A meal at Torikin is as much a gastronomical adventure as it is a performance. With a restaurant name such as “Chicken Gold”, it probably comes as no surprise that the restaurant’s specialty is the Hakata Mizutaki – a healthy hotpot chicken dish that is rich in both collagen and fibre. The Japanese restaurant is the first overseas outlet of the original restaurant chain based in Fukuoka, Kyushu. Tucked away at a cosy corner of Crown Centre at Bukit Timah, you might just miss it if not for the graceful Japanese lanterns that bear the restaurant’s name in kanji. Curious about the experience?
Dinner started off with a Daikon Salada ($9.80++). Crips slices of chilled radish and dried bonito flakes were placed atop lettuce and cherry tomatoes, and the server politely asks if you’d like the dressing to be poured on before he proceeds to do so. Though I am not a huge fan of salads, the bonito flakes tempered the overall flavours nicely together with refreshing hints of sesame sauce. Definitely a welcome and refreshing start to the meal.
It certainly is curious to partake in a serving of Oden in Singapore. This hearty, savoury dish is probably best enjoyed in the midst of winter. Still, Torikin’s Oden (5 pieces for $14++) presents a classic combination that also features the gelatinous konyaku jelly. The radish though sweet, was a tad bitter to the palatee.
Of the evening’s dishes, the Hakata Tonpeiyaki ($22.80++) was a thorough delight to tuck in to. Though somewhat similar to the more commonly known Okonomiyaki, the Tonpeiyaki forgoes the noodles for a good serving of finely chopped cabbage and pork slices as its base. The dish is then finished up with a cottony soft omelette that is laced with mayonnaise and sauce. A great dish to share, and the earthenware platter keeps the Tonpeiyaki warm over time – allowing one to slowly savour the delicious mesh of flavours.
Hitokuchi Gyoza ($8++) or one bite gyoza is also available at the restaurant. A decent portion of 10 petite pan-fried dumplings, these go great with beer. They are good gyozas but more memorable ones are available elsewhere.
The main star of the night was, however, the Mizutaki Hot Pot ($70++ for 2 pax). Those who are familiar with the more viscous collagen broths and are seeking for something lighter in flavour and texture will be pleased with Torikin’s offering. I call this a performance of sorts as there are multiple steps taken to thoroughly go through the entire dish. First, the server portions the milky-white broth in a small cup to first taste its natural flavor. Still, those who enjoy a little more punch in the soup have the option of adding some salt from the condiment tray. Even after four dishes in, the aroma of broth boiled over six hours was tantalizing and its fragrant taste comforting and wholesome.
After the soup, it was time to try the Sakura chicken – which the restaurant claims to be the closest in flavour and texture than that of a Japanese chicken. While the meat was slightly tough, I was better impressed with the flavours. The house-made ponzu sauce gives the chicken a subtle citrus kick completely removing any overt scent of game. Alternative, enjoy the chicken meat with some addictive yuzu-infused chilli that while initially foreign, started to grow on me over the course of the meal.
Next, the server returned to freshly roll minced chicken into balls with practiced strokes that is simply a joy to just watch. The chicken balls are then quickly placed in the same broth along with cabbage, tofu, mushrooms and glass noodles.
Towards the end of the meal, no broth is wasted as rice, egg and nori is added to the pot to prepare a simple porridge that is filled with hearty sweet savoury flavours. It can be pretty light though, so salt is an excellent condiment for the flavourful palate.
For those who are craving for a pot of Hakata Mizutaki, made with ingredients that almost comes close to what is available in Japan, Torikin is the place to be at. Although it may be a little pricey, the experience from start to end of slowly savouring a fine piece of poultry served in a broth that has been braised for hours on end, reminds me of the dedication put in by the Japanese chefs in being masters of their select ingredient. Other dishes on the menu are fair, but the Tonpeiyaki stands out on its own. If I was not here to enjoy Mizutaki, I would probably have ordered a single serve of Tonpeiyaki all for myself.
Thank you Torikin for the invitation.
This article was written by Sarah Lim.
557 Bukit Timah Road
Reservations: 6465 5908
Daily: 6pm to 11pm
Sat and Sun: 12pm to 3pm