Last Updated: November 24, 2021
I’ll admit, with the neon violet lighting and sizeable display of maneki-neko figurines, JIDAI is probably the last thing you’d associate with a French-inspired izakaya. JIDAI means ‘era’ in Japanese, and it is their goal and promise to deliver an avant-garde dining experience.
There’s a lot to take in, so take your time; savour a seamless East-meets-West fusion that honestly left me wishing they’d never be separate. Bathe in the subtle shimmer of twinkling stars and relish in the unusual violet glow in the food flatlay that’ll spice up your next ‘gram post.
JIDAI’s izakaya characteristics shine through in their selection of yakitori, all of which is prepared a la minute, grilled to smoky excellence over red hot coal. The Iberico Pork (S$7) was undoubtedly robust, juicy, and tender. It brimmed with a certain savoury, irresistible charm worthy of a double-take, and maybe even a double order. In my opinion, little can go wrong with an order of Iberico Pork, unless you’re here with the sole aim of experiencing the novelty of East-Western fusion fare like I was.
This was actually my first time trying Firefly Squid (S$6)—five miniatures lined up prettily on a stick, every bite parading a rich combination of chewy brininess and umami flavour. After being caught, these squids are flash-frozen and imported to Singapore, where they are grilled whole.
This might’ve been my first time giving these a shot, but it’s a promise to myself that it won’t be the last. The briny taste of the squid might be an acquired taste for some, especially because it’s cooked with the roe intact. Give it a shot if you’re feeling adventurous, these are a lot less risky than Squid Game anyway.
I’m pretty picky when it comes to food; there’s a whole list of things I don’t particularly fancy, but I will try everything at least once. So far, I’ve managed to go 20 years without having to consume any iteration of frog, until my trip to JIDAI. Their Frog Leg Karaage (S$28) is perfect for sharing—the brined frog legs are coated in a karaage batter and fried until golden-brown.
The experience (or so I’m told) was very much akin to eating chicken, and that’s something I wholeheartedly agree with, though the Frog Leg Karaage had an elevated tenderness that chicken normally lacks.
JIDAI gets full credit for helping me get over my aversion to frog legs. This sharing platter is also served with a three-tiered sauce, with braised leek at the bottom, mentaiko mayonnaise in the middle, and ebiko on the surface. I would’ve loved if the dipping sauce had a more vibrant flavour with a kick, though its subtlety might be more appreciated by those who want to focus on the taste and texture of the karaage.
I’ll admit it; I had my reservations about this dish. JIDAI’s Sea Cucumber Duck Confit (S$38) wasn’t something I was 100% enthusiastic about, especially since I have an aversion to all slimy and squishy food. I steeled myself anyway, ate a mouthful, and suddenly couldn’t stop going back for more.
This dish features tiger sea cucumber flown in from the USA, after which it is simmered for 12 hours in a sake-based ginger shoyu broth that aids in collagen extraction. The duck leg is similarly slow-cooked for 16 hours—often overnight—in precious duck fat, which is then seared the classic French way. This all results in a juicy, fall-off-the-bone flesh that melts luxuriously in the mouth
Elements of the East and West dance innovatively in an admirable tandem here at JIDAI, with supple sea cucumber doused in a thick, savoury broth that’s exquisite yet reminiscent of childhood comfort soups. Served in a bubbling claypot and topped with Osmanthus flower, this one has it all—taste, texture, and theatrics.
I wasn’t quite so convinced at first, but JIDAI won me over. The Sea Cucumber Duck Confit was undoubtedly the star of the show, tying together both Western and Asian elements to present a stellar medley of tastes that somehow felt delightfully foreign yet as comforting and familiar as home.
I know what I said sounds exceedingly paradoxical, but just as I always tell myself when it comes to unfamiliar foods—“you’ll never know until you try”.
Expected damage: S$30 – S$50 per pax
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Price: $ $
Our Rating: 4 / 5
9 Circular Road, Singapore 049365
9 Circular Road, Singapore 049365