Katanashi Japanese Tapas Bar: Fun and Delicious!

Japanese Izakaya, Katanashi, on Boat Quay serves up delicious affordable Bento rice bowls on weekdays lunch. I have blogged about it before. Every visit, my friends and I naturally have to queue. At night, however, it serves up Japanese Tapas. Last Friday, I finally got the opportunity to check it out. A friend from Hong Kong was in town and I wanted to bring her somewhere totally unique. Katanashi fit the bill. Japanese Tapas is not common in Singapore (and I pray in Hong Kong too) and Katanashi has these little charming details such as a hand-written and drawn menu that I hoped will delight my girl friend. Plus their earnestness to serve up simple delicious little Japanese treats is simply heart-warming.

Katanashi’s menu may be small but boosts many signature dishes. At the same time, they have a separate special menu serving up specially-crafted-for-the-day dishes. Check out their Facebook page. On our visit, my friends safely left the ordering to me. I came to the restaurant fully prepared. Days of stalking Instagram (#katanashi) led me to order a wide variety of dishes. Each were as yummy as the next! We were more than satisfied with our dinner at Katanashi.

Katanashi is well-known for its cute illustrations. Their menus and wet tissue packets are hand drawn. It is hard not to smile at the cute drawings. But their personalized reservation cards definitely takes the cake!  

 

First to arrive on our table was the extremely popular Raw Tuna with a Breaded Crumb on a bed of tar tar sauce. Almost every table had this plate and for good reasons. The pink smooth texture of the tuna and freshness contrasting beautifully with the sourish sauce had us wanting more.

The Japanese ‘Okonomiyaki’-style Omelette may sound boring but it was filled with lovely big pieces of pork, grated yam, dried shrimp topped with bonito flakes and a thick sweet brown sauce. The game-changer was the slightly underdone middle that was just gooey – delightful! In short, a perfectly executed omelette.

Katanashi Fried Chicken or KFC is another popular dish. Deep-fried to perfection with unmistakable juiciness when we first bit into it. The thick crispy milky-crust was a palate pleaser!

This Hapen Cheese is supposed to be one of Katanashi’s best dishes too. Deep-fried Fish Cake filled with cheese, I was not convinced of its popularity.

That’s because my quarter did not contain any cheese… It was filled with air. BUT BUT BUT Katanashi’s other deep-fried and filled dishes did not disappoint and deserves as much credit.

Why this Curry Menchu Katsu does not get as much recognition beats me. Maybe because the description “minced pork meat cutlet and onion, cabbage with curry powder and cheese” does not sound appetizing. But I assure you this dish is delicious. The minced pork cutlet was crisp on the outside but perfectly juicy and tender within. Plus with the generous cheese oozing out when placed on our table, we were happy campers!  

Another must-order is this Potato Croquette filled with a thick wedge of camembert cheese. That’s it! From here on now, I am only going to eat Potato Croquette if it contains a satisfying brick of camembert cheese. I ain’t settling for anything less amazing.

From their specials menu, this Spring Rolls filled with a Korean Rice Cake each topped with Mentaiko was an interesting dish. Usually not a fan of the textureless rice cake, I liked the contrast of the crispy springroll skin. 

Our only main course for the evening was this disappointing Mentaiko Kimchi Udon. The anaemic-looking dish with the diluted kimchi sauce did not look or tasted appetizing. Honestly, I thought a wasteful stomach-filler. Should have gone for those Volcano rice bowls that every other table seemed to be savouring. Being different didn’t help me here.

 

Katanashi serves up another type of Fried Chicken: Katanashi Style fried Tabasaki!!! (Pardon the exclamation marks but this was such on the menu) Deep fried chicken wing dipped in special sauce, I ordered this hoping it will be like the Korean style fried chicken but no. It was dry and where’s the sauce?! Leave it to the Koreans to master saucy fried chicken.

Last but not least, from the special menu, this Fried Rice Ball filled with Unagi in a Dashi Broth. How unusual is this dish?! Sure, it was just one ball and difficult to split among four but it was a fine dish. The broth was light and fragrant, the unagi cubes tender.

 

Katanashi was so much fun. Every dish was surprising with its exciting contrast of textures and flavours. Sure, not every combination was a success but those that were, were first-bite magic. Plus they serve a great selection of Japanese beer. I foresee returning with different group of friends after a long week at work.

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A French-Asian Wedding Banquet @ Capella: WOW

Last night, my dear friend from way back in Secondary School got married at Capella Singapore in Sentosa. Her husband is Italian so it seemed natural for a fusion-course wedding banquet. Also needless to say, half of the ballroom were Italians. They sure were passionate! Days before the wedding, my friend asked us to choose between “Quail” and “Beef”. I went for Beef because her “money was on it” What a way to build up anticipation! During the banquet, she spoilt us all with a scrumptious 7-course French-asian fusion wedding banquet. Us guests were blown away with everything. To top it off the band, 53A, played us upbeat music that got us dancing for hours. It was a fantastic evening!

The table setting. 

We began with a bread basket containing a surprising wide assortment carbohydrates. We couldn’t get enough of the bread sticks and crisps.

Our first course was an extremely fresh and light Hamachi Carpaccio with Asian Slaw and Sesame Ginger Dressing. Thinly sliced Hamachi with a light dressing – perfect start to the huge dinner.

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Next up was a rich Potato and Leek Soup with Truffle. As the soup bowl lid was lifted, a burst of truffle hit us in the face. You will either love or hate this dish. This turned out to my least favourite dish of the evening. I could not get on board with the textureless thin soup. Although savalged by the generous truffle bits.

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Next up was a superb Oven-baked Soy-Glazed Cod with Braised Daikon Raddish, Hon-Shimeji and Bonito Sauce. It still hurts whenver I recalled I did not finish this dish. But there were a lot of courses including a supposedly-epic Beef course so holding back was the way forward.

Refreshing palate-cleanser Mango Sorbet to prepare us for the meat course… (Excuse the blue photo from the spotlight)


Finally, the mind-blowing Pot-Braised Beef Short-Ribs Ala Bourguignon with Carrots, Caramelised Figs, Roasted Yam and Mushrooms. Fork-tender beef in a heavenly thick sweet-savoury sauce. The Bride was right, this dish was perfect in every aspect. Everyone raved about this dish. It was rude not to finish the perfectly-braised beef despite our stuffed bellies!

My friend’s stuffed Quail Roasted Papeton of Quail Stuffed with Potatoes Parmentier with Green Vegetables and Natural Poultry Jus looked good too.

For dessert, we were served a Pandan Creme Brulee with Lychee Sorbet and Coconut Tuile. The addictive strong pandan flavour paired with a crisp tuile with shredded coconut bits – so good!

To end it off the night, an assortment of Petit Fours comprising of Shortbread biscuit coins, mini Dark Chocolate Tart, Fruit Pastilles, and Hazelnut Chocolate Truffle. It was wayyy tooo much.

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With amazing Italian Red Wine, we danced our heart’s out into the early morning. 🙂

Dibs Restaurant & Bar

Last night I had dinner at the newly-opened Dibs with my Bestie and the food experience was close to a revelation. Dibs describes itself as “serving up modern European cuisine” but called it is basically Asian-Western Fusion food. I read a few favourable reviews and knew I had to check it out. Luckily, my Bestie was equally game. It was a Thursday but by 8pm, all the tables in the restaurant were occupied; a good sign and a relief that there were other thrill-seekers like me other there. We decided on three of their widely ordered dishes and I found it strange when the food took a while to arrive. Then I realised all three were meant to arrive at the same time. No big deal as I was elated to see the crab cakes!
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Here is what we had yesterday evening:

meat butter – $15
veal marrow, teriyaki, bonito, parsley, baguette
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This was served alongside the baguette which I did not touch. The marrow was thankly flavoured due to the teriyaki sauce and the large pieces of salt provided much-needed seasoning to the bland marrow. The silky, buttery and oily texture of the marrow was contrasted with the bonito flakes. While enjoyable, marrow is always lost on me, and I have never understood the hype of it.

crabcakes – $30
crabcakes, bisque, leeks, togarashi
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I was most looking forward to this dish. Ever since I saw pictures of Ruth Chris’s Crab Cakes when it first opened in Singapore, I have been craving for this ever since. Dibs provided an unusual way of serving the cakes by providing Lobster Bisque and grilled Leeks to complement the crab. The crab cakes were so good. The smooth Lobster bisque was rich and creamy, and acted like a loose gravy to the fried cakes. The grilled leeks were lovely with it’s subtle sweetness; contrasting perfectly with the savoury crabs and bisque.

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This brought out the crab cake snob that I never knew existed. It was almost entirely crab with no hints of flour as a binding agent. The stuffed crab meat were seasoned with onions and cayenne peppers and were so light it came apart easily when I greedily tore into it. Crispy thin pankocrusted-exterior contrasted very nicely with the interior.

charred lamb – $28
lamb ribs, coriander, root vegetables
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Boy oh boy was this quite magnificent! My only complaint was the small portion; just two and half ribs?! The ribs were described as “exceedingly tender” and this showed when it fell apart onto the plate when I tried to lift it out. I would have preferred the top of the lamb to be more charred and crispy but damn, the meat was too tender for me to think about it!

Dibs was enjoyable but I would be more tempted to bring my family and friends back if the food portions were bigger and heartier. I understand it is a small plates concept but somehow I can still imagine bring friends back to other small plates establishment like Lolla but not Dibs. Still, this establishment proves that Fusion can be so so wonderful and any stigmatism should be shelved.

Chris Donnellan at Ding Dong

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I had no idea who Chris Donnellan was until my Best Friend and I went to Ding Dong and were presented with the grim news that their usual menu was replaced with the said guest chefs’ specials. I was miffed! We were presented with an A5 paper and there were dishes I had never heard before. Crucially, they were not the dishes I had in mind. I am not big on spontaneous activities, and I was so looking forward to the Vietnamese Scotch Eggs and Red Curry Wagyu Beef. My Best Friend, on the other hand, was extremely game and swiftly ordered the $75++ per head “Feed Me” menu.

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At the end of the meal, I felt sorely embarrassed to have kicked up a fuss about the limited options for Chris Donnellans’ dishes were impressive! When compared with the usual Ding Dong menu, I honestly think we got a better deal. There were six dishes that evening and each portion was small but I was extremely grateful to not end the night with an overbearing stuffed tummy. Overall, there were more hits than misses. The “missed” dishes were only due to an overload of seasoning. But the playful pairing of textures and flavours made for an exciting meal. So without further ado, let me show you what we had that evening.

Betel Leaf with Hand Picked Crab, Pomelo, Fried Shallots and Sweet & Sour Tamarind Dressing  

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This was a refreshing start. Fresh juicy pomelo with shredded crab topped with a small piece of cucumber, and the hot shallots provided a wonderful burnt aroma. These combinations on its own would have been mild but was fortunately amped up by the Betal leaf which gave it a herbicuous and peppery punch. It was the unique tasting leaf that made this dish exciting. Although, shame about the muted Sour Tamarind dressing but the lack of it meant this first dish was devoured cleanly without dressing dripping down our arms.

Next up, two dishes arrived together: Banh Trang Nuong – Grilled Rice Paper with Pork Mince, Dried Shrimp, Chilli Jam, Quail Eggs and Spring Onion & Duck and Shitake Dumpling with Spiced Duck Broth, Enoki Mushrooms and Black Beans

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The grilled rice paper “pancake” was my second favourite of the evening! Grilling the Vietnamese rice paper was a genius idea! I usually eat it soggy but I saw the kitchen downstairs lay the rice paper over a small charcoal grill, placed the minced pork stuffing on it, and poured beaten quail eggs on top towards the end. The grilled rice paper was so thin and crispy, and contrasted with the juicy minced pork mixture. My only complain would be chilli jam not spicy enough.

Duck and Shitake Dumpling with Spiced Duck Broth, Enoki Mushrooms and Black Beans

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I loved this dish for the rich and smooth duck broth that was a little sweet, the generous densed dumpling filling, and the bold take on an Asian classic. But I didn’t like that each person was only served two pieces; I could not get enough! I was also unable to appreciate the game-y duck taste (but I was told that was the usual braised duck taste). However I thoroughly enjoyed this dish mostly because duck dumplings are rarely seen and the double duck combination was so hearty.

Crispy Fried Duck Leg and Banana Blossom Salad with Nuoc Cham and Thai Basil

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This was the biggest “miss” of the evening, and it was the generous fish sauce that killed this dish; all I could taste was the saltiness. My tongue was so dehydrated and craved for water within two bites of this salad. When I did attempt to “dry” the duck from the sauce, it was a joy! The duck skin was crispy with tons of fat underneath. The duck meat was fortunately not dry. But the banana blossom was lost on me; I honestly thought I was just eating a green papaya salad.

Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks with Peanuts, Hot & Sour Coconut and Mint Salad

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This was my favourite of the evening and one I still think about, two days later!!! Extremely tender beef cheeks was drowned in a thick peanut and dark soy sauce-rich gravy. It was also strangely sweet. The best part was the unusual pairing of the slightly grilled coconut flesh with the beef cheeks. The coconut successfully cut across the richness of the beef. My oh my, what a splendid dish and wonderful end to the savouries. This dish was served alongside Japanese Rice. I want to come back just for this dish!

Vietnamese Honey Parfait with Chilli Cherry Compote, White Chocolate and Freeze-Dried Plum
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This was not stellar which was a shame considering the usual Ding Dong menu had a highly raved Malacca Chendol dessert. Still those round white mashmallow-looking Parfaits was essentially vanilla ice-cream coated with toasted coconut; so delicious! The berries compote could have been more tangy and the white chocolate raspberry shards were a tad random. It was rather disappointing but did not make me forget the wonderful savouries before.

I would go back to Ding Dong. The Western take on Asian flavours is extremely exciting. Asian Fusion seems to have such a bad rap but I see it as Globalisation. The Western take is such a nice change from the usual stir-fried or deep-fried options in Chinese restaurants.

I read around the internet that Ding Dong’s food was very much just pricier “street food”. Rubbish! Maxwell Food Centre on the next road sure does not serve up food like that. And I have four food poisoning episodes to prove to you that Ding Dong is nothing like street food.

An Intoxicating Lunch at Lolla

Today is my payday and as per tradition, I treated my Mummy to a nice lunch which usually means a pricier-than-usual meal. This meal was also another cause for celebration; my Mummy and I have both lost weight and just 1kg away from our target. You see, since Monday, we embarked on an hour jog/ walk in the evening around our estate together. So we were both extremely pleased with the results and what better way to celebrate than lots of meat and carbohydrates?! Haha.

My Mummy is not a picky eater and never craves for expensive food. My parents are contented with hawker food or Chinese Tze Char. But when my sister and brother-in-law raved about Lolla especially the Echire Butter, my Mummy was sold and she could not resist when I suggested Lolla. Slightly regretting for picking Korean Fried Chicken over Lolla for my birthday last week, I knew my Mummy was going to be my partner-in-crime, and three days before, I reserved two seats by the counter for our feast. This afternoon, I was especially pleased because all that I wanted to order, my Mummy agreed with me. She just wanted the Echire Butter. From the very start of the meal, when the famous Sea Urchin Pudding arrived, we both fell in love with Lolla. Every bite we took saw us nodding our heads in unison. There were many silent moments between us but that’s because we were lost for words, and the only compliment we could muster was “Hao Chi!” Mandarin for delicious.

So let me show you what we had this afternoon:

Sea Urchin Pudding

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Almost everyone who visits Lolla orders this savoury squid ink custard topped with a generous amount of fresh creamy Uni and served cold. When it was first placed on our table, my heart leapt with joy at the roundness of the little ceramic bowl. Isn’t it cute??? I wasn’t the least bit disappointed with the size as I fully expected it; having read everywhere on the Net how tiny it was. It was also supposed to be very rich – an umami overload. But my Mummy and I had other ideas. We did not mind the richness but we knew it was going to be perfect on the Baguette yet to have arrived so we stopped eating to wait for it.

This dish impressed us the most. My usually-fearful-of-textureless-food Mummy quickly took a liking to it. It was rich but not overwhelming. And there were so many flavours involved that it was hard for us to notice the lack of texture. This dish also excelled because the orange Uni was super fresh. I have tried bad uni before and just that little tiny bit made my gag. I was so grateful for this afternoon’s Uni.

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The blackness of the custard which resembled black tar was especially inviting!

Next up was the Toast with Echire Butter:

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My Mummy was most looking forward to this. A round disk of this French butter was served with slices of toasted baguette from Maison Kayser.  This butter was as dreamy as was praised, and could ever be. I wish I was eloquent enough to describe the joy of what I tasted but lucky for me, someone else described it better:

Beurre d’Echire, with its unmistakable flavor, a combination of creme fraiche’s slight sourness and fresh cream’s sweet wholesomeness, its remarkable spreadability and its sensuous slow melt, epitomizes the differences between French and American butters.

The butter was lucious and rich. It’s slow melt meant I could roll it around with my tongue to satisfiably savour the lusciousness. Contrasting it with the simple toasted baguette made for a complete fulfilling experience.

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The Pudding was evidently not rich enough for me because I still smeared on my Sea Urchin Pudding that was patiently waiting aside on a huge dallop of the french butter. Euphoria!

Then the Spanish Tortilla with Smoked Eel arrived.

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Generous chunks of smoked eel atop a fat well-browned Spanish Tortilla filled with duck fat potatoes and bits of underdone egg within. I was very excited about the smoked eel. The light pink meat was dense yet surprisingly delicate, and was pungent like bacon with hints of smokiness. So combining all the elements in this dish, there was the luscious eel meat, soft potatoes and tender egg; can you see why this dish is so freaking amazing?!

Then our final dish of the afternoon arrived, the Beef Tongue Escalopes.

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I love love love beef tongue. Ever since my Dad took us on a gastronomic expedition to Brass Rail Salt Beef Bar in Selfridges, London, for Ox Tongue sandwiches with pickles when we were little beef tongue had always been a family favourite. Brass Rail’s beef tongue was always succulent, still fibrous, and just a tad gamey. It took a while to ignore that the texture resembled one’s own tongue but once so, major joy!

For Lolla, I was most surprised by the large pieces of beef tongue that had been flattened by a mallet and pan-fried. It was drier than what I remembered in Selfridges but still resembled a steak. The three generous pieces were served with red pickled radish and a homemade Smoked Paprika Mayonaisse with hints of citrus. Delightful!

In the middle of all these, I could not help but notice the organised spices next to me. Especially appealing to me were the Cacao (because it is so expensive!), and Juniper Berries (Gordon Ramsay used it to make a Banana Tarte Tartin).

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However there was one aspect in Lolla that could be improved. When serving a dish, to explain to diners each component on the plate. This will not be difficult for counter seats. I experienced it in Momofuku Seiobo and the short introduction only increased my excitment knowing there were so many textures and flavours on just one plate.  It was a perfect way to start an adventure for every dish. It would make for a more enriching dining experience.

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Lolla was still wonderful. So many suprising and contrasting textures and flavours kept every bite exciting. My Mummy and I were already planning our return visit (in two months) but in the meantime, I got my eyes set on Jaan. 🙂

Zen

There are two types of restaurants here in D, where I read Economics. Extremely cheap food frequently loaded with a healthy mix of carbohydrates. These restaurants typically include Kebab Stores where unrecognisable oil soaked meat are served on a bed of chips topped with (that is what they say) garlic and chilli sauce, Italian restaurants that serve pasta or pizza with a 3:1 ratio of carbs is to meat; or my little sin, Chinese Buffets. Where I can eat as much spare ribs as I want and not feel guilty about it.

Then there is the second category of restaurants where you pay a bit (actually a lot more) and you can get a fantastic meal and ensure the meat to carbs ratio is 3:1. Last night I had the opportunity to visit one of D’s finest (in my opinion) restaurants, Zen.

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