Last Updated: March 30, 2020
My best friend raved about ChiChi (which also happens to mean ‘father’ in Japanese) to me when he paid a visit for work, and returned once again to share his favourite picks. I trust said best friend’s palate, so you can imagine the hype that was building within me prior to my visit.
Making a comfortable home for itself amongst the line-up of well-established restaurants in Telok Ayer, Chichi is designed to welcome diners to take a breather and wind down with honest food, much like coming home. Swatches of pastel serve as the backdrop to light, wooden furniture, coupled with warm, mood lighting—ideal for intimate and cosy catch-ups with the ones you love.
Playing on word ‘chirashi‘, which literally translates to ‘scattered’, this is typically a bowl of Japanese rice mixed in with raw fish, vegetables, and additional ingredients. The Chirachi Salad (S$23) is made for splitting between two diners and was teeming with salmon, swordfish, tobiko, Japanese cucumber, pickled daikon, wasabi cream cheese, baby romaine lettuce, and soy dressing.
What stood out the most was the wasabi cream cheese which injected a pleasant sharpness to the fatty fish medley. The crunch of tobiko and pickled daikon was most welcoming, and really enhanced the mouthfeel of the bowl. It’s a refreshing start to the meal, especially if you’re a fan of poké bowls.
I was anticipating Smoked Chestnut & Truffle Gyoza (S$13) simply because there was word that it’s a life-changing appetiser. Recommended to be eaten in a single bite, the wild mushrooms-and-brie combination was an easy swallow.
The undeniable aroma of truffle wafted to my nose effortlessly, but what really stood out for me was the smoked chestnut puree found at the bottom of the dish. It added a creamy smokiness which only further enhanced the luxurious mouthfeel of such a simple creation.
I could barely see beyond the mountain of fried beancurd skin flakes when the Garlic Fried Brown Rice (S$16) arrived. As a lover of all things with mushrooms, this carb-laden dish should’ve been the crowning glory of the meal at ChiChi—but more about the real star of the show later.
Gleeful would be the right word to describe how I felt when I spotted copious amounts of egg, shiitake mushrooms, hijiki seaweed, and garlic chips scattered throughout the steaming bowl of Japanese brown rice. Needless to say, the use of brown rice added a heightened taste of nuttiness, while the fried beancurd skin lent a gratifying crunchiness.
It was a savoury bowl—sufficient for a meal for one, especially if you’re thinking about taking this home to have for an earnest lunch the day after.
The Ang Kar Prawn (S$23 for three pieces) was what really stole the show, however. Cooked sans seasoning, it’s a recipe that utilises shio kombu and garlic for a full-bodied flavour. The sunshine-yellow liquid beneath is burnt butter, which was highly recommended to pair with the Garlic Fried Brown Rice by generously drizzling it over.
I was impressed by the size of each prawn; large enough to fit snugly into the palm of my hand. The flesh was incredibly sweet, and the garlic and charred edges of the shell made for a lethally addictive combination.
As for the burnt butter, I couldn’t sop it up enough with the Garlic Fried Brown Rice, even as I also poured spoonful after spoonful of it on the succulent prawns. It could be very well worth it to get two portions of this.
My best friend, who I mentioned at the start of this recount, shared with me how he adored the ample fat that wove around the tender Iberico Pork Collar (S$16). It’s charred with no-frills spicy miso and served with paper-thin slices of pickled green apples.
I understand the science behind serving an acidic element with a fatty, rich cut of meat, but I tried two bites of the pork collar—with and without the pickled apple slices—and both times I wrestled with trying to thoroughly enjoy the dish.
For me, it was too fatty, had too much bite, and I couldn’t taste any of the promising spicy miso that was plastered on the pork collar’s edges. Nonetheless, I still tried to finish most of it; mostly because I kept trying, bite after bite, to convince myself that this was as impressive a dish as I’d been told.
The Beef Short Ribs (S$25) faired slightly better, reminding me of less spice-driven rendang. The short ribs ripped apart effortlessly, with the best part being the chunks of tendon wading in the shallow gravy.
My best friend was perplexed as to why I didn’t come away from ChiChi with the same satisfaction as he did, but we could only agree to disagree, and perhaps have come to the realisation that we no longer share the same taste for food. It wasn’t all terrible; that would be an outright lie.
However, we did agree on one thing from ChiChi—Ang Kar Prawn.
Expected Damage: S$30 – S$50 per pax
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 3 / 5
92 Amoy Street, #01-01, Singapore 069911
92 Amoy Street, #01-01, Singapore 069911