Gourmet Japan, an annual festival of Japanese cuisine, is back with its biggest line-up of events in its four-year history.
For six weeks starting next Tuesday, aficionados of Japanese fare and tipple would want to loosen their belts for a gastronomic programme of 22 dining events and cooking workshops, showcasing the best of culinary talents and produce from the Land of the Rising Sun. These events are offered by at least 22 chefs from more than 25 restaurants and bars.
The year's edition is twice as long as the inaugural edition in 2012, which saw 14 events held over three weeks.
Adding star power to the line-up are three guest chefs, including Chen Kenichi, one of the original Iron Chefs from the Japanese reality TV cooking competition, and Hiroyuki Sakai, who was the series' resident French cuisine chef.
Chef Chen, 59, owns Shisen Hanten, which has more than 14 outlets, including one that opened in Mandarin Orchard Singapore last January.
Also known as The Szechwan Sage, Chen will be collaborating with his son, celebrity chef Chen Kentaro, at an eight-course Sichuan heritage dinner, which includes dishes such as steamed snapper with Boston lobster, clams and pickled chilli sauce, and mapo tofu with Hokkaido rice.
The older Chen notes that diners can expect to savour the taste of spring time in Japan through seasonal ingredients brought in to whip up the "Chen family- style cuisine".
He says: "Cooking with my son brings me joy each time, as most professions do not allow you the opportunity to work with your family. I am my son's culinary mentor and we get to take advantage of each other's strengths when cooking."
Gourmet Japan is organised by event management and exhibitions company Sphere Exhibits, a subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings, and food and beverage consultancy Poulose Associates. It is presented by Japanese credit card company JCB International and card-holders receive 20 per cent off all event prices.
Mr Ian Lim, senior manager, Gourmet & Festivals, Sphere Exhibits, says that the festival has been extended because it has been a hit with diners, restaurants and beverage brands.
Sphere Exhibits expects more than 1,600 diners to attend the Gourmet Japan dining events and culinary workshops this year. Attendance costs from $25 for a cooking workshop to $448 for the sold-out vintage sake-pairing dinner at kaiseki restaurant Ki-Sho in Scotts Road.
Last year's edition attracted more than 1,000 attendees to these events.
Making their debut in the festival this year are Japanese cuisines such as robatayaki and teppanyaki, in which luscious meats will be paired with whiskies including those from Hakushu.
Standing out among the many dinner events at the festival is a sold-out brunch that marries French and Japanese cuisines, by chef Ryoichi Kano of fusion restaurant Lewin Terrace.
Besides the more extensive food selection, there is also a boost in the booze line-up. On top of sakes, whiskies and cocktails, diners can sip Japanese wines by Yamanashi winery, Tomi No Oka and aged sakes such as Meikyo Shisui by Osawa Brewery from Nagano, which has been producing sakes for 300 years.
Mr Lim notes that the popularity of Japanese whiskies here has risen dramatically since they were highlighted in past instalments of Gourmet Japan.
He says: "It is time to expose diners to a broader range of Japanese alcohol so that they gain a more in-depth understanding of these high quality products."
An Evening Soiree with Suntory Whiskies
What: Chill out with a panoramic view of the city's skyline with Suntory's popular Hibiki Japanese Harmony whisky, which is smooth and well-balanced with hints of Japanese oak.
Where: 1-Altitude Gallery & Bar, 1 Raffles Place
When: April 22, 6pm
A Tantalising Teppanyaki Dinner with Suntory Whiskies
What: Highlights of this nine-course meal include a seafood nabe comprising king prawns, scallops and cod fish, Japanese wagyu beef and tuna, salmon and kanpachi. These delicacies can be enjoyed with Japanese whiskies such as Hakushu 12-Year-Old and Yamazaki 12-Year-Old.
Where: Teppan-ya, Mandarin Oriental Singapore, 5 Raffles Avenue, Level 4
When: May 5, 7pm
Sichuan Heritage Dinner
What: This eight-course dinner by Chef Chen Kenichi of the Iron Chef fame and his son, chef Chen Kentaro, promises to be a tantalising tapestry of flavours. Dig into chef Chen Kenichi's signature mapo tofu, stewed abalone with Kyoto bamboo shoots with crab roe sauce and pan-fried wagyu beef marinated in Chinese wine and Japanese pepper. Pair these dishes with liqueurs such as Hibiki 12-Year-Old and Hakushu 12-Year-Old.
Where: Shisen Hanten, Mandarin Orchard Singapore, 333 Orchard Road, Orchard Wing, Level 35
When: April 23, 7pm
The Junmai Ginjo Sake Dinner
What: Savour dishes such as tomorokoshi tempura with konbu butter and topped with crispy parmesan, kanpachi carpaccio with uni, ikura and caviar, grilled river prawns topped with mentaiko and chutoro with hokkaido scallops. Enjoy them with sakes such as Sawaya Junmai Ginjo and Meikyo Shisui Junmai Ginjo.
Where: Sushi Jin, Owen Link, 1 Farrer Park Station Road, 01-11/2
When: May 27, 7pm
Tomi No Oka Presents the Craft of Japanese Wine Dinner
What: Pair premium Japanese meats such as Kagoshima beef and kurobuta pork with wines by Japanese winery Tomi No Oka. It produces wines made from grapes such as Koshu and Muscat, cultivated in Yamanashi near Mount Fuji.
Where: Fat Cow, 1 Orchard Boulevard, Camden Medical Centre, 01-01/02
When: May 6, 7pm
The Art of Japanese Cuisine Workshops
What: Get hands-on cooking tips from Japanese culinary maestros. Chef Seiichiro Arakawa from Han Restaurant in Odeon Towers will share his recipes for Hamburg steak and black cod in soy sauce, while chef Kenji Okumura from Takumi in Marina at Keppel Bay will shed some light on cooking grilled smoked Hokkaido scallops with Konbu- flavoured asparagus and sukiyaki-style beef with seasonal vegetables.
Where: ToTT Cooking Studio, 96 Dunearn Road
When: May 9 and 10, 10am, noon, 2 and 4pm
What: Those who are tipple-happy can head to 12 bespoke bars for cocktails concocted with Japanese liqueurs such as Pavan, Midori and Prucia. New participating bars this year include Elixir Bar at Kuvo in Orchard Shopping Centre, which has a Hakushu Boulevard cocktail - a blend of Hakushu Whisky, Prucia Plum Liqueur and Apple Cider Vinegar, and Fabrika in Hoe Chiang Road, which offers creations such as Elevation, a mix of Hakushu whisky with vermouth and dried orange peel.
Where: Various bars
When: April 21 to May 31
Price:Starts from $16++ a cocktail
A Robatayaki Dining Experience with Hakushu Whiskies
What: Appreciate the art of slow-grilled meats over hot charcoal at this 11-course meal. Dishes include a dried salted kawahagi (file fish), kinki fish from Hokkaido and tebasaki (Japanese-style fried chicken). Dishes will be paired with vintage Hakushu whiskies.
Where: Akanoya Robatayaki, Orchard Parade Hotel, 1 Tanglin Road, 01-01
When: May 20, 7pm
Uma Uma Ramen Promotion
What: Ramen fans can slurp up a spe- cially created ramen, which comes with a dollop of mentaiko (marinated cod roe) on a bed of noodles. Choose from chicken karaage, gyoza, chasiu or meatballs for the side dish and wash it down with a bottle of Suntory Premium Malt Beer.
Where: Uma Uma Ramen, Forum The Shopping Mall, 583 Orchard Road, 01-41/2/3
When: April 21 to May 31
Exquisite Sake Dinner
What: Helmed by Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai and celebrity chef Chen Kentaro, this seven- course menu features French and Chinese dishes. Diners can tuck into the duo's creation - beef sirloin stir-fried with Sichuan chilli, roasted in salted bread crust. Other dishes include daikon- wrapped lobster and snapper with yuzu- marinated abalone and a ochazuke dish of salmon with XO sauce in a chicken and pork consomme. Dishes will be paired with sakes such as Yamagata and Hououbiden.
Where: ME@OUE, OUE Bayfront, 50 Collyer Quay, penthouse level
When: May 30, 7pm