At the age of 55, Japanese chef Masayasu Yonemura is marking a new chapter in his culinary career and is not slowing down.
While he celebrates the 25th anniversary of his eponymous one-Michelin-starred Restaurant Yonemura in Kyoto, his entrance into the Singapore dining scene signals a change in direction for the Kyoto-born chef.
Last week, he was in town for the opening of his new teppanyaki restaurant Teppan by Chef Yonemura at Resorts World Sentosa . It is his first outpost out of Japan and the first for such a concept.
If Teppan by Chef Yonemura proves successful here, he plans to take the concept back to Japan - and potentially open in a hotel, an environment he has never worked in before.
With the focus on his new venture, he is also looking to hand over his Kyoto restaurant next year, along with its Tokyo branch, to loyal staff who have been with him for the past 25 years.
Calling it his "special year", he says it is "time to change my style". But this change is not a sign of retirement, contrary to a report in The Straits Times in which he had said he would retire at the age of 55.
He says in Japanese, via a translator: "My policy is to educate and motivate my staff. It will be a pleasure to see them take over and continue working hard."
Should his handover plans come to fruition, the restaurants will no longer carry his name. And if he loses the Michelin star for the Kyoto outlet, he says matter-of-factly that "it's okay".
Teppan by Chef Yonemura carries the French-Japanese fare and flair that Yonemura is known for, having trained at a French restaurant for 10 years before striking out on his own.
Here, he still focuses on using Japanese ingredients - from vegetables to seafood, as well as wagyu with the "right amount of fats" to ensure that the meat is not too oily for diners.
The restaurant is split into two rooms - an eight-seater and a 13-seater - which he says is the right size for such a theatrical dining concept as the chefs can interact easily with diners.
Indeed, there is culinary drama from the beginning. The meal opens with a flaming cocktail followed by a series of amuse bouche and appetisers.
The highlight, of course, is the elaborate teppanyaki cooking process of the wagyu beef, served with Yonemura's housemade peanut butter sauce, ponzu sauce and grated radish. The closing act is the classic French dessert of Crepes Suzette, flambeed with orange liqueur and served with housemade vanilla ice cream.
Teppan by Chef Yonemura is open for dinner only and the five-course meal is priced at $168++ a person, while the eight-course set is $198++ a person. Sake pairings are also available.
On opening a teppanyaki restaurant, Yonemura says: "There are two types of teppanyaki restaurant styles - one is expensive and the other is casual, like okonomiyaki stalls. Yes, Teppan is high-end, but I want it to be casual-style dining."
Yonemura, who is married and has a 17-year-old son, is no stranger to Singapore and counts the chicken rice from Mandarin Orchard Singapore's Chatterbox restaurant as his favourite dish to eat here. He has been to Singapore many times for events such as Japanese dining series Gourmet Japan, as well as The Great Food Festival at Resorts World Sentosa.
On his new venture, he says: "Most chefs keep up their best standards within 30 years. So, I have five more years to go. This year, I give myself a new challenge and this keeps me motivated."
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•Teppan by Chef Yonemura is located at Level 1, The Forum at Resorts World Sentosa. It opens from 6 to 10.30pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays, and is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Advanced reservations are required - call 6577-6688 or e-mail dining@RWSentosa.com.