It’s 5.30pm on a Wednesday evening, and diners are settling in fast into Esora.
A family chatters excitedly behind us, while we spot a lone diner at the counter going through his meal in comfortable ease, just next to a young couple on date night. Whether it’s front-of-house or behind the counter, the movements of the staff here meld in perfect harmony. One wouldn’t have even guessed that their previous head chef was publicly let go in January after an internal investigation regarding staff mistreatment if not for the news.
Thankfully, it seems that the much sought-after restaurant hasn’t fallen short since Head Chef Takeshi Araki and Chef de Cuisine Noboru Shimohigashi swiftly took over the reigns in January. The former brings with him experience from Tokyo’s three-Michelin-starred Nihonryori RyuGin, and the latter, Odette, so it isn’t surprising that they’ve managed to retain Esora’s Michelin star this year despite everything that happened.
Some things, however, remain unchanged. The restaurant’s iconic Foie Gras Monaka, for instance, continues to set the scene for the rest of the meal. This summer, the sandwich of flavours is served with a slices of fresh fig, fig jam, sherry vinegar gel, fresh myoga and microgreens. When eaten bottom-side up, the layered textures are amplified thanks to the juxtaposition between the crunchy figs and smooth foie gras.
Esora’s signature Chicken Wing is also deceptively simple, the punches the sticky piece pulled had us licking our fingers discreetly, savouring every last remnant of the moreish piece. Here, the bones of the chicken wings are removed, and generously stuffed with a medley of sweet, Japanese hairy sauteed Chinese cabbage and chinese chives. Add to that the chicken stock and Mizkan black vinegar that it’s glazed with, and you’ll see why we couldn’t forgo even the tip.
We could also go on about how much we enjoyed the clean and refreshing Hamo (pike eel), a clarified soup crafted with napa cabbage, winter melon, kombu, and hamo. Our exact words in our tasting notes write “I could have this forever” — but we’d like to bring your attention to The Grilled Tachiuo.
Here, the silver beltfish sees a curing of salt before it’s coated with rice puff flour and sent to the binchotan. The result? A kiss from the heat puffs up the ‘skin’ to create a heightened crunch, while teasing out the natural oils from the fish to accompany the sautéed zucchini it rests on.
We could go on about the standout dishes here, but the true highlight of the meal really was the restaurant’s tea pairing. Here, tea is taken quite seriously, with each brew perfected in ways to bring out flavours you’d never expect. The warm Tie Guan Yin, for example, sees the slow roasted oolong tea that’s usually characterised by a thicker mouthfeel infused with white pepper, lemon peel and zest.
No detail was ignored over the course of our meal. The additional little rice ball from the Donabe we had earlier to take home allowed us to reminisce over the mixture of delicate kinmedai, the warm rice, and the aromatic oba leaves the next day, while the individually placed flowers in the bowl that held our dessert of Miyazaki mangoes was the perfect setting for the summery treat. It’s easy to see why diners come back to the restaurant time and time again.
Esora is located at 15 Mohamed Sultan Rd, Singapore 238964. The nine-course lunch menu is priced at S$298++; while the ten-course dinner menu is priced at S$338++.
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