Japanese restaurants are a common sight in Singapore, but few are as authentic and inventive as Takumi
A few years ago I was chatting with a Japanese colleague in town for business and remarked to him my amazement at how many Japanese restaurants there are in Singapore.
“Yeah,” he agreed, “except if you look in the kitchen or at the counter the chefs are all Chinese.”
With a cuisine known for its precision and exacting standards, you can understand why a Japanese person might therefore question the overall quality of Japanese restos here in Singapore. That’s why on a recent visit to Takumi at Keppel Bay I was duly impressed not only by the many Japanese diners in attendance, but by the full staff of Japanese chefs as well.
Executive Chef Kenji Okumura got his start at the popular kaiseki restaurant Nadaman in Nagoya, and arrived in Singapore in 2011. He took over the helm at Takumi last year, and has recently introduced a newly revamped menu reflecting his passion for healthy ingredients, delicate cooking style, and a modern twist on traditional techniques and flavours. Think Amberjack topped with truffle oil, or diced Japanese tomatoes and shiso alongside creamy burrata and olive oil.
Chef Okumura plans daily specials based on what’s freshest and tickling his fancy in that moment, painstakingly sourcing unique ingredients that can’t be found anywhere else in Singapore, whether it’s oysters from Iseshima, Akamoku seaweed from Mie prefecture, or Unagie from Shimanto. He even travels to Japan four times a year to personally meet farms and producers in his quest to source exclusive ingredients for Takumi.
With all this in mind, I was more than a little bit intrigued to try out the new contemporary tasting menu. Takumi is already renowned for showcasing a number of high-quality Japanese cuisines without compromising quality, including sushi, teppanyaki and robatayaki (it’s one of the few restaurants in Singapore with authentic charcoal grills for cooking, in fact).
The dizzying multi-course menu that I tried featured dishes showing off each of these styles. We started off with a “Healthy Salad” featuring seaweed and natto beans imported from Japan – my Japanese dining companions marveled that the restaurant had sourced these particularly rich and nutty beans.
Next was the Seasonal Appetizer Platter – basically a work of art unto itself. Each season the chef creates a new combination, and in this one (“Winter”) there were leaves (from Japan!) artfully strewn across the plate alongside wintry favorites like Queen Crab from Hokkaido, chawamushi, boiled water chestnut carved to resemble an acorn, and sea bream decliiously marinated in shoyu, mirin and sake, then grilled on the robatayaki.
A bit later was the aforementioned Amberjack Carpaccio with truffle oil, which announced itself with a lovely arma and was so tender it melted on my tongue. I liked how the truffle oil gave it an earthy note that offest any potential fishiness. A garnish of delicate shiso flowers added an unexpected, pretty touch.
We then switched gears to highlight Takumi’s robust robatayaki skills, noshing on Charcoal-grilled Lamb Chops and Wagyu Beef Skewers, served in their own mini charcoal grills right on the tabletop. The grilled wagyu was buttery, soft and tender, with lovely charcoal notes for a nice, smoky finish. I’m not usually a lamb fan, but this version was tender and juicy, and basically falling off the bone.
A bit later on we tried a majestic Crab Hot Pot with miso stock made from fish bone broth along with shoyu, mirin and miso paste. I liked it almost as much as the steamed fresh lobster and oysters that were served naturally but truly elevated by a variety of dipping sauces. I wish I could have bottled those sauces up and brought them home with me!
Along the way we tried various other fish preparations; my favorite was the Unagi Sushi brushed with sauce aged 100 years, then lightly grilled on the robatayaki. The sauce added the perfect touch of sweetness to the flaky eel – it was a wonderful eat-in-one-bite dish.
The meal concluded with not one but two desserts, traditional Japanese seasonal fruit and a delicious, freshly made berry ice cream.
With all this gushing about the food I haven’t even gotten to the beautiful setting on Keppel Bay, with panoramic windows and a mellow setting that feels far more relaxed than your typical Singapore restaurant. Throw in kind and attentive staff and fascinating décor like authentic Samurai swords and armor and it’s definitely worth a visit.
If you’ve visited Japan and crave cuisine made with the same obsessively detailed technique and truly exquisite ingredients, Takumi is well worth a visit, mama.
Opening Hours: Open daily, 12pm to 2:30pm (lunch) and 6pm – 10:30pm (dinner).
Takumi, 2 Keppel Bay Vista, #02-01 Marina at Keppel Bay, Singapore 098382, Tel: (+65) 6271 7414, www.takumirestaurants.com