Helmed by Yoshio Sakuta, the former head chef of a local two-Michelin-starred sushi-ya, guests are almost guaranteed a similarly premium dining experience

Among the many things we’ve come to relish about dining out in Singapore, the luxury of a meal at a top sushi-ya has never been more greatly missed. So, while dining out during phase two remains a limited proposition—and with the possibility of moving into phase three still a huge question mark—the invitation to check out the latest to join the island’s already acclaimed list of fine sushi establishments is especially hard to resist.

We were also tempted by the fact that helming the kitchen at newly minted Sushi Kou is veteran chef Yoshio Sakuta who was last in charge at two-Michelin-starred Shoukouwa. We can only speculate that the unprecedented circumstances the F&B industry has been facing had unearth a new business opportunity for the chef and the restaurant’s founder, a Japanese businessman and avid sushi connoisseur who prefers to stay out of the limelight. But one thing remains certain, it’s a responsibility that Sakuta-san is equally invested in.

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The eight-seater omakase restaurant, located at Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre, is also named after the chef’s son. While the menus are designed to showcase the 42-year-old Sapporo-born chef’s intimate celebration of Edomae-style sushi dining, an approach he has developed and honed over the last 24 years.

To ensure a generously comprehensive experience, only two menus are available for lunch and dinner. Each includes 10 pieces of sushi, with the loftier of the two (the Kou menu) boasting two additional dishes, though both are worth the splurge. The steamed egg with hairy crab is an apt introduction to the meal, an exquisite melding of sweet-savoury notes, that opens both menus. Even better is the fact that the Hokkaido hairy crab in question (sourced from various locations at different times of the year) is not limited to a single season.

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Additional dishes to look out for could include steamed abalone with abalone liver sauce, which might be followed by a course of Japanese watershield immersed in a light vinegar dressing and topped with bafun uni. 

While it’s easy to appreciate how well and unassumingly the first five dishes work to whet the appetite, the one that was surprisingly most memorable was the wild ocean eel—a prized Japanese freshwater eel that migrates to the sea when it reaches sexual maturity. Cooked simply over binchotan with a few sprays of sake, the eel’s unadulterated, toothsome profile becomes more obvious with every bite.

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But the diner is soon reminded that unlike typically structured western menus, a good sushi omakase meal is more like an adventure—it builds up but also allows for both delicate and rich flavours to shine. It is occasions like these that one can truly surrender to the moment, if only to savour the fine complexities of a golden eye snapper or marbled Japanese flounder (karei). The sushi selection does culminate in a burst of umami, courtesy of  some in-season murasaki uni. And it gets better.

The course that follows stars one of my favourite fish, the Japanese blackthroat seaperch (aka akamutsu or nodoguro), lightly grilled and served with a gentle squeeze of sudachi atop warm rice seasoned with vinegar. Diners are instructed to use the back of the spoon to gently push down on the fish to release its oils into the rice. This variety of white fish is famed for its naturally rich and flavourful oils, which Sakuta-san affirmed is more evident in nodoguro caught around the tiny Japanese island of Tsushima (between the Tsushima Strait and Korea Strait). It is a seasonal catch but thankfully, the season has only just begun.

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Another exceptional specimen of wild caught seafood on the menu is a particularly large Japanese tiger prawn—the length of small woman’s hand—that’s gently cooked through and served over a little sushi rice.

It does stand out from the more dainty bite-sized portions of sushi most diners are accustomed to. But perhaps it is meant to be a visual reminder of this exceptionally indulgent menu. At these prices, such acts are almost expected. As are the option to pair the meal with some Cristal or Krug, or the chef's preferred Zaku Junmai Ginjo, while you contemplate spoiling yourself with a bottle of Kokuryu Muni Junmai Daiginjo Genshu

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