I had my first Japanese omakase experience in 2016, and I’ve been hooked ever since. There’s just something about the element of surprise I cannot get enough of.
Special occasion or not, anyone with a love for omakase must put this innovative kaiseki-style Telok Ayer omakase restaurant Ikkoten on their list.
Helmed by Executive Chef Brandon Low, who specialises in Kyoto-style kaiseki (a multi-course Japanese meal prepared using seasonal ingredients, with each course defined by a particular cooking method and presentation style), Ikkoten Omakase aspires to take guests on an immersive journey through the rich yet clean-tasting flavours of traditional Kyoto cuisine.
The intimate 10-seater counter space is accessible only through its sister restaurant KURA Oyster & Highball, tucked behind a hidden door.
As for the menus, the meticulously-crafted five-course kaiseki omakase, Yuki (S$88++), is excellent value for lunch. But if you want to really splurge, come by for dinner and choose between the nine-course Tsuki (S$198++) and 11-course Hana (S$298++) — the latter of which we got to try.
Although the type and order of each course are fixed, dishes vary according to the availability of seasonal ingredients, so you can expect something different each time.
The meal began with Sakizuke, an appetiser similar to the French amuse bouche, comprising fresh beancurd skin in a thickened dashi sauce topped with sweet and creamy Hokkaido bafun uni.
It was then followed by Hassun, the course that establishes the seasonal theme (summer, in our case) of the menu.
This trio of dainty dishes was a feast for the senses, starting off with vinegary mozoku seaweed with micro cherry tomatoes; summer fruit fig with egg miso sauce and yuzu zest, which had an almost caramel-like sweetness; summer short eggplant topped with shredded bonito flakes; beancurd skin rolled with white radish; and the most adorable of the lot, a homemade lady finger fishball.
The Suimono was a palate-cleansing Kyoto-style green pea soup with winter melon, carrot, and Japanese seabass. Unlike most dashi-based soups, this was a lot thicker in consistency, with a subtly sweet pea flavour reminiscent of the nostalgic green pea snacks.
We then got to try two types of Tsukuri (seasonal sashimi), the first being delicate and chewy stone flounder rolled with bafun uni dressed in a traditional homemade sour plum soy sauce.
As for the second sashimi, bluefin tuna belly (otoro) from Nagasaki was grilled over charcoal and topped with an inventive soy sauce “bubble” foam.
You’re supposed to enjoy the delightfully fatty otoro as you typically would, with the wasabi and soy sauce. Just make sure not to eat the entire serving of foam as it’ll be way too salty — it’s still regular soy sauce, but in a different form, after all.
We then waited in anticipation for Chef Brandon’s signature Sushi course, which turned to out be unique, theatrical, and nothing like regular sushi.
This is the one course you’ll wanna whip out your phones for — an iridescent-looking crystal wafer is topped with negitoro, uni, and seaweed soy sauce, before being hit with a dramatic spray of edible glitter.
Yes, the glitter did get everywhere, but I wasn’t complaining as I popped the entire piece of “sushi”, a fun interplay of flavours and textures, into my mouth.
After all that drama, the Kobachi (small bowl) course came our way in the form of a sweet and creamy dessert-like Hokkaido sweet corn soup. You may be tempted to down it like a shot, but we recommend savouring it, sip by sip.
We proceeded on to the Yakimono (seasonal grilled fish), Japanese Spanish mackerel topped with torched burnt egg sauce that strangely reminded me of hollandaise, served alongside crispy lotus root and Japanese sweet potato.
You can choose to enjoy it with or without a squeeze of lime, but trying it both ways is a must.
Next up, the seasonal simmered dish, Takiawase, featured flaky and incredibly tender sea eel (anago) with housemade egg tofu in a pool of thickened dashi sauce. This was definitely one of the boldest and most intense dishes in the entire menu, flavour-wise, and I adored it.
One of the courses I’d been eagerly waiting for, the Shiizakana, or charcoal grilled beef course, consisted of hay-smoked Kagoshima A5 wagyu beef with sesame citrus sauce. It was served with crunchy vegetables, which should be munched on in between bites of the rich, insanely fatty, and melt-in-mouth beef.
Oh, and no matter how much of a crazy wagyu lover you are, three pieces of beef are just right. They were that decadent.
In preparation for the last savoury course, Shokuji, Chef Brandon used a traditional wooden kezuriki to hand shave bonito flakes (katsuobushi) right in front of our very eyes.
Freshly shaved bonito flakes boast a more intense flavour as compared to their pre-packed counterpart, and in this case, were used as a pairing with nukazuke oshinko, or rice bran pickles.
The final Donabe Meshi course, a stunning cherry blossom shrimp claypot rice, was then unveiled.
Fluffy and smoky rice prepared using a fish collagen dashi stock studded with sakura ebi, burnt miso soup, and pickles — what a fitting finale to the meal this was!
But of course, how could one resist the sweet, sweet siren call of the Mizugashi, or seasonal dessert platter?
The entire array — sweet and juicy Hokkaido yūbari melon, Fukushima peach, Okayama grape, a housemade matcha pudding topped with red adzuki bean paste and soybean powder, and to top it off, Japanese tea ceremony-style matcha — was exquisite.
All things considered, I thoroughly enjoyed this traditional kaiseki experience that showcased a seamless blend of tradition and innovation. After all, Ikkoten translates to “Paradise on Earth“, which I believe they have managed to achieve — even if just for two and a half hours.
So, if you’re looking to treat yourself to a unique Japanese dining experience that’s not your typical omakase, Ikkoten is the place to be.
Reservations can be made here.
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Photos by Christabel Tan