Food Picks: Yakiniquest, The Grocer Bar and The Pantry Muse

Enjoy grilled beef tableside at Yakiniquest. PHOTO: YAKINIQUEST

Elevated grilled beef

For years, Yakiniquest, a terrific yakiniku restaurant, was off my radar. I could not wrap my head around its location. Boat Quay is just not a place I think of when I want a good meal.

In January, owners Suguru Ishida, 49, and his wife Tomoko, 48, moved their restaurant to Mandarin Gallery and it is back on my radar again. It says something that the restaurant has been around for eight years. Since 1998, the couple have made it their mission to eat their way through the best yakiniku restaurants in Japan.

And so, when Ishida-san grills your beef tableside, you appreciate the fluid way he rotates the grill and how he glides thin slices of beef over metal. Juicy, beefy goodness lands on your plate.

Lunch omakase meals are priced at $88++ or $128++, and dinner omakase meals at $138++ or $188++. My Lunch Omakase Appetite course ($128++) is a substantial meal with a starter, salad, wagyu goma shabu, eight cuts of grilled beef, hot beef curry rice or cold noodles, and dessert.

In the shabu course, thin slices of beef are rolled up with super-thin matchsticks of leek and cucumber, and served on a bed of housemade sesame sauce. Each bite is tender, soft and crunchy all at the same time.

Wagyu Aburi Sushi at Yakiniquest. PHOTO: YAKINIQUEST

The eight cuts of beef run the gamut of flavours and textures. Thin slices of zabuton or chuck flap are grilled for a couple of seconds then draped over rice flavoured with red vinegar, the better to appreciate its minerality. Thicker slices of this cut appear later in the meal, and I appreciate both its flavour and springy texture.

Tomo Sankaku or tri-tip is all texture, that sort of bounciness that makes my heart flutter. There is also the restaurant’s signature Yakisuki, beautifully marbled beef flashed grilled and ready to be swished in egg yolk, sukiyaki style. It is velvet.

Signature Yakisuki at Yakiniquest PHOTO: YAKINIQUEST

As if all this is not enough food, you have to make a difficult decision for the “closer dish”. Will it be beef curry with rice or cold Inaniwa udon? My dining companion and I order one each and share. The curry is very comforting and the spicing punchier than I expect it to be. Dashi granita makes the noodles so refreshing after a meal of red meat.

From Oct 3 to 9, the restaurant is offering an 11-course gyutan or beef tongue omakase meal for $148++ a person at dinner. Tongue will be served in myriad ways – including in oden, as sashimi, corned and grilled. I have a preview of one of the paper-thin slices of grilled tanzaku, beef tongue sliced horizontally. I take a bite and it snaps right back at me. Utterly delightful.

Where: Yakiniquest, 04-08/09/10 Mandarin Gallery, 333A Orchard Road
MRT: Orchard
Open: Noon to 3pm, 6 to 10.30pm daily
Info: Call 6223-4129

Cocktails in a supermarket

Cocktail, cheese and charcuterie (left) and FairPrice Fizz The Grocer Bar in FairPrice Finest at The Centrepoint. ST PHOTOS: TAN HSUEH YUN

The hottest bar in town is not in some hip dining enclave or a hotel, but in a supermarket. It is not easy to get seats at The Grocer Bar at the recently opened FairPrice Finest at The Centrepoint. I rock up at dinner time on a Friday to find every seat and temporary standing table taken. I am luckier on a Sunday, but minutes after I sit, I have to change seats to make room for other patrons.

It is safe to say The Grocer Bar is a hit. There is the novelty: Hey look, I can have a cocktail in the supermarket.

And the good prices – cocktails are priced mostly at $15, house-pour wines are $8.90 a glass, Red Dot craft beers on tap are $7.90 for 375ml. Or buy a bottle of wine from the huge selection at the supermarket, have a seat and drink it – for $5 more. There are bar bites – oysters (six for $19.90), and cheese and charcuterie platters (from $15) – among other offerings.

How many supermarkets can boast of a signature cocktail? The Centrepoint ($18) is everything I love – muddled fresh raspberries, lemon and gin. It is eye-poppingly tart and refreshing. Make sure the barkeep uses Monkey 47 gin. The lavender is non-existent, which in my book is a good thing.

Cocktails are priced mostly at $15, house-pour wines are $8.90 a glass. ST PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN

You have to order the FairPrice Fizz ($15) too – a tall, cool drink of gin, strawberry, lemon, egg white and soda that is fizzy, but not so alcoholic as to make you fuzzy.

To go with the drinks, I order the very substantial Gourmet Purveyor Choice ($28) – a cheese and charcuterie platter with ham, prosciutto, three types of cheeses, slices of strawberries, grapes, olives, nuts and sultanas. Then I sit back and marvel at how supermarkets have changed.

How can grocery shopping ever be a chore here? I am going to need a bar in every supermarket I frequent.

Where: The Grocer Bar, FairPrice Finest, B1-09/10/11, The Centrepoint, 176 Orchard Road
MRT: Somerset
Open: 8am to 10pm daily (supermarket), 10am to 10pm daily (bar)

Healthy cookies

Cookies from The Pantry Muse. PHOTO: THE PANTRY MUSE

Many people will argue that the words “healthy” and “cookie” have no business sitting side by side. Can it possibly taste good? That thought was ringing in my head when I opened a jar of The Pantry Muse’s Oat Boms.

I finished the entire jar. I mean, over four days. But still.

Ms Goh Shu Yi, 36, who started the home-based food business with her husband Daniel Goh in October 2021, makes cookies using about 30 per cent less sugar than might be called for in recipes. The Oat Boms ($8.90 for 100g, $15.90 for 180g) are her newest creation, sweetened with honey, agave nectar and maple syrup. The crunchy, addictive morsels pack in rolled oats, coconut, chia seeds and raisins. I love the lick of saltiness too.

Her 60% Dark Chocolate & Pecan and Ruby Cranberry Cornflakes ($8.90 for 100g, $15.90 for 180g) have a wonderfully crisp texture and I have to give my jars away before I polish them off. I regret this move. Guess I will have to order more.

Info: To order, go to Delivery costs $4.90 and is free for orders $60 and above

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.