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Little Tokyo? Tanjong Pagar: Singapore’s New Japanese Food Enclave

EatPost Category - EatEat - Post Category - Eating OutEating Out

Is Tanjong Pagar the new Japanese foodie destination? Ippudo ramen, Michelin-rated tonkatsu, fresh-as sashimi and delectable desserts say yes!

Ask the average Singaporean what their favourite food is and chances are the answer will be Japanese. So it’s a little surprising that while we have Little India and Chinatown, the much clamoured for position of Little Tokyo hasn’t yet been filled. Instead of one hub, there are clusters of Japanese restaurants all over the city  – from Japan Food Town at Wisma Atria to Emporium Shokuhin, Suntec’s Eat at Seven and Cuppage Plaza.

Tanjong Pagar itself has seen a mushrooming of Japanese outfits adding to longstanding favourites like Teppei with the opening of Kanda Wadatsumi, Ginza Tendon Itsuki and Numazu Uogashizushi in Itadakimasu by PARCO.

Tanjong Pagar Centre, Singapore’s tallest building, right above the Tanjong Pagar MRT, adds to Tanjong Pagar’s running for Little Tokyo with its opening of Japan Rail Café and in quick succession a slew of Japanese eateries from Azuma Sushi, Kuro Maguro for fresh Toro, plus branches of Ippudo (ramen) and Imakatsu (tonkatsu) together with a host of Japanese influenced dessert shops.

A walk through Tanjong Pagar Centre’s Japanese Eateries

Japan Rail Café is a multi concept outfit housed in a ground floor glass pod within Tanjong Pagar Centre in the Urban Park (still under development). Japan Rail Café comprises a small cafe offering both Japanese and Western food with a Japanese influence plus a retail section for Japanese goods including rail tickets (11am-8pm). The menu at the cafe offers coffees and Uji-Maccha Latte (green tea lattes $6.2), but interestingly no hot Matcha tea. The menu sees Wagyu Beef Burgers ($19-22) on Japanese bakery Asanoya’s soft buns with fries, salad or soup; Sandwiches (BLT $15 or Chicken Cutlet $18); and then Japanese dishes like Watashino Curry Rice and Chicken Katsu Don. Healthier options include the Kaisen Avocado Don ($18) of 10-grain rice topped with wide slices (not cubes) of salmon sashimi,  cooked Aomori scallops and avocado plus a choice of original or dashi stock to eat the don Ochazuke style. The cafe is decorated with photos of the prefecture on show that month — for example Mt Fuji with a few specials offering related ingredients (albeit minimally) incorporated into the menu.

Japan Rail Café, Tanjong Pagar Centre, 5 Wallich Street, #01-20 Singapore 078883, www.japanrailcafe.com.sg

Azuma Sushi owns 19 concepts in Malaysia but Azuma Sushi is the first in Singapore. Grab a booth seat (lunchtime see queues) and navigate the extremely varied menu, which spans everything from sushi to California rolls to sashimi, tempura, grilled fish, fusion dishes of fried noodles and rice. Sashimi is flown in once a week and sushi is made to order – from Hamachi ($2.50/pc) to Sea Bream ($2.80) plus there are combo platters to choose from, too. Azuma Sushi specialises in Mentai (spicy mayo sauce) as seen in their Salmon Mentai Island Roll ($13.80) of roasted salmon and cod roe, but for something with less mayo try the California Eel Roll ($17.80). We liked the variety on offer from Tempura Moriawase of prawn and veg ($10.80) to Soft Shell Crab Salad ($10.80) with tasty goma dressing to a huge hit of a dish the Stir Fry Short Neck Clams ($4.80) – sweet clams in a heady broth of butter, a little too much garlic and big dose of dried chilli.

Azuma Sushi, #B1-04/05, Tanjong Pagar Centre, 7 Wallich St, Singapore 078884, Tel: (+65) 6702 7866, www.facebook.com/AzumaSushiJapaneseRestaurant

Kuro Maguro is where to head for value tuna donburi. The concept comes from Suntec’s Misaki Megumi Suisan, who have great credentials given that they wholesale Bluefin tuna (their trawlers catch the biggest maguro in the world) and other fish from Japan’s Miura Misaki Port. This makes their donburi more affordable than most.  There are 18 donburi dishes from the melt-in-your-mouth Otoro Mesh – premium fatty bluefin tuna belly ($32.80) – to Toro Salmon Ikura Meshi ($24.80).

Kuro Maguro, #01-04, Tanjong Pagar Centre, 7 Wallich St, Singapore 078884, Tel: (+65) 6386 8561, www.facebook.com/KUROMAGUROMD

Imakatsu does tonkatsu and given they were listed in the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2015 you can start salivating now. This small 20-seater restaurant may see lunchtime queues of hungry office rats waiting for their dose of tonkatsu. Green tea and cabbage salad is free-flow with sesame dressing. The cutlets are moist with a crispy exterior, and the rice is pearly and tender. Choose from Sasami-katsu (chicken and pork fillet cutlet set) to their fabled golden yolky Piyopiyo Scotch Eggs ($9.80), or plump for the Premium Pork Loin Cutlet Zen ($23.80).

Imakatsu, #01-06, Tanjong Pagar Centre, 7 Wallich Street, Singapore 078884, ophd.com.sg/imakatsu/tanjongpagar

Ippudo’s unique springy ramen with that tantalising broth is set to open any minute. This branch of Ippudo offers something different to the standard store with a bar concept to pair sake with otsumami dishes by night. Read about our Ippudo love here!

Ippudo, #01-15, Tanjong Pagar Centre, 7 Wallich Street, Singapore 078884

Samurice is a take away counter offering onigiri parcels using rice from Niigata prefecture, Hokkaido prefecture and Akita prefecture of Japan. Fillings include roasted salmon and minced chicken in a variety of sauces. Onigiri at $3 and a choice different bentos like the Onigiri Bento at $10 with 2 Onigiri, a side dish and Japanese fried chicken plus egg, tomato and edamame.

Samurice, Tanjong Pagar Centre, 7 Wallich Street, Singapore 078884, www.samurice.sg

Japanese Desserts

Royce’ Chocolates – If you are looking for a dinner party gift, these Japanese boxed chocolates will win you approving looks. Made with chocolate, fresh milk and fresh cream the texture is buttery and rich – from mild cacao to Ghana bitter, with liquor or without.

ROYCE’, #B2-03, Tanjong Pagar Centre, 7 Wallich Street, Singapore 078884, Tel: (+65) 6386 6421, www.royce.com

Henri Charpentier has opened in the basement and offers a Westernized dessert and cake shop concept helmed by Japanese chefs. Highlights include Financiers and Madeleines, along with Crepe Suzette ($21.40) of two crepes drenched in orange syrup and Grand Marnier and theatrically flambeed in front of you then served with a side of ice-cream.

Henri Charpentier, #B2-15, Tanjong Pagar Centre, 7 Wallich Street, Singapore 078884, Tel: (+65) 6386 8422, www.facebook.com/henri.charpentiersg

Hattendo’s legendary cream buns (one/$2.50, five/$12.50) are now permanently in town. Made on site, the buns are soft, sweet, fluffy and bready and are filled with creamy flavours  – custard, whipped cream, matcha, azuki beans or chocolate. Flavours are  a little on the milder side but thanks to the cute individual packaging these buns are doing the rounds on Instagram. Best kept  in the fridge but if you buy a box of five, you get a little chiller pack (just don’t leave this in with the buns when in the fridge as it will make the buns soggy).

Hattendo Cafe, 7 Wallich Street, Tanjong Pagar Centre, #01-05, Singapore 078884, www.facebook.com/HattendoSingapore

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