When I heard about Rakuya‘s affordable $48++ eight-course omakase meal in Katong, I crossed the island from my abode in Woodlands for a taste.
Similar to other omakase, Rakuya’s menu is dictated by the chef, and they proudly make this clear from the get-go. It’s almost like a disclaimer if you ask me, because the Japanese-fusion omakase here isn’t for the faint-hearted.
I first noticed the cosy 10-seater bar space that looks almost like a naval ship command post. Here, guests can have a go at their many sake labels, starting from $30. There’s even a sake fridge that stores your bottle for a week, so no frets about chugging it on the spot.
Seating is mostly at the counter, which lets you see all the kitchen magic. At the helm is the charismatic Chef Derrick, who hails from renowned establishments such as Jaan and Tippling Club, to name a few — he’s rather charming, so do chat him up as he prepares your meal.
Apart from a few bar bites, the menu is largely unscripted so you’ll just have to trust Chef Derrick. The eight-course menu is priced at $48++/$88++/$128++, with the dishes changing regularly depending on his mood.
I enquired, “Is your mood good today, chef”, to which he laughed off, “Always!”
My meal kicked off with Wanton Mee, an intriguing dumpling-shaped ‘pasta’ dish. Chef Derrick motioned for me to have a bite, and… just wow.
The cappelini came in a secret soya sauce that mirrored the oiliness of wanton mee you might find down the road. Each mouthful was light and paired with a touch of brininess from the ikura, while the wanton crisps brought crunch. I was hungry for more.
The next dish was literally created on the day itself. It’s name? Untitled — like a new musical sonata from Mozart. Each serving came with a juicy butter-poached clam atop a crisp sesame tuile, paired together with fresh uni, tobiko and almond buttercream.
Chef Derrick told us that he decided upon the drizzle of red miso just before serving us, but we’re glad he did as it brought a sweet roasted flavour that tied the dish together.
On to the heavier courses, or so I thought. I had the Salmon Carpaccio served in homemade ponzu sauce, shio and kombu, which wasn’t as cloying as I expected.
Perked up with white truffle, the Tasmanian salmon was permeated with a mild smokiness. The truffle thankfully did not steal the spotlight (which is typical of many truffle dishes), but merely brought an appetising flavour to die for.
A staple in his omakase menu, the Mapo Chawanmushi is a play on ma po tofu. Dig your spoon in and you’ll unearth the silky egg custard.
It was so soft, one might mistake it for tofu! I only wished the homemade ma po sauce would have been a tad spicier.
Of course, Chef Derrick couldn’t keep things simple; the chawanmushi came with two chunks of foie gras that gave it an atas feel. It added indulgence to the dish, and I was thankful for the shredded leek that cut through the richness.
I raised an eyebrow when this cocktail glass arrived. Chef Derrick enlightened me, “Curry Puff”. Yes, you can get Tempura Curry Puff at Rakuya!
Each half came with generous curry-infused tuna filling, enveloped in premium seaweed before being deep-fried in tempura batter.
The tuna was aromatic, but the star was the seaweed that was seriously crisp. I tested it ten minutes later and it still crackled gloriously in every bite, but of cos, I wouldn’t recommend you let the dish sit out for too long.
With my carnivorous appetite now activated, respite came in his rendition of Dong Po Rou. The plate came with three thick pieces of braised pork belly and nasu (eggplant) to balance the saltiness.
Each piece was beautifully charred and fatty, although one of my slices was a little tough. My colleague found the accompanying soya sauce too savoury, but I rather enjoyed its sweet and saltier edge.
One would think Chef Derrick would be out of surprises, then came his signature Bak Kut Teh Udon! The herbal fragrance wafted up my nose immediately, which invited me to take a bite.
While bak kut teh is either peppery or herbal, the broth here was a fascinating medley of both. The herbal flavour wasn’t overpowering, but enough to create a full-bodied and appetising broth.
I personally enjoyed the thin udon noodles that were able to soak up the flavourful broth. But not as much as the duo of pork ribs that were so succulent and tender, the meat fell right off the bone.
“Just a chocolate tart, chef…?” Of course not! Say hello to Chef Derrick’s Miso Toffee Tart. If you’re wondering how miso fits in with dessert, it gave a complex umami taste that surprisingly worked with the caramel sweetness of toffee.
Savoury and sweet, the dish smoothly bridged the mains to dessert.
The sweets came in full force with the Dessert course. This medley of sweet treats included a Mandarin orange profiterole, red bean paste, pistachios and a bizarre curry meringue.
Kid you not, the meringue had a candied sweetness, before a light pack of spice hit my palate!
While the choux pastry could be spongier, the Mandarin orange centre was zesty and vibrant. For the best bite, scoop all the elements together to experience a delightful conglomeration of textures and flavours.
The last course ended, but Chef Derrick threw in a surprise treat. I tried his Yuzu Kaya Toast crafted like dainty macarons. Each side of toast was caramelised on top and finished with a tangy yuzu kaya filling that oozed a delicate pandan fragrance.
Drooling yet? When the omakase ended, I felt more like I had completed a gastronomic journey. While Chef Derrick’s line-up isn’t traditional Japanese omakase, the dishes all had something unexpected, which kept me excited till the very end.
Infusing flavours from South Asia, this modern omakase will appeal to local palates. Most of the dishes we tried are from the $48++ menu, which is still one of the cheapest omakase you’ll find in Singapore! I know I’ll be back, and willingly foot the $48++ without hesitation.
Expected Damage: $48++/$88++/$128++ (all menus are eight-courses, but differ in dishes with more premium ingredients)