When wandering around Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market & Food Centre, it’s hard to miss Yao Japanese Rice House’s bright yellow storefront, lit up by shining lights that illuminate its signboard. When I visited this Japanese fusion hawker stall on a Wednesday around noon, I was greeted by a long queue of patrons, eager to order.
Yao Japanese Rice House serves an array of classic Japanese dishes, like Japanese Curry Rice (S$6.90), Teriyaki Chicken Rice (S$6.20), Potato Salad (S$6.90) and Salmon Wasabi Mayo Rice (S$7.50). The prices of the dishes are a little pricier than your average hawker fare, so I was interested to find out if the prices were justified.
What I tried
I decided to order the classic Japanese Curry Chicken Cutlet Rice (S$6.90) and a more unique dish, the Potato Salad with Grilled Chicken (S$6.90). Both dishes came with a small bowl of miso soup each.
First, I tried the Japanese Curry Chicken Cutlet Rice, which consisted of a fried chicken cutlet cut into pieces, Japanese curry sauce, an omu egg, pickled radishes and rice.
The first thing that I noticed was the stunning omu egg. Visually, it looked silky and soft, with gorgeous, delicate folds. The egg had a fluffy and smooth mouthfeel, and it was as soft as it looked. While it didn’t have a strong flavour, it was perfectly cooked with a fantastic texture.
Beneath the omu egg was a small pile of Japanese rice, which was soft and fluffy. However, the portion of rice was rather small. Given the price of this dish, I would have expected more rice.
The generous serving of curry sauce covered half of the plate. I was surprised to find that the curry was rather peppery and leaned more towards the salty side. Many Japanese curries that I’ve had have been more sweet than salty, so Yao Japanese Rice House’s version was definitely a little different.
When eaten on its own, I found the curry to be too salty for my liking. However, once I mixed it in with the rice and the omu egg, the saltiness became a lot milder as the curry was mellowed out by the more neutral-tasting elements of the dish.
The side of pickled radishes were a delight when combined with the rice, egg and curry as they were fairly sweet and sour, balancing out the overall saltiness of the dish without being too overwhelming.
The chicken cutlet was rather large in size, coated generously with breadcrumbs and fried to a lovely golden brown colour. As an avid lover of fried food, I must admit that I was looking forward to trying this chicken cutlet the most. And boy, it did not disappoint.
The surface of the chicken cutlet had a light, crispy texture and wasn’t greasy at all. The fried skin had a slight peppery taste, which added a bit more flavour to it. Meanwhile, the interior of the chicken was tender and soft.
However, the chicken cutlet was served on top of the pool of curry, causing the bottom of the cutlet to go soggy. Though the dish looks fantastic in terms of presentation, I’d much prefer if the chicken cutlet was not placed directly on top of the curry to prevent the unwanted sogginess.
Yao Japanese Rice House’s Japanese Curry Chicken Cutlet Rice was not mind blowing by any means, but the quality of the chicken cutlet and omu egg did justify the price a little.
Next, I tried the Potato Salad with Grilled Chicken, which came with two scoops of potato salad, a pile of shredded cabbage, an omu egg and a serving of chopped grilled chicken.
There were three sauce options for the grilled chicken: Japanese Curry, Black Pepper and Tonkatsu Sauce. I went with the tonkatsu sauce, which had a reddish-brown colour similar to that of barbeque sauce.
The potato salad was creamy and rich in flavour. It was texturally interesting as it was smooth yet chunky, being a combination of mashed potatoes, potato cubes, shredded carrots, cubed cucumbers and mayonnaise.
The tart creaminess of the mayonnaise was evident in every mouthful of the potato salad. It was sweet and tangy and provided tons of flavour to the neutral-tasting potatoes. The cubes of potatoes were a little on the firmer side, of which I would have liked them to be a little softer.
The addition of shredded carrots and cucumbers made the potato salad a tad bit crunchier, though the amount was quite negligible. Nevertheless, Yao Japanese Rice House’s potato salad was incredible, both in terms of taste and texture.
I found the grilled chicken to be rather interesting, as it resembled and tasted like an old-school grilled chicken chop from a Western stall. Like the chicken cutlet, this grilled chicken was cooked perfectly with a tender and soft texture.
The surface of the grilled chicken was lightly charred, giving it a very light crispy texture and a hint of a caramelised flavour.
The tonkatsu sauce, on the other hand, was rather sweet and tangy with a hint of citrus. It tasted like a less smokey version of barbeque sauce. It complemented the tender grilled chicken well, giving it lots of flavour.
The pile of shredded lettuce came with a drizzle of salad dressing. It was light and crisp with a delightful texture. I found that it combined well with the silky omu egg and the pieces of grilled chicken.
For S$6.90, I honestly found the Potato Salad with Grilled Chicken to be a little more expensive than I’d like, given how the portions weren’t very big. However, I found the novelty of the dish to be quite intriguing as it combined Japanese and Western elements pretty well.
I ended my meal with the miso soup that came with each dish. The soup was very light on the palate, similar to that of clear soup. It wasn’t too salty, yet had an evident umami miso taste. The bits of carrots and cabbages were soft and while they didn’t add much flavour to the soup itself, they did provide a bit of extra texture.
Yao Japanese Rice House’s dishes are slightly more expensive than most other hawkers, but I was quite impressed by the quality of their dishes. I find the S$6.90 price of both dishes to be a little high given that the serving sizes aren’t huge, but I’d certainly return in the future if I was in the Tanjong Pagar area.
Expected damage: S$6 to S$8 per pax
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