Ok, I’m going to come right out and declare, “I love Ootoya!” Admittedly, I was initially skeptical over glowing reviews of this new teishoku (rice-based set meal) chain from Japan. But now, all I can think of is, “When shall I go to Ootoya again?”
You’re not going to find sushi, sashimi, or ramen here. That said, Ootoya’s menu is rather extensive. There’s an interesting variety of grilled, fried, and simmered dishes that you can enjoy ala carte or as part of a set.
Sweet and sour chicken? Isn’t that Chinese, you say. Well, trust the Japanese to “borrow” something and make it even better! Ootoya’s sweet sour chicken is miles superior than most of the awful sweet sour pork I’ve had in a recent run.
Try to imagine thick, succulent chunks of chicken thigh, coated lightly in flour but fried till very crispy, then tossed in a lively, vinegary sauce. The sharp sourness was a surprise, but its piquancy helps to cut through the grease. The fried lotus root and potato chunks are just as delicious!
Another house specialty, the briny Atka mackerel is wonderfully smoky and juicy. But it’s an acquired taste, and not everyone might enjoy endlessly picking bones out of their fish.
On its own, it’s slightly salty, but pairs gorgeously with rice! For an additional fee, you can choose to have toppings (eg. hijiki seaweed, grated yam) instead of the usual plain rice. And did I mention that rice is free-flow? Awesomeness!
To cut through the salt and grease of the mackerel, smear with refreshing grated radish. Again, an acquired taste, but very addictive once you get the hang of it!
Set meals are accompanied by miso soup (deliciously flavorful but not over-salted), and pickles and vegetables.
Do save room for dessert, especially their famed parfaits. I’ve tried two, and fallen hopelessly in love! The banana parfait is constructed with soft-set banana pudding, whipped cream, coffee granita, adzuki (red beans), and raspberry coulis. I like how the castella cake soaks up the melted, creamy goodness at the bottom of the glass!
The following pics are taken with my old Canon point-and-shoot cos I didn’t have my Sony Alpha DSLR with me.
Blown away by my virgin Ootoya experience, I made an excuse not to cook dinner so that I could return the following day for another meal! Shhh! Don’t tell the hubby!
How could something so simple taste so stunning? It’s in the use of fresh and quality ingredients, the right balance of seasoning, cooking time, and even the way they cut the ingredients that make all the difference. The broth, slightly thickened but not too starchy, tastes incredibly clear and sweet. The smooth chicken chunks, soft tofu, and barely set egg are unpretentious ingredients, but under the hands of a master, they are simply sublime.
Plump, moist, and separate, even the rice here is divine! Presented in a bamboo steamer that’s kept warm by paraffin flame, the hijiki seaweed rice is topped with 3 small but perfectly cooked Mutsu scallops. The piece de resistance is *surprise* the delectable sweet miso topping.
Another parfait, another winner! Below the green tea ice cream and adzuki are soy pudding, castella cake cubes, whipped cream and thick brown sugar syrup. Mmmmph….!
It sounds too good to be true, and indeed, I was looking out for faults, but there wasn’t anything I could find fault with. It’s been a long time since a new opening has got me this excited. Ootoya’s food is not haute cuisine. In fact, it feels more like homely fare. But the food is freshly prepared, wholesome and delicious, not to mention affordable and generously-portioned (both times I left feeling stuffed!). Plus they provide free hot or iced green tea, which is regularly topped up! It’s the kind of place that you walk out of with a happy smile on your face. 😀
Prices listed are before 10% service charge and 7% GST.
Ootoya Japanese Restaurant
181 Orchard Road
#08-12, Orchard Central
Tel: (65) 6884 8901 (no reservations taken)
Open: 11am – 9:30pm (last order)