This Japanese Chef Wants to Introduce a New Style of Omakase Dining in Singapore
For almost 30 years, head chef Ryoichi Nakatani has been committed to earning his mastery and praise as Head Sushi Chef—one that is not loosely awarded. Focusing on preserving the centuries-old Japanese tradition of Edomae-style sushi, Nakatani had spent his years honing his craft in the famed Tsukiji Fish Market, before moving to Singapore as a head chef in various acclaimed sushi-yas, including Hashida and Sushi Ayumu.
Today, he helms the kitchen at Sushi Ichizuke, serving up Edomae-style omakase, in hopes of allowing locals to experience the art of traditional Japanese food culture.
Originating in the 1880s, Edomae-style sushi was derived from Edo (old Tokyo), starting off as pushcart stalls along the street, where people could simply grab and go. Developed as a way of preserving food, Edomae sushi involves curing fish while maintaining its raw texture. The versatility of Edomae sushi sparked creativity in Nakatani, allowing him to create unique dishes that were not limited to fish surrounding Japan.
At Sushi Ichizuke, Nakatani continues to delight Singaporeans with new aspects of Japanese omakase culture, pushing its limits by shedding its conventional fine dining impression. He does so by incorporating the modernity of a high-energy nightlife ambience into the experience. As a guiding point, Nakatani plans his menu around the freshest catch at Toyosu Fish Market in Japan, as well as climate-specific ingredients.
In case you missed it: Japanese Whisky 2021: What New Rules Defining the Label Mean for Fans
At the sushi bar, Nakatani is in his element, skilfully air-searing kamasu (barracuda) with charcoal to chopping up toro (tuna) for the house-special handroll. The experience is high on drama, and Nakatani is aware that he has an audience of discerning diners watching his every move. He also interacts with his diners throughout their course at the counter, patiently educating his guests on each dish while answering any questions they might have.
As the menu is predominantly seasonal, Nakatani strongly urges diners to always try new items available, and learn more about the taste and unique elements of each season.
A notable dish is its house-special handroll—consisting of finely minced toro and takuwan (pickled radish) rolled in a crisp nori (seaweed) sheet, this handroll is filled with different textures and flavours which complement each other. Another favourite is the Ichizuke signature don, featuring toro, ikura (salmon roe), kinmedai (splendid alfonsino), takuwan, hanaho (shiso flower) and shiso leaf on a fluffy bed of Japanese rice. There's a theatrical element to how Nakatani carefully assembles the dish, showing off his skills as he balances each ingredient meticulously.
Read more: 5 Exquisite Sakes to Add to Your Collection
While exploring new ways of how expressing the Japanese omakase culture continues to be exciting, Nakatani also finds it a challenge to find a delicate balance between Japanese tradition and Singaporean’ preferences. “Local taste is always going to be different from one’s own traditions,” he explains.
“Some traditional fish used in Japan are not in favour with the locals in Singapore, due to their unfamiliar or stronger flavours. These fish are usually enjoyed in Japan where diners are more familiar and know how to enjoy them,” Nakatani continues.
Through Sushi Ichizuke, his first omakase restaurant, he hopes to introduce customers to these unfamiliar tastes, allowing diners to gain knowledge and appreciation of these traditional omakase methods. Building awareness and credentials of these methods will help solidify the presence of Edomae-style omakase amongst different groups.
“As we encourage more people to try the different facets of traditional omakase, we will slowly witness an increasing audience for this cuisine,” he notes.
Sushi Ichizuke | 3E River Valley Road, 02-02 Clarke Quay, The Cannery, S(179024) | 9489 8357