Ichi Umai: Hole-in-the-wall affordable hidden Japanese diner in Yishun with mains from $5.90

Despite being a lifelong Yishun resident, I only found out about the existence of the Junction 9 mall in 2020 (yes, Junction 9, not Junction 8). This neighbourhood mall is a 10 to 15 minute walk away from Yishun MRT station, and if you wander around for long enough, you’ll find the quaint Japanese restaurant, Ichi Umai.

ichi umai - storefront

Ichi Umai may be a little hard to come by even when you’re exploring Junction 9 as it is tucked all the way inside— you’ll have to walk to the other end of the mall if you enter from the main entrance. This hidden diner is a literal hole in the wall, with a single open space for patrons to enter and exit from.

ichi umai - interior

Stepping into Ichi Umai reveals a charming interior with walls covered in retro Japanese posters and pamphlets, as well as traditional Japanese banners adorning the ceiling. It was very much reminiscent of a yochoko in Japan!

What I tried at Ichi Umai

ichi umai - dishes

The extensive menu at Ichi Umai had me feeling absolutely spoiled for choice, with all sorts of Japanese dishes, including sashimi, sushi rolls, curry rice, ramen, donburi and even misoshiru!

ichi umai - sashimi moirawase

We first tried the Ajisai Sashimi Moriwase (S$18.90), which came with 3 pieces each of yellowtail, swordfish and scallop sashimi. The gorgeous plating of the sashimi pieces made a fantastic first impression.

ichi umai - sashimi moirawase

I personally do not enjoy raw seafood, so my sashimi-loving friend stepped in to offer his take on the dishes. The scallops and swordfish were buttery and tender with a soft chewiness, while the yellowtail had a fresh and clean taste.

ichi umai - bara chirashi don

The Bara Chirashi Don (S$15.90) was another gorgeous dish, which came with furikake sushi rice topped with soy marinade sashimi cubes and sweet shrimp.

ichi umai - bara chirashi don

The assortment of sashimi atop the rice generously coated the surface of the dish, with the salmon especially donning a tantalising orange hue. The sashimi was chewy, fresh and buttery, while the rice was packed full of flavour from the furikake. Plus, the generous portions of the dish made it super worth the price.

ichi umai - ryu chizu roll

When I first saw the Ryu Chizu Roll (S$12.90) on Ichi Umai’s menu, I was surprised, for this unique maki roll, with a fried tiger prawn within, was topped with nacho cheese sauce. I had no idea what to expect from this interesting fusion creation.

ichi umai - ryu chizu roll

Surprisingly, I fell in love with the Ryu Chizu Roll, for the savoury and salty flavours of the nacho cheese added the perfect amount of flavour and creaminess to the sushi rice. The fried prawn within was also really crispy and not too chewy, which I enjoyed.

The next time that I visit Ichi Umai, the Ryu Chizu Roll will definitely be on my must-order list!

New in town: Shujin Master Sushi Bar — Modern fusion Japanese sushi bar & grill in Orchard

ichi umai - kuri buta katsu kare

Next up was Ichi Umai’s Kuri Buta Katsu Kare (S$14.90), consisting of deep-fried panko breaded chestnut pork on top of Japanese rice and a pool of curry sauce. For only S$14.90, the huge portion of the Kuri Buta Katsu Kare stunned me.

ichi umai - kuri buta katsu kare

The pork chop had a lovely thin layer of crisp batter, while its meat was white and glistening. Texture-wise, it was firm and slightly chewy, but not dry.

ichi umai - kuri buta katsu kare

The curry sauce was not too salty and had a nice thickness to it. It paired perfectly with the white rice and the meaty pork chop, making for a really remarkable dish.

ichi umai - angus beef steak don

As a huge lover of steak, I was most excited for Ichi Umai’s Angus Beef Steak Don (S$18.90), topped with slices of medium-rare sliced steak, an onsen egg, cherry tomatoes and a piece of broccoli.

The steak was tender and flavourful, and I loved how it was not tough at all. Plus, the generous portions balanced out perfectly with the amount of rice.

ichi umai 05

The onsen egg was an ideal addition to the dish, as it gave the whole dish a boost of creaminess and richness. Plus, it had been cooked to the perfect consistency.

ichi umai - angus beef steak don

The rice within was coated in a sweet and savoury sauce which made the entire dish all the more tasty. Combined with the juicy, zesty cherry tomatoes and delicious furikake, the Angus Beef Steak Don was a really solid dish on Ichi Umai’s menu.

ichi umai - buta kakuni ramen

I wasn’t expecting much from the Yuki Buta Don (S$12.90), but had my mind blown when I had a taste. This bow, of rice contained stir-fried chestnut pork belly slices with mushrooms, and was topped with a cheesy sauce.

ichi umai - buta kakuni ramen

The flavours of the Yuki Buta Don were exceptional, with the mushrooms and the pork being doused generously in an addictive sweet sauce. The cheesy sauce had a creamy and slightly milky taste which did not overpower the sweetness of the other elements, but complemented it instead.

I couldn’t get enough of this dish and I will order it again next time.

ichi umai - buta kakuni ramen

The final main we tried at Ichi Umai was the Buta Kakuni Ramen (S$15.90), which came with pieces of braised pork belly, fishcakes and a jammy egg.

ichi umai - buta kakuni ramen

The most interesting thing about this dish was the broth. We opted for a spicy broth, which packed quite a punch — usually when I order spicy ramen, it doesn’t really live up to my standards, but Ichi Umai’s version had a kick to it. I found it a little saltier and thicker compared to other ramen broths, and it had a savouriness to it that reminded me a bit of miso.

ichi umai - buta kakuni ramen

The ramen noodles were chewy and soft, while the pieces of buta kakuni were delightfully tender with the perfect ratio of meat to fat. The pork also had a nice charred aroma that enhanced the milder flavours of the ramen noodles.

I personally preferred Ichi Umai’s other offerings, though their Buta Kakuni Ramen was unlike anything I’d ever tasted.

ichi umai - earl grey cheesecake

Finally, we ended off our meal at Ichi Umai by digging into their Hokkaido Earl Grey Cheesecake (S$5.90). I’ve had cheesecakes at Japanese restaurants before, and most of the time, I find them to be a little too stiff due to them being frozen, but Ichi Umai’s Hokkaido Earl Grey Cheesecake was a complete surprise.

ichi umai - earl grey cheesecake

The cheesecake was super soft and creamy, and it wow-ed me with its strong and aromatic earl grey fragrance. For those that love tea flavours, you won’t be disappointed by this glorious dessert.

Final thoughts

ichi umai - dishes

Ichi Umai is a hidden gem through and through, with some of the most affordable prices I’ve encountered in a restaurant. The quality of their dishes are stellar, and the portions are generous too. In all honesty, Ichi Umai makes me feel happy to live in Yishun, as it means that I can visit them conveniently anytime.

Though the trip to Junction 9 may sound daunting, especially given its relatively ulu location, if you’re ever in the area, I’d recommend giving Ichi Umai a try at least once, for it may change your mind about this controversial part of the country.

Expected damage: S$5.90 – S$23.90 per pax

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Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

Ichi Umai

18 Yishun Avenue 9, Junction 9, #01-19, Singapore 768897

Price
Our Rating 4.5/5

Ichi Umai

18 Yishun Avenue 9, Junction 9, #01-19, Singapore 768897

Telephone: +65 8887 1976
Operating Hours: 11.30am - 3pm & 5.30pm - 9pm (Daily)
Telephone: +65 8887 1976

Operating Hours: 11.30am - 3pm & 5.30pm - 9pm (Daily)
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