It was the place that your parents would tell the grandchildren that they used to date in that posh Japanese restaurant at Goodwood Park. And it was also the first place I tried proper teppanyaki in Singapore.
Shima Restaurant at Goodwood Park Hotel was the first teppanyaki restaurant in Singapore, set up in 1980 by Chef Katsuhiro Watanabe with Head Chef Shegeo Umehara heading the Teppanyaki. It quickly became the place to impress your date and business associates being the first fine dining Japanese restaurant in Singapore. By the new century, the restaurant has aged and required a major facelift. I was there in 2009 and was not impressed and actually blacklisted it for a while.
The restaurant was taken over by JR Group in 2013, it had complete makeover in 2014. Chef Watanabe retired in 2015 and a few more head chefs (and misadventures) later, we finally landed with Chef Hoshiba Fumihiko in 2017. With over 40 years of culinary experience, Chef Fumihiko is regarded as one of the best kaiseki chefs in Hokkaido and was also the former Chairman of the National Culinary Society of Japan. He shifted the focus of Shima to kaiseki and that did not take off too.
Chef Anson Wong is the new Head Chef for Teppanyaki and joined recently. He used to be the Teppan chef at Nadaman in Shangri-la and he claimed to be the shifu (teacher) for Chef Eric at Mikuni. He was equally talkative as Chef Eric and gave many trivial about the teppanyaki. And that’s all part of the fun of teppanyaki, where the chef was part of the entertainment.
The teppanyaki tables are fitted with one-inch thick cast-iron griddles that were customised and made in Japan, and they have been there since Day One. Most of the other restaurants that you see in the shopping malls go for griddles only half the thickness and most likely used Made in China steel which wobbled under heat and stress. I do find the ventilators need a major upgrade though.
Enough of the history and restaurant, did the food improve this time?
First of all, I would like to commend my host/server for the evening Ellen for helping settle me and my guests down for some drinks and appetisers while she nudged the party at the teppanyaki counter to finish their desserts somewhere else. Why would anyone want to take dessert at the smoky and greasy counter?
Tatami Iwashi タタミイワシ is a Japanese snack made from baby sardines or shirasu laid out and dried while entwined in a single layer to form a large mat-like sheet, quite similar to the traditional way of making paper. These were lightly roasted to give it more crunch. Served a dollop of Japanese mayonnaise spiced up with shichimi powder.
Marinated Pufferfish Seasoned with Sweet Sake ふぐみりん干し Fugu mirin boshi – Ellen assured us the pufferfish used was not poisonous and they knew how to prepare fugu. It tasted like the type you would get from Japanese super market, served lightly-grilled with a side of dipping Japanese mayonnaise and a sprinkling of shichimi.
Grilled Ray’s Fins 工イヒレ炙り燒き Kō ihire aburi yaki was not what expected though. I was expecting some kind of dried stingray fins that you usually get from izakaya. Instead this was a dried version of the flounder bones made in house by curing and drying the flounder’s fins. Smoky and crispy, it was a really good eat with drinks. Again the mayonnaise and shichimi made their appearance.
Assorted Sashimi 7 Kinds 本日のな刺身7種 came with Chef’s selection of seven types of fish flown in from Toyosu market. We had the standard chutoro and standard tuna, amberjack, yellowtail, sea bream and scallops. Nothing out of the ordinary.
We wanted the sea urchin hand rolls to come last, but they suggested we had these before proceeding to the teppanyaki. The Bafun Uni was creamy and bursting with umami.
We ordered from the ala carte menu since we were also half full by the time we sat down at the teppan-counter.
Live Spiny Lobster 伊勢海老 450g was aptly prepared with the “golden sauce” that Chef Eric also used in Mikuni. The difference? The sauce here was not topped with ebiko, a small detail but made a mile of difference between ordinary and luxe.
This was a good eat, live abalone アワビ awabi prepared right in front of you The abalone was slice super thin and sautéed with a garlic butter sauce to an al dente consistency. And the best part of this course? The abalone liver was served as well. Other places would have prepared a liver sauce to go on top of the abalone, but I loved it this way.
Assorted Vegetables 野菜盛り合わせ Yasai Moriawase was more like a plate of sautéed green bean sprouts. But it was sautéed so much better than my help at home. The sprouts had wokhei but retained their crunchiness and moisture. And the supper hot plate of the teppan totally cooked away the rawness of the bean sprouts. Seemingly simple but difficult to execute well.
Special Beef Tenderloin 特選牛肉フィレ was a normal piece of Japanese beef not certified to the wagyu selection process. This was the only fail in my opinion as the beef was under seasoned. I had to resort to the accompanying sauces and the deep fried garlic for more flavours.
And the meal ended with the quintessential fried garlic rice ガーリックライス. You have to control the temperature so that the garlic is sautéed to fragrant and not bitter. A minute too long it would ruin the fried rice, and a minute too little you taste the rawness of the garlic. This was OK, not the best I have eaten, but good. Ellen threw in a bowl of miso soup for free.
The last time I came to Shima was more than 10 years ago before their renovations. It was a rowdy and vibrant atmosphere with all the counters in full action, and it was a very expensive dinner. I wasn’t impressed by the food, as there were many competitions then that were better. But the service was excellent. It has not changed. And hopefully under Chef Anson, the food will become better.
If you place a reservation for teppanyaki, remember to ask for the counter as they have booths and private rooms that they would fill you in if you did not ask. Then you will only get the smokiness and not enjoy the treat of watching the chefs in action.
Level 1 Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Road, Singapore 228221
Tel : +65 6734 6281 / 8818 1647
Visited Oct 2022