Conservatives may argue the simplicity of the execution of the dishes we had for supper that night but I guess that's just part of the appeal that Japanese food brings, together with the emphasis placed on the freshness and quality of the ingredients. Imports do not necessarily equate to good quality, if I may add. I'm all for a local bittergourd that can provide a firmer bite and a more pronounced taste against a more expensive, less distinctive import. There wasn't anything complicated about the goya chanpuru (stir-fried bittergourd with egg, pork and tofu) nor could we conclude the origin of the gourd yet each of the fresh components made every bite more addictive than before. More so when the egg sauce was not the disgustingly starchy type. The Chinaman in me can't help but imagine mixing in a bowl of white rice and call it stir-fried rice with bittergourd and egg sauce. I'm sure it'll work.
Something was wrong with us that night. Unknowingly, we'd ordered 3 noodle dishes from the same page of the menu. There was the Iso Soba with assorted seaweed like wakame and Irish moss, the Okinawa soba and somen chanpuru with tuna flakes. During a hot season like now, the cold Iso Soba is a delight, especially with a light soy sauce dip and crunchy seaweed. The visually modest Okinawa soba provided an interesting combination of tastes of pickled ginger, a clear soy sauce broth, kamaboko and a slice of indulging stewed pork belly. It was definitely unexpected, especially when I had miso, tonkotsu and shoyu stocks in mind. Perhaps the only regret that night was the somen chanpuru, which despite the smooth strands of somen (it's one of my favourite noodles ever!), lacked in character. Should they be more generous with the tuna flakes and vegetables like chives, the dish could have had a more robust taste.
It was actually my first ever go at Okinawan cuisine. My initial observation was the dependency on the ingredients' natural flavours. This means less intervention of artificial flavouring and a better appreciation of the, though mild, original tastes. Perhaps it is this particular reason that had kept Okinawans healthy and hence, prolonging longevity. FYI, Okinawans are some of the longest lived people in the world.
I believe the tsukune is not part of the Okinawan cuisine (more like a yakitori staple) but En's version seemed to be quite good. Most tsukunes that I've tried lacked the moist in the minced meat, perhaps due to the excess loss of moisture during the grilling process. So, it was good to bite into a surprisingly juicy ball of chicken meat covered lightly with a syrupy soy sauce.
Macha Panna Cotta
The announcement that the goma pudding was sold out left not one, but two eager customers rather disappointed that night. How often do we get restaurants to offer such desserts, right? The macha panna cotta was probably the next new best thing on the menu and it was befittingly a good ending to the supper. The portions of milk and macha were just right for us. I appreciate the minimum sweetness too.
Apart from the Okinawan factor and the craving for some Japanese food after my class, there was another reason for our visit that night. We learnt that the ala carte buffet is a steal as it includes premium items like wagyu beef in shabu-shabu. Judging from our though-mostly-noodles preview, there's no doubt that we'll give the buffet a try in the future. With an online menu, I'm sure we'll be able to plan well in maximizing our dollars. And as a rule, a few hours of fasting and some physical exercise prior to the buffet are required. All these strategies - I wonder if the Okinawans will shake their heads in disbelief in the way we exploit their healthy cuisine.
En Dining Bar
557 Bukit Timah Road
Crown Centre #01-14/16
Tel: (+65) 6468 5710