Kaisan at the Raffles Hotel

collageFor those mid-westerners who live in the mid-western part of the US (commonly known as the Mid West), sushi is a type of cuisine developed by the Japanese as part of a traditional ritual of see what is the scariest thing they can get you to eat raw.

They start out by serving you a nice, non-threatening piece of fish that is nice to eat. The trick is that they serve the fish with a bright green condiment called “Wasabi”, which in Japanese means “Mutant Horseradish” (It’s green for heaven’s sake!) This is an extremely spicy substance whose formula must never ever fall into the hands of terrorists. If you put it in your mouth, your eyes will tear, your nostrils will clear and your head will burst into flames.

This is when you reach out and grab a cold sake or beer and pour on your head. And since it is in your hands, you also drink it up. The result is that your judgement becomes impaired, which is a good time for them to bring out the prank food such as Geoduck.

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Other prank foods include clam parts, eels, tentacles with wanton suckers and if you eat those, the waiters will become brazen and start bringing out chunks of coral, plankwood and Geoduck.

My point is that, in a Sushi restaurant, you must watch carefully what you eat or better yet, get to know the Chef and ask, politely, for his recommendation.

I happen to like non-prank sushi and so when the Skinny Epicurean organized a sushi dinner at Kaisan, I replied with a loud enthusiastic “No!” I was afraid I’d touch a Geoduck. This blog is 35 years old, and did not get this far by touching Geoducks.

Geoduck!

However, Umami and other people reassured me that this is one of the best Sushi and Sashimi restaurant they have been to. And thus I found myself at Kaisan at the Raffles Hotel on Beach Road with the Lunch Bunch.

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And we got counter seats! These are ring-side seats where you can see culinary carnage as demonstrated by professional chefs wielding razorsharp sushi knives. Thomas Kok, the Executive Chef and General Manager and Roy (the other sushi chef) was kind enough to arrange the sushi beautifully for us to take our photos before dividing them up.

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Sensing our indecisiveness, Thomas designed a tasting menu that went from the non-threatening to the more exotic (aha!) as a course to acclimatize our palates. This is what we had (and then some):

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Both Thomas and Roy were very friendly and were sharing all kinds of tips, like when to use the Ponzu sauce, when to use the Soyu etc., and experiences with us. For example, the time to eat Alaskan King Crab was from November till February when the crabs are fat and juicy.

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Oh yes! I tasted my very first Fish Liver that night. Hinata was going on about this is the only liver she eats and how it’s very good especially when the blood spurts out as you bite into it. This blog has resolved never to be alone with her in a dark alley without any protection like a armored tank, a regiment of crack (har!) commandos and Superman.

Anyway, there was no blood spurting out as I bit into the huge chunk of fish liver. It was creamy and slightly dry (in a good non-squishy way) like biting into a thick chunk of Brie cheese. And it tasted like perfectly boiled pig’s liver, tender and sweet.

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The other good thing – there were many – was the toro or tuna belly. Thomas introduced us to the various ways of eating toro. Apart from the usual raw Otoro sushi, there was a blowtorch-seared toro sushi too. The surface was seared slightly to provide a slightly charred taste and a crisp texture and the tuna fat runoff went into the rice.

Oh yes, we are getting our fish oil supplements that night.

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Then came a very old-school sushi that only the elderly (and very very well-off) Japanese would know how to order. Uni with Otoro sushi.

Uni (or sea urchin gonards) is an acquired taste. Creamy, briny, coppery, bitingly bittersweet with just a hint of floral earthiness. I have seen people spit it out with a look of horror. I love Uni.

Mashed with Otoro, the fattiest part of the tuna’s belly and wrapped with very good seaweed, the taste sensation is very hard to describe in English, so I will transcribe our reactions verbatim: “Mmmmmm! Mmmmmm! Oh dear! This is so good! Mmmmmm! Mmmmm!”

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Thomas further explained that while he served it to us sushi-style, what the elderly Japanese would do is to have it in a bowl and a plate of dried seaweed and they would do the wrapping themselves as they chill out and drink fine sake.

I must say it’s a very very fine life.

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Speaking of seaweed, it’s supposed to be one of the richest sources of Glutamate, so if you are allegic to MSG, seaweed might cause problems for you too.

The other memorable sushi was the boiled Alaskan King Crab sushi. Friends of this blog would be amazed to read that I actually ate this monster. It was firm, sweet and very succulent.

“Mmmmmm! Mmmmmm! Oh dear! This is so good! Mmmmmm! Mmmmm!”

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By this time, we were all talking about our friends who were supposed to join us for the meal, but they had to fly off. Thomas then told us what were their favourite sushi and, of course, served it to us.

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And we found out that Thomas’ daughter loves reading food blogs and is a fan of The Skinny Epicurean. So if you do stumble onto this blog: Hello! 😉

We were also introduced to the most expensive sushi available. Pound for pound, the Hamachi Fin sushi is way more expensive than the finest O-toro. This is because one Hamachi fish has yields only two fins.

As advised, this blog chewed slowly through the fin. The texture was not unlike a soft piece of jelly baby, like a young sea cucumber.

Hamachi Fin

Finally, just in case we were hungry, we were presented a O-toro handroll. Thomas explained that some sushi places, to reduce cost, would mash up the fish and mix in a cheaper fish. No one would be the wiser as when it’s all mashed up, you really can’t tell the difference between good fish and the cheaper ones. Just like mincing Wagyu beef for hamburger patties. You can only identify the fish if it is cubed.

Otoro Handroll

Finally, the meal ended with a Yuzu ice cream that was creamy yet very refreshing like a sorbet.

“Mmmmmm! Mmmmmm! Oh dear! This is so good! Mmmmmm! Mmmmm!”

According to Thomas, this is seasonal and is very expensive as one Yuzu is like S$8 and to make ice cream as delicious as this, you’re gonna need… more than one.

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Kaisan is a very small Japanese restaurant that serves fine sushi and sashimi at very reasonable prices. In fact, there was a family there celebrating the son who is entering National Service soon. Thomas and Roy are very friendly and chatty. The food is so fresh that a shellfish actually attempted to escape from the sushi bar! This blog feels that there is no shame in saying that if the Geoduck started moving in the direction of the bloggers, he will, without hesitation, fling himself at the nearest door.

Anyway, service was a little awkward as the ladies were a little intimidated by the ferocious photo-taking by the bloggers. Call to make reservations or you will be disappointed. And if a stranger offers to acclimatize your palate with a Geoduck, you can defend yourself by throwing a bloody fish liver at her run away.

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Kaisan Fine Dining is at Raffles Hotel Arcade, Unit #01-21, 328 North Bridge Road, Singapore 188719, Tel: 63394929.


Posted on 12th Jan 2007 in Food and Drink, Japanese, Lunch Bunch

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There Are 17 Comments

 

Junie commented on January 12, 2007 at 5:03 am


hihi, can i know how much the whole meal cost?


 

tigerfish commented on January 12, 2007 at 7:42 am


That big orange pearl next to the roe(1st picture)…whaz tt ? So big…


 

ivn commented on January 12, 2007 at 10:16 am


@Junie: Let’s just say that this is a fine dining restaurant at Raffles Hotel and not the typical conveyor-belt sushi place.

@tigerfish: It’s Salmon Roe (Ikura). The small roe (Tobikko) is from the flying fish.


 

Junie commented on January 13, 2007 at 3:59 am


haha.. ok, thanks! any chance u can infm me of a rough price range? if its inappropriate to be revealed here, any chance of emailing it to me?


 

Junie commented on January 13, 2007 at 4:00 am


btw, ur blog’s pictures always make the food look very very good. Almost never fails to get me drooling.


 

ivn commented on January 13, 2007 at 9:38 am


@Junie: They have a “Omakase” menu that starts at $100+++ (can’t remember the courses in that though). Also, thanks for your kind comments. The photos are there to distract people from my inability to write as well as some people.


 

yuling commented on January 13, 2007 at 9:20 pm


hello, this is thomas’ daughter. i did stumble upon your blog, so here’s saying hi!


 

Ivan commented on January 14, 2007 at 12:15 am


@yuling: RightBackAtJu! Hope the stumble was not too bad. 😉


 

Junie commented on January 14, 2007 at 2:57 am


thank you (for the pricing!).

and for the writing, its just a different style! =)


 

umami commented on January 14, 2007 at 4:12 am


you guys sure ate well huh? I am definitely missing kaisan over here, but the paris eating’s been not too bad 😉


 

hinata commented on January 14, 2007 at 6:34 pm


sigh, so maligned! i didn’t say blood will squirt lah… was merely pointing out that if you looked closely enough after biting a piece off that you can see fresh blood… sorry if i disappointed, you been watching too much csi lately or what 🙂


 

superfinefeline commented on January 14, 2007 at 8:47 pm


At least Ivan was man enough to try the fish liver…I was still way too squeamish no matter what Hinata said. Sorry gal! 😛

Yo Umami! we missed you at dinner. 🙁


 

visinv commented on January 16, 2007 at 12:24 am


You make it sounds like an adventure and so different in writing as compared to mia’s…. But the food…. *Drool…..*

I have yet to step into this place… Looks like another notch in my “to try” list…. 😀


 

ikemen commented on July 18, 2007 at 2:18 pm


when i asked ” this is not wasabi, this is wasabi paste! can i have the real wasabi” and she said “we dont normally serve real wasabi, bacause most customer cannot tell the difference, if you want you need to request”… i dont fuckin’ believe my ears for this kind of shit, especially from a so called high end place like kaisan,, and i’m never going back, i’m not recommending my friends, AS SIMPLE AS THAT!!

imagine LV starts selling fake leather bags, and they gave an excuse that “oh, most cant tell the difference anyway.”

imagine savile row selling super 100s suitings and passes it off as super 150s, and tell us that ” most cant tell anyway,”

this is FUCKIN BULLSHIT.

the food at kaisan is good, quality is fresh, but if i’m fuckin paying 10-20 bucks for service charge and the high prices for food, then at least i can get real wasabi WITHOUT having to request for it?!

and quite a few staff cant speak proper english (i was told they’re from china)… not that this is a big complaint.. but certainly not expecting this from a high end place

cant imagine that they try to scrimp things like wasabi !!…

dissapointing.. if you want to know better places for jap food, let me know.

ike.


 

Ivan commented on July 18, 2007 at 3:26 pm


@ikemen: Actually, the use of Wasabi depends on what you order. Chef Thomas serves the food with the appropriate accompaniments, of which Wasabi is rarely featured as it tends to interfere with the true taste of the food.

While you have that option, but I think putting Wasabi on delicate pieces of sashimi seems like a tragic waste; like ketchup on Foie Gras. Or Chilli Sauce on Black Angus or Wagyu.

I too once made the same mistake of asking for Wasabi but was educated by my friends and Chef Thomas on the finer points of its use. There really isn’t a need for Wasabi for sushi/sashimi this good.

As for service, I’ve always had a good experience with them being chatty, friendly and warm. In fact, this is what we like as opposed to a dour demeanour.

Of course, if you think it’s bad here, you should try some of the restaurants in Paris, the service staff there can hardly speak proper English too. Same for the Middle East.

But that was not a barrier to excellent service and food. 😉

I guess we go to Kaisan to experience the warm, personable service and we trust Chef Thomas to design and create taste sensations without the need for “DIY add-ons” for his creations.

We should try to leave our parochial prejudices and post-Colonial inferiority complexes at the door.


 

ikemen commented on July 18, 2007 at 11:48 pm


ivan:

you didnt get my point –

i’m not talking about whether wasabi is necessary for the food / sashimi or not, i’m talking about them not giving pple the real stuff when they deserve to – folks, this is not 2-3 star jap place – and that
“they didnt know so unless you request then we give” kind of bullshit.

“parochial prejudices and post-colonial inferiority” ??! what the hell i deserve this “put words into y mouth” kind of shit?

doesnt mean i use shit and bullshit a lot then i have some prejudice or what, if it’s GOOD, then it IS, dude!

>> nuff said.


 

Ivan commented on July 20, 2007 at 2:39 am


@ikeman: What point is there to “get”? You said the food was good (“then it IS”), but your poor opinion of the service is based on your definition of “Proper English” and that you did not get the Wasabi you felt you “deserved” when in fact it was not needed.

I hesitate to use the word “deserve” like you do as it seems like a reward for being a good boy, but whatever.

However, from your comments, you asked for “Wasabi” and not “Hon Wasabi” which what you got and is in fact what you asked for, so I really do not see the basis for your rant.

Your prejudice does not come from the repetitive use of excremental terms but from your definition of good service which is mostly based on the use of proper English (post-Colonial inferiority complex) and the implied bias against foreign nationalities (simple prejudice actually because I think “parochialism” is too big a concept).

Anyway, to use your parlance (with better punctuation of course): when yous try fronting in my crib, I gots to defend my perogatives and make you my bitc


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