Famed for its minimalist approach to omakase, Shoukouwa is an unassuming edomae sushi bar feted by the Michelin Guide. We ate 16 courses to find out if a meal here is worth the hype
In a time-strapped city weaned on affordable Japanese cuisine, haute sushi is something of an anomaly here. Its storied craft, which can be traced back to the 8th century, has evolved to suit the modern invention of instant gratification. With the persistent popularity of conveyer belt sushi in Singapore, there is no waiting around for le chef to mold each morsel with careful precision – it’s mechanical, but efficient. You came, you saw (maybe take a few photos for the ‘gram), and you ate.
At Shoukouwa, a two Michelin-starred omakase hideout at a spartan corner of One Fullerton, the concept of instant gratification is a sacrilegious one. Enter, and the first thing you’ll spot is a modest ensō painting looming over a narrow eight-seater bar – the space, decked in muted, neutral tones, is unremarkably minimalist. And as with most edomae sushi restaurants, a itamae holds court, inviting you to linger. The message is obvious: the pursuit of perfection is stripped to its bare essence.
My 16-course meal—part of an exclusive collaboration with GastroMonth—includes a well-rounded selection of sashimi, cooked dishes, nigiri sushi and dessert. Fresh ingredients are flown in daily from Tsukiji Market and its superb quality is evident in the sashimi. First we have an underrated Akashi sea bream, simply garnished with shiso sprout – light and firm, it’s a subtle start. The smoked bonito, topped with crunchy leek and soaked in ponzu sauce, is a precarious balance of sweet and savoury. The menu teases, then plunges into murky (and in my opinion, controversial) territory with the kegani, steamed Hokkaido hairy crab with sly slivers of shark’s fin. It’s my least favourite dish and thankfully, the restaurant is open to dietary requests.
By now, dining at Shoukouwa feels like a symphony. It lifts with a delightful uni ikura kodonburi (who can possibly forget the buttery, custard-like sea urchin?), followed by a rousing crescendo. It’s tempting to inhale the trio of maguro tuna, but take your time to savour the chutoro, which takes over with melt-in-your-mouth creaminess. Chef Yoshio Sakuta has a surprise up his sleeve – he sears the otoro aburi with a binchotan charcoal grill, giving this fatty, prized part of the fish a smoky, umami flavour.
So what makes fine sushi great? According to our Sapporo-born maestro, one all-important hallmark lies in the rice, which is replaced every hour. Consistency is priority, and the rest of the grain is unapologetically discarded. Every detail matters – from the temperature of the rice, right down to the pairing of vinegar. White goes with lean cuts of fish, and red with the fattier parts. Patience and persistence is also a constant in the art of sushi making, as training typically spans 10 years – apprentices start by perfecting the cooking of the rice, and only then are they allowed to progress.
“It’s tough, because you wonder why you’re doing the same thing again and again,” quips the amicable Sakuta.
But here we are, and its fruit is sweet.
The 16-course omakase lunch menu ($240 ++ per person) is available from 13 to 19 November during GastroMonth, which partners Michelin-starred restaurants to offer exclusive menus at more affordable prices.
Shoukouwa, #02-02A One Fullerton, 1 Fullerton Road, Singapore 049213, p. 6423 9939.
Lunch (Tuesdays to Saturdays) 12pm – 3pm (last seating 2pm)
Dinner (Tuesdays to Sundays) 6pm – 11pm (last seating 8:30pm)
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