Spring is in the air… and on the table at one of singapore’s top Japanese restaurants
While Europeans have been lamenting spring’s extremely late arrival, we can conclusively say the seasons have definitely turned at Shima restaurant, located at Goodwood Park Hotel.
Actually at Shima, it’s been spring since the beginning of April, what with the introduction of its new seasonal kaiseki menu crafted by Chef Hoshiba Fumihiko.
Chef Hoshiba, who hails from Hokkaido, has been doing seasonal kaiseki menus for a while now. In fact, the last time we were there, we sampled his Autumn menu. And given that it’s spring, which is synonymous in Japan with cherry blossoms, you can expect lots of pink in the dishes.
And we do mean lots – nearly every course had some pink in it. With particular regard to the pink noodles served during the penultimate course.
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#Spring is in the air! At least at #Japanese #restaurant #Shima in #GoodwoodParkHotel. On the right, #Chef Fumihiko Hoshiba deftly prepares a dish from the brand new #kaiseki menu. @shimarestaurantsg #japaneserestaurant #japanesecuisine #kaisekiryori #food #foodstagram #gourmet #restaurants #hotels #robbreportsg
While adding cherry blossoms to food does seem contrived and gimmicky – it does, after all, add nothing but an admittedly very attractive colour – apparently this is what many expect.
Prices start from S$68++ for lunch and S$88++ for dinner. Which, like before, represents great value, especially since there’s a minimum of six courses.
Portions are expertly judged, too. Some will surely complain it errs on the side of the small, but on the other hand, you end the meal feeling satisfied, not stuffed.
How did the kaiseki menu fare this time round? Editors Aaron De Silva (ADS) and Daryl Lee (DL) give their take.
First course: Appetiser – Various amuse-bouches
DL: The first thing that caught my eye was a piece of cherry blossom-shaped pink tofu. I must confess to suppressing a groan, but the presence of the marinated firefly squid redeemed the course and then some. The marinade added just enough dimension to the squid’s natural flavours without overpowering it. The squid itself, of course, was exceptionally fresh, as evidenced by its al dente texture.
And so did the grated mountain yam topped with a teardrop’s worth of salted bonito served in a sake shot glass. It’s almost absurd that something so simple could be executed that well.
Third Course: Steamed Dish – Chawanmushi with Shark’s fin
ADS: This was hands-down my favourite dish of the entire meal. Chef Hoshiba has a way with the classic Japanese savoury egg custard.
Here he gives it his own signature twist by using sesame paste instead of gingko nuts, topped with gelatinous slivers of shark’s fin that add another dimension of texture. Comfort food at its best.
Fourth course: Grilled Dish – Red Snapper and Abalone Served with Vegetable and Lotus Root
ADS: Again, I’m not what you’d call an abalone enthusiast, but the abalone in this dish went down very smoothly. I suppose it has something to do with being grilled with butter, which lent an unparalleled umami flavour.
The red snapper had a good bite to it, and was topped with tiny golden balls made from egg yolks. This represented sakura pollen, but didn’t add much flavour or texture to the fish. What did, though, was the accompanying baby peach, a delightful soft burst of sweet-sour.
Fifth course: Simmered Dish – Spanish Mackerel served with Sakura Rice Cake & Cherry Leaf
DL: Hands down the best thing I had that day. Perhaps it’s the Cantonese half of my heritage talking, but I have great respect for a chef that can do a dish with subtle flavours and not have it come out bland.
A slice of horse mackerel served with glutinous rice (pink, of course) and a pickled cherry blossom leaf in dashi. It doesn’t sound like much, but nothing in that course – not even the horse mackerel – overpowered anything else. And that’s the beauty of it, it was a dish in perfect equilibrium.
Seventh Course: Noodles
ADS: Somen with cherry blossom petals blended with the flour to give the noodles a vibrant blush hue. I half expected the petals to add floral/herbaceous notes, but I couldn’t detect any.
DL: While the somen was offensively pink, its taste, however, was anything but. As with the rest of the items I had that day, Chef Hoshiba is at his best with simple fare. The somen, which was at once silky and springy was a revelation, and so was the tsuyu (dipping sauce). The delicate soy was offset by the smoky perfume of bonito flakes, which had me wishing for a second helping.
8th Course: Dessert – Sakura Mochi with Japanese Seasonal Fruit
ADS: As someone with a sweet tooth, Japanese desserts tend not to hit my, well, sweet spot. But here I’m happy to report that the sakura mochi did the trick. Meanwhile, the Shizuoka muskmelon – one of Japan’s top grade melons – sent me into rapture with its soft, sweet, juicy flesh perfumed with musk.
DL: I liked the melon well enough, but what really got me going was the sakura mochi. The pink-tinged (but of course) rice was wrapped with a cherry leaf. It isn’t entirely unlike a sweet dolma, stuffed as the mochi was with red bean paste. Not overly sweet, with the cherry leaf adding an astringent, palate-cleansing finish to each bite. Masterfully executed.