Fans of yakiniku ought to be familiar with cuts of beef like karubi, tenderloin, and ribeye, but what about gyutan (ox tongue)?
Don’t let the idea of eating tongue put you off — gyutan, with its unique chewy texture and deep beefy flavour, is a lesser-known cut that is slowly gaining popularity in restaurants outside of Japan.
If you’ve yet to venture into the gastronomic world of gyutan, Gyutan-Tan in Tanjong Pagar is your best bet!
Helmed by Head Chef Yoshiyuki Kuroshima, Gyutan-Tan is Singapore’s first-ever gyutan speciality restaurant, so you know you’re in for a tongue-tastic treat.
In contrast to the buzzy Tras Street, the cosy and calming 82-seater restaurant is decked out in soothing earthy tones, modern Japanese-Scandinavian decor, and vibrant wallpapers of adorable original illustrations depicting whimsical reimaginings of Sendai (where the custom of cooking gyutan originated), cats, and Japanese food.
The menu — a tantalising blend of tradition and modernity — showcases the star of the show, gyutan, alongside other mouthwatering beef, pork, and chicken dishes served in unique ways.
Given that restaurant’s close proximity to the CBD, the extensive selection of Lunch Set Meals, or teishoku, offered here will give you the most bang for your buck.
If you are spoilt for choice, look no further than the signature Sumiyaki Gyutan Combo Set (S$25), comprising thin and thick cuts of charcoal-grilled gyutan with pickles, salad, mugimeshi (a mix of rice and barley), a choice of oxtail or miso soup, and grated Japanese yam (tororo).
Both the 4mm thin cuts and 10mm thick cuts were aromatic and grilled over binchotan to a lovely “medium well”, but I found myself gravitating towards the latter, for its firm texture and deeper flavour.
Other lunch sets, which include the likes of the Sumiyaki Chicken Set (S$20), Sumiyaki Pork Steak Set (S$22), and Sumiyaki Striploin Steak Set (S$30), feature different charcoal-grilled meats, ideal for those who prefer an alternative to ox tongue.
Complement these charcoal-grilled meats with a homemade sauce of your choice:
- Original: a homemade soy sauce
- Ponzu Oroshi: a mix of ponzu sauce and grated radish
- Korean: the chef’s rendition of sweet-and-spicy yangnyeom sauce (my personal favourite!)
- Negi Shio: a salt-based sauce with chopped leeks and black pepper
- Lemon Pepper: a mix of black pepper and lemon juice
Most of the mains available on the lunch set menu can also be found on the a la carte dinner menu,
Those dropping by in the evening can start off with appetisers like the Cold-Roasted Gyutan Carpaccio (S$15, dinner only), thin slices of cold-roasted gyutan dressed with rocket, parmesan, pickled white radish, and a balsamic glaze, or the Home-made Gyutan Gyoza (S$8).
Gyutan takes centre stage yet again, in dishes like the Spicy Gyutan Don (S$19), Gyu-Tan Ramen (S$16), and the Gyutan Tamago–Toji Don (S$20), an oyako don-inspired rice bowl.
It’s that time of year when comfort food is all I crave for, and the Gyutan Demi-glace Stew (S$28), which utilises classic French cooking techniques, definitely hit the spot. Soft and chewy chunks of four-hour braised gyutan, potato, carrot, and asparagus in a velvety, dark, and glossy roux-based demi-glace — it’s best enjoyed with a piping hot bowl of rice.
However, we very much preferred the Pork Kakuni (S$18), tender, melt-in-mouth 4-hour braised pork belly in an umami soy-based sauce with asparagus, onions, and a boiled egg.
If a showstopper is what you seek, the Premium Gyutan Shabu-Shabu (S$28, dinner only), which is also uncommonly found in Japan, makes for an impressive main (and conversation starter).
Thinly sliced gyutan is served alongside an assortment of vegetables and mushrooms, as well as kuzukiri noodles and namafu (wheat gluten with a mochi-like mouthfeel) and cooked tableside in a light kombu dashi broth.
Each slice of gyutan should only be swished around in the broth for a few seconds. Otherwise, they will become tough and chewy, and that’s a big no-no!
Enjoy the boiled gyutan with either the Momiji Oroshi Ponzu, a tangy ponzu sauce with a hint of
spiciness; Lemon Pepper that is also offered with the grilled meats; or the luscious Goma Dressing, a homemade sesame sauce I simply couldn’t get enough of.
For those who prefer pork, there is even the Kuribata Shabu-Shabu (S$20, dinner only), which features chestnut pork slices accompanied by the same vegetable platter and sauce choices.
After all that gyutan, don’t forget to end dinner on a sweet note with Gyutan-Tan’s line-up of masterfully-prepared desserts by Chef Yoshiyuki.
Keep it simple with ice cream (available during lunch and dinner) like Hokkaido Vanilla (S$4) and White Peach (S$5.50), or the silky and creamy Home-made Egg Pudding (S$4, dinner only), served with caramel sauce on the side.
For something with a little more complexity, the Japanese Tiramisu Parfait (S$11.50, dinner only), a rum-infused dessert comprising whipped mascarpone and coffee jelly under a layer of kinako, dango, and vanilla ice cream, will do just nicely.
We also enjoyed the Matcha-Afo Guard (S$10.50) — freshly whisked bittersweet matcha poured tableside onto a stack of kuromitsu (black sugar syrup), vanilla ice cream, warabimochi, and white chocolate shards.
Rounding off the entire menu is a selection of beverages, including free-flow Hot and Cold House Green Tea (S$2.90), Sapporo Draft (from S$8.90), and inventive speciality mocktails (S$7.90) like the Sunset Spritz, Yuzu Awakening, and Violet Squeeze, a peachy keen concoction of yuzu, peach syrup, lemon juice, lavender citrus tea, and butterfly pea tea.
The goodness of gyutan deserves to be shared, so head on down to Tras Street for a unique and literally tongue-in-cheek experience as soon as you can!
Reservations can be made here.
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