Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Akane: Omakase Magic

120 Adam Road,
4th StoreyThe Japanese Association,
Singapore 289899
Tel: 6467 2768

I recently went to meet the sushi guru at Akane.

The members of the Japanese Association chose to name the restaurant Akane, which means sunset, after the natural wonder of a beautiful sunset that you can soak in from the restaurant.

We unfortunately missed the sunset, but went there with a greedy purpose to indulge from a sushi counter stock full of fresh fish that is flown in about four times a week and deftly sliced by the sushi master Yoshio Nogawa, whom is more or less the grandfather of all the sushi masters in Singapore, Ronnie of Tatsuya, Yoshida of Sushi Yoshida and such.

We were fortunate because for a Friday night, the restaurant was surprisingly quiet that we were personally attended to at the sushi counter by the man himself. The evening was a fun, with free flowing conversation with this benevolent, funny and charming Japanese man, who speaks Japanese, English and Singlish that found himself in Singapore 32 years ago. Interestingly, he said the main reason for coming to Singapore was because he wanted to leave Japan after training as a sushi chef because he thought it was too small and too cramp!

He welcomed us with open arms, inviting us to sit in front of him and as we stared blankly at the Japanese-only menu at the counter, he asked, “Sashimi?”

“Omakase”, and with that we established some level of trust with him and marked the beginning of a magical culinary journey for the night.

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Nogawa nodded and started working on the sashimi platter, while the waitresses presented us with an appetizer of anglerfish liver. Nogawa looked up and smileed cheekily, “Japanese foie gras, but natural…” The anglerfish liver was marinated with a ponzu, a rather seemingly rich way to start a meal, but the ponzu helped to whet my appetite. After which we readily dived into our sashimi platter that was presented before us containing: toro, tai topped with uni, fan clam, hamachi belly, baby scallop, clams and botan ebi. I used to think a sashimi platter was just a platter of raw fish, but I realised that night that there is a certain craft to this art of slicing fish. Various decisions have to be made—what type of fish and how thick and how to enhance it, and how to place a group of raw fish together that will work together with contrasting flavours and textures—all of which predicates a real understanding of fish.

Despite running multiple restaurants, Nogawa still cooks, or still slices and dices behind his own counter. Just as he finished serving us our platter, he disappeared and I was a tad disappointed, assuming that he had gone to oversee the other parts of the kitchen and that we would be hosted by his other sushi chefs that lined behind the counter, but along with a refreshing watercress salad that they served us, Nogawa reappeared behind the counter and handed each of us a stick of grilled geoduck.

Next up, he served us different soups, a foie gras soup and a toro soup. As we slurped down the delicious consommé-based soups that were richly flavoured with the foie gras and toro repectively, to different effects where the former had a more full on powerful flavour hit, while the latter had slight more subtle with mushrooms, we conversed freely about frivolous topics such as Iron Chefs, where we learnt that Nogawa is a friend of Iron Chef Michiba, who is known to be a master with his stocks, now isn’t that something.

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Following a rough traditional structure of a kaiseki styled dinner, he proceeded to served us a nimono (simmered dish) of tai with ginseng followed by a mushimono (steamed course), which was grated yam topped with a thick consommé and garnished with uni. After presenting us with this course, we peered at it curiously and asked, what is this, to which he replied, “try and see if you know it”, and only after about 5 bites did we guess, “yam?” making the connection between an appetiser of grated yam and maguro that we onced sampled, only to be corrected by Nogawa san, where he clicked his clogs and walked into his kitchen, to return with two different types of yam to demonstrate the differences.

Next came the agemono (fried course), “try my new creation” beckoned Nogawa, which was a croquette, stuffed with seafood and mayonnaise, delicious and piping hot, where I nearly burnt my tongue.


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“Yes!” and as we agreed, that was the cue where then they laid before us, crunchy pickles and matching blue and white plates with picked ginger. As we watched him work with his hands, a little rice, a rub of freshly grated wasabi, a slice of fish and the final stroke of sauce before he presented it on the plates before us. We worked through a piece of toro, hamachi belly, fan clam, sea eel, ikura and fugu, before we stopped and he asked us if we wanted anything and to scan his glass counter for anything that catches our eye, then he recommended the sea prawns, which were just coming into season, followed by octopus roe,another piece of sushi and Kyoto daikon, then washed it with a clam miso soup. And with that and absolutely filled bellies, we ended our dinner and lovely evening with a serving of fruit and tea, a warm handshake, happy smiles, pleasantries and us promising ourselves that we would go back.

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Blogger The Hungry Cow said...

Wow. Sounds like a great meal you had there, especially with the magical touch of the man himself. I was wondering how much it cost...

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to have what you had... care to bring me along next time?

11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how much it cost??

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Er... I suppose we can stroll in for dining as wellwithout being a member right??? I'm wondering about the cost as well...

12:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yup yup kind to share the total damage done to the wallet ?
Coz am tempted to indulge ... =D

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very Ruth Reichl!

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds good... *bumps it a little higher on my to-do list* :-)

I'm guessing $200 per head...

11:42 PM  
Blogger joone! said...

Our bill came up to $350 inclusive of beers, but Nogawa must have really liked us or were amused at us that he said, "i give you good discount" so i'm not sure how much the actual bill would have been.

12:32 PM  
Blogger keninabu said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:30 AM  
Blogger keninabu said...

Sounds fantastic!

Are you allowed to go in even if you're not a member of the Japanese Association?

Btw, dinner apparently costs around S$200 per person.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joone, I've long enjoyed reading your blog. this post really goes to the top of my list of amazing reads, and I particularly enjoyed the pictures. I've been to Nogawa at Le Meridien, but I want to go to Akane someday!

11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love eating gooey ducks. My mother loves to make it with rice, tastes great! Though I do think you have to get used to the texture.

Geoducks are prized foods in food markets worldwide and are a highly valued fishery for the state (Puget Sound) , estimated at $40 million annually.

Check out geoduck for info.

8:03 AM  
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9:11 PM  

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