The first time I ate sashimi was 33 years ago when, as a budding food journalist, I was invited to lunch at Nadaman restaurant on the 24th floor of Shangri-La Hotel. It took me some effort to swallow the thickly sliced maguro, but that experience was enough to get me hooked on raw fish.
Back then, Nadaman was among the top Japanese restaurants, with tatami rooms, servers in kimonos and one of the priciest menus in town. It moved to the hotel's ground floor later, but over the years, its standards tumbled and it closed down a few months ago.
A new Japanese restaurant, Nami, has taken its place at the Shangri- La Hotel - and at its old spot on the 24th floor.
The advantage of the lofty location is the view of a verdant landscape in the day and distant twinkling lights at night. The restaurant takes advantage of this by setting most of the tables by the window. For diners who prefer to watch the chefs at work, there is a row of seats at the sushi counter.
The ambience is cheerful and comfortable, with a clean contemporary feel. A silver artwork that covers the wall behind the sushi counter is the focus of the dining room.
Nami's a la carte menu covers a range of culinary styles, from sushi to tempura to simmered or steamed dishes. There is also omakase ($150, $190 and $220) for those who prefer to leave the decisions to the chef.
For me, Nami is not as good as the high-end omakase sushi restaurants here, but neither does it charge their astronomical prices. Dinner here would cost about $200 a person, which is what you pay at a number of local Japanese establishments, except that you get a level of refinement and service that is a notch higher than most.
Level 24, Shangri-La Hotel, 22 Orange Grove Road; tel: 6213-4398; open: lunch (restaurant and terrace): noon to 2.30pm; dinner (restaurant): 6 to 10.30pm; dinner (terrace): 6pm to midnight
Price: Budget about $200 a person, without drinks. But you can fill up on $50 with a quick meal of rice or noodles
Sushi chef Hiroyuki Ono comes from Tokyo's well-known Sushi Kanesaka, so those who have dined at the two Shinji by Kanesaka restaurants here - at St Regis and Carlton Hotel - would find his style of sushi familiar, where small lumps of well-flavoured rice are snuggled under long slices of fish. The sauce is often painted on, so there is no need for separate soya sauce dips.
Shinji's sushi is better in my opinion, but this is not bad either. The tuna belly ($22 a piece) I have is a generously sliced piece of fatty fish laid over rice that hits the spot. And it is hard to find fault with the uni sushi ($18), which comes topped with a good amount of creamy sea urchin.
Equal attention should be paid to the restaurant's other chef, Akiba Shigeo, who comes from Yokohama.
His Pan-fried Tuna Head With Chef Akiba's Sweet Soy Sauce ($60) is listed in the menu under a section called "not to be missed", a sentiment I agree with.
The chunks of boneless fish are perfectly cooked - firm and fragrant outside from the pan-frying and smooth underneath. The sauce is sweet enough to balance the fat in the fish, but not so sweet as to cover its natural flavour. A serving, which comes with two pieces of meat, is enough for two persons.
Another dish from the same section that also should not be missed is the Japanese Saga Wagyu Beef Sirloin A4, Sea Urchin, Rice, Chef Akiba's Special Sauce And Seasonal Truffle ($65). There is an onsen egg too, which you break and mix into the rice with everything else - resulting in a delicious and comforting combination of flavours.
This, too, can be shared - unless you want to have it all to yourself, in which case you will not need to order much else.
But you should leave room for some of the appetisers, which come in surprisingly large servings - especially for a Japanese restaurant.
For example, the Poached Hiroshima Oyster Marinated With Sesame Oil ($19) has three plump oysters, each sliced into two pieces. It is a luxurious feeling to bite into the luscious shellfish, which is mildly flavoured by the seasoning.
There are many pieces in a serving of Soy Marinated Fried Chicken ($15) too. I enjoy the karaage chicken, but it is a common dish and the version here is not that different.
Still, it is priced very decently, especially for a fancy restaurant, so if you enjoy fried chicken, go ahead and order it.
Besides the dining room, there is also an alfresco terrace which offers a different menu of small bites. It opens only for dinner because - to paraphrase the Noel Coward song - only mad dogs will want to sit there in the midday sun.
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•The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.