In a little corner of a sleepy old shopping centre in the East Coast of Singapore, far from the madding crowds of Orchard Road, a hideaway for fans of Japanese food who want top quality without having to pay top dollar, can be found. Wahiro, which means ‘Good Harmony’, led by chef Hozumi, is a tiny gem of a restaurant which serves a wide range of innovative dishes worthy of the finest Japanese restaurants (at least here in Singapore), while retaining the lovely casualness of a neighbourhood restaurant where one would feel rather out of place in high heels and designer bags. Mr UnProfessional Chef and I, being tired out by a long week, were not in the mood for a formal dining despite it being a Friday night and were aiming to eat quickly and casually before heading home for a quiet night watching comedy DVDs (the first season of ‘Arrested Development’ is hilarious and highly recommended by the way).
Wahiro certainly fit the bill and more! We got our fast dinner, while managing to savour fine Japanese cuisine at a reasonable price. Opting for their seasonal Kaiseiki menu (which changes every month), we were delighted by eight courses of excellently prepared small dishes. First up was Shiromi Sakana to Ankimo – this was a dish of raw angler fish liver encased in white fish sashimi served in a cold soy broth and topped with chili chutney and lots of fresh spring onions. The key to Japanese sashimi is the level of freshness. The angler liver was clearly pretty fresh off the boat and was delicate yet nicely creamy, and beautifully set off by the sparkling clean flavour of the white fish sashimi.
This was followed up by Otsokuri, an even fresher selection of sashimi. Comprising tuna and two unidentified white fish (I think one of them was kingfish), these were simple and simply delectable. They went wonderfully with my cheap bottle of sake, which I have of late discovered, is truly truly best enjoyed with fine Japanese food.
Our third course of Anchovy Mushroom tasted surprisingly Western. But we were not complaining because the whole fat Portobello mushroom was grilled to perfection and topped with home made anchovy butter. The softly firm (is there such a thing? It was though!) mushroom pieces had a nice salty bite thanks to the anchovies.
Next up was Sakana no Misozuke. Fish fillet preserved in miso was presented in a pretty arrangement on top of soft tofu and konbu seaweed steamed in dashi broth. It tasted supremely healthy while not stinting on the complexity of flavour.
Then came the most interesting course – Gyunyuu Tofu. Described as special tofu custard made from milk, this was cold silken tofu with a twist. Truly milky yet possessing all qualities of good smooth tofu and topped with freshly grated ginger, this was a dish that could easily have been at home in the famous kitchens of Tetsuya in Sydney and his ilk.
Not all of chef Hozumi’s innovations worked though. Our next dish of Kinoko Age, though sounding promising in the menu, was a slightly disappointing, though expertly prepared, deep fried patty of minced prawn, shimeji and enoki mushroom. There was nothing wrong with the dish technically, and it would certainly have passed muster in many a fine Japanese establishment. But having experienced the five previous dishes, this was surprisingly ordinary. It tasted exactly as described.
We ended with Shirasu Gohan. Rice tossed with silver anchovies and sesame served with miso soup was a nice filling dish, though, again, not particularly special. But it was done well, with the anchovies lending a mouth-watering savoury kick to the rice.
Sadly, the promised dessert of lemon sherbet (presumably yuzu, which I love) was sold out and we had to settle for the usual green tea ice cream. That said, Wahiro is a fabulous, comfortable Japanese dining experience. While it serves up the usual preferred dishes offered by many a Japanese restaurant favoured by Singaporeans, it also produces creative and delicious inventions that keep its loyal fan club coming back for more. Shhh, don’t tell too many people about this place but hop into your preferred mode of transport and head straight for East Coast Road now!
112 East Coast Road 01-28/29 Katong Mall
Tel: 6342 2252
Open for lunch and dinner everyday except Monday