With the cost of dining out going up in the last few years, it is good to find a new restaurant such as Ginza Kuroson in Ngee Ann City that delivers very decent food at just as decent prices.
The eatery, which opened last month and serves a varied range of Japanese fare, from sashimi to kamameshi, is an offshoot of a restaurant of the same name in Robertson Quay.
However, it boasts a more upmarket, elegant ambience befitting the Orchard Road address.
The focus of the dining room is a long counter where diners sit facing a display of seafood on ice, behind which the chefs prepare the cold dishes. Hot food is cooked in the kitchen at the back.
The seafood counter extends about three-quarters the length of the restaurant and the rest is taken up by a shorter counter with a display of huge slabs of Kuroge A5 wagyu beef in a glass case.
Above the counter, rows of lights hang from the ceiling, dangling long beige strips that form a wavy pattern like a mini Aurora Borealis.
Ngee Ann City, 03-10, 391 Orchard Road, tel: 6235-3785
Open: 11.30am to 2pm, 6 to 10pm daily
Price: Budget from $30 a person, but you can also easily spend more than $100 if you order wagyu and otoro
The lovely effect creates a modern design that should appeal to young executives seeking a nice meal without breaking the bank. While prices are not exactly low, a meal here can be pretty reasonable if you choose carefully from the menu.
Set lunches, for example, range from $22 for a Barachirashi Don (chopped fish and vegetables on sushi rice) to $28 for Foie Gras And Chicken Teriyaki Don.
A rice bowl that includes sea urchin, otoro (tuna belly) and ikura (salmon roe) costs $88.
Similarly, a la carte orders can be very reasonable - as long as you give the wagyu a miss.
Take the Dashimaki Tamago ($15), for example. The egg omelette made with "special soup" is listed as an appetiser, so I expect just two small pieces of omelette. But it turns out to be a big plate of... big wedges.
It is good too, soft and tasty, though the soup is not as special as the restaurant makes it out to be.
The restaurant also brings in some unusual fish, including yagara, which translates as "arrow shape".
It is a slender fish with a long, straight snout and is served as sashimi ($20) in thick slices.
The white meat has a mild, sweet taste, with a texture that is surprisingly tender, considering how chunky the slices are.
The Bluefin Tuna Sushi Set ($38) is pretty reasonable too, as you get two pieces each of akami, chutoro and otoro sushi - cuts of tuna in ascending order of fattiness.
I usually enjoy chutoro, which is slightly fatty, but the one here is a little fishy. The akami and otoro are just fine.
If you want to splurge, you can also try the Wagyu A5 Sushi Set ($84).
But I find it pricey as there is only one piece each of raw beef sushi, seared beef sushi and tartare roll.
And not being a fan of raw meat, I enjoy only the seared beef. A little bit of heat melts the fat and brings out the aroma so much better, I feel.
I'd rather spend on the Wagyu A5 "Nikujyaga" ($15), where cubes of beef are simmered till fork-tender with potatoes and vegetables.
The meat is delicious and the fattiness is balanced nicely with the vegetables. There is enough to split between two people, as two or three pieces of the fatty meat are enough to hit the spot without killing the appetite.
The kamameshi with sea urchin, crab meat and ikura ($68) is disappointing though. It looks lovely, a small pot of glistening rice topped with the colourful seafood, but I find the rice too hard and the crab meat dry. The sea urchin tastes bland too.
Still, I'd go back to Ginza Kuroson. It is a lovely restaurant and is in a convenient location. And even though the food can be hit or miss, there are enough nice dishes to try. And at good prices too.
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•Life paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here