June 18, 2016
Ninja Bowl, a third outlet by the very same people who brought us Chillax cafe and Babette Restaurant & Bar, is the latest addition to the Duxton Road food enclave. They bring to Duxton a menu prolific of creative all-day brunch options, sandwiches, and piece de resistance ‘Ninja Bowls’, perfect for the busy CBD workers.
Its small modern-industrial interior, with spotlights gently shining on wooden tables and metal chairs, make it a cordial setting for a quick brunch. It might, however, get a bit too noisy once the lunch crowd comes streaming in, and they start quite early at that. So, it might not be a place for those looking to stay and lounge around leisurely over long conversations.
How it works over at Ninja Bowl is that you place your order at the counter, grab your very own Mount Fuji Number Tag, and your meals are prepped a la minute then brought to you at your table when ready. As you wait, maybe grab yourself a tall glass, or should I say jug (their cups are huge), of cold drinks.
Two of the more sought-after drinks are the Coconut Lemon Mint ($8) and the Ume Ginger Lemonade ($8), both extreme contrasts to each other.
The Coconut Lemon Mint cooling and smooth, made from fresh coconut juice, lemon wedges and mint leaves, transports you to a winter wonderland and makes you feel like you might be drinking snow.
If you’re looking for something with a little more oomph and zest, get their Ume Ginger Lemonade – it perks you right up and has a burning kick that lingers a little at the end.
If you’re not looking for savoury foods or are just looking for a small bite to eat, you could always enjoy their Afternoon Tea Sets ($10.90) which consist of a slice of cake and a choice of coffee/tea. Their cakes vary from day to day and deplete rapidly, so simply try your luck and check for anything that might catch your attention on their display.
Their Ninja bowls come carb-free, but for those like me who seek heavier meals, there’s an option to add either their Ninja Rice, Orzo Pasta, or Garden Greens all for $2, or White Quinoa for $3. I’d say that the Ninja Bowls (if you add carbs) come in a style very similar to Bibimbap, bringing different flavours, colours, textures, and nutrients to the dish.
The greatest thing is, almost all Ninja Bowls come with Onsen eggs!
Their Genki ($16), is Yaki Unagi (Grilled Japanese Eel), teamed with Korean Mung beansprouts, roasted pumpkin, an Onsen egg, and home-made pickled beets.
I’m not a person who would normally appreciate beets due to their overwhelmingly earthy flavours, but their pickled beets tasted like pickled Daikon, and added a lovely sweet-sour tang to the dish.
The Unagi, grilled with home-made Teriyaki sauce and chilli was just plain perfection. I’d recommend adding Ninja Rice to mix the Onsen egg in with for creaminess – when paired with the Unagi, is just sensational.
The Noka ($16), which means “The Farmer” in Japanese, is befitting of its name with relatively simpler ingredients – beef cheek, roasted pine nuts, baby corn, sun-dried tomatoes and an Onsen egg.
The beef cheek, braised for 24-hour in veal jus and home made soy sauce was tender, juicy and heady in flavour. It was a bit too strong for my liking, but I’m sure braised beef lovers would warm quickly to it.
I did, however, like the lighter nutty flavour of the pine nuts as they softened the beef’s heaviness.
Baby corn, unexpectedly sweet and drenched in Furikake dressing, brought a bonito-like flavour that was complement to the beef and pine nuts. I was quite surprised to find that it was my favourite component of the Noka.
We had White Quinoa added in, but I found I didn’t quite fancy its texture or flavours.
Note: If you’re not into heavy flavours, you might want to skip the Noka.
The Kabuki ($14) consists of tender pieces of chicken thigh (significantly juicier than chicken breast), marinated in miso, soy sauce, garlic and honey, then sous-vide before searing, giving it a lovely hint of smokiness. Other ingredients include pickled beets, baby corn, and an Onsen egg.
The chicken, sweet and packed with teriyaki flavours, along with the sweet baby corn and the beansprouts that gave the dish the lightness of sesame oil, made the entire meal very easy to down and something I didn’t want to stop eating.
We had this dish with Orzo Pasta – a rice-shaped short-cut pasta tossed with honey, multigrain mustard, miso and chilli. The Orzo Pasta is light and soft, but I’d much rather have Ninja Rice added in as my staple.
Tonkotsu Spirit ($16) is a traditional brunch staple of poached eggs and smashed avocado on toast with the added gem of Aburi Chashu pork belly and melted cheddar cheese.
Although the presentation was flawless, I can’t say that it’s as mind-blowingly delicious.
The Aburi Chashu, good on its own, would have done better being in a rice bowl rather than with toast. Although, I did like the cheddar on toast together with the lightness of poached eggs and smashed avocado.
The Chashu added a bit more flavour as it was extremely rich, but looking at the dish as a whole, I feel it didn’t pair as well with the other elements as I’d hoped.
The Fancy French ($16), an amazing creation by co-founder, Cecilia Wong, is an exceptionally thick-cut brioche that has been skilfully stuffed with homemade fig jam, cooked till golden brown and drizzled with Umeboshi-infused honey with a spread of homemade hazelnut butter. Scattered around this wonderful brunch dessert, are fresh slices of figs, plums and grapes for added acidity and fruitiness.
I really like the textures of the brioche, crispy on the outside whilst soft and thick on the inside. It was a nice surprise to find that it was cooked through and through for such a thick cut of bread. The fig jam was interesting as it introduced just the right tinge of sour that went nicely with the creaminess of the brioche. I liked the plums and grapes, but the figs were a bit to earthy for me to enjoy with such a lovely sweet creation.
I’d one hundred percent recommend getting this, but maybe just dance around the figs.
I think Ninja Bowl is a lovely place for office workers to get a quick lunch at during peak hours, but before the lunch crowd swarms the place, would also be nice and quiet with a relaxing ambience for some “chillax” times. With an intriguing assortment of Ninja Bowls and such wonderful brunch options that cater to the many different types of personal preferences, I’d definitely recommend coming here to check their food out.
Expected Damage: $16 per pax