The sense walking into the new space is exciting; met with a blank canvas save for the name inscribed on the wall, and the torii peeking by. The pseudo gate leading you inward is no accident as the journey through echoes the path taken to Shinto shrine. The dining space is divided into three distinct caverns; the main 12-seater hall and two private rooms that seat seven and eight. Each carry elements not only significant to the aesthetic, but to the brand itself.
The eight-seater mirrors the Hashida home in Aomori, as well the first restaurant in Tokyo with the use of the same Hiba wood. The thatched awnings overhead complete the traditional Japanese spirit, as does the rare 200-year-old beams imported from an ancestral house in Kyoto and Sakura wood chef’s table in the seven-seater.
Still, it would be fair to say that the main dining hall is a work of art. You’re first caught by the presence of the dramatic ceilings. Quietly in white yet eccentrically textured, the installation resembles a mountainous terrain, a body of clouds, or waves frozen in undulating motion (Chef Kenjiro Hashida says it’s open to the individual’s interpretation).
You then notice the greyscale gradient around you, emphasized by the subtle panelled walls. The altogether rounded edges of the space flows across even the protruding stove behind the chef’s workspace. The moment of awe heightens why you get to know that Chef Hashida designed the space himself. With the same keenly creative touch, the master sushi chef of nearly three decades of cooking, manifests his vision in his food.
It’s the deft hints in the dishes that put them above what you may regularly familiarise with as Japanese cuisine, from the tiny dollop of plum sauce on chawanmushi, a sweet seaweed paste made from stewed sushi seaweed, to the grated lime zest sprinkled over sashimi. The sushi, whether lightly seared with binchō-tan or brushed with sauce, do—for lack of better phrasing—melt in your mouth. The standout kinmendai (golden eye snapper), kamasu (Japanese barracuda) and signature hand carved otoro linger in the mind even after the uni-ikura don.
A big draw is the man himself, who is equal parts respectful in his technique and playful in his words. While carefully making incisions on the giant slab of fish, he laments the inexplicable Singaporean preference for the term 'not bad' over 'good'. ("Why they say 'not bad'? To me 'not bad' also means 'not good'." Cue multiple head-shakes. "After over nine years here, now I understand it means 'good'.").
At the end of the meal, he hands us a sheet of paper in solemness. On it, printed the popular Learn How to Make Sushi meme. As the restaurant settles into its third location over seven years, it’s good to see the chief and his culinary team stay zealous, while still maintaining their sense of humour, in their devotion to the craft.