New to the gastronomy-fueled Tanjong Pagar district is Japanese yakiniku joint Wagyu Express.
I know the word “wagyu” gets thrown around a lot, but this is the real deal, folks.
Opened by the folks behind wagyu speciality restaurant Aburiya in Boat Quay and Robertson Quay, this casual establishment delivers both conventional and unconventional cuts of wagyu at reasonable prices.
I noticed a few curious passers-by stopping to check out the vivid menu display. The enticing wagyu lineup draws you right in.
You won’t find any intimidating menu items (and prices) or stoic-faced service staff, typical of many formal yakiniku restaurants, here.
This roomy, brightly-lit and well-ventilated space makes for fun grilling sessions, where you can stuff your face with wagyu without fear of judgment.
Did you know that yakiniku has its roots in Korean cuisine? Many believe that it drew influence from Korean dishes like galbi and bulgogi.
We kicked the evening off with Kimchi Mori (S$10), a trio of Chinese Cabbage fermented in a rich shrimp and oyster dashi, crunchy Radish and our favourite, Cucumber.
Unlike its famous Korean counterpart, Japanese kimchi is spicier, sweeter and less sour.
Since I was anticipating an extremely meaty meal, I had to strike a balance and have some salad.
Raw carrot, red onions, and lettuce tossed in a sweet & sour dressing make up the au naturel Carrot Salad (S$7).
The crunchy carrot strips came in handy throughout the meal, interspersed in between bites of rich wagyu.
However, I couldn’t stop munching on the WX Salad (S$7), romaine lettuce and red onion in a zingy balsamic vinegar dressing. Scattered within were super addictive deep-fried eggplant cubes — they actually tasted like (carb-free) croutons!
The owner of Wagyu Express, Mr. Kitagawa, wasn’t willing to divulge much when asked about the ingredients. “My wife’s recipes,” he chuckled. Of course.
Mr. Kitagawa then asked us to sample and make a comparison between Australian sirloin and Japanese outer thigh wagyu. The latter was the clear winner.
He explained that the prized primary cuts (like sirloin, ribeye, tenderloin) we tend to glorify account for only 30% of a cow’s weight. Though relatively uncommon in Singapore, secondary cuts (shoulder, neck, loin, rib, thigh, knuckle, and brisket) deserve more appreciation.
That’s the philosophy behind Wagyu Express — all cuts of wagyu should be enjoyed. They purchase and import whole cattle from Hokkaido to ensure the finest quality.
The 180g Wagyu Karubi Mori (S$23) set comes with prime short rib, brisket, and naka karubi, or finger rib (from left clockwise).
We started grilling the wagyu over shiro zumi, or Japanese white charcoal.
As we waited for the side of Garlic Butter (S$2) to melt, I tried some of the other available condiments, mainly dark soy, lemon sauce, live Okinawan salt, and a tangy ponzu.
Out of the three cuts, I enjoyed the naka karubi the most. These imperfect-looking morsels of meat were meltingly tender and bursting with juices. I hadn’t had such astonishingly delicious wagyu in a long time.
Little did I know that this was only the beginning of a very satisfying meal.
Next up from Wagyu Express was a plate of Wagyu Sukiyaki (S$20) from the outer thigh of the cow.
You’re supposed to grill each slice, place some Japanese leek on top and wrap it up like a taco.
Instead of raw egg (which I would’ve preferred), the sukiyaki was accompanied by a spicy onsen tamago to dip the meat in. I luxuriated in the creamy and luscious mouthfeel of every bite.
This sukiyaki may not have been the most tender, but its full-bodied flavour alongside the crunchy leek was a dream come true.
The pièce de résistance of the evening was undoubtedly the Wagyu Jo Karubi (S$15) or prime short rib. Just the sight of that marbling alone left us in awe.
According to Mr. Kitagawa, we were in luck. That particular day’s jo karubi was more of a “prime prime prime short rib”.
The insane marbling called for a shorter grilling time of no more than two minutes.
Achingly beautiful and gorgeously fatty, one glossy slice was all it took to render us speechless. Seriously, the adjectives “melt-in-your-mouth” and “tender” aren’t enough to describe how sublime this jo karubi was.
Once again, I must reiterate the importance of balance. It was time for something lean.
The Wagyu Akami Mori (S$33) consists of three types of lean wagyu. Cuts vary on a day to day basis, but we managed to try the thigh, rump, and tonbi (chuck tender shoulder).
It didn’t take long for these thinly sliced cuts of wagyu to be ready.
The fat to meat ratio was perfect. Every well-balanced bite was a pleasure on the palate.
For an extra touch of decadence, enjoy the wagyu with garlic butter AND salt, which helps to bring out a certain sweetness.
We took a break from beef with some Buta Sirloin (S$15).
Mr. Kitagawa explained that he imports “Yume no Daichi” pork from Hokkaido, the result of meticulous crossbreeding of four pig breeds. The resulting fine-grained meat is succulent and silky smooth, containing a high concentration of oleic acid that’s good for your cholesterol levels.
Sure enough, every slice was moist and tender with satisfyingly crisp edges.
Similiar to the sukiyaki, the invigorating sharpness of crunchy onions perked up each glistening slice of savoury pork.
Buta sirloin pairs best with lemon sauce, in my opinion.
Finally, we returned to the beef with a 250g plate of Wagyu Kiritoku (S$36).
Kiritoku refers to the “cut-off ends” of wagyu; it is essentially a random assortment of different parts. Order this at Wagyu Express without any expectations, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
There was no telling what was what, but we simply let the meat sizzle away.
Behold a whole new world of textures and flavours. This is the best time to try EVERY sauce you’ve ordered.
Some cuts were a lot chewier, even bordering on rubbery, but the flavour was never compromised.
Certain cuts (the long, finger-like ones especially) possessed marbling of exquisite quality and had us nodding furiously as we savoured piece after piece.
Seriously though, order this. There’s even a 500g plate that’ll satisfy all your carnivorous cravings.
The meal concluded on a final serving of Garlic Chahan (S$11).
I was on the verge of bursting, but how could I resist some fragrant, non-greasy beef fried rice?
Where else can you find premium AND underrated cuts of Hokkaido wagyu at such prices? The quality and passion displayed are unparalleled.
Wagyu Express is the place to be if you’re hankering for a sizzlin’ time. There’s no better way to spend an indulgent evening.
Oh, and don’t forget to order the jo karubi and kiritoku.
Expected Damage: S$50 – S$60 per pax
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 5 / 5
108 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088526
108 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088526