October 11, 2015
Cho Omakase is a classy breath of fresh air to the plethora of bars that fill the surrounding Boat Quay area. Upon arriving we were greeted as old friends and shown our seats at the bar. The welcome from the front of house team and head chef YK Chong was genuine and warm, for a moment I forgot I had just arrived at a restaurant. I’ve not had a more hospitable welcome since… ever.
I even cynically assumed we were getting VIP media treatment. As the crowd picked up it quickly transpired that was not the case and everyone is welcomed in the same fashion, I’ve never been so glad to be proved wrong.
The venue is intimate, providing seating for around 30 guests, with the best of the action taking place around the bar area itself. Decor is minimal with clean lines and muted lighting that creates a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
The joy of dining omakase style is that the faff is removed from the ordering process. Literally translated as ‘I’ll leave it to you’ it’s the perfect choice for the indecisive amongst us. At Cho Omakase you merely need to provide staff with your budget per head (a minimum of $50++ is required) leaving Chong and his team to do the rest of the hard work. Whilst we visited during the evening service, we also spotted an excellent lunchtime menu on offer. For $18.80 you can indulge in a set meal consisting of a choice of one of six meat or sashimi options, accompanied by an appetiser, Japanese salad, miso soup, pickles and rice. For a business meeting or quick lunch with friends, this would be ideal.
We opted for an $80++ menu and found ourselves presented with an enjoyable mix of traditional sushi/sashimi courses with one or two twists and surprises along the way. The courses are well paced and the team are more than happy to answer questions as the dishes arrive. Make sure you’ve got an appetite, you’re not gong to want to miss a mouthful.
Salmon roe, Mackarel, Hotate scallop with uni mayo
Our appetiser was a trio of delights that were a feast for the eyes, as well as our stomachs. Instructed to eat from right to left we began with the salmon roe. Having just come into season the roe were small and perfectly formed, delivering a concentrated burst of flavour that was fresh and almost citrusy – a perfect palate cleanser to kick things off. The mackerel could not have been fresher, it’s soft flesh was complimented by the accompanying spring onion and ginger. Combined, this was a clean, fresh mouthful that left us wanting more.
The final piece of this triumvirate was a single Hotate scallop served with uni mayo. Confirming it’s rightful title as a treasured delicacy, our scallop was sweet, rich and melted in the mouth. The richness of the sea urchin within the mayonnaise was a surprising and delicious addition.
Sashimi: Swordfish, Salmon belly, Ama Ebi, Yellowtail
You can tell fish is flown in regularly here, our sashimi tasted as if it had been delivered to our plate straight off the fishing boat. Each piece had been cut beautifully; appropriately thick slices were uniform in size with straight edges all round. Perfection. The Ama Ebi also added a welcome mouthful of sweetness to proceedings.
Soy sauce was garnished with benitade and chrysanthemum, both adding a subtle floral finish that was yet another pleasant surprise. It was the wasabi, however, that elevated this dish to a different level in my opinion.
Chef YK Chong prefers to use the medium sized variety (which unsurprisingly also carries a hefty price tag) and having tried it here first, I can see why. It’s pungent, hot and has real depth of flavour minus the unpleasant burning sensation often experienced with cheaper alternatives. Were it not an insulting faux pas, I would have scooped my delicate dot of wasabi off the plate and eaten it by itself.
Clam soup (Hamaguri)
I love dishes that are simple, bold and executed perfectly. Our clam soup was exactly that. We were served one lone, unassuming, perfectly cooked clam enveloped in a pale dashi and light soy broth. The result was a clean bowl of umami goodness that allowed the clam to be the star of the show, exactly as it should be.
Alaskan King Crab on Foie Gras with caviar
The pairing of king crab with foie gras and caviar made for a decadent and delicious start to our main course dishes. Dressed with lemon and mint, the crab was refreshing and light, making it the perfect partner to the richness of the foie gras. At first I thought this dish would lack texture – soft crab, soft foie gras and caviar? I’ll admit I was sceptical. However, the foie gras had been seared gently creating a slightly chewy exterior that provided the variety I was hoping for. The sprinkling of black tobico added a hint of saltiness that seasoned the dish and really brought it to life.
Australian lamb marinated in miso with potato-sweet potato salad
I was not expecting lamb to feature on our menu, but I’m certainly glad it made an appearance. Marinated in miso, our french trimmed chop had been grilled before charring the skin with a blow torch. The lamb though not pink, was perfectly soft while the miso enhanced the natural sweetness of the meat. Mint, often the herb pairing of choice for lamb, featured within the potato salad adding a bite of much needed freshness. I could have eaten an entire rack of these chops.
Sushi: Kirame – flounder – using salt / Hamachi – yellowtail – using yuzu & miso / Salmon belly with sea kelp / Uni – using yuzu
We had to wait a little longer for this course to arrive but it was worth it. Each piece was fresh, beautifully cut yet again and distinct in flavour. The marinades when used were subtle and brought out the flavour of each fish as opposed to overpowering them. The rice was cooked just so – not too soft, not too hard, exactly as it should be. These four delicate and beautifully crafted mouthfuls were a great way to round off the savoury part of our menu.
Rice pudding (Soya milk) with Plum.
Ice cream – Grape, Strawberry, Peach, Melon
To wrap up our omakase feast, we were presented with two sweet options. The first a square of rice pudding. Green in hue and served cold, for me this lacked a little flavour and paled in comparison to the six previous courses. The ice-cream was more reminiscent of a sorbet, which in itself is not a bad thing, though the texture was smooth. The flavours were intense and accurately represented the profile of each fruit, it also provided a welcome palate cleanse post meal.
Alongside our food we were served a variety of hot and cold Ginrei Gassan Junmai Ginjo sake to compliment each dish. Whilst not extraordinary, this is still a balanced choice that was enjoyable to drink.
The real star on the alcohol front however was the house made Umeshu, though don’t get too excited as I’m afraid it’s not actually on the menu. Chef Chong is busy brewing numerous bottles that you will see lining the shelves, all of which have been pre-ordered by savvy locals. We were lucky enough to get a sip of his sample bottle and if that’s anything to go by, I’ll be queuing up next year to put my order in despite the nine month brewing time.
If like us you were having such a good time you don’t want to leave, it’s also worth checking out the speakeasy bar upstairs. This little known cosy den is the perfect place for a whisky nightcap.
In my opinion Cho Omakase ticks all of the boxes. First and foremost the food is seriously good, it’s reasonably priced, service is impeccable and the atmosphere cannot be faulted. Upon leaving, Chong waved us off with a sincere wish for us to return. There is no doubt, my friend, that I will be back – Cho Omakase is firmly on my new list of favourites.
Damage: $50 – $150++ for dinner
Cho Omakase. 14 Lor Telok, Singapore 049027 | Tel: 6532 2098 | Facebook
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday 12.00pm – 3.00pm / 6.00pm – 10.00pm