One in a while, you come across Japanese restaurants like this – established in its own right, but coming under-the-radar among local diners.
Tamaya Dining たまや located at Cuppage Terrace, among the long row of restaurants in shophouses, has been popular among the Japanese.
On Friday nights, the exterior can be buzzling with energy, music and people celebrating with foods of hotpot, sashimi, charcoal-grilled yakitori and drinks of sake and shochu.
(Click PLAY for video highlights of Tamaya Dining.)
This is not quite the typical Japanese restaurants that we find in Singapore.
There are two concepts to Tamaya Dining – a sushi bar downstairs helmed by Sushi Chiharu from Japan, contrasted with Izakaya-style dining upstairs and outdoors.
Choose to experience one of the two ‘faces’ – the quiet and tranquil Japanese sushi dining; or lively and casual Izakaya dining on horigotatsu-style tables. (There are 4 private rooms upstairs as well.)
The Sushi Bar – Seasonal Omakase Menu of Sushi Chiharu
The sushi component of Tamaya Dining is partnered with Sushi Chiharu 鮨千陽 from Osaka Japan, a Michelin-recommended Bib Gourmand restaurant.
The sushi chefs come from Japan, and I was also surprised to find a Japanese female sushi chef in the team – which is a rarity even in Japan itself. She was trained under the Insyoukujin College.
The Omakase Course goes for $140++, while a 10-piece Nigiri Sushi Course is priced at $90++. Freshest ingredients delivered directly from Japan twice weekly.
Price-wise, the Omakase menu is considered reasonable, especially you do get a spread of items including 3 appetisers, 2 types of sashimi, a seasonal dish, 10 pieces of nigiri sushi and soup. A 17-course meal.
Sushi Chiharu specialised in Edomae-sushi, a traditional technique of sushi-making, and retained how sushi was made in the past.
Edomae-sushi was initially created in the days when there was no refrigeration to store seafood.
Therefore, the ingredients were cured with vinegar, immersed in soy sauce or simmered in broth (such as the shrimps and shellfish) – which also further enhance the flavours.
While I have been to a number of Edomae sushi-specialised restaurants including Michelin-starred ones, Sushi Chiharu’s style was subtlety different.
For example, the nigiri sushi was brushed with varied complementary sauces, rather than a single type throughout.
I particularly liked the ebi which was fresh and sweet, topped with two different types of shrimp caviar for that tinge of saltiness; and sea urchin (uni) on rice with vinegar jelly – you can mix it all up or have them separately.
A pleasant surprise was the Tamago, not the typical sweet type we might be accustomed to. This came with a bread-like texture, lightly-sweet with sushi rice wrapped within.
All-in-all, I thought Sushi Chiharu can hold its own against the ‘big boys’, at a good quality for this price point.
Izakaya Menu at Tamaya Dining
Tamaya Dining serves a wide range of Japanese Izakaya style food upstairs and outdoors, from charcoal-grilled, ironpot rice, donburi , kushiage, yakitori, udon, to various dishes using seasonal ingredients.
I found most of the dishes were considered wallet-friendly. For example, the Bara Chirashi was priced at $13.00 while the Yaki Curry Rice was at $13.50.
The Rice Bowl sets of Tempura Don, Unagi Don, and Barachirashi Don which come with salad, tofu, pickles and miso soup are also reasonably priced between $16 and $24.
My two main recommendations would be the Tonpei Yaki ($12.20) and Yaki Curry Rice ($13.50).
The former comes with fluffy egg omelette with pork slices topped on thinly sliced cabbage. As for the sauce, think okonomiyaki.
I wished there was a rice version because that would have worked really well, but I suppose sliced cabbage is a lower carb version for those who are inclined to order more.
While the Yaki Curry Rice ($13.50), a baked pork curry rice was not as cheesy as I expected, the curry sauce was quite addictive – mildly spicy and not as sweet as the usual.
To be honest, I may have just walked past this restaurant several times without knowing there is a legitimate Japanese sushi bar inside. Now you know.
Tamaya Dining たまや
45 Cuppage Terrace Singapore 229464 (Somerset MRT)
Tel: +65 6835 3539
Opening Hours: 6:00pm – 11:30pm Last Order (Mon – Sat), 4:00pm – 10:30pm (Last Order (Sun, PH)
* This entry is brought to you in partnership with Tamaya Dining.