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Does the highest level of Japanese gastronomic experience have to be created by a Japanese Master Chef? Frank Young explores Tburu and discovers the answer
Ihave eaten plenty of Japanese food in my life. Although, I refuse to believe that a chef’s ethnicity must match the ethnic cuisine for it to be good, I must confess, I have eaten in many Japanese restaurants where the chefs weren’t Japanese and, more often than not, it ended unsatisfactorily.
Calvin Yeung, Serial Restaurateur
So, when I arrived for a tasting at Tburu, it was with some reluctance and trepidation. Calvin Yueng, the mastermind behind Tburu (a phonetic play on the word for “table” in Japanese), was there to greet the guests. The first thing I thought to myself was: “Uh oh, let’s hope I’m wrong!”
As I discovered, Calvin is a Hong Konger with a flair for design and gastronomy. He has opened a series of Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong which received wide acclaim, and his latest two were Japanese restaurants in Singapore – Kiku at Duxton Road and Tburu at Orchard Gateway.
Spartan Meets Sophistication
Tburu’s décor is modern minimalistic chic – simple lines, lots of warm unvarnished wood and glass. At first glance it appears spartan but it’s in the details where the magic begins.
From the exquisite translucent green and blue sake glasses to aluminium cups with rattan handles, and to the sensuous bamboo cutting board upon which the food is served, every detail appears to be meticulously and aesthetically planned.
Visual and Gastronomic Delight
The first dish to arrive was the Cucumber from Kyushu with homemade miso. At first glance, it appeared ho-hum. However, the miso was exquisite. The trifecta of taste – sweet, salty and umami – melded in harmony and grew ever so addictive, while the cucumber provided cool and crunchy satisfaction.
The Kanpachi Carpaccio (yellowtail thinly sliced) with Truffle Oil ($22) and the Hotate (scallop) Chawanmushi (Chawanmushi starts at $8) were equally exciting in taste. Their presentation with bits of flowers and caviar was a work of art in colour and details. It was a fantastic start.
Next up were the Whole Fish Sashimi and Mentaiko (roe of pollock and cod) Sushi & Sake Mentaiko Aburi (top-grilled) Sushi (sushi and sashimi prices vary). They were fine but they didn’t achieve the former wow factor. Where they were lacking, the Hotate Foagura Maki ($32), or scallop sushi with foie gras sprinkled with sprigs of tiny yellow flowers, brought back the shine.
Cubes of wagyu were enclosed in a fine glass bell jar filled with charcoal smoke. Lifting the bell jar released the aroma of the grilled wagyu. The experience was extraordinary.
Finally, from the grill, the A4 Japanese Wagyu from Gunma Japan ($22) and Iberico Pork Jaw ($18) were presented like works of art. Cubes of wagyu were enclosed in a fine glass bell jar filled with charcoal smoke. Lifting the bell jar released the aroma of the grilled wagyu. The experience was extraordinary.
The Iberico was scored evenly on one side, then presented curled in a cluster, making it look like ribbons on the cutting board. Both premium meats were juicy, flavourful and charred to perfection.
Overall, Tburu paired visual sensuality with a fine Japanese dining experience. And it surpassed many of its contemporaries in its field.
I left happy and relieved; reaffirmed in my belief that the quality of ethnic cuisine is irrelevant to a chef’s ethnicity because of people like Chef Calvin Yueng.
By Frank Young
TBURU, Level 5, Orchard Gateway @ Emerald, Tel: 6221 0004
Author’s note: Some items mentioned in the article were specials of the day and their prices were not indicated.
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