Restaurant Review

Restaurant review: Chef sets the meal at Sushi Mitsuya

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Feb 24, 2013

Tras Street, once a sleepy street behind Tanjong Pagar Road, has become a food destination - with good restaurants such as Korean eatery Kko Kko Nara and French brasserie Gavroche drawing the crowds.

The latest tenant on the street is upmarket Japanese restaurant Sushi Mitsuya. Like Shinji in Raffles Hotel and Sushi Ichi in Scotts Square, it is a fine-dining sushi restaurant - albeit slightly cheaper - that offers only omakase sets. That means there is no a la carte menu and you leave everything to the chef. All you need to do is to pick what price you want to pay.

The design of the restaurant is also typical of a traditional sushi restaurant, comprising a long counter made with pale-coloured hinoki (Japanese cypress) wood. Diners sit on one side, from where they can watch the chef at work behind the counter.

At Sushi Mitsuya, there is also a private room for six people. That would be good for diners who want to chat among themselves, but otherwise it's a lot more fun at the counter.

That's also partly because, unlike at Shinji and Sushi Ichi, the mood here is more convivial. Chef Ryosuke Harada, a Tokyo native who has worked at Sushi Hiro in Hong Kong as well as at the sushi restaurant in Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, is a chatty guy who explains each course in detail in Japanese-accented English. He also speaks a smattering of well-enunciated Cantonese, picked up during his five years living in Hong Kong.

For dinner, you get a choice of two menus, at $200 and $300. I picked the cheaper one, which comprised 15 items, served one by one, including a soup and dessert. Starting with a trio of appetisers that included a lovely chicken roll stuffed with asparagus, it was almost all seafood after that. Two courses of sashimi led the way, comprising different fish such as tuna and horse mackerel.

The horse mackerel was served in a unique way though. Instead of just being sliced into thin strips and served with grated ginger on the side, it was also rolled in seaweed together with the ginger and some baby chives. It looked like a maki roll with the rice missing. In the mouth, it was delightful, the various flavours blending nicely.

Another raw item that was delicious was strips of squid served in sea urchin sauce. It was a simple and inspired match, and the usually bland squid never tasted so good. Then there was the file fish served in a sauce made from its liver. I am not a fan of fish liver but somehow, when mixed with the fish, it became less fishy and was quite palatable.

Some of the sushi items that came later were just as inventive. There was a piece of garoupa that was aged for three weeks and then marinated in soya sauce before being used to wrap the rice. It was the first time I had eaten aged fish and the flavour was stronger and the texture softer than fresh fish. Then there was the mackerel sushi, which came with a slice of vinegared seaweed on top, that added a different texture to what could have been an ordinary piece of sushi.

And for variety, the anago or sea eel sushi was rolled into a ball, temari sushi style. It looked pretty and I always like how you could just pop temari sushi into your mouth without fear of it coming apart.

If I had to find fault with the dinner, it was that there wasn't any particularly pricey item that gave the diner a sense of good value. For example, there was only a piece of chutoro sushi, with a cut of tuna that was medium fatty. Substituting it with otoro, tuna

belly that is the most prized part of the fish, would have left a better impression - especially since many foodies here love the fatty cut. Also, compared to the other fine-dining sushi restaurants here, I felt the rice here lacked a discernable character. There was nothing wrong with it, but it stayed very much in the background, leaving the seafood to make the impact.

Other than these quibbles, Sushi Mitsuya is definitely worth checking out - when you are in the mood to splurge.

ahyoke@sph.com.sg

SundayLife! paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.