shinji by kanesaka
Anyone vaguely familiar with my blog will know that I am obsessed with sushi; if I was allowed only one cuisine for the rest of my life Japanese would have to be it. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some pretty great sushi in London recently but nothing remotely in the league of what I savoured while in Singapore at Shinji by Kanesaka, the first and only foreign outpost from sushi maestro Shinji Kanesaka (who presides over the 2-Michelin starred Sushi Kanesaka in Tokyo’s Ginza district).
Housed in the historic Raffles Hotel, this minimalist eatery serves Edomae-style sushi where the seasoning and the cutting technique is varied to enhance each specific type of fish. Traditionally fish is also sourced from waters between Tsukiji and Teppozu in Tokyo (the Edo region) and Shinji maintains this by shipping produce from Tsukiji Market to the restaurant daily (except on Wednesdays and Sundays, when it is closed).
B had just flown in to join me from London and it being his first meal of the trip, it naturally called for only the best dinner course menu – the Omakase Shin. We opened with a dainty appetiser of yuzu-marinated Salmon Roe, a mass of translucent ikura pearls that released delightful mini briny citrus-tinged explosions on the tongue.
A myriad of sashimi and cooked dishes steadily arrived before us, each meticulously prepared by our dedicated itamae (there were three chefs at the sushi counter that evening, each overseeing 1 to 2 groups of diners). First to make it on our individual plates loaded with wakame, miyoga slivers and pickled ginger, were two choice slices of glistening Yellow Jack.
Next, a duo of cubed Ika and Uni crowned with freshly grated wasabi. Both sparingly seasoned (with soy) to let their natural sweetness shine through. The squid was springy yet tender and the creamy sea urchin was some of the best I’ve eaten.
Seared Barramundi sashimi was also sensational – a quick blow-torch lent a fantastic smokiness to the skin that offset the sweet, clean flesh perfectly.
A grilled Negima skewer (leek and tuna) was well-executed but I personally find grilling lean fish such as maguro until firm a bit of a waste – texturally and taste-wise it’s so much better raw.
I preferred the meaty slabs of Bonito which followed that had been merely kissed by the flames, retaining it’s softness and delicate flavour profile.
I have only had Ankimo steamed, sliced and served with ponzu, but at Shinji they poached the monkfish liver with a thin tasty teriyaki-like sauce leaving it silky and melt-in-the-mouth. Exquisite.
Rings of simmered Octopus tentacles were good, but like the negima was overshadowed by the other offerings.
I was a little apprehensive about trying the next dish after discovering it to be Cod Sperm, known as shirako (“white child”), in Japanese. Similar in appearance to intestines, the poached milt turned out not as offensive on the palate as I had imagined. It tasted a lot like sweetbreads and the sharp ponzu cut through its creaminess well.
A wedge of Stone Crab shell stuffed with sweet chunks of steamed white meat bound with a smidgen of dark meat was absolutely delicious.
Twelve pieces of beautifully-crafted nigiri followed. All boasting the perfect fish to rice ratio, superbly made sushi rice (slightly tacky well-vinegared grains) and exquisite premium specimens of fish.
Chutoro (medium-fatty tuna belly) was excellent; extremely smooth and velvety from the even distribution of fat.
The fattier Otoro was firmer initially but broke down easily in the mouth with a lovely robust flavour almost like that of wagyu.
A perfect rectangle of ruby-hued Maguro (tuna) was pure with a clean finish.
The Sardine was slightly denser with a faintly fishy (but not unpleasant) edge.
I rather enjoyed the Flounder which had a very fresh taste and a satiny texture.
It was Aji (jack mackerel) season, clearly evident from the succulent spankingly fresh piece we were presented.
Baby scallop gunkan met the teeth with more resistance than the more common larger king scallops found on nigiri but was still soft with an incredibly intense sweetness.
The second gunkan had a welcome pile of more of the sublime uni we sampled earlier.
King prawn nigiri was sweet and pleasingly bouncy.
The needlefish was very subtle, verging on bland and not my favourite.
Always a fan of ark shell clam, this was a pure taste of the sea.
After a steaming bowl of miso soup chockful of tiny clams, we were given our last nigiri – two pieces of Unagi (grilled eel), one painted lightly with a sweet soy glaze, the other simply salted. The former was an exemplary version of what one typically finds in a sushi restaurant but the simply salted version was so enjoyable for being unadulteratedly tasty.
Two squares of custardy tamago and a plate of fruit (the fragrant Japanese honey dew melon was deliciously sweet in a way that one so rarely finds in fruit here in the UK) brought dinner to a satisfying end. A pretty spectacular meal, although Urasawa with it’s kaiseki dishes and elaborate nigiri line-up possibly tops it, but only just.
Needless to say ingredients of such impeccable quality come at a price so do expect to drop some serious cash at Shinji. Dinner sets start at $220 for the Sushi Edomae and run to $450 for the Omakase Shin. However like most establishments, lunch offers more affordable options with 9, 12 or 15 piece sushi courses at a fraction of the evening price.
Shinji by Kanesaka
Raffles Hotel #02-20
1 Beach Road
t. +65 6338 6131