03 November 2014

Shinji by Kanesaka at Raffles Hotel

There are some restaurants that are so established, they really do not need additional plugs. And then there are those that are so established but inspire so much enthusiasm that the plugs just keep on coming. Shinji by Kanesaka at the Raffles Hotel belongs to the latter group.

To celebrate my thirtieth birthday, Ed secretly arranged a dinner at Shinji. I had just returned from Shanghai that afternoon, where the meals were heavy and mostly inundated with chilli oil. To be honest, I was looking forward to a simple and light dinner. So when Ed said that we had a dinner appointment he had arranged, I almost begged him to cancel it so that we could have something my body and palate would find more agreeable. He eventually managed to convince me to stick with the plan. Thankfully, he did.

The counter seats allowed us a full view of the chefs' deft execution. The chef, Kenji, who attended to us was most hospitable, making us feel at ease from the moment we took our seats. To start off the meal, we had a bowl of salmon roe marinated in a light yuzu dressing. It was so fresh and had such incredible balance of flavours - just the right amount of citrus notes from the yuzu to highlight the saltiness of the roe. That was enough for me to decide that we should not wait too long to return to Shinji.

The salmon roe was only the start of a multi-course meal featuring a mixture of sashimi, cooked items, sushi and fruit. There were many memorable flavours, such as the spanish mackerel nigiri sushi with finely shredded shiso leaf, and the uni rice with minced tuna belly and salmon roe (yay! more!). Ed couldn't can't seem to stop raving about the sushi rice. But perhaps one of the most surprising was the tuna cheek. Growing up, my parents always reserved the fish cheeks for my brother and I because they were deemed the best part of the fish - soft and flaky. But that barely prepared me for the richness of the tuna cheek that was as buttery and rich as Otoro. This was probably my favourite dish of the night.

The steamed abalone was a close second though. I have a soft spot for abalone, which may explain why Ed decided to make abalone porridge for my birthday last year. When we do spoil ourselves with the occasional can of abalone, we usually eat it straight from the can, thinly sliced and with a squeeze of lemon. Needless to say, this version at Shinji was far superior.  The 8 hour-long steaming not only preserved all its flavour, but also made it incredibly soft to the bite.

 Clockwise from bottom right: Steamed abalone, mantis shrimp, 
grilled snapper sashimi, assortment of vegetables in dashi stock

Ed and I were particularly appreciative of the fact that the place was not fussy about decorum. Towards the end of our meal, the chefs even surprised us by donning traditional japanese face masks and singing a birthday song. The entire experience was centred around the food and our comfort. Again, I am really thankful Ed managed to convince me to stick with his plan. Next time, there will not be much convincing required.