I wonder if there might come a time when I will not have to make an annual trip to Japan to have my fill of good sushi. The number of excellent sushi-ya here is growing and Ashino (01-23 Chijmes, 30 Victoria Street, tel: 6684-4567) is the latest one.
Walking in, the smell of hinoki wood reminds me of sushi restaurants in Tokyo and the omakase ($400) meal I have almost transports me to the Japanese capital.
Taku Ashino is the itamae, and he does not follow the traditional order of sushi, My first piece is akami zuke, usually served towards the end of the meal. He also ages the fish he serves, using methods he refuses to discuss. I guess I will just have to be content with eating the sushi.
And it is quite something. The rice is warm and more tart than in most places. He uses a mix of red and white vinegar for the shari and does not pack the grains too tightly.
Among the standouts in the meal: nodoguro sushi, aged for 10 days and so very springy; a silky chawanmushi made with botan ebi stock so that it is robust and refined at the same time; steamed abalone, pictured here, dabbed with sauce made from its liver; and raw and grilled ishigakigai, a shellfish.
The price is steep, so this will have to be an occasional treat, for that terribly long waiting time in between trips to Japan.
INDONESIAN HOME COOKING
Some friends of mine whipped up a wonderful meal recently and I was lucky enough to be invited.
Egg belado, tempeh with peanuts and anchovies, fried chicken marinated with lengkuas, it was a feast. As if all that was not enough, there were also bowls of bakmie topped with chicken and mushroom; lontong, and rawon, a soup made with buah keluak, a pungent black Indonesian nut, and cubes of beef.
I've said before that the sweetest words anyone can say to me are "home-cooked meal" and at a time when it is so easy to eat out or do a takeaway, I am glad that some people take pride in cooking at home.
IN HIS ELEMENT
If you get my Facebook feed, you'll know that I have a friend, Lawrence, who is a terrific home cook. Meals at his home are epic and he manages to cook all manner of things in a tiny kitchen. The first time I had lunch at his place, I was at a loss for words - this does not happen often.
So after a lot of discussing and planning, he did a Lolla's Secret Supper at Lollapalooza, a restaurant in Keong Saik Road, on a Sunday, when it is usually closed. The 26 seats for lunch ($148 with wine), sold out in a flash and I began to wonder if Lawrence would be able to feed 26 as easily as he feeds 12.
It turns out he was in complete control and in his element in that kitchen. I have never seen him so excited and so happy. He also made enough food for 40 and happy guests took home leftovers.
This feast turned out to be epic too, with sous vide duck's egg topped with lard, chilli, kani miso and fish sauce; frog's legs; big, juicy prawns and roast chicken with old ginger, Bentong ginger, lengkuas and turmeric. My favourite courses were the crab rice, the shellfish sweet and creamy; and the fried Hokkien noodles, with thick yellow noodles from Malaysia, a ton of seafood, dark soya sauce and sous vide egg yolks.
I'm egging him on to do another one. Let's hope he says yes.
Hashida Garo (04-16 Mandarin Gallery, tel: 6235-2283) is quiet at dinner time, making it a good place for peace, quiet and good food.
Does Singapore need another Japanese restaurant? Probably not. But I am glad this place has opened.
It is the second venture by chef Kenjiro Hashida of Hashida Sushi Singapore, also in the same mall. He strikes me as someone who does not like to be hemmed in. He is not just a sushi chef, he makes delicate pastries, is into fashion and art, and Hashida Garo is a place for him to showcase all these other interests.
You would never be served Buta Kaku ($20) at Hashida Sushi. The cubes of pork belly are simmered in dashi and do not put up a fight when you take a bite. Also good are the Wagyu Croquettes ($18 for two), greaseless and crisp. These are dishes the kitchen pulls off well, but which do not fit into a the menu in a sushi restaurant.
His macarons, in yuzu, black tea, hojicha and matcha ($3.50 each) are also available at Garo. Although he does not make the Hokkaido Cheese Cake ($3), I love it because it is light and a perfect marriage of sweet and savoury.
There are days when only comfort food will satisfy and recently, I had a craving for pasta. The problem is that once I start, I cannot stop. All I will want to eat for the next couple of weeks is pasta any which way. But if I ignore the craving, it just gets stronger and stronger, leading to a big chow down and yes, a bender.
So I decide to give in.
The Rigatoni Bolognese ($18) at Brunetti (01-35 Tanglin Mall, tel: 6733-9088) is not the least bit fancy but that's the whole point. The pasta is perfectly al dente, the sauce is made with care so that it is nuanced, and the portion is generous.
While having it, I keep wondering if I should do a Bolognese sauce for my cooking column Hunger Management. I can imagine simmering ground beef in tomatoes and red wine for a long time and then ladling the sauce over pasta before shaving Parmigiano Reggiano over it.
Oh dear. Look what a simple bowl of pasta has started.