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Au Jardin (Eaten!)
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Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Nanbantei Japanese Restaurant #1
#05-132 Far East Plaza
Jasmine, Yee Wen and I found a gem at this unlikely place today! The nondescript outer appearance is very plain and the signboard at the entrance doesn’t even print its full name. Once we stepped in though, there’s a flurry of activities. Many tables were reserved and the waitresses were scurrying about serving customers. This place specializes in yakitori and there’s none of the usual bento and sushi on the menu. In fact, there’s only 3 set meals and the rest are all yakitori side dishes.
We decided to share B-Course ($32++) and ordered some additional side orders. The B-Course comes with assorted sashimi, 8 sticks of yakitori chosen by the chef, rice, miso soup, pickles and dessert.
The sashimi comprises of thick slices of salmon, tuna and octopus. They are so very fresh and smooth! They can just slide down the throat, seriously. Any good Japanese restaurant should always serve fresh sashimi and this certainly hits the mark.
The 8 sticks of yakitori were awesome! There are Asparagus Maki (asparagus wrapped with pork), Tomato Pork Maki (mini tomato wrapped with pork), Okura (lady’s fingers), Garlic Pork (pork and leek with garlic seasoning), Tsukune (chicken meat balls) and Nan Ban Yaki (beef with bean paste sauce).
The fragrance hit us even before the plates were on our tables. All of them were very robust and the charred bits provided a nice smoky flavor. My personal favourites are the tomato pork maki and tsukune. The cherry tomato just burst sweetly in the mouth and the chicken balls were very tender and succulent.
Jasmine and Yee Wen kept exclaiming over how nice the rice is but I didn’t try. How nice get plain rice get? But the miso soup was heavenly! It was very soothing and mild in flavor and I think they don’t use MSG at all.
The Shishamo ($8++) is a saltwater fish (smelt) that’s grilled whole, often while full of eggs. That’s why it’s known as the pregnant fish. I’m trying this for the first time and I have to say that this is quite addictive! The flesh is very firm and has a nice texture.
Initially, I thought the fish eggs will be red (like fish roe) but they are not! Instead, they are much smaller and pale yellow in colour.
Jasmine wanted the Shiitake ($5.30++) which was yummy! I like these chewy Japanese mushrooms with an earthy and meaty flavor.
I always order unagi in Japanese restaurants because I use it as a benchmark to see how good their food is. The Unagi Negi Yaki ($5.50++) didn’t disappoint. The eel was grilled in between layers of long onions. It was very tender and fragrant.
The dessert in the set meal was Shiratama Zanzai. I love red beans! This was not too sweet and the glutinous dumpling was very soft and bouncy.
This ceramic mug is used to put the skewers. Unfortunately, we only realized this at the end of our meal where our skewers were lying messily on the table.
Service was average as the restaurant was quite packed. We had to signal a few times to catch the waitress’s attention.
The food is cooked directly in the open kitchen and we think that the chefs are all Japanese.
The food here is definitely expensive but you pay for the quality. I think the set courses are quite worthwhile to share with two or three friends. We also spotted quite a number of Japanese diners, which goes to show how authentic the food is.
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