A slice of heaven

Chateaubriand from Japanese BBQ Yakiniku Yazawa
Chateaubriand from Japanese BBQ Yakiniku YazawaPHOTO: ST FILE
Ozeki sparkling sake from Sake Inn
Ozeki sparkling sake from Sake InnPHOTO: ST FILE
BBQ Jo Kalbi from Japanese BBQ Yakiniku Yazawa.
BBQ Jo Kalbi from Japanese BBQ Yakiniku Yazawa.PHOTO: ST FILE

This story was first published in the Straits Times print edition on June 10, 2010.

As I write this, I am licking my lips in anticipation. I am going to Yakiniku Yazawa again, which is to say I am going to beef heaven.

This new eatery, which opened on May 21 at Robertson Walk, is a branch of a Tokyo chain that includes Yakiniku Jumbo and a steak and hamburger restaurant called Meat Yazawa.

Its Singapore outpost serves high-end yakiniku, the Japanese version of Korean barbecue.

While perusing the menu, order a Fresh Lemon Sour ($8.50), a fizzy mix of lemon soda and shochu that perks you right up. Or try Calpis Sour ($8.50). Despite the unattractive name, this sweet cocktail made with the milky Japanese soft drink and shochu is wonderfully refreshing.

Then snack on crunchy Daikon Kimchi ($10), which has a good garlic and chilli kick. Namuru Moriawase ($16) is a long platter of crisp beansprouts, cold spinach and soft, marinated maitake mushrooms. I also like the Gyu Hohoniku Karashu Sumiso ($15), thin slices of beef cheek with a mustard-miso dressing.

Skip the Yazawa Salad ($14), unless you like greens sprinkled with sesame seeds and tossed with an unremarkable dressing.

Instead, save space for the main event.

The Chateaubriand ($120, below), from the thickest, centre part of the beef tenderloin, arrives in a triangular block, a rosy red with white streaks of marbling running down it.
When the fairly thick slices of beef go onto the grill, built into the table, the most wonderful smell and sounds start to emerge.

Cook the beef for five to six seconds on each side so it is rare in the middle. It needs nothing else, as the tender meat has already been sprinkled with salt and pepper.

The more sanely priced Jo Kalbi ($20), thin slices of beef short rib lightly coated with tare (a sweet and tangy soy-based sauce), is also good.

Our server recommends cooking for five seconds on each side, but really, three seconds is plenty. That luscious meat, the oozing fat, a little bit of rice – perfection.

There are various other cuts of beef to choose from but if stumped and on a budget, order the Kiri-otoshi ($20), a mixed plate of different odds and ends of beef. The one we had was not shabby at all. It came with good-sized pieces of well-marbled meat marinated in the tare sauce.

Pork is also available and the Ton-toro ($12), slices of pork cheek, cook up delightfully springy. Press the edges against the grill so they get a little charred. Seriously delicious.

Dinner here is not a smoky affair. The fumes get sucked into the vents on the sides of the grill and someone comes along often to change the grill plate. Heaven forbid that you should cook good meat on something with too many char marks on it.

I could sit there all night, ordering plate after plate of beef, and be quite content. But try the Tan ($18), slices of ox tongue.

Seven seconds on each side, then a squeeze of lemon juice. It is chewy, robust, flavourful.

I can’t wait until the ban on Japanese beef is lifted.

hsueh@sph.com.sg

Japanese BBQ Yakiniku Yazawa, 11 Unity Street, 01-01 Robertson Walk, tel: 6235-2941. Opening hours: 6pm to midnight daily, last order 11.30pm