As a child, Kenjiro Hashida (‘Hatch’ ) aspired to be a painter. It was not till he was 14 when he helped out at his dad’s kitchen, did he first experience the infectious joy of a satisfied customer. 21 years later, he continues to be committed to the practice of perfecting the art of Japanese cuisine and of late, launched Hashida at Mandarin Gallery (Singapore) together with 2 local partners.
When asked if he will ever cease learning the ropes from his dad, master chef Tokio Hashida who hails from 6 generations of master chefs, Hatch’s response is “Never.” It is with Hatch’s single-minded focus on improvement, that made his macaron business such a success which led him to open a macaron factory to meet clients’ demands.
Hatch’s plating style is of a zen, minimalist vibe. A cold tofu dish delicately presented with a sprig led off the pack, followed by sperm whale fishballs. They were not the typical bouncy fishballs we know of – these were robust and chewy. Dipping it with saffron powder made this dish unique, but we will not go so far to say the end result was tasty.
A minute later we were treated to lobes of sea urchin (‘uni”), with hand-grated wasabi-toro which accentuated the sweet, brininess of the uni.
Freshness is guaranteed at Hashida. Not only is seafood flown in from Hokkaido and Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market six times a week, Hatch makes it a point to visit Tokyo at least once a month to ensure existing ties with his suppliers are maintained, so they will only sell him their prime produce. The aesthetic of Hashida’s is reminiscent of the spacious, woody inteiror of Sushi Ichi at Scotts Square, and it was an added pleasant surprise to be greeted with a familiar face, Kimura Tomoo, a former chef at Sushi Ichi.
The next string of cooked dishes were fresh, yet uninspired. Although the Hokkiado crab was fleshy and firm, we would like to have seen more depth to it in terms of flavour and presentation. Same goes for the Monkfish liver which had an unusual pasty quality. However it did not conjure feelings of remarkableness for the palate as it was simply served with sweet sauce.
We note that the Uni-ikura Donburi was a highlight for many reviewers. While we agree it was effortlessly good, it was not chart-topping since we are of the view that such a classic dish could hardly go wrong and could be similarly put together by a Japanese chef of a moderate skill level to the delight of many, as long as he is furnished with the right ingredients.
Alas, we reached the long-awaited sushi leg of the meal. What sets Hatch’s Edo-Mae sushi apart from your run-of-the-mill sushi chain’s is his attention to the tiniest of details. The temperature, pressure placed on the rice which follows his dad’s recipe, is a family trade secret. Hatch reveals that even the water used in the preparation of rice is from Japan.
High quality seafood dexterously cut rightly exposes its flavourfulness. When padded together with supple rice, it is a sure-win recipe for good Edo-Mae sushi. But to term what we had as mind-blowing, would be a tall order.
From the cheery Ebi (King Prawn), to the seared Aburi Taira-gai (Penshell clam) which had a smoky peaty uniqueness – the sushi belted out though undeniably fresh, was not spectacular.
For us, the saving grace of the night had to be the Otoro sushi, where decadent slices of Otoro were meticulously shaved off a gigantic slab of tuna belly. The result was an exquisite, melt-in-your-mouth sushi with lubricating fish oil that made this a joy to consume.
A handful of seasonal cut fruits later, we were presented with Hatch’s signature macarons that were featherlight and the perfect answer to that sweet tooth craving. That was it though, dessert was disappointingly one-dimensional. We read that the Mizu Manju Dumpling served with ginger syrup was sublime, but it would take more than a single dumpling to warrant our second visit to Hashida.
While we had a satisfying experience, we find it hard to understand why Hashida recently clinched the Best New Restaurant (Asian) for G Restaurant Awards 2014 as it would be hard-pressed to call it extraordinary.
This review was done independently, Popspoken has no affiliations with Hashida or related companies.
For more bang for your buck, visit during lunch where the omasake menu starts from S$80 (Tsubaki) to S$250 (Hiaraji). Dinner is a more luxurious experience, at S$300 (Tessen) or S$450 (Fukuju) per person.
333A Orchard Road,
#02-37 Mandarin Gallery,
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: +65 6733 2114
Open from Tuesday to Sunday 12pm – 3pm / 7pm – 10pm