In Hana Yori Dango (花より男子), it is said that "A pair of good shoes will bring you to good places". I don't wanna dispute that for it might very well hold true for some of you, but I can be very very sure to say this: "A craving for food will bring me to a lot of food places!"
I was missing the kushikatsu izakaya experience during my previous visit in Tokyo where I was served panko (breadcrumbs) coated deep-fried items on skewers 'omakase-style' non-stop until I told the chef to stop. We then pay for what we ate according to the number of our skewers. I wonder if there's a similar concept here in Singapore that serves kushikatsu or tempura. A quick asking on twitter and facebook throws up recommendations of Tenshin, Aoki and HAN. Arrangement was soon made to visit HAN Japanese Restaurant at Odeon Towers (near City Hall mrt) with Nat for lunch.
Why HAN? Because reviews has been good!
Why lunch? Because it's more affordable!
Not to be confused with Han's Cafe (chain selling local & western meals), the HAN restaurant we went to is a Japanese upscale establishment helmed by Chef Seiichiro Arakawa, who hails from a one-Michelin starred restaurant in Kobe. HAN serves authentic Naniwa (old Osaka) cuisine in Kaiseki (traditional multi-course) dinner-style, as well as beautiful crafted Sushi. Their specialty, Kushikatsu, is what we went for.
HAN's premises is breathtakingly elegant. Artfully divided into several sections including a main dining area, private room, sushi bar and kushikatsu bar, the ambience is serene, almost surreal, especially when we are the only patrons around.
This is definitely nothing like the boisterous Tokyo izakaya I was missing, but that's okay. It's not everyday that I get to dine in such a beautiful environment.
This way, we get to enjoy not only a total of 6 kushikatsu sticks, but an assortment of dishes as well, at a considerably lower price compared to the Kushikatsu 7 Sticks set for lunch ($75) or Kushikatsu 10 sticks Omakase Course ($120) for dinner.
It was a delightful start with the light and refreshing Salad, followed by Hirame, a cold dish of Summer flounder which was delicate in taste and thoroughly gratifiying.
I'm a huge fan of Omurice and the version at HAN, though delicious, only suits me to a certain degree. The omelette wrap was done a tad too thinly for my liking, a fluffier bite would be much preferred. But the rice itself, it was fantabulous! The grains were warm, soft, packed full of addictive flavors and bits of superbly tender beef. It was simple bliss in every spoonful.
Though both are essentially deep-fried food, kushikatsu differs from tempura as it uses mainly breadcrumb instead of batter. It can be made from poultry, seafood and a variety of vegetables which are first skewered on bamboo sticks, then coated with flour and breadcrumb, before gong into the oil for a deep-fried session till golden brown.
Of the 6 sticks I tried, the most memorable ones would be the Angel Prawn and Cherry Tomato. The prawn was fresh and crunchy, and breadcrumb coating was a nice change from our usual tempura batter. Not being greasy at all is another major plus point. Even though it's deep-fried, the result was so light and crisp, no sense of guilt would be evoked even if you're on diet.
The chef have probably saved the best for last when he handed us the Cherry Tomato. What a surprise! The little morsel was stuffed with cream cheese which gave a warm milky rush upon first bite, totally copulating in perfect flavors with the sweetness and slight tang of the tomato and sundried tomato paste. Who would have thought a plain-looking ball could turned out to be such a wondrous enjoyment!
As for the skewers of Layered Pork, Lotus Root stuffed with Chicken, Scallop and Eel, not that they didn't taste good, but I was hoping for them to "wow" and reward me better for the premium price I'm paying. My lack of deep pockets also prevented me the satisfaction of having more sticks to curb my kushikatsu craving. "Money no enough, 6 sticks no enough".
The Yuzu Sorbet and Black Sesame Monaka were as delicate as how Japanese desserts usually are. I always have a soft spot for the citrus fruit and had even chose to fly JAL instead of SQ just because JAL serve yuzu drinks on their flights lol! So with the sourish yuzu sorbet to end the meal ended on an invigorating note, I was made happy. The black sesame ice cream sandwiched between light, airy wafers was equally lovely.
The overall dining experience at HAN was a pleasant one, with the polite and attentive service staffs contributing to it. If the prices can be more wallet-friendly, I will return. For everyday contentment, it's back to good old Old Chang Kee again lol. Of course I know the two cannot be compared side-by-side, but hey, I have to live in reality.
Now, now, I wonder what my next craving would be and where it would lead me to :p
HAN Japanese Restaurant
Address: 331 North Bridge Road, #01-04, Odeon Towers, Singapore 188720
Contact: +65 63362466
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat Lunch 12pm-3pm / Mon-Sat Dinner 6pm-11pm / Closed on Sun