Hubert Burda Media

Sushi, Oishi

Two dining experiences in one sitting at Sushi Mieda? We knew we had to sink our teeth into it.

Intimate, is how anyone who steps into Sushi Mieda, the new Japanese fine dining space within Tong Le Private Dining, will describe the place. After all, it only seats up to eight guests in the entire restaurant.
Decked out entirely in gorgeous blonde timber, the space offers only counter seating that are arranged around a square sushi counter, giving every patron a front-row view of chefs Kenji Okumura and Keisuke Ohno at work.
For this lunch, it’s a full house and all eight pairs of eyes are trained on the culinary masters as they prepare each delightful piece of sushi and sashimi (13 types altogether, we find out later) and place them personally on the plate in front of us.
The latest “haute” dining concept in town is the brainchild of Nobumasa Mieda and this is his first venture overseas. Hailing from Hokkaido, the one-Michelin-starred chef specialises in kaiseki and helms six other restaurants in Sapporo, Japan, including his eponymously named restaurant Mieda. Not just a culinary titan on the ground, he has also crafted menus for first-class passengers flying All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines.
Sushi and modern kaiseiki are not often served at the same restaurant, but according to chef Mieda, both “bear great testament to Japan’s illustrious culinary heritage”, which is what gave rise to the concept for Sushi Mieda. Under his guidance and the respective skills of Okumura and Ohno, the Singapore establishment is a venue for both Japanese fine dining and sushi.
Both have been entrusted with the restaurant here because of their combined expertise: Okumura has 15 years behind him in traditional Japanese cuisine, while Ohno’s forte lies in sushi-making. And we’re getting first dibs into whether there is indeed gastronomic chemistry in the partnership.
The elegance of kaiseki and dexterity in the art of sushi-making is unmistakable. With skilful flicks of a knife, the chefs elegantly slice the pieces of fish — tuna, flounder, uni (sea urchin), arkshell and golden eye snapper to name a few — at the counter before serving them to each guest, either as sashimi or sushi. The dining experience is similar to what you will get at famous sushi-yas (sushi houses) in Japan, where the chef prepares and serves one sushi at a time, moving on to the next only when the diner has finished that piece.
The various types of fish are extremely fresh, with each bite being meltingly soft, while the torigai (Japanese cockle) sashimi is chewy without being too tough. Personally enjoyable are the different cuts of tuna available — akami (belly tip), chutoro (middle section), ohtoro (belly) and negotoro (chopped belly) — of which the chefs are happy to explain, albeit in their limited English, where each part is from. Ohtoro is the fattiest and softest of all, and is likened to top-grade beef with a high marbling score, while akami is the least fatty area most often served in restaurants.
My only gripe, however, is directed at the smoked mackerel and uni sushi: The smokiness of the former is a little too strong to stomach, while the sea urchin is a tad too gooey with an odd aftertaste.
The authenticity of the cuisine carries on to the kaiseki offerings. Designed by chef Mieda, the dishes on the menu are traditionally Japanese, almost similar to what he serves back home and are made of ingredients mostly sourced from Japan. These are then shipped in four times a week to ensure that all ingredients used are at their best.
The first course, Zen Zai — a combination of abalone, octopus and mantis shrimp — is simply tantalising. The abalone is slow-cooked with sake and water to bring out its original flavour and soft texture, while the mantis shrimp is boiled with dashi to complement its lighter taste. But the winner of the three is the octopus. The savoury meat is boiled, with sugar and shoyu, to achieve a soft yet firm texture, without being overly chewy.
A must-try is the Mizunazu, eggplant served with tiger prawn and Bainiku plum sauce. Usually available in Osaka only from April to July, the raw Japanese eggplant is pillowy soft with a guava-like taste. Served in plum sauce with olive oil, the sweetly refreshing dish is topped with garlic chips to give it a flavoursome finish.
Due to the restaurant’s small capacity, diners are allowed to spill into Tong Le’s space to indulge in the decadent Japanese delights. But in order to enjoy the full experience, like that of being in Japan, it’s best to make a booking to secure a seat in the main dining hall.
Sushi Mieda
 Tong Le Private Dining, Level 10 OUE Tower, 60 Collyer Quay;
 Tel: 8425 7835;