Keyaki Japanese Restaurant first opened way back in 1987 together with Pan Pacific Singapore. The restaurant, situated in the landscaped garden of the hotel, is decked in simple Japanese decor of minimalist wood and warm yellow ambient lighting. The night for dinner was special with a whole 20kg Yellowfin Tuna brought in for all guests to witness the carving process. Freshly caught the day before, the tuna was an added spectacle to the Hokkaido delights specially served for the month till the 9th of November. Tastebuds tickled already?
When I first saw the whole Tuna sitting on the table, I was simply amazed. Weighing a whopping 20kg, the fish freshly caught the day before, is enough to serve at least 300 portions of sashimi.
Keyaki Japanese Restaurant Master Chef Hiroshi Ishii
At least 3 persons were needed to manage the tuna at any one time.
As the yellowfin tuna was caught in the waters off Indonesia, the warm environment results in mostly lean fish. Not too much fatty parts but the flavours are more pronounced in the portions of red meat.
Preparing the tuna sashimi
Ready to serve
The specially plated platter of Maguro Sashimi. Very very fresh tuna, with a clear crisp taste and meaty flavour that was slightly intense and smooth. The next step to sashimi freshness should be at the market itself where the fish just arrived from the dock. Beautiful.
Chef then surprised us with his personal creation of Tuna with Sesame Dressing. The scented sweet flavours of sesame oil highlighted the pieces of tuna with deep complexities
I was decently surprised with my order of Deep Fried Maguro ($18). While it might not sound like anything exotic, the simple flavours of fresh tuna in light soy marinade, then deep fried is a luxurious item all on its own. I was enthralled by the meaty textures and crisp skin through and through. The first piece was good, the rest, heavenly.
Another rendition using the fresh tuna as a base is the Maguro with Avocado ($18). Bite sized pieces of tuna wrapped into a ball with avocado chunks, drizzled with a marinade of lemon juice and then topped with flying fish roe – rather simple .
As part of the Hokkaido fiesta, I ordered a serving of Hokkai Sushi ($56). A creation of fine vinegared Japanese rice with various toppings such as Sea Urchin, Salmon Roe, Scallop, Surf Clam, Botan Shrimp and Salmon
A closer look at the sushi platter. Each one was fresh, and delectable. My favourite? The salmon roe and Scallop. Burst in the mouth for that full salty flavour of Salmon roe, and the sweetness of the scallop meat that simply melts.
Another item that is probably a perennial favourite is the Akazara Butteryaki ($26). Pan fried baby scallop with butter is one dish that will delight many. Juicy meats, with a slightly bit more texture to chew through, the scallops reveal the butter soaked within only to tickle the tastebuds even further.
Before I head into the 2 Set Menus available, a serving of Mio Sparkling Sake ($28.50) was brought to the table. Clean and crisp, with a sweetness that resembled that of a good moscato yet with the distinct scent of sake, this bottle is good as an aperitif or as an accompaniment throughout the meal. Nothing too heavy, yet great to start with.
The first Set Course available is the Hokkai Course ($170). A full fledged 7-course menu featuring the fresh produce from Hokkaido, this is the start of something very beautiful.
First up, the Ika Okizuke. Fresh squid marinated in soya sauce and topped with sliced baby okra. The dish’s texture was very smooth and slippery with the good firm crunch of the squid that carried light wafts of the sea through. The soy sauce marinade accentuated the flavours further, making this an excellent starter towards discovering the depths of the ocean.
Sashimi was up next, and the course featured servings of Botan Ebi, Hokkigai and Ikura. Freshness was unparalleled this time round and it was a joy slowly taking in each piece of ikura. The botan ebi was gorgeous in both sweetness and crisp freshness. And the best part of it? To slowly suck the juices from the prawn head itself as the final step.
A closer look at the Sashimi of Ikura, Botan Ebi and Hokkigai
For the next course I had the Kinki Shioyaki. The kinki fish, grilled with salt was a mark of simple flavours. The rockfish had a firm layer of meat that was sweet, and it is only available seasonally in Hokkaido.
Enjoy the close up of the red skin, and the meaty flesh underneath. The sprinkle of salt all over just exemplifies the beauty.
The next course was the Zuwaigani Tempura. I initially didn’t know that this was crab and thought it was servings of fresh prawn. But then as I bit through the first piece, the fresh marine flavours of crab stood out as I was impressed. Very nicely done, with the batter of tempura being light and slightly flavourful. The batter was crisp and clear.
The vegetable dish for the main was the Bareisyo Butter Yaki. A whole baked Hokkaido potato topped with butter that melted its way through, the potato was slightly sweet with a firm texture that was smooth and delicate. I went home, had cravings and made my own butter potato.
Apart from the Mio Sparkling Sake, I was also introduced to the other ranges available. There was the Umenoyado Momo ($25), Umenoyado Yuzu ($25) and the Hanaawaka ($28.50). The first was peach and then yuzu flavoured. The last, was a floral scented sparkling scented that was quaint and perfect for ladies.
Keyaki Restaurant Service Manager Genta Yamashita taking time to explain and serve us the various sake
Personally out of the two flavoured Sparkling Sakes, I loved the one with the peach flavour. Fruity sweet with the fibrous density within, this was a delight to savour in. The Yuzu variant was more acidic with a sharper taste, but also coupled with the fresh citrus scent of Yuzu that acted as a perfect palate cleanser.
The second set was the Dounan Course ($160). I started off with the Sake Harasu yaki. A chunky portion of grilled Salmon belly served along side a wedge of lemon for refreshing flavours. Nicely done without any strong flavours of salmon oil.
For the sashimi platter in this set, there is the selection of Botan Ebi, Scallop, and Botan Ebi. The uni was very fresh with a clean creamy taste in each piece. I enjoyed this particular selection and it reminded me fondly of the uni I had in a Japanese restaurant at Kyoto. The scallops were also soft and tender, with slight delightful briny flavours at the top.
One more time for the shot!
Next up, there is the Yaki taraba gani. Two legs of Grilled King Crab and slightly more was served up in all its succulent sweetness.
The Hotategai motoyaki could be an instant favourite on its own. The huge scallop, baked with cheese and then topped with touches of salmon roe is a unique blend of umami savouriness together with sparkling flavours from the sea.
The vegetable course for this set is the Toumorokoshi Kakiage or Sweet Corn Tempura. Crispy tempura is all its battered goodness, sweet flavours from the corn, ah bliss.
For both sets, they also come with one serving of Three Kinds of Sushi. For the night, there was the Ikura, Sake and Hotate.
Finally, it’s time for desserts. As a sweet touch to the Japanese set meal, the final course of the night was the Yubari Melon Jelly. Simple touches of jelly with rich sweet melon flavours brimming within, the jelly was served with whipped cream on the top and a slice of strawberry to finish the presentation. Nice.
I also ordered the Fruits Anmitsu ($15). A serving of Macha Ice cream, fruits, tea jelly, flour dumpling and red bean paste all in a single sitting makes this a sweet and sticky delight. Something about this dessert is just too refreshing, and maybe the slight bitterness from the matcha really pairs the sweetness off nicely.
For a traditional favourite: Black Sesame Ice Cream
I had the privilege to also try the selection of Umeshu served at the restaurant. Four different kinds are available. In order from left to right: Bunzo Umeshu ($26-120ml; $150- 720ml), Akashi-Tai Shiraume ($33-120ml; $130-500ml), Meiri Hyakunen Umeshu ($22-120ml; $120-720ml), Manzairaku Kaga Umeshu ($18-120ml; $100-720ml)
Bunzo Umeshu : (Strongest of the lot). Made with kumamoto shochu. The drink uses double quantity of plum for a stronger essence and the alcohol percentage is very high. Recommended to go with soda water.
Akashi-Tai Shiraume : This umeshu is brewed with brandy and honey. Usually, umeshu is made from liquor, plum and rock sugar, but the base ingredients for this variety differs. It is kept for at least a few months to allow the essence of plum to develop within the alcohol. Enjoyed straight.
Meiri Hyakunen Umeshu : This is the most umeshu guests will associate well with. Generally well appreciated because of another popular brand – Choya Umeshu. It is brewed with normal shochu. The Meiri Hyakunen umeshu is to be enjoyed straight or on the rocks.
Manzairaku Kaga Umeshu : This umeshu is the lightest tasting but it is brewed with ginjo sake (at least 40 percent of its rice is polished). Clear and crisp, and very easy on the palate, the umeshu slowly warms you up. To enjoy straight or on the rocks.
All the umeshu can be enjoyed at any point of the meal. Though personally, I think it’s best at the end to leave a warm satisfied feeling after dinner.
Keyaki is also privileged to have this top grade Sake called Hakkaisan Kongoshin. There are only 15 bottles available in Singapore and Keyaki now has 4 of them.
Priced at $600 for the entire bottle, this is one sake to be slowly savoured with each sip.
Sushi Bar Counter
Semi-Private Dining Area
Private Dining Room
Tatami Private Dining Room
Dinner at Keyaki was a gorgeous affair from start till finish. The choices presented in the Hokkaido promotion sets showcase the best ingredients from the region. Personally, I would go with the Hokkai Course as it is more satisfying in savoury flavours. Of course this is not to say that the Dounan course is unappreciated. It is good, just that my tastebuds still remember the Kinki fish, snow crab tempura and the ika okizuke. It was an enjoyable dinner experience for the night especially with the live carving of the whole tuna. What I didn’t get to see at the Tsukiji market in Tokyo, at least I can now get a glimpse here in Singapore. A rare sight. And flavours from a freshly caught fish area almost always unparalleled in crisp clarity.
Thank you Pan Pacific Singapore for the invitation
7 Raffles Boulevard
Reservations: 6826 8240
Hokkaido Promotions is now available till the 9th of November 2012