 6125
Visited in Mar 2022
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