Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lunch @ Sushi Yoshida

When making references to Sushi Yoshida, I have had to make the disclaimer that I have not been there for the past year and a half or so. It was marked in my books as the most value for money sushi lunch one could get in town. At $28 – tax and service charge inclusive – one could enjoy a variety of sushi delicacies such as scallop, raw sweet shrimp, tuna and white fish which varied from season to season. The style of sushi was hearty and satisfying, while being of decent quality and I have recommended it to anyone looking for “real” sushi of good value.

Now a year and a half has passed and I have been looking for an opportunity to reevaluate Sushi Yoshida. This opportunity came at last – an overcast Saturday afternoon, free from any commitments. I was having a bit of a sushi craving and heard that Yoshida brings in fresh seafood on Saturdays so it was a good time to go. Will the restaurant live up to its past standard? I entered the dimly lit restaurant to the usual chorus of “Irashai!”s and got seated at the counter. A quick glance through the menu and the usual order was placed – assorted nigirizushi a.k.a. sushi moriawase.

Sushi Yoshida serves a nice onsen tamago (lit. “hot-spring egg”) as a starter but since I’ve never been a fan of soft boiled egg, I had opted for whatever else they would offer me. As such, my meal began with the ubiquitous potato salad appetizer that seems to be a standard in sushi bars nowadays. Like anywhere else it was okay but nothing to rave about. Then came the main course – assorted nigirizushi set from their lunch menu:

From left to right, back row: kampyo maki (sushi rolls with preserved gourd), gari (pickled ginger) and some daikon and cucumber pickles. Middle row: toro (fatty tuna), kampachi (amber jack, hiding behind perilla leaf), maguro (lean tuna), sake (salmon), hotate (scallop). Lower row: ebi (boiled shrimp), ika (squid), ikura (salmon roe) and torigai (cockle).

Like I mentioned before, sushi at Yoshida’s is hearty sushi, as you may be able to make out from the unfocused photo above. Every piece is voluptuously shaped and most slices are generous and thick. The gunkan maki is brimming over with ingredients, in this case with salmon roe. Needless to say it is also makes for a very filling meal.

However, I was a little disappointed to find that one of my favourites – raw sweet shrimp sushi has been replaced with ebi (boiled shrimp). The ebi in Sushi Yoshida was not only boiled but also marinated in vinegar, which I thought was overdone as the sharpness of the vinegar overwhelmed the natural taste of the shrimp. Another downer was the torigai (cockle); they were a slightly rubbery and a bit trying to chew. To be fair though, I’m not a fan of most shellfish in sushi.

On the upside, a fairly marbled toro was served as part of the ensemble. The fatty tuna belly disintegrated readily in the mouth, coating every grain of rice with aromatic tuna fat. It is oily and yet delicate at the same time, as toro should be. This would be an upgrade from the chu-toro that was served in the past, although I’m not sure if this is a regular fixture of the set meal or a one-off/periodic thing. The hotate sushi was of the same standard as I remembered it to be and as usual it felt satisfying tucking into a soft, whole scallop spread across a bed of rice.

I ordered a few a-la-carte pieces to sample despite being quite full after the set meal, as a few things I’d like to sample were not on the set lunch. One of these was Yoshida’s anago (conger eel) sushi. Anago comes into season in summer, peaking in fat content with the hotter climate. I thought it should be interesting to see how Yoshida’s rendition of this dish is like.

Instead of putting the pre-poached conger eel into a toaster oven as is commonly done, the chef seared the conger eel with a flame-torch. While the treatment did not significantly augment the tastiness or aroma of the eel, the whole flame torching process did give the dish extra zazz in the presentation department. Nothing like having food caramelized slowly over an open fire before your very eyes I think, it definitely adds to the anticipation of the morsel.

The itamae-san on duty at Yoshida’s sears a generous portion of anago. In the foreground is Yoshida’s display case of seafood goodies like uni, tai, aji, etc…

The serving of the anago was huge, far overlapping the rice-mound at both ends. It was a little tricky fitting the whole thing in a single mouthful but I managed – altogether not an unpleasant predicament though. The sauce for the conger eel was nicely balanced with a sprinkle of yuzu zest, and on the whole I thought it fairly decent. However the standard of this is still trails behind my favourite anago place.

Other a-la-carte pieces I had were tai (sea bream) and kohada (gizzard shad). Kohada is one of those important pieces for any Edo style sushi restaurant. The gizzard shad is filleted and marinated in salt and vinegar, and the marinating time has to be well controlled, varying according to size of fish. Too long and the flavour of the fish will be totally masked by the vinegar, the texture of the fish will also be ruined. Due to the many factors involved in the creation of kohada sushi, it is usually a piece by which the skill of a sushi chef is tested. Unfortunately the kohada sushi I had a Yoshida’s did not make the cut for me, the fish was overly vinegary. The texture was also lacking. It is worth noting that it is not kohada season now, though that may not be the crux of the issue.

Another thing that bugged me during my sushi lunch was the sushi rice. I had noticed that the sushi rice, or shari, had a greater proportion of long grained rice than I remembered. This was unusual. It may be my memory getting foggy with age but I think the rice I had that day was quite different from what I had two years ago.

Now, the question remains to be answered: Is Yoshida’s sushi lunch set still the most value for money sushi in town? I cannot answer with a definitive “yes” this time round. The prices of the set meal have risen to $38 and there have been some changes to the sushi selection and standard compared to two years ago. It is understandable though, with recent nationwide tax increases as well as this year’s price hike for Japanese seafood. Generally speaking it is still a decent place to have sushi at, and the staff were great for having been very patient with me even though I stayed past their lunch operating hours. It is also worth noting that while I only sampled from their sushi selection this time round, it had been my experience that Sushi Yoshida was also good for their cooked/non-sushi dishes – a sentiment that is undoubtedly echoed in many other reviews.

10 Devonshire Road
Singapore 239846
Tel: 6735-5014

P.S. Any readers would have to excuse the poor quality of the pictures as I’ve just started exploring the finer points of focusing on near objects with my camera phone. The kinks have been fixed and the next installment whenever that is, will come with focused pictures.


Camemberu said...

Yay for photos! Even blur ones! :D

Eld said...

Hehe it was interesting experimenting with my camera phone, I learnt quite a bit about it while trying to get the food photos in. The next sushi review will have clearer photos if everything goes as expected..