Nested in the same floor at Kaarla at the back of the restaurant is another dining concept by 1-Arden. Oumi features modern Japanese Kappo 割烹 dining, which means “cut and cook” in Japanese. The style lies between the formal Kaiseki multi-course fine dining and the omakase casual dining.
Kappo restaurants are usually small and cozy, frequented by regulars and known only through word of mouth. I was dining at Kaarla and was introduced to Oumi Modern Japanese Kappa by the manager Nigel.
Unlike kaiseki served in a ryotei where guests are seated in private rooms and cannot see the chef, kappo 割烹‘s main difference is that the seating mainly consists of a bar counter, and guests can watch as the chef cook up their meal and make direct requests. The greatest joy of visiting a kappo lies in watching the chef work their magic into preparing the foods. Some of them would chat with guests along the way, adding a pinch of human warmth to the cuisine.
9-Course Kappo Omakase
You need to order to be able to seat at the counter for omakase. The other seatings were reserved for ala carte menu only. There are only 10 seats at the counter with the current social distancing requirements, so reservation is absolutely necessary. However many of the items of the omakase menu were available as ala carte orders as well.
1/9 前菜 Zensai – Kaboucha Uni Tofu
House-made Tofu, Australian Pumpkin, Sea Urchin, Shiitake Tsuyu
First course, 前菜 Zensai or amuse bouche. Chef has incorporated Australian pumpkin (かぼちゃ kaboucha) into the house made とふう tofu so you do not get get a bland piece of tofu. Topped with raw Hokkaido uni 雲丹 or sea urchin and 鰹節 katsuobushi or bonito flakes, it was really pretty to see as the paper thin flakes danced on the orangey uni. All the leaves and flowers came from the Edible Garden.
The entire amuse bouche was held together by the 椎茸つゆ shiitake tsuyu or mushroom flavoured soy sauce that has been diluted and and added with yuzu infusion. Refreshing and balanced with the sweetness of the pumpkin, the uni provided all the umami.
2/9 八寸 Hassun
An assorted platter of Chefs selected small dishes, tastefully placed together on a tray
八寸 Hassun course usually features the appetisers of the season. The decorative flowers and leaves all came from the garden outside the restaurant. Some the ingredients used in the appetisers came from there too.
For once, these pickles were not made in house but came from Tsukiji Outer Market. These tsukemono (Japanese pickles) was procured from a second generation pickle maker that continues to ply his trade in Tsukiji even after the main distribution market has been moved to Toyosu. I really liked the miniature baby daikon (radish), it was not overpoweringly sour and you can still taste the sweetness of the radish.
The Momotaro tomato is a Japanese fruit tomato that It is named after a hero of Japanese folklore, Momotaro the “Peach Boy.” Momotaro is a hybrid tomato developed by the Japanese seed company Takii and carefully cultivated for the ultimate juiciness and sweetness. I have not tasted one that is not marinated, this was the same. The sliced tomatoes were marinated with a savoury brine, two slices were used to sandwich Japanese cream cheese. The “sandwich” was served with some of the brining liquid and puffed rice seasoned with dried seaweed or nori. Fennel flowers grown in the garden were harvest to provide a slight liquorice taste to the cold appetiser.
Katsuo 鰹 or bonito/skipjack tuna is seldom exported to Singapore and only the best omakase and sushi restaurants would order this rather bland and lean fish. The local palate would go for the fattier fish. However if done well, bonito can also shine in place of the more luscious cousins like akami tuna. 鰹のたたき is a common way of preparing this fish, and here it was served with mizuna 水菜 (water lettuce) and myoga 茗荷 (Japanese ginger) and wasabina and roselle leaves harvest from the garden. The dressing was a sesame soy dressing.
The awabi 鮑 (abalone) had been salt-baked in its shell on the teppanyaki grill and then sliced and served on the half-sell. It was just that slightly undercooked but fragrant with the salt bake. Served with chopped wasabina and fresh grated wasabi and a special spicy fermented miso.
Nasu dengaku なす田楽 or miso-glazed eggplant is a classic Japanese side dish made with eggplant sliced in half, scored and brushed with a sweet and savoury miso glaze. The red miso was made in house by their own fermentation for nine months so it was much rarer and sharp than commercially made miso. What made this dengaku special was the incorporation of haebihiam made from sakura shrimp, making this like Sichuan style spicy eggplant that is eaten more commonly here. The crunch came from arare or roasted grains, I couldn’t which it was.
3/9 刺身 Sashimi
Chef’s Selection of 5 types
Typically after the Hassun comes the Sashimi course in a Kaiseki. The chef presented five choice cuts of the freshest catch of the day. All of them came from Toyosu Market, except for the salmon, which was a Norwegian salmon.
The Hokkaiso hotate 帆立貝 (scallops) and chutoro (medium fatty tuna belly were alright. I didn’t enjoy the salmon. The kinmedai 金目鯛 (Japanese sea bream) and hiramasa 平政 (yellowtail amberjack) were passable.
4/9 最中 Foie Gras Monaka
Crispy Wafers, Foie Gras Ganache, Salmon Roe, Shiso, Pickled Daikon
Monaka 最中 is usually a confectionary sweet that has a sweet filling like red bean paste inside a wafer shell made with mochi (rice cake). These days, a savoury filling may be used inside these crispy and firm shells.
You can see the chef painstakingly putting the layers into one half of the monaka shell – a ganache made from foie gras that’s similar to a pâté, decorated with edible flowers, ikura (salmon roe), black tobiko (flying fish roe) and bits of pickled daikon.
You then ceremoniously closed the monaka and partake it like a burger.
It was when you bite into one, you realised the complexity in the layers of flavours, and the refreshing shiso (perilla leaf) at the bottom of the monaka. The taste was overpowering rich, luckily for us the mochi shell balanced the whole dish.
5/9 天麩羅 Tempura Crepe
Scampi Roe, Avocado, Sakura Ebi, Ao-Togarashi Yoghurt
The next course was another small bite. If you were expecting tempura, then you were thinking wrong.
A crispy crepe was made from tempura batter and then topped with ingredients – ebiko (scampi roe) and tobiko, thinly sliced avocado, sakura ebi made into a haebihiam like crumble sprinkled on top, and drops of Ao-Togarashi Yoghurt.
You then eat it with your hand. You pick it up and try to balance the ingredients that were bonded flimsily by the sauces. Another very overpowering small bite. Could not say that I enjoyed it. Princess said it tasted like okonomiyaki.
6/9 椀 Wan
I was expecting an interlude with the bowl course, which typically is a soup or a simmered course. We got a whole claypot of lobster soup, with a whole lobster tail thrown in for good measure.
When the whole boiling claypot of lobster stew was presented, I was wondering if it was for 4 persons on this side of the counter. Then we were told it was for the two of us. And not only was there that ginormous Australian rock lobster tail, there’s tofu and Shanghai greens and leeks all simmering away in a dashi made from fish bones and lobster shell.
The soup was as rich as a lobster bisque, and the chef suggested that we squeezed some lemon into the soup and try another dimension of the rich soup.
7/9 寿司 Sushi
Chef’s Selection of 3 Nigiri
(L-R) Shima aji 島鯵 striped jack, Madai 真鯛 sea bream, and Akagai 赤貝 ark shell were all in season during Spring, and this was the best time especially for shima aji.
There were only three pieces of nigiri sushi for the dinner. After all those soup, three pieces seemed to be sufficient.
8/9 鉄板焼 Teppanyaki
Finally main course of the evening was the teppanyaki wagyu beef. You have two choices, the Australian Mayura Station 100% Fell-blood Wagyu MS9+ marbling sirloin, or the Japanese A5 tenderloin, which they did not mentioned from where. Both came with wasabina, paper thin deep fried garlic chips and Japanese steak sauce.
Mayura 100% Full-blood Wagyu MS9+ Sirloin
The sirloin was tender and had sufficient marbling to melt in mouth. However it was sufficiently meaty to taste the beef.
Japanese A5 Tenderloin
The Japanese tenderloin was like a piece of butter, it simply melted in the mouth. One cannot really eat more than a piece of that richness.
9/9 主菓子 Dessert – Kyoho Sorbet
Sesame Crumble, Black Sesame Praline
Warabimochi 蕨餅 is a deliciously chewy, jelly-like mochi covered with sweet and nutty Kinako soybean powder. It is traditional Wagashi 和菓子 not made with rice but with fern plant starch. The sorbet was made from Kyoho 巨峰 grape juice and was not hard enough in my opinion. But the combination of the sweet sorbet, chewy warabimochi and salty, fragrant black sesame praline was perfect. Sprinkled with sesame crumble for that crunch.
1-Arden, which own Oumi, together with Christopher Leow of Edible Garden City, a social enterprise that designs, builds, and maintains edible gardens in Singapore, came up with the Food Forest.
A place to educate on sustainability through carefully curated gardens, Chris is the Urban Farmer that created the multi-layer bio-diverse roof-top garden. Through regenerative farming and a closed loop approach, the sections include the Singapore Food Heritage Garden, The Wellness Garden, The Mediterranean Potager Garden, The Japanese Potager Garden, and The Australian Native Garden. The garden is open to public and is a good, cool walk in the evening after your meal to burn all those calories.
It was an excellent Kappo dinner, and at $288+ one of the more affordable offerings in the CBD area given that you have half a lobster tail to yourself. The service at the counter was alright, Chef Chua was very patient with explaining to everyone at the Kappo Omakase table the ingredients for each dish. Would be good to understand his inspiration for some of the dishes.
However the purists would frown on the heavy tastes and complex flavours in his more innovative courses as this was not exactly Washoku which strive to achieve the natural taste of the season. You can even conclude that these flavours would fit better in an Izakaya. Very good eats, but not yet Michelin.
88 Market St, #51-02, CapitaSpring 048948
Tel : +65 8518 3763
Visit in May 2022