The Place I don’t usually have Japanese shabu-shabu or sukiyaki in Singapore as I can’t recall the last memorable one I had. With high expectations, I visited Sakurazaka after hearing some rave reviews from friends, totally excited to check out this two months old Japanese hotpot restaurant located right beside Shelter in the Woods along Greenwood Avenue. The setting of Sakurazaka is intimate, mainly attributed by the dim and warm lighting. The size of the restaurant is just right for me, spacious enough to feel comfortable, yet not too big such that it can potentially get too noisy. If you are worried about the lack of parking here, you can walk to Greenwood Avenue fro Tan Kah Kee MRT Station, probably a good relaxing 10 minute stroll in from the Bukit Timah Road.
The Food There are three shabu-shabu sets and one sukiyaki set here, which include a starter, assorted vegetables, rice or noodles, dessert and a choice of two broths. We decided to try both the Shabu Shabu Beef ($64) and Shabu Shabu Pork ($48) sets as both meats sound equally tempting. Other sets include the Shabu Shabu Seafood ($54) and Sukiyaki Beef ($75) set. Expect some European infused elements in the dishes here, as Consultant Chef Masashi Horiuchi of Sakurazaka has his roots in European cuisine too.
For a start, we had a preview of the flavour of our meat as a hot stone was served together with two slices of beef and egg, known as the ishiyaki concept. Simply place the meat on the hot stone and decide on the doneness of the meat yourself, before dipping it into the well-mixed egg, and there you go, a preview of the sukiyaki style.
On to the broth, we had the Ago Dashi soup, a Fukuoka specialty prepared from dried flying fish, and the beef consommé. The Ago Dashi is lighter in flavour with a tinge of sweetness, perfect to go along with the pork. Personally, I preferred the more flavourful beef consommé broth, which goes well with the wagyu beef. Other choices for broths include Chicken, Pork Bone and the Bouillabaisse.
There are three dips to go along with the meats – sesame sauce, shiyo ponzu (somewhat like yuzu) and tamari ponzu sauce (gluten free). Both the ponzu sauces are light are citrusy in nature, but my favourite of the lot is the sesame sauce which was good with either the pork or beef. Be surprise by the sesame sauce here, pepper has been included to give this a slight twist.
The highlights are undoubtedly the meats. The pork at Sakurazaka is from Kyushu, known as Shirobuta Pork, where we had both the Pork Loin and Pork Belly. For shabu-shabu, simmer the pork for about ten seconds in the broth and it should be cooked. Both the pork loin and belly were tender and tasty after I simmered it in the Ago Dashi broth. Shirobuta meat is supposedly sweeter and more tender than the usual pork meat, which I have to agree. The beef is Aomori Japanese Rice-Fed Beef (Striploin and Ribeye), from the Aomori prefecture in Japan, rice-fed beef instead of the more common grain or grass-fed.
The F1 Joshu Wagyu Beef is another highlight at Sakurazaka, which you can top up for the Shabu Shabu Beef Set for an additional $25. We had both the striploin and ribeye cuts, both cuts with a nice marbling. As compared to the normal Wagyu beef, I will recommend paying more for the visible more well-marbled F1 Joshu Wagyu beef. The extra tenderness justifies the price mark up.
If you fancy something more fatty than the normal Wagyu beef yet less than the Joshu Wagyu beef, then the F1 Wagyu-Holstein Crossbreed Beef is somewhat in between.
At the end of the meal, we tried the Japanese Rice Risotto ($12), a nice fusion of European and Japanese without wasting the broth at the same time. One of the staff poured the Japanese rice into our remaining beef consommé broth, then some cheese was added to give it the sticky texture. I thought I would be full at the point but couldn’t resist for another serving of the tasty risotto.
Desserts wise, there is only the Japanese Shaved Ice Kakigori on the menu, the Japanese version of Ice Kacang. Choose from six flavours such as European inspired Tiramisu ($14) and Port Wine ($15), along with Mango ($12), Strawberry ($12), Hokkaido Milk ($12) and Ujikintori (Matcha Green Tea – $16). My favourite is the rich Hokkaido Milk, which is probably the best flavour to have along with some condensed milk.
Sakurazaka is a concept by wine merchant, Wine Culture, so you can also expect a wide selection of wines, sake, and Japanese craft beers.
Rants We are less of a fan of the restaurant’s ‘ulu’ location in Greenwood Avenue, especially without a car.
Will I Return Again? Sakurazaka is easily one of the best Japanese shabu-shabu and sukiyaki restaurant in Singapore. The quality of the meats are good, and it is surprisingly value for money for the overall experience. A must try if you love Japanese hotpot. Fyi, we went back again shortly after writing this review, so you can imagine our liking for the food here.
Taste bud: 4/5
Hole in the pocket: 3.5/5
Overall Experience: 4/5
24 Greenwood Avenue
Tel: +65 6463 0333
Daily: 6pm to 10.30pm
Ranted by The Ranter