From the team at Kakiin is Sakutto Tempura & Oyster, one of the newer Japanese izakayas to grace Orchard Plaza.
The first Japanese food that most of us in Singapore will be first exposed to would be Tempura. This is usually served as one of the selection in the family restaurants in those Japanese supermarkets in the 70s like Yaohan, Yokoso and Isetan.
Tempura (天ぷら or 天麩羅, tenpura) was originally introduced to Japan by the Portuguese in Nagasaki through fritter-cooking techniques during the 16th century. But given the Japanese, they made it their own by refining every step of the way – the batter, the dry dredging, the type of oil, the temperature control, and the way to serve them right out of the hot oil.
Chef/Owner Fumio Kondo of Tokyo’s two-star Michelin restaurant Tempura Kondo, once said tempura should be regarded as a method of steaming ingredients, not deep-frying them. He believed that lightly dusting the ingredients in flour before dipping them into a wet batter helps to create a perfect gap for steaming the ingredients to firm-tender perfection while the outer batter fries and crisps.
Our meal came with five different condiments (from right): a spicy sauce that tasted like garlic chilli, yuzukosho, curry salt, matcha salt and sea salt. We didn’t go for their set menu, and instead went ala carte.
Botan Prawn Marinated with Dassai 45 ぼたん海老の大吟醸漬け
The first appetiser was a sake-infused botan prawn. The sweetness of the prawn was complimented by the sweetness of the Dassai 45.
A5 Miyazaki Beef Tartare 宮崎和牛のタルタル
A5 wagyu beef as the main ingredient of beef tartare, how much better can it get? Came with bits of cream cheese and raw mustard, with toasted bread.
Take a bit of everything and placed it on the toast. The Worcestershire sauce was just right, did not overpower the overall tartare.
Hotaru ika okizuke ホタルイカ沖漬け
Hotaru ika is my favourite kind of ika (squid). Unfortunately they are not available all year round. And to extend their shelf life, they are available as okizuke.
They have prepared slices of fresh radish to balance the saltiness of the squid. They were so good, I ordered a second round.
Ika Kuroshiokara イカの塩辛
In addition to the usual squid shiokara, their version had the squid ink infused into the mix for an extra burst of umami.
Oysters from America, Ogatsu-Miyagi 宮城県䧺勝 and Ireland
Like their sister shop Kakiin downstairs, the presentation of the freshly shucked oysters was pretty dramatic, dry ice and all.
And it was accompanied with Okinawa sea grapes.
After all the appetisers tucked away, we were given a presentation of the fresh ingredients that would be our tempura dinner tonight.
The jury is still out on whether you should or should not put the mashed daikon into the tentsuyu, but I did it anyway, because I love that combination.
Kuruma ebi 車海老
Live kuruma ebi imported from Japan – you might think, what a waste to deep fry it. But if you understand that tempura is another form of steaming the food (I kid you not), this seemed like the perfect method to eat such a beautiful ingredient.
Hamo (Conger eel) 鱧
I loved eel, both the river and sea varieties. I have never seen river eels “unagi” being tempura-ed. I would order the conger eel if it is available. I was surprised in came in a ball and not flat out like I am used to. Also it was so well deboned, the eel came across to be really like the battered fish in English fish and chips. Pass me the salt and vinegar, old boy.
Lady finger (okura) オクラ Lotus root with mentaiko 明太蓮根
Vegetables come as a palate cleanser in between the seafood.
Sweetbean (Pork belly wrapped) スナップエンドウの豚巻
This next item was quite innovative – sweet pea or snap peas wrapped in bacon and tempura.
Japanese Sweet Corn とうもろこし
Hot oil + corn = pop corn. Not when you used fresh Japanese sweet corn and tempura them. Always a favourite among my guests, this is one tempura that can go wrong in so many way. So by nailing it perfectly, this was my favourite item for the whole evening.
Japanese whiting (Kisu fish) 鱚
Next up, the whiting “Kisu” fish. Kisu fish, also known as Kiss Fish due to the similar Japanese pronunciation. I have not seen other fish served for tempura in Japan (unless they were ala carte order or “Shun” seasonal specials).
Zucchini flower with shrimp paste ズッキーニフラワー海老しんじょう詰め
It is difficult to keep the zucchini flower fresh and beautiful, so the only way to rescue the flower was to filled it with the prawn paste. The result was surprisingly delicious.
Japanese Sweet Potato さつまいも
Japanese sweet potato was always nice. Served with a cube of Japanese butter and pinch of salt.
Brie cheese tempura ブリーチーズの天ぷら
Deep fried cheese, it can only be good. The sprinkling of cracked black pepper was absolutely unnecessary.
Uni with Oba Leaf 雲丹と大葉
When I ordered this, I was expecting this.
Instead we got this elaborate dish that came with beautiful plating for that shot for the Instagram.
Shiso leaf was battered one side and fried. The “naked” side was topped with fresh uni, shiso flowers, seaweed tsukudani 佃煮 and shaved horseradish. The result was a beautifully balanced work of culinary and visual art.
Delicious, pleasing to the eye and fragrance from the different combinations of ingredients. This is what we called 色香味俱全 “colour, fragrance, taste all in one”.
Tencha with Dashi Soup 天ぷら茶漬け
Kakiage is a popular kind of tempura in Japan, especially in the home because different ingredients (usually leftovers) are mixed together in tempura batter before deep-frying.
The kakiage was made with bits of sweet potato, carrots, onions and shishito (sweet jalapeño), quite yummy to finish the rice with. Add a bit of the bonito flakes, pea shoots and dashi stock, it made for a great eat and a satisfying finish to the dinner. They gave use some thickened tempura sauce but it was totally unnecessary.
There’s a proper way for everything in Japanese cuisine, and according to the expert gourmand, there’s only one way to enjoy Tempura Chazuke – his way or the highway.
Tempura chazuke is oily, and of course it is liked by those who like oily things.
It is not safe to make freshly fried tempura into chazuke, but originally, tempura chazuke is the use of old tempura. It’s a way to eat the rest of yesterday’s tempura, or once it’s cold, to eat it. To do that, first put a net on the brazier, and once put the tempura on the fire. I’ll set it on fire to the point where it can burn somewhat. Put it on top of hot rice and pour salt as appropriate.
As I talked about with tuna chazuke before, pour hot tea with dark eyes. The amount of rice should be served after consulting with your stomach condition. However, it should be noted here that tempura chazuke doesn’t like sweets, so you shouldn’t put tempura sauce on it. You should always put raw soy sauce or salt on it.
The fresher the radish, the better, and if there is a spicy radish, it’s even better. In short, tempura chazuke is a way to eat the remaining tempura. The oil is done for roasting, it’s fragrant, and surprisingly delicious. It goes without saying that if the tempura that becomes the ingredient is not of good quality, it will not be delicious.【てんぷらの茶漬け】北大路魯山人 Kitaoji Rosanjin on Tencha (Showa 9 or 1934)
Prawn Claypot Rice 海老の土鍋ご飯
We were “misled” that the portion of the tencha would not be enough for the group, so we ordered the claypot rice. But it was a happy problem that we solved by simply eating it all up.
The rice was cooked from scratch in the claypot with plenty of sakura shrimps and a very heavy prawn stock. It was like eating Hokkien prawn noodles (the soup version) in a claypot rice format. The burnt bits of rice were flavour bombs but just too hard for my old gums.
Overall, the tempura was so-so, better than the usual Washoku restaurant because of the quality of the ingredients used, but the technique and the batter needed an upgrade. The appetisers and claypot rice were delicious, but you cannot run a tempura-ya with only appetisers and rice, especially at this price-point.
It’s easy to miss Orchard Plaza amidst its glitzier neighbours like 313@Somerset or Ion Orchard, but don’t rule it out just yet. It may be a relic of the 1980s, but it is a treasure trove of culinary delights and Japanese concepts that have earned it the title of “Little Japan”. If you’re tired of traipsing along your same haunts on Orchard Road, come down to Orchard Plaza and patronise one of these eateries. It’s all part of the fun of eating out.
Sakutto Tempura & Oyster
150 Orchard Road #03-33 Orchard Plaza, Singapore 238841
Tel : +65 9888 1510
Visited Jun 2023
@sakuttotempura&oysters @sakutto.sg #sakuttotempura&oysters @sakuttotempura @sakutto_tempura #シンガポールグルメ #シンガポールご飯 #シンガポールディナー #シンガポールレストラン #シンガポール天ぷら #シンガポール在住 #singaporetempura