I am always on a lookout for affordable Omakase restaurants in Singapore, and this new Japanese place comes with Omakase Lunches from $68++ and Dinner from $88++. If you are in for a quicker yet substantial meal, Lunch Sets start from $29++.
MAI by Dashi Master Marusaya located along Bukit Pasoh Road doesn’t just serve the usual sashimi or kaiseki meals.
In fact, it is probably the only one of its kind in Singapore.
It specialises in incorporating quality all-natural dashi (Japanese soup stock) in its cuisine, the quintessential component responsible for “umami” in many Japanese dishes.
Foodies would be familiar with the term “umami” which is more commonly used of late, one of the five basic tastes which is distinct from sweet, sour, bitter and salty.
Perhaps you may not know how “umami” and dashi are related.
The taste profile was coined by a Prof Kikunade Ikeda who actually discovered the taste from kombu dashi itself. Dried bonito flakes also contains another type of umami substance.
Marusaya, a renowned wholesaler of katsuobushi since 1962, has launched this restaurant – MAI by Dashi Master Marusaya, that uses a top calibre dashi in its dishes.
The Japanese restaurant takes pride in its Satsuma 2-year-old hongare-honbushi – a specially aged bonito.
Most katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) is simmered, smoked, and dried for about a year or so, but the hongare-honbushi made from skipjack tuna is processed for two years.
This umami taste is thus concentrated in this premium ingredient.
Together with premium kelp from Rishiri, it creates a flavourful, nutritious, and healthy broth, and you will find and taste this signature dashi infused into almost every dish at MAI.
MAI offers a range of specialty dishes featuring all-natural dashi prepared from their signature katsuobushi: Shabu-Shabu (hot pot), Toban Yaki (hot plate) and Donabe (claypot).
Here are some of the recommended items from MAI by Dashi Master Marusaya:
MAI Signature Donabe (Claypot Rice) – Unagi River Eel Donabe ($38++)
A must-try main at MAI is the donabe – an aromatic claypot rice cooked with dashi, soy sauce, Japanese sake, and well-simmered with the flavours of fresh seafood.
If dining with a group, each order is good for sharing among 4 persons. Find it under the a la carte section of the menu.
It takes about 45 minutes for each Donabe to be prepared from scratch, so it is best to pre-order before you come.
Even if you are familiar with the local claypot rice, this Japanese Donabe version comes across with less salty with more of that deep-lingering taste of dashi.
That is because food that is cooked in donabe is higher in natural umami flavour and healthier as well, as less seasonings are needed to enhance the taste.
As for the rice, the famous Hokkaido Yumepirika rice is used, known for its soft fluffy taste, and glossy appearance. Another winning element is the layer of crisp rice found at the bottom of the pot (which we Singaporeans will call guo ba).
For the toppings, you can pick either the Salmon and Ikura Donabe, or Unagi River Eel Donabe. The Unagi River Eel Donabe comes highly recommended.
Enjoy the freshwater eel’s smoky grilled taste in the tender, delicate flesh that is so fatty good.
Dashi Shabu Shabu Set Lunch – A4 Wagyu ($49++)
Drop by for lunch and be spoilt for choice for their dashi-centric set meals from $29++. You can choose from an array of Shabu-shabu and Toban Yaki set lunches all using quality ingredients.
All lunch sets include Chawanmushi, Tsukemono, Wasabi Konbu, Ikura, Katsuobushi, Dashi Rice, and Miso Soup, which is quite value-for its money.
To your dashi rice, add this trio of condiments for best flavour: Japanese pickles, premium ikura and wasabi-flavoured konbu. Together, they further heighten the taste of your flavourful rice.
If you want to savour the authentic and sublime flavours of MAI’s signature dashi, get the Shabu-Shabu set.
The sets are accompanied by fresh seasonal vegetables as well as two house dips – dashi ponzu and sesame – for those who like their meats full-flavoured.
With no MSG nor other chemical seasonings, you are guaranteed the dashi is 100% all-natural.
For your meat, choose from Black Angus Beef ($29++), Hokkaido Pork ($29++), White Fish and Salmon ($39++), or the most popular among the set A4 Japanese Wagyu ($49++).
Just a shy away from A5, the A4 Wagyu is a very good quality meat that has a beautiful fat marbling and melt-in-your-mouth tender texture.
Toban Yaki Set Lunch – Japanese Prawn, Scallop and Oyster ($32++)
If you are craving for the grilled flavour, go for the Toban Yaki Set Lunch which comes with choices of the main protein.
Toban-yaki means to roast on a toban, a Japanese ceramic plate which keeps the heat longer and roasts food in an even fashion.
This lunch set features a trio of seafood – prawn, scallop, and oyster – prepared hot plate style. All Japan-sourced, they are imported twice a week from Japan prefectures Mie and Hyogo.
I would have initially thought that all the seafood items would just be added to the hot plate and cooked. However, I realised the intricacies and effort needed in every step to make this the perfect dish.
The prawns and scallops were first lightly grilled over charcoal to give them slight smoky flavour; some of the vegetables were flash-fried for the crispier outer layer.
Toban Yaki Set Lunch – Hokkaido Pork Cutlet and Egg with Bonito Stock ($35++)
For a heftier appetite, order the same toban-yaki set lunch but with Hokkaido Pork Cutlet and Egg.
This protein-rich dish will fill you up with a meaty pork loin sourced from the Hokkaido prefecture, plus an egg flavoured with the bonito stock.
Dashi Flavour Deep Fried Chicken ($16++)
MAI offers a few side items to complete your meals. Try the Dashi Flavour Deep Fried Chicken ($16++) which uses the same signature broth to flavour this chicken dish.
A simple dish that is perfectly deep-fried to a crunchy exterior, while the juicy chicken meat is infused with dashi for a subtle taste of bonito.
If you prefer more indulgent dining, then I would recommend leaving it up to the chefs and go Omakase.
From value-for-money Omakase lunch course (from $68++) to full Omakase dinners (starts from $88++), you’ll get the premium Japanese broth incorporated into the dishes.
The Omakase Set Lunch ($68++) includes a variety from Chawanmushi, 2 kinds of Sashimi, Dashi Shabu Shabu OR Toban Yaki, Dashi Rice and Miso Soup, accompaniments (of Pickles, Salmon Roe, Konbu Tsukudani), and Dessert.
That is quite a spread.
Reserve a MAI dinner for something more special, as the dinner menu showcases a wide array of a la carte dishes and specialty sides (you might taste the Half Dried Bonito Fish Jerky).
Make it even extra special with a fine sake on your table.
MAI by Dashi Master Marusaya X DFD Promotion
Quote “DFD” to enjoy a FREE DESSERT for every set lunch purchased.
Terms and conditions as follows:
– Promotion is available from 15 July (Mon) to 13 September (Fri) 2019
– Only applicable for set lunches available from Mondays to Saturday, 12pm to 2:30pm (Restaurant is closed on Sundays)
– Not valid with other promotions, privileges, discounts or vouchers
– Complimentary dessert is Homemade Pandan Chiffon Cake with Ice Cream (U.P $8) but subject to change depending on availability.
MAI by Dashi Master Marusaya
46 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089858
Tel: +65 6327 8414
Opening hours: 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 11pm (Mon – Sat), Closed Sun
* This entry is brought to you in partnership with MAI by Dashi Master Marusaya.