Enjoy the best of Niigata in Singapore
Forget scouring Tokyo or Hokkaido for fresh Japanese produce, Japan’s coastal province Niigata is home to one of the largest varieties of seafood and produces the rice that gives Japanese sake and sushi their outstanding reputation. When Chef Ken Ling of upscale Tóng Lè Private Dining invited us to try his six-course menu (available for lunch and dinner), we jumped at the chance. Each ingredient was handpicked by Chef Ling himself during a trip to Niigata and transformed into six mouth-watering dishes.
With the sweeping view of Marina Bay Sands and the Fullerton Bay Hotel behind us, the meal kicked off with a little bit of theatre as a stunning dish of sazae, or turban shell was presented atop a bed of kelp noodles (umi shomen), surrounded by thick clouds that emanated from the bowl of dry ice that held the dish. Rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, the sazae was cooked with ginger and coriander paste - an earthy flavour that balanced well with the refreshing umi shomen that had been marinated with bonito, yuzu and mirin.
Dancing its way into our heart was the Maitake, or “Dancing” mushroom that was served with Nameko mushrooms and a whole tomato in a slow-cooked lobster and tomato consommé . The soup warmed us up from head to toe, comforting us as the rain fell outside. While the mushrooms were delicious, the generous chunks of lobster overshadowed the tangy tomato.
You can’t have a Japanese meal without fish, and the Medai, or Japanese Butterfish was delightfully creamy and went extremely well with the slightly spicy turmeric paste on top. The room was silent as everyone savoured the perfectly cooked fish - if only there had been more. The blended paste of turmeric, yellow ginger, dried shrimp, garlic, shallots and lemongrass together with the fresh calamansi we squeezed on top was a revelation. Served together with Japanese golden leek and eryingii mushroom, this is one dish we couldn’t get enough of.
It was a hard act to follow up, but the Kurobuta pork made a valiant effort. Marinated with garlic and leek, it was juicy and tender - our knife slid through like butter. Served with a deep fried fig (that tasted a little like a sweet eggplant) and three sauces - grated radish with yuzu, yuzu soy sauce and sea salt - the pork was delicious enough to enjoy without any of the condiments.
The Koshihikari rice from Uonuma City in South Central Niigata Prefecture lived up to its name of the “crown jewel” of Japanese short-grain rice. Waiters poured piping hot seafood soup into our bowls, which were filled with rice that had been cooked and reduced in chicken stock and covered in a mashed mountain yam paste as well as crispy Uonuma rice, shallots, trumpet mushrooms. A large, crusted Hokkaido scallop crowned this moreish dish, and was a welcome addition to the rice, which had a slightly nutty flavour.
As the meal came to a close and we had rotated and come full-circle back to Marina Bay Sands, the beautiful and colourful dish of the famous “Niitaka-Nashi” pear and Okesa-gaki persimmons ended the meal with a sweet note. Both fruits are best enjoyed in autumn and were showcased in three ways. The persimmon tart with caramelised persimmon and marzipan was creamy, delicate, and topped with a slice of persimmon. In the centre lay two slices of pear, one soaked in red wine and one fresh and untouched. Finally, there was the molten persimmon purée topped with pear jelly, fresh pear balls and basil seeds that was served in a teacup shaped glass.
Available from 27 October to 11 November for lunch between 11:30AM to 3PM and dinner from 6PM to 11PM ($120++ per person), these seasonal offerings from the land of the rising sun are sure to please even the most picky palate. Tóng Lè Private Dining, 60 Collyer Quay, OUE Tower, Level 8 & 10.
Tel: 6634 3233.