Singapore foodies are always on the search for quality and value-for-money Omakase.
After having many Omakase meals in Singapore, I was pleasantly impressed at what Unkai Sushi has to offer – at this price point.
Almost every piece was of good standard, some with surprising elements – from premium abalone, 20 days aged Otoro, to binchotan-grilled Otoro.
Named after the Japanese for “cloud” and “sea,” Unkai is a tranquil 30-seater Japanese restaurant found within Orchard Rendezvous Hotel (Tanglin Road) offering omakase, alongside a variety of sashimi, sushi, and rice bowls for ala carte orders.
There is also a bar on the other side with extensive selection of sake, wine and other alcohol.
Nature’s beauty is reflected in each dish, skillfully prepared, and creatively plated by Chef Eugene Lam.
With over 12 years of culinary experience, including stints at esteemed restaurants like Hide Yamamoto, Ashino, Sushi Mieda and Koji Sushi Bar, he honed his craft as a sushi chef.
At Unkai Sushi, he carefully curates premium season ingredients specially air-flown from Japan at the peak of their freshness, transformed into oishii items found in the signature omakase menu.
Customers get 3 choices of Omakase Menu (starts at $88++) and all 3 is inclusive of appetisers, sushi, soup, dessert.
Depending on your menu choice, the line-up may include grilled dishes, sashimi, handroll and hot dish.
Choose between The Tsuki ($88++) with an appetiser, 10 pieces of sushi, a handroll, soup and dessert; The Hoshi ($138++) featuring an appetiser, seasonal grilled fish, hot dish, 11 pieces of sushi, soup, and dessert; and The Sora ($188++) complete with an appetiser, 5 kinds of sashimi, 1 seasonal grilled dish, 11 sushi, soup and dessert.
Here’s what I had from The Sora Omakase at Unkai Sushi: (Note that items can change depending on what’s in season.
Known in Japan as Kai no Oosama or King of Shellfish, sea snails or whelks are popular sea food used as part of a sashimi dish (often found in their local sushi parlours but perhaps less here).
Once broiled in soy sauce, they exude an alluring aroma.
Served with a toothpick to conveniently pull out the meat from the shell, it had a distinctively crunchy texture. It was also mildly sweet, which Chef mentioned was natural to the shellfish as he only seasoned it very minimally.
Shima Aji aka Wild Striped Jack is a clean and sweet tasting fish, with hints of umami flavours.
Named after shima (“striped”) and aji (“horse mackerel” or “jack”), this fish’s texture was firm yet carried a light springiness to it.
Enjoy its smooth mouthfeel as the light, buttery, and slightly oily white meat melts in your mouth.
For his sushi menu, Chef Eugene only uses Nanatsuboshi and Yumepirika – two varieties of rice from Hokkaido. Compared to conventional Japanese rice, these varieties are sweeter, firmer, and stickier.
These premium and high-end rice grain varieties meet his criteria in making superior sushi. He seasons his rice using two distinct manners depending on the fish or seafood it comes with.
As this is a white-fleshed fish, enjoy the Shima Aji paired with white vinegar seasoned rice.
Kinmedai is a shiromi or white-fleshed fish exhibiting decadence for its good fat content. Also known as Goldeneye Snapper, this fish has a delicate and tender flesh.
Season-wise, this is best in the winter or early spring. Its mild and sweet flavours are balanced out with umami notes.
Sumi-Ika (meaning “ink squid” in Japanese) or golden spineless cuttlefish can be served the traditional Edomae way or if very fresh, served raw.
It offers a pleasantly delicate and sweet flavour, while its translucent white meat is crisp and exceptionally soft yet chewy in texture. Best season for enjoying this sushi is from winter to spring.
One of the star dishes in this Omakase, due to its premium quality and pricing – that usually makes it only available at the higher end restaurants.
Kuro-awabi is a fresh, sashimi-grade Japanese shelled abalone. Literally, kuro-awabi means “black sea-ear” as it is shaped like ear.
This sought-after delicacy has a firm, chewy and aromatic flesh with mild briny notes and juicy flavour. You are assured you are getting one of the best grades of abalone from Japan.
The tender abalone slices are served atop a luxurious abalone liver sauce. Its umami flavours are prominent, and the aroma of the ocean still lingers. Truly a treat.
This firm, lean and deep red flesh from along the spine of the tuna is prepared lightly-marinated style in Chef’s own recipe of house-blend shoyu, then sprinkled with a dash of yuzu zest for a citrusy touch.
Indulge your palate as akami delivers a burst of deep-sea flavour. (You would also notice that the flavour profile of the sushi pieces would get more intense gradually.)
As a red meat, akami calls for rice pairing with a dressing of red vinegar to tie the flavours of ingredients together.
One of my personal favourite pieces this meal. This Chutoro or the medium fatty bluefin tuna is prepared with a twist – with uni (sea urchin) from Akiyama Japan peek-a-boo style.
Experience the rich and delectable meat of Chutoro, and creamy uni over some vinegared rice underneath at the same time.
I say, savour this sushi in one bite to enjoy its contrasting textures, superb mouthfeel, and sweet, rounded taste.
Hotate and Uni
Delight in this delicious duo of hotate and uni, featuring a lightly torched scallop topped with a dollop of uni and wrapped in seaweed.
The hotate had an amazingly delicate texture, and soft and sweet meat complementing the creamy uni.
Adding textural contrast was a crunchy seaweed as a wrap. But this is not your typical seaweed – according to Chef, this renowned brand has been awarded as “Best Seaweed in Japan” for the last 6 consecutive years.
Don’t miss Chef Eugene’s special house-smoked Otoro, first lightly marinated in Chef’s own recipe of house-blend shoyu before being smoked using Binchotan or Japanese white wood charcoals.
This technique adds a deep smokiness to the fatty cut of Otoro from the inside of the tuna’s belly. Rather than using a metal grill, Chef skillfully used direct contact to grill the fish.
All-in-all a delicious piece, with fine detail in taste, buttery smoothness, and aromatic smokiness.
20-Days Aged Otoro
Save the best for last?
Take the prized tuna cut otoro, which is first house-smoked then aged for 20 days. The result is a build up of flavours as new flavours – umami, sweetness, and bitterness – developed during the aging process.
As the fish is aged, the moisture level is reduced, and the flavours become concentrated. Plus, the enzymes help make the flesh softer and less chewy. (Note that this sushi is not always available.)
Other than the Omakase, there are also ala carte dishes from donburi, sashimi, sushi, yakimono, agemono to soba – homemade soba imported from Japan no less, exclusively made by artisanal soba makers for Unkai Sushi.
I would recommend the Pork Cheek Bowl ($26) with succulent Spanish Iberico pork cheek that has been slow-cooked for 12 hours; and the Wagyu Don ($58) served with onsen egg.
1 Tanglin Road #01-10, Orchard Rendezvous Hotel, Singapore 247905
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 2:30pm, 6pm – 10pm (Mon – Sun)
* This entry is brought to you in partnership with Unkai Sushi.