If your fondest memories of old family trips to Japan aren’t about all the different meals you ate that are all somehow the best food you had on that trip, did you even go to Japan? It’s no surprise that Japanese cuisine is a crowd favourite amongst Singaporeans, even if you have to fork out a pretty penny for it. Enter Warafuuk, a store nestled underneath a block of HDB flats in Bukit Merah Central that will take you on a delicious trip down memory lane without breaking the bank the way vacations do.
Their varied menu means that whether you’re craving comforting bowls of udon and donburi, or want to feast on hearty steamboats and BBQ grills, there will be something for you.
What I tried
There are few problems that cannot be solved with a comforting bowl of hot udon soup, especially when it’s rainy and nothing you’ve tried is boosting your mood. And if your listlessness is caused by Singapore’s afternoon heat, Warafuuk also offers udon in cold broths akin to coveted instant revival potions in video games. Go for their signature Wara Mien (S$6), udon topped with shiitake mushrooms, grated daikon, tenkasu and paired with lime for cold soup and yuzu for hot broths, and thank me later.
Think of an afternoon picnic under flower-laden trees and impossibly blue skies—just like a warm spring day, the Wara Mien was light, citrusy, and refreshing. I have never been an avid fan of noodle soups, but if all of them consisted of seafood and vegetable-based dashi as aromatic as Warafuuk’s then sign me up for a gold membership.
If all you’re missing is a simple bowl of donburi, then you might gravitate towards the Wagyu Beef Don (S$11). Sweet dreams are made of thin slices of Wagyu beef, paired with freshly cut avocado wedges and doused in a generous amount of gravy. Take your pick from marinated roast beef or a smoky aburi, and then go right to town. I wouldn’t normally associate avocado with beef dishes, but the juxtaposition between the creamy fruit and savoury grilled meat somehow got along better than I do with my best friend. And that’s saying something.
A definite must-try for me when it comes to Japanese food is always mentaiko. Whether it’s on fries, salmon sushi, or on donburi, if I see mentaiko on the menu, I’ve been told I perk up like a kid in a toy store. Warafuuk also offers a Mentaiko Cream Maze Mien (S$9.80) that’s topped with nori, spring onion, and basil leaves. My hopes and expectations were high, but I think I would’ve liked it more if the mentaiko flavour was more pronounced. The chewy udon didn’t gel well with the curdy consistency of the mentaiko cream, much to my dismay.
The menu changes for dinner, and includes a Kyoto Style Steamboat (S$10.90+) with Warafuuk’s signature udon broth, which is seasoned with a combination of Sichuan peppers and herb spices. Treat yourself even on a cheat day with a medley of chicken meatballs, kiriboshi daikon, tofu, and vegetables that promise a nutritionally balanced meal without the slightest compromise in flavour. Take it up a notch with add-ons such as Pork Shabu (S$1.50), Sliced Salmon (S$1.20), or crack an egg into the broth for a pleasantly sweet flavour that warrants a round of applause and then two more curtain calls.
Warafuuk also offers a BBQ & Seafood Grill (S$10+) that all meat lovers will definitely want to take notes about. Imagine an almost cartoon sizzle and the smoky smell that clings to your clothes and hair even as you head home with a full stomach and contented smile. Take your pick from juicy Wagyu Rump (S$9), Wagyu Ribeye (S$15), Jumbo Prawn (S$3), and more, or enjoy the best of all worlds with a little bit of everything.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t enjoy a hearty BBQ with smoky medium-rare strips of Wagyu beef. Even more so when it’s dipped in a fragrant combination of Warafuuk’s homemade speciality sauces—either a refreshing wasabi sauce, a spicy chilli padi sauce that packs a good punch, or the signature gravy that I will continue to sing praises for. Just a little precaution from someone who learnt the hard way: the sauces will overpower the original charred smokiness of the beef if you’re not deliberately lighthanded. So if you want to preserve the hearty flavours of the meat, then stick to enjoying the meat as it is.
Most places have their fair share of hits and misses, but Warafuuk has an abundance of the former. My only gripe is that this little gem is quite remote, which means that any visit paid must be done with some patience, travelling time, Google Maps, and a hungry stomach. If you want to revisit a little taste of Japan right here in sunny Singapore, then I promise the trip down will be worth your while.
Expected damage: S$6 – S$20 per pax
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