Thursday, November 28, 2013

Best Sushi in Singapore - Shinji by Kanesaka, Raffles Hotel

If you like Japanese food, and sushi in particular, you owe it to yourself to eat occasionally at proper sushi restaurants. Yes, Sushi Tei, Sakae and Itacho can be good to satisfy a craving on the cheap, but it's a far cry from what you can get from a Chef who's dedicated his entire life in the pursuit of fish-on-vinegared-rice perfection. In Singapore we do have quite a number of such restaurants; the best of which is probably Chef Kanesaka's Shinji by Kanesaka at Raffles Hotel. According to San Pellegrino & Acqua Panna's Asia's 50 best restaurants list, it's the best sushi restaurant in Asia (outside of Japan)!

Like many other fine dining restaurants, lunch is cheaper than dinner, with the starter/budget 9-piece Hana 花 option priced at $75. Is it worth the price tag? Let's find out!

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore
Shinji by Kanesaka

Upon arrival we're ushered to our seats at the counter and we immediately draw favourable comparisons to another top sushi restaurant in Singapore - Les Amis Group's Aoki, which we visited about a month ago. Shinji by Kanesaka is a much more jovial place to eat in. The waitresses and chefs are far friendlier and as a result there's a lot more communication across the counter. And most importantly - even though we're on the cheapest menu option, each piece of sushi is formed and served one at a time - very important for a good sushi eating experience.

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Appetizer
Appetizer - Tuna with pickled turnip & Seaweed

As is standard for restaurants of this calibre, you don't get to choose your sushi. The Chef may ask if you have any particular dislikes or allergies, but other than that you're at the mercy of whatever Master Chef Koichiro Oshino decides to serve. Or perhaps more accurately whatever his boss Chef Kanesaka over in Tokyo has deemed as the best fish and seafood for the day/season during their morning shopping sessions at the Tsukiji Fish Market. So all there is to do after ordering is to just sit back and wait :)

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Sawara Spanish Mackerel
Sawara (Spanish Mackerel)

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Baby Shrimp
Baby Shrimp

The appetizer that we got - chunks of tuna meat with pickled turnip and seaweed/kelp - was perhaps a little underwhelming. Nothing to fault taste-wise but not exactly particularly exciting, either. The sushi, however, was a different story entirely.

What we liked most about the sushi here is the shari (sushi rice). It comes at the perfect temperature, and is packed just tightly enough to hold it's shape from plate to mouth. Once the chewing starts the rice breaks apart, allowing you to taste and feel every single seasoned, slightly sweet, vinegared grain. Bliss.

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Chu Toro
Chu Toro (Medium Fatty Tuna)

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Shimofuri Toro
Shimofuri O-toro

Similar to how there are huge differences in normal, every day beef and the best Wagyu or USDA Prime, likewise there are huge differences between different Tuna. Top Chefs will have the necessary money and decades-old relationships to get the best fish from the market - and by extension, the best slabs of Tuna Belly. Shinji by Kanesaka's ChuToro is sublime, with the best balance between flavor from the meat and oily richness from the fats, and with not even the slightest hint of tendon.

The Shimofuri O-Toro is so named because of the intricate marbling patterns that makes it look like Wagyu, and was equally heavenly.

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Aji Horse Mackerel
Aji (Horse Mackerel)

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Akami Tuna
Akami (Tuna)

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Baby Tuna
Six month old Baby Tuna

After these seven pieces of Sushi, we get a slight 'breather' in the form of Yuzu Marinated Ikura (Salmon Roe) on Rice. Most Ikura you eat at chain restaurants tend to be salty first and foremost. Not this Ikura. The saltiness is delicate rather than overpowering, and is tempered perfectly by the citrus from the Yuzu. Genius combination - all other Japanese restaurants should do this.

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Yuzu Marinated Ikura Salmon Roe
Yuzu Marinated Ikura (Salmon Roe) on Rice

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Kuruma Ebi Tiger Prawn
Kuruma Ebi (Tiger Prawn)

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Gunkan Negi Toro
Negitoro (Minced Tuna Belly)

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Salted Unagi Eel
Unagi Two Ways

The sushi journey then resumes with Tiger Prawn, Negitoro and Unagi nigiri. We thought it was a nice touch that Chef Koichiro cut the Tiger Prawn sushi for the darling as it would have been too big for her to eat in one bite. The unagi was interesting - we each got a 'traditional' sauce'ed up unagi, and a plain unagi with just a pinch of salt, which allowed for the flavors of the eel to take centre stage.

If you've been keeping count, we're actually already at ten nigiri plus an Ikura bowl so far. Didn't we order the 9-piece set? At this point we were hoping the waitress hadn't perhaps mixed up our orders ...

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Clam Soup
Clear Clam Soup

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Maki and Tamagoyaki
Akami and Negitoro Maki with Egg Custard Cake

A bowl of clear soup with mini clams is served to warm up the tummy followed by negitoro and akami maki, and two pieces of egg ... custard. The texture of the egg cake here is unlike any we've ever tried - it's silky smooth and has the consistency of a jelly. It's interestingly good. Normally we find it hard to get excited about the 'tummy filler' maki, but this one is delicious, in large part due to that superb rice.

The lunch set finishes off with a pumpkin pudding - essentially a creme brulee-based custard with sweet pumpkin puree. Delicious.

Shinji by Kanesaka Best Sushi in Singapore Pumpkin Pudding
Pumpkin Pudding

Verdict? Well, we haven't had the opportunity to sample any of the top ¥30,000 places in Tokyo, but otherwise this lunch simply blew us away, and is quite simply the best sushi meal we've ever eaten - even better than Tsukiji Market's Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. We also feel that $75 is ridiculously good value when you consider the calibre of the chefs, the quality (and quantity) of the meal and that all the fish is flown in from Tokyo daily. Definitely extremely highly recommended.

Shinji by Kanesaka is at Raffles Hotel and is open from Mondays to Saturdays for Lunch and Dinner: Reservations highly reccomended: Telephone +65 6338 6131 or Email

(We also had the $250 omakase shin for lunch, which adds on sashimi, cooked dishes and musk melon - we'll be reviewing that in a separate post as the huge price tag makes it a different value proposition)

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