Omakase dining (letting the chef decide what to serve you) has never crossed my mind because I’m not a foodie and I don’t like paying ridiculous prices for food.
However, one fine day, my boss suddenly asked, “Do you want to try a very good Omakase place in the West?”
My boss was treating, so my mind was as open as his wallet, and I replied enthusiastically, “HAI HAI (YES YES)!”
On our way to the dining bar, my boss told me that the chef of Igokochi Dining Bar is a super talented Singaporean and that the incredible menu we were having is only $98 (I have never seen such a price for privileged Omakase dining). My enthusiasm faded by half and I was prepared to have a very mediocre dining experience because it didn’t sound very authentic.
Luckily for my boss though, I’m not a foodie AND I’m also not an ingrate. I duly adjusted my expectations to remain grateful and prepared myself for a lacklustre appetiser of pickles or jellyfish, trite California rolls with something ‘premium’ like an Unagi sushi sneaked in and I imagined we would end off with some boring miso soup in a fancy bowl and as a finale, disappointing Meiji ice cream for dessert.
Upon reaching the restaurant though, my enthusiasm was reignited when we were warmly invited to the counter seats where Chef Ivan was stationed right in front of us!
It was such a treat to just watch him slice the fish and knead small portions of rice in his hands to form exquisite pieces of sushi. His hand gestures are skilled; the variety of things he makes seems to be endless; and he is a great conversationalist! I suddenly felt warmed up even without alcohol. So exciting to get these first-class seats!!! Hello local Omakase dining experience!
While waiting to be served our first appetiser, I noticed that even though the chef and staff aren’t Japanese, we were being surrounded by Japanese customers! 3 out of 4 tables were filled with Japanese businessmen winding down after work with izakaya (bar) food and beer. This is a good indication that this is a good Japanese restaurant. You may find me shallow for saying this but what I am saying is true. You will not find Japanese customers in…uh…S***** Sushi or U** Sushi for example.
Our first appetiser was not pickles or jellyfish! It was a very exotic dish to me because it was a piece of offal!
It looks like foie gras; it even tastes like it (but please don’t take my word for it as I have only eaten foie gras once in my life), but it is actually monk fish liver!
A regular customer sitting next to us (who is obviously a foodie as he was having a customised menu he had pre-ordered. My goodness. I didn’t even know that you can do such things in life!) later told us that this monk fish liver appetiser that Chef Ivan had created was all kinds of amazing because of this and that. I listened with a bright smile and a dim mind because this was my first time eating monk fish liver so I had no other experience to compare it with.
The second dish, as promised on the menu, is a sashimi dish.
Watching Chef Ivan put the dish together was really exciting. You think that he’s done and ready to serve, but he goes on and on, adding surprising and beautiful elements onto the platter.
It is Autumn now, so look at my beautiful sushi platter with maple leaves! I was soooo happy. The aesthetics of the dish is really 100/100.
To be honest, I don’t like to eat sashimi?! Hahaha! And Chef Ivan actually told us that if there is anything he serves that we don’t eat, he can always change another dish for us. But I wonder what he would say if after all this effort, I tell him, “Sorry, I don’t eat raw fish.”
Also, the menu obviously stated that sashimi is part of the meal, so I wonder if anything can be done if I said that I didn’t want to eat sashimi? Haha! I can feel some people reading this rolling their eyes and thinking, “Don’t do a Japanese food review if you don’t eat raw fish la!”
Anyway, I didn’t reject this platter of raw fish because Chef Ivan explained some of the sashimi to us and pointed to us the seasonal items on our plate. I was greedily eyeing the Russian caviar on the Hokkaido scallop and the inviting slice of tuna belly. At the same time, my boss was also enthusiastically telling me to try the sweet shrimp that was…uh…very sweet, so how to reject???
No regrets tasting this platter! Everything was so fresh and satisfying! Chef Ivan’s supplier of seasonal fish also supplies to Michelin restaurants here, so I really think dining here is super value-for-money?! I’m no food expert but I believe if I were a Michelin food critic who had chanced upon this restaurant, this place would immediately be awarded a Michelin star from me.
By the way, do not feel shy to chat with Chef Ivan if you are here for an Omakase meal. I’ve learned so much from my dinner like how this pretty stalk of flowers can actually add flavour to my soy sauce!
Next, we had another eye-opening beautiful dish of wagasaki (smelt) done in 2 ways – grilled and fried.
Chef Ivan told us that we can eat the whole fish – from the head to the tail.
For someone like me who used to eat ikan billis carefully avoiding the heads, this was actually a nightmare. Still, although I’m no foodie, I guess I’m quite adventurous, so I tried to eat the whole smelt!
The fried one was nicer to me – the batter was light and the flesh was delicate and oily (the good, fish kind of oily). It was wonderful with the seaweed and truffle sauce!
*By the way, the head of the smelt tasted as bitter as my face probably looked when I bit into it. It truly is an acquired taste.
While waiting for our next dish, we were served a smoked radish dish as a filler. It’s my first time trying smoked radish and I found it so interesting!
The next dish was extremely exciting for me because it was cooked food finally!!!!
The kurobuta (black pork) is lean and fragrant. The sweet marinade that accompanies it appears to be a questionable choice at first. It tastes very good with the pork but it overpowers the taste of the foie gras at first. It was after I’ve swallowed my first bite and chatted with Chef Ivan for awhile that the creamy aroma of the liver gradually came through and filled my entire palate. It is probably a dish meant to be savoured at a leisurely pace.
After I had finished the star of the plate, there was still a beautiful piece of simmered lotus root to taste! It was hidden underneath the pork-and-liver parcel, surrounded by sprinkles of delicate fried garlic slices and thin strips of omelette. The pretty light pink sauce is actually a refreshing and sweet hawthorn sauce that made this dish very special and delightful! This is a dish I would be very happy to eat again the next time I come and I salute Chef Ivan and his team for this creative dish!
In the next course, the sushi-geta was brought out because it was sushi time finally! Yay!
In true Japanese fashion, the sushi is served piece by piece, fresh from the chef’s hand. The rice is warm and moist and if you are used to eating mass-produced forms of sushi found in the chillers, you will find that the rice here is not tightly compressed and therefore, will definitely fall apart if you dip it into soy sauce. I’m writing this to tell you that you aren’t even supposed to dip your sushi rice into soy sauce in the first place. I know I’m not a foodie and you want to live your own life, but if you come to Igokochi to eat quality sushi, at least suspend this habit temporarily to properly savour your fresh fish and vinegared rice!
The sushi prepared by Chef Ivan is also made into a perfect size for finishing in one bite. For thoughtfully-created sushi like this, really take all the time you need to enjoy the flavour party happening in your mouth!
Let me share some of my favourites!
Before I ate this dish, I told Chef Ivan that I honestly didn’t understand the hype over sea urchin because it tasted really disgusting the last time I tasted it at a popular sushi place in Shibuya. I was educated then about the different sea urchins available on the market.
Guys, if you want to understand how life is under the sea, please come and taste this seasonal special which will sweep you under the waves and turn you momentarily into a sea urchin living and breathing the waters in its habitat.
The sushi were all served in order from a subtle-tasting fish like shimaaji to the more powerful-tasting uni. I enjoyed the entire experience.
I think the sushi at Igokochi are outstanding and you might be pleased to know that they have a cheaper sushi omakase menu.
We were really quite full after our sushi and the Dancing Mushroom soup with Aosa seaweed and Mitsuba came at just the right time!
It was warm and refreshing and it cleansed the whole palate just in time for…
I really enjoyed this experience. Omakase dining is so personalised and it made me feel so special!
Prior to serving us our ice cream, Chef Ivan actually asked us a few questions to determine what flavours to serve us! And I have to say, I really love this Black Sesame Ice Cream. It is definitely not ice cream from Meiji. Please come and taste it for yourself.
When I asked Chef Ivan why he decided so early on in life (when he was 16!) that he wanted to pursue his dream of becoming a Japanese chef, he replied cheekily that he loves Japanese cuisine but it was so expensive to eat it! Now that he has say in his own restaurant, he and his business partners decide to create a high-quality dining experience at affordable prices so that more people can get to enjoy exceptional Japanese cuisine!
Chef Ivan started as a kitchen assistant at a Japanese restaurant in a hotel and through his pure love of Japanese food, worked his way up by being curious enough to observe and learn, and eventually asking the Japanese head chef working in the hotel if he could learn from the experienced chef. His love and devotion for Japanese cuisine seeped through our conversations that night and I found it a real privilege to have had a taste of this young man’s passion.
- Hidden gem in the West for sushi and Omakase dining
- Chef Ivan’s innovative, beautiful and delicious creations in his Omakase menus
- The very high quality yet affordable Omakase menus
- Seasonal fish served is from same supplier of Michelin restaurants here
- There’s a bar just next to the dining area for alcohol and bar food if you want somewhere to chill at instead
What to Order:
- Sushi Omakase ($78/lunch, $88/dinner) – if you are a fan of sushi in Japanese cuisine!
- Matsu Omakase ($98) – If you want a taste of everything!
- Sushi Platters (from $15 to 32)
What to Skip:
- Wow, I really don’t know (yet).
Igokochi Dining Bar, NEWest
Address: 1 W Coast Dr, #01-98/99, Singapore 128020
Telephone Number: +65 6963 9430
Nearest MRT Station: Clementi (Take the free shuttle bus from Exit D.)
Monday to Saturday 11am to 11pm,
Lunch 11am to 2pm,
Dinner 5pm to 10pm,
Happy Hour 11am to 8pm,