Chikuyotei Dining, Ngee Ann City
I had always passed this place on the way to Tonkichi, but I never came here even though I was intrigued. The only reason we came here tonight (Ngee Ann City #04-28, 6738-8954) was because there was a huge line in front of Tonkichi and we didn't want to wait. It turned out to be a mixed bag of surprises, both good and bad.
The biggest surprise was the yaki matsutake (a difficult to harvest and hence expensive mushroom from Japan), which they priced out at a whopping S$24 (US$14.50) for eight skinny slices. They brought out a little flame for us to grill them on and dip them into a sauce. These mushrooms are supposed to have a distinct spicy aroma, but here's where it disappointed as there was really no flavor - it just tasted like any other mushroom. At about US$2 a slice for barely a smidgen of food, that was not a bargain, and probably not something that I'll opt for again.
This place has always been rather proud of its unagi (freshwater eel) too, as it's apparently flown in fresh from Japan. In this case, the S$24 (US$14.50) price is worth it. You can immediately tell the difference between this unagi and all the other cheap stuff out there - there is a subtle amount of fat in this unagi that provides a much richer taste and delicate texture. Wow - nice one. They also offered a "deluxe" version for twice the price (and a 30 minute wait) - I wonder how that one tastes.
Probably the best thing about this restaurant is thus the ingredients, as further emphasized in the saba shioyaki (grilled mackerel with salt), which had a delicate yet crispy fatty skin for flavor and texture, as well as the negitoro maki (fatty tuna and spring onion sushi). But you pay for it too - the negitoro maki was S$19 (US$11.50) for six small pieces. Apparently that fatty tuna is quite an expensive one, including one dish featuring it for over S$100 or US$60. These guys also had the ever-pricey marbled wagyu beef on the menu for similar prices, which we obviously passed on. Fortunately, the tempura was not that expensive, but was still very light and fluffy, unlike that rubbish one gets in American Japanese restaurants with all that heavy batter.
So anyway, I feel like I got reamed in the end at this place with the heavy price tags and the still unfilled stomach. The prices are justified in the high quality of the ingredients, but I doubt I'll come here again (maybe just for the eel). The service was pretty spotty here too: the servants mixed up orders, ignored us part of the time, while also being too eager to clear beer bottles that were still full. Next time, I hope the line at Tonkichi is not as long as I don't want to come here for a consolation prize.