In my never ending quest to find the next big thing when it comes to Japanese food, my band of foodie mates and I accepted an invitation to Torikin, located at 557 Bukit Timah Road, to try some authentic Kyushu cuisine.
Like most people, the first thing we do is look at the drinks menu. I personally believe that the array of drinks on offer provides great insight into the “character” of a restaurant. On recommendation, I started my meal with a collagen peach drink. It was sweet with a little bit of fizz, and absolutely refreshing. I have never tasted a collagen soda, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was.
Moving on to the food I decided to first taste the condiments and small accompaniments that help elevate a meal to new heights. The stand out here was the yuzu chili. A condiment that was both sweet and spicy, with a discernible Yuzu flavour – a totally unique taste in my book. The best part, it is made in-house.
The first dish served was the Gyoza. Each and every gyoza was cooked to perfection. As I picked up one with my chopsticks, I was greeted with the unmistakable fragrant whiff of dough. The filling itself was soft, and far from burnt. Many of us are used to tasting gyoza made from pre-processed packaged dough. This was different, a reminder of the days when dough was usually rolled out in-house, lending it a fresher more wholesome taste. Simply, pair the gyoza with the yuzu chili and you would be set for the night.
Next on my tasting list was the Tori (chicken) tempura which, according to the waitress, is not a well known dish in Japan. It is more popular in Miyazaki, a city in Japan. Usually my biggest issue with fried chicken is that the meat is often overcooked and dry. This dish was surprisingly moist. With just a bit of lime squeezed over the top it is good to go. No sauce needed.
Next up as the steam boat made with Mizayaki chicken broth soup boiled for 5 hours. While the broth itself is not very flavorful and a bit oily, if you add a pinch of salt and spring onion it is not bad, but still nothing special. The chicken itself was very soft, but tasted like the usual boiled chicken.
I do recommend adding the yuzu chili to it along with the house vinegar sauce. On its own the chicken is lackluster. However, paired with the chili and vinegar, it is pretty good. The chicken was the only let down of the whole experience. The vegetables, glass noodles and meat balls are ok in the broth alone, basic Shabu Shabu, but add the pontu sauce and it brings out the flavors in the broth. The broth reaches another level when the pontu sauce is introduced.
We then decided to check out the house speciality, uni (sea urchin) steamboat. The first thing I need to mention about this is that the uni hotpot is extremely limited so a booking needs to be made. To keep it exclusive, such a small amount is made every day that the owner hand carries it from home to the restaurant. Unless the owner is secretly the hulk, that makes for a very limited supply. The Uni broth is super flavorful on its own with a really good salty flavor. Admittedly, when the concept of a Uni steamboat was broached, I was skeptical. Now, I a firm believer.
The broth combines the taste of uni with the fresh vegetables and the fish that are dipped in it. Yes, they cook sashimi grade fish in the steamboat. While this is blasphemy for the sashimi connoisseur, it is so that the restaurant can insure the highest quality standard possible. What I recommend is tasting a piece of the fish raw and then cooking it in the soup so as to see the difference.
Cooking the fish medium rare is perfect for this as it allows you to taste the uni steam boat broth while still not straying far from the deliciousness of raw sashimi. While not cheap at $86++ per person with a minimum of 2 people needed per serving, it is definitely worth a try. Be cautioned though, the portion sizes are small, so you need to exercise some self control or you will soon find your wallet painfully slim.
We finished the meal with an Uni porridge made with the broth from the steamboat. It was honestly the best part of the meal. It was full of the uni flavor and very soft. Easy to eat, it was a great way to fill the belly ( in order not to overspend) and satisfy the taste-buds. The combination of all the tastes was just extraordinary. Absolutely loved it.
One big plus point worth mentioning is the staff. The waitress who helped us was both very kind and well informed on the history of the food and how it should be eaten. She deserves a raise. Mention Juan Pablo sent you, and they will treat you extra good… well not really. But hey, it can’t hurt.