A couple of months ago, a colleague asked me where she should go for teppanyaki.
After racking my brains, I could come up with only a few recommendations: Takumi Tokyo in Marina @ Keppel Bay, Keyaki at the Pan Pacific Singapore, Mikuni at Fairmont Singapore and Nadaman at the Shangri-La Singapore.
There was also Shima but it was closed at the time.
If my colleague asks me again now, however, it will be on the list. Shima is back. JR Group, a food company that runs restaurants such as Imperial Feast in Boon Lay Way, bought the 34-year-old Japanese restaurant from previous owner Katsuhiro Watanabe last year. And after a two-month renovation, it reopened in Goodwood Park Hotel about a month ago.
I used to go to Shima in the 1980s and 1990s for teppanyaki and shabu shabu because it offered a good-value a la carte buffet lunch. And it was there I first ate grilled shishamo, or "pregnant fish" because it is filled with roe. It was not part of the buffet but we would order it because it was a novelty at the time.
The restaurant used to occupy the second floor of an annex to the hotel's main building, but later moved to the ground floor. Today, it is still on the ground floor but looks totally different after an overhaul of its interiors. Only the original cast-iron hotplates for the teppanyaki counters remain.
You enter into the main teppanyaki room with several seating counters, each facing a hotplate where a chef prepares the meal. Behind are private rooms, a general dining area as well as a sushi counter and shabu shabu room. They add up to a seating capacity of 110, even though each room looks cosy on its own.
The restaurant looks sophisticated, with dark wood accented by crimson upholstery and bronze finishes at the counters. More importantly, it is equipped with a new ventilation system. You no longer have to worry about walking out smelling of fried food.
The cooking, however, remains pretty much the same as some of the old chefs have stayed.
The teppanyaki buffet lunch offers the best value. At $49.90 on weekdays and $59.90 on weekends, you get free-flow salmon sashimi, tempura, assorted meats, seafood and vegetables, garlic rice, miso soup and dessert. If you want better quality beef and some of the restaurant's specialities, you have to order a la carte or get one of the more than 10 sets available.
Prices vary according to your choice of meat and whether you want lobster as part of the meal. They range from $90 for a set with chicken to $310 for lobster and Japanese wagyu, which is grade A5 Kagoshima beef. You can supplement your set with extra a la carte orders.
The Japanese wagyu beef ($140 for 120g as an extra order) has excellent marbling and is bursting with fat and juices. The chef tops it with chopped spring onion and garlic - a nice touch that tempers the fat a little.
The chicken ($22 for 100g) is worth ordering for the homemade teriyaki sauce it is fried with. It tastes less sweet than commercial sauces and I like the sesame seeds sprinkled over the meat.
Salmon ($25 for 100g) is another popular item for teppanyaki here. The chef makes a small container out of aluminium foil and poaches the fish with a delicious soya-based sauce.
My experience of shabu shabu, however, is not as good. I pay $80 for a set with US ribeye and $110 for another with Australian wagyu, which is not cheap as the rest of the set comprises just vegetables, noodles and rice.
The broth is decent but I cannot help thinking that, at those prices, I can have a better Chinese hotpot at Imperial Treasure Steamboat. And Man Fu Yuan at the InterContinental hotel serves a deluxe version - the best I've tasted - with wagyu beef, kurobuta pork, abalone and more for a minimum of $150 a person.
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SundayLife! paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.