Saturday, 14 December 2013

Koh Grill & Sushi, Wisma Atria, Singapore (Alissa and Don Eat Asia Day 20, Part 2)

Having been to India a few times, I've been left with a strong impression that Indians do not like queuing. Whether its the post office or driving down the street or boarding a plane, its always seems like its always about pushing ahead to get to the front of the queue. When we left Mumbai we witnessed some of the most annoying aspects of this trend as people tried to jump the queue first by queuing in the Business Class lane, and then trying to push ahead to the front of the Economy queue. One Australian lady yelled at them and put her arms up blocking their way, and I smiled in approval that someone stood up for doing the right thing.

Singaporeans on the other hand seem to love to queue. I'd read about this pervasive trend before we arrived in relation to Tim Ho Wan and Krispy Kreme but it seems to have become one of the great national pass times, with great status bestowed upon those who have the steely patience for the most insane of wait times. Had I continued with my Anthropology degree, I might have considered writing about this cultural phenomena but as I gave up on that career path long ago all I could do was get amongst it and experience this for myself. And queue we did as we waited to enter Koh Grill & Sushi.

After eating such heavy food in India, Alissa and I really wanted something a bit lighter and Japanese food was the most obvious choice. Godma and Uncle Vince recommended Koh Bar and Grill in Wisma Atria as being an excellent place to get sushi, and they kindly dropped us of on Orchard Rd. As we arrived at the top floor food court, it became clear quite quickly which store was Koh based on the long, orderly queue out the front. We joined it near the drink stall and waited patiently. The queue moved surprisingly fast, and the orderliness of Singaporean queueing meant this was not a painful experience of arguing with people pushing in and the desperation that sets in when queues just don't appear to be moving.

A little over 20 minutes later we were seated. While there were a lot of different options - an incredible looking grilled meat selection, ramen noodles and more - we decided to go with a few plates of sushi to share, plus some seaweed salad.

First came the Seaweed Salad. It was nice to eat a cold plate of salad, and as a fan of this dish was very satisfied with this as a starter. Tastewise it was nothing surprising, just a well made Seaweed Salad with a nice sesame flavour.

I'd been wanting to try Uni (Sea Urchin) Sushi for quite a while, so it was exciting to see it on the menu. I mixed the wasabi with some soy, dipped the sushi in it and took a bite of mine. The Uni had a lovely creamy texture to it, with a marine quality to its flavour that is hard to describe. As a first time I can't say I'm a connoisseur but I did enjoy it. Alissa had the misfortune of getting the Uni in her mouth in one piece without the rice, and tasting as-is she did not like it very much.
'It taste like a soft, raw sea urchin tongue,' she said making a face.
I gritted my teeth sheepishly and said, 'its not the tongue...' knowing full well that Uni is the sea urchin gonads. I'd love to try this again in a Michelin Starred restaurant in Japan.

Next came the highlight of the meal - the aptly named Shiok!!! Maki. This was an absolutely delicious roll of charcoal grilled eel wrapped with lightly torched salmon and then coated in an amazing mayonnaise sauce which was then topped with an extreme amount of roe. I loved the eel and its smokiness, with the salmon exhibiting the subtle flavour of meat that had been blow torched. Add the rich creaminess of the flavoursome cheese-like mayo with the crunchy pop of the roe, and I could see why people queued for this.

The Crappy Maki arrived next and thankfully it did not live up to its name, being almost as good as the Shiok!!! Maki - albeit subtler than the preceding dish. Soft Shell Crab's crunchiness is what makes it so delightful to eat, and here with blow torched swordfish was another delicious combination of flavours in maki form.

The last to arrive was unfortunately also the least successful - the Foie Gras Maki. When we saw foie gras we thought we had to try it given its been one of Alissa's favourite dishes to order. It was very similar to the Soft Shell Crab Maki with the foie gras replacing the crab. The problem we both had with this dish was that the the foie gras simply didn't have a wow factor in this context, as its flavours seemed a bit lost amongst the torched swordfish and roe. Which is not to say it was bad, and maybe if hadn't ordered the nearly identical Soft Shell Crab Maki for direct comparison we may have felt a bit differently about it. Still, at $28 SGD compared to the $18 SGD for the Shiok!!! Maki and the $16.50 SGD for the Crappy Maki, you'd be better of ordering two of the Shoik!!! Maki instead.

The Verdict: Excellent
In spite of the slightly underwhelming Foie Gras Maki, the quality of the Shiok!!! and Crappy Maki are enough to make this is a strong recommendation for excellent quality sushi at a decent price point that is really worth the queue. It definitely not cheap compared to the usual food court sushi, but the quality of the ingredients and preparation means its reasonable for what it is, sitting in a mid range between the inexpensive and the high end.

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