Whenever I can’t decide what to eat, my default option is always Japanese food. It’s fairly common in Singapore, and there’s always a new store popping up somewhere.
Hidden along the rows of shops on Upper Thomson, Maneko is a fairly new establishment serving up affordable Japanese cuisine.
The name comes from the word “maneki-neko”, which refers to the fortune cat that’s supposed to bring good luck and prosperity.
Decorated with graffiti and murals that are designed and painted by the same artists who decorated *SCAPE, the restaurant is filled with fortune cat motifs.
I must admit, the smiling fortune cats really brightened up the place and create a cheery dining atmosphere.
We started off the meal with some sides. One of the favourites at Maneko Japanese Restaurant is the Assorted Sashimi (S$19.90), which includes three pieces each of sake (salmon), maguro (tuna), mekajiki (swordfish) and buri (yellowtail).
Smooth and succulent, the salmon slices were thick and fresh.
I particularly enjoyed the tuna, which was mostly lean with a firm bite. If you enjoy having tuna that are fattier, this wouldn’t be to your liking, but it certainly tasted healthier.
The swordfish slices were super juicy and chewy, so it’ll be great for those who like their sashimi with a firmer texture.
For those on the opposite end of the spectrum, the soft and tender yellowtail slices would be perfect for you. I almost didn’t have to chew at all!
Another side dish I enjoyed was the Tamago With Truffle (S$7.90). Served warm, this dish came with six pieces of handmade roasted tamago. This is a simple yet well-executed dish, and each piece of tamago was delicate and sweet, with a fluffy texture.
I have to say, the strong truffle fragrance hit me even before I popped a piece into my mouth. This was definitely my favourite side dish!
If you’re looking for something meatier, the Mentai Chicken Wings (S$8.90) is sure to open up your appetite. These deboned chicken wings are stuffed with mentai, so each bite packed a flavourful punch.
When I bit into the smooth and tender chicken meat, juices dribbled down my chin. However, although the wings were mouth-watering, the mentai didn’t have a very strong flavour. I would’ve preferred it to be more savoury and creamier, though this means that you can still enjoy this dish even if you can’t take the usual strong seafood aftertaste.
Moving on to the mains, we tried the Ikasumi Bara Chirashi Don (S$18.90) and the Truffle Yakiniku Don With Foie Gras (S$21.90).
The Ikasumi Bara Chirashi Don is quite different from the usual chirashi bowls that you find elsewhere. Instead of the usual fluffy white rice, this dish comes with squid ink rice.
The rice might look off-putting at first, but it’s really worth a try. Enjoying the squid ink rice together with the other ingredients added a slight smoky flavour to the dish.
Of course, it has the usual tamago chunks, cucumber pieces and sashimi cubes, which included a variety of fish that’s available in the Assorted Sashimi.
The combination of egg, cucumber and sashimi cubes made for a sweet and refreshing rice bowl. I liked that the ikura on top added pops of saltiness to the dish too.
My favourite main had to be the Truffle Yakiniku Don With Foie Gras (S$21.90). If you’re looking for something truly decadent, this truffle beef bowl with a thick piece of fried foie gras is perfect for you.
The truffle fragrance was strong but not overpowering, and helped to whet my appetite. What I found most interesting was the fried foie gras, because you don’t usually encounter this method of cooking for foie gras — frying it brought out a sweeter and more intense flavour.
I recommend breaking the onsen egg and mixing the gooey yolk with the rice to add a creamy texture.
However, the beef slices were a little too dry and chewy for me. While the insides were quite tender, some pieces had a rather tough exterior. I also prefer my beef to have more marbling and fats instead of lean meat.
Overall, it was still a really solid beef bowl with an extra touch of decadence from the truffle and foie gras.
Finally, Maneko’s signature 2kg Maki Roll (S$49.90) was exactly what it sounds like: 2kg of maki roll slices, which can feed four to five people.
Consisting of 14 massive pieces of maki, this off-the-menu dish needs to be ordered in advance because it takes 20 minutes of preparation.
This maki roll from Maneko included seaweed wrapped around fluffy sushi rice, with a centre of crabsticks, chicken and pork katsu, tamago and softshell crab. The whole roll was also drizzled with cheese sauce making it a really filling dish.
The outer layer of the maki was fried to a golden crisp and resembled bottom-of-the-pot rice, and liberally topped with tobiko.
Purists might not consider this maki, but I have to say, it tasted pretty good.
If you’re around the Upper Thomson area, Maneko is a pretty good spot to get your Japanese fix. Splurge a little and go for the Truffle Yakiniku Don With Foie Gras; I promise you won’t regret it.
It may be a little inaccessible, and the food needs a little fine-tuning, but I’m sure with time they’ll offer a dining experience that’s impeccable. Besides, the price point is pretty affordable!
Expected Damage: S$20 – S$40 per pax
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 4 / 5
227 Upper Thomson Road, Singapore 574359
227 Upper Thomson Road, Singapore 574359